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One of the challenges of family travel is finding accommodations for everyone. After our first daughter was born, finding a hotel that could supply a crib or a cot was fairly easy, but now that we have two children, the task has grown much harder.
Starwood properties, which include Westin, Sheraton, and several other brands, offer a healthy selection of family friendly properties, and can make for an excellent use of points.
Finding rooms for the maximum amount of people
Since the vasts majority of people seem to travel as singles or couples, families are not very well accommodated at most hotels. In North America, the problem isn’t so bad as many properties offer rooms with two queen beds, or a (king or queen) bed and a pull out sofa bed. American hotels are also fairly good when it comes to offering a cot or a crib at no cost. Finally, no American hotel will ever ask for identification of all guests during check-in.
In contrast, inspecting all guest’s passports is usually part of the check-in process at hotels in Europe and some other parts of the world. Also, when a European hotel offers two beds, they tend to be double beds which I find to be barely capable of accommodating two adults. Most infuriating is the practice of charging outrageous amounts for a rollaway bed. For example, here is a part of the terms and conditions of the Sheraton Milan Malpensa.
As you can see, children under 12 can stay free with existing bedding, as is the case in most hotels in Europe. Nevertheless, those who dare request a rollaway will be charged 50EUR, or $68 per night! There are other hotels in that area that charge about as much for an entire room. To avoid this charge, children might find that they can sleep on a couch, or make a bed up on the floor. We have even brought a small pup tent with us for our daughter to sleep in on the floor, to her delight. Another option is to reserve a room that can accommodate a rollaway, but ask to have the charge waived.
Other ways to accommodate families
Many standard hotel rooms will simply not accommodate four people. Guests then have a few other options. One is to book two adjoining rooms. Unfortunately, the availability of adjoining rooms is not listed on most hotel’s web sites, so you have to contact the individual property. Even then, you should make a note in the reservation that you require adjoining rooms, confirm that preference in advance, and again on the morning before arrival.
Another way is to book a suite. With the Starwood program, booking a suite with points doubles the price, so you might as well get two adjoining rooms. Suite night awards also cost the same number of points as a room, so there is little point in doing so if adjoining rooms are available.
Starwood Platinum elite members are eligible for room upgrades, including standard suites, but this can be a gamble. If the upgrade is available, that’s great, but if not, your family could end up kind of cramped. Therefore, you should inquire directly with the hotel if the it is booked full during your stay, to at least get a feel for their occupancy and your chances of a suite upgrade.
Finally, the Platinum continental breakfast option is only available to Platinum members and one guest, so children will have to pay for breakfast after a certain age, depending on the policy of the individual property. For instance, we would usually have to pay for breakfast for our six year old, but not our two year old. Thankfully, lounge access should be extended to all guests staying in a room reserved by a Platinum member.
What I look for in a family hotel
There are two crucial features I look for when booking a family hotel. First, it has to be close to a family destination, such as a beach or other tourist attraction. As any parent can attest, herding young children from one place to another takes time, so the closer you are to where you want to be, the better. Second, it has to sleep four comfortably. For our family, that means either two queen beds, or a king or queen bed and a pull out sofa bed. Some hotels will book four people in a room that has two double beds, but that’s just a little too snug for us. I also limited this list to Category 5 hotels and below. There are some great, category 6 and 7 properties, but the requisite number of Starpoints rises sharply when you go past category 5, and we prefer more nights in a mid-tier property to fewer nights in the most lavish accommodations.
Here are some hotel options in North America that represent good value with comfortable bedding for four:
Category 2- 3,000 points (Fri-Sat), 3,000 points (Sun-Thurs)
Four Points by Sheraton Biloxi Beach Boulevard. This property is across the street from the beach, and offers award nights in rooms with two queen beds.
Sheraton Suites Fort Lauderdale at Cypress Creek. This property is one of my favorites, and our family has stayed here several times when visiting relatives in South Florida. The standard room is a two-room suite so the kids have their own sofa bed while parents enjoy a little privacy. It is conveniently located just off I-95 about 15 minutes north of the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Since it is a category 2 property, we can stay three nights over the weekend for just 10,000 points total, even in the middle of winter.
Four Points by Sheraton Orlando Studio City. This property offers rooms with two queen beds and is very close to Orlando attractions including the Wet n’ Wild Water Park, the Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld. Walt Disney World itself is just nine miles away.
Category 3 – 7,000 points
Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview. I hate to say it, but the Canadian side of the falls is much nicer than the American side, and this is one of the best hotels to stay at when visiting. I have stayed here, and the rooms really do feature a view of the falls, making it a bargain at just 7,000 points a night. SPG award rooms feature two queen beds.
The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, Victoria. Ok, kids might not like golf (neither do I), but this resort features a Westin Kids Club and the SPG Kids Pass dining program along with an outdoor pool and other recreational opportunities. Rooms are available with two queen beds, but it does have a resort charge of 20.70 CAD per day.
Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach. This property offers rooms with two queen beds and claims to have “The World’s Largest Surf Complex” on-site (which appears to be a huge surf shop). It also provides convenient access to the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach. Award nights are available in rooms with two queen beds.
Four Points by Sheraton Destin-Fort Walton Beach Florida. This hotel is right on the beach between Panama City and Pensacola, and offers rooms with two queen beds.
Category 4 – 10,000 points
The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa, Cancun Mexico. This beachside hotel offers studio villas with a queen bed and a double sofa bed. It offers plenty of outdoor pools, as well as the Westin Kids Club and Kids Pass dining option.
Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort, Los Cabos Mexico. This resort hotel is right on the beach and offers award nights in deluxe rooms that feature two queen beds. It features a Sheraton Adventure Kids Club, the SPG Kids Pass, and plenty of outdoor pools.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida. This is yet another beach hotel that offers award nights in two queen beds in Clearwater Beach, just outside of Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. This hotel is in the heart of downtown Denver and offers rooms with two queen beds. The hotel is conveniently located along the 16th Street pedestrian mall with its free shuttle bus connection to downtown attractions.
The Westin Orlando Universal Boulevard. This property has standard rooms with two queen beds and is close to Universal Studios and SeaWorld, and 12 miles from Walt Disney World theme parks.
Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, Lake Buena Vista/Orlando. This resort hotel features one bedroom villas with a king bed, a sofa bed, and even a fully equipped kitchen. It is within five miles of Walt Disney World Resort, DisneyQuest, the Magic Kingdom Park , Disney MGM Studios, and Epcot. It also offers a pretty nice, large swimming pool and plenty of children’s activities. Just note that as a villa property, doesn’t offer some SPG elite member benefits, including upgrades, suite night awards, 4:00 p.m. late check-outs, and Your24.
Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort Villas, I-Drive/Orlando. This property also offers one bedroom villas with a king bed, a sofa bed, a kitchen, and even a washer/dryer! It is within 10 miles of most of the major Orlando area attractions.
Category 5 – 12,000 points (off peak) – 16,000 (peak)
The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler, Canada. This property offers deluxe studio suites with two queen beds or a queen and a sofa bed. It is located slopeside in the Whistler village, close to skiing and other recreational activities.
The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic. This beachside property offers rooms with two queen beds as well as plenty of children’s amenities.
The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, Colorado. This property is near the gondola to the Beaver Creek ski area. It offers rooms with two queen beds, although it does have a resort fee of $20 per night.
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa on Hilton Head Island South Carolina. This beachfront hotel offers rooms with two queen beds or a king and a sofa bed.
Sheraton Suites Key West, Florida. Out of all the family-friendly, beachfront resorts, this property stands out because it offers a suite with two queen beds plus a double sofa bed, so you can actually book two adults and three kids in one room. Plus, it offers plenty of kid friendly activities.
Sheraton Steamboat Resort, Colorado. This slopeside property offers rooms with two queen beds, but it does have a resort charge of $20 per night.