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Tips for booking hotel rooms for large families

Aug. 11, 2021
10 min read
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Once you get the hang of it, booking travel with points and miles for only one or two people isn’t too tricky. But when you’re trying to make reservations for three, four or more people at a time, things get complicated.

That’s my family’s reality. We don’t just have a couple of children — we have six kids ranging in age from 9 to 21. Having a large family doesn’t mean that travel is off the table, but it does mean we have to plan and search for awards in ways that are very different from those booking solo trips or romantic getaways for two.

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The whole “crew” at the Frontier Airlines hangar in Denver.

Booking hotel rooms for families of four or fewer

Things get a little complicated if you book hotel rooms for three or four people, but it is still fairly manageable, especially if you're traveling domestically. Most hotels in the United States will allow children under 18 to stay for free in a room with their parents and have occupancy that can support at least two adults and two children.

As an aside, it drives me a little crazy that some hotel chains require you to enter the ages of your children when making any type of reservation when it has no impact on pricing and it slows down the whole process.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt.com)

C’mon, Hyatt — why is this necessary?

Things get more difficult if you are traveling internationally, as many hotel rooms in Europe and other parts of the world charge more for extra occupants. Many international hotels are strict in this department and have occupancy limits that can top out at two or three people, including children.

I’ve heard horror stories from people who have not been 100% accurate on their reservations while traveling internationally. They’ve been forced to pay additional charges (sometimes quite hefty) to check in to the hotel. I would not mess around with the occupancy numbers at all when traveling internationally.

Related: The best hotels for families you can book with points

Booking hotel rooms for families of five

When you add a fifth person to your hotel booking, things get more complicated, but you’re still often able to find standard rooms in some hotels that will fit your family, at least within the United States.

One factor that may come into play is the age of your children and where they will sleep. My younger kids are fine sleeping on the floor, or we will occasionally bring sleeping bags for them, so they have the option to not share a bed with a sibling.

If you are a family of five, look for hotels with the word “suite” in the name. Think: Candlewood Suites, Country Inn and Suites, Embassy Suites — the list goes on. You can often find standard hotel rooms that fit a family of five at properties like these, usually with two double beds and a sofa bed.

Different hotel chains have different rules on whether their suites are bookable online. With Marriott, you typically have to call to book a suite using points, while Hyatt, IHG, Hilton and Radisson will show larger rooms as bookable online.

I’ve found Hyatt to be the chain that frequently offers larger rooms at a reasonable award cost. I will generally book the standard room on points for other chains and then try to get upgraded either for free or by paying a cash co-pay. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Related: 10 lessons from 10 years of traveling with kids

Booking hotel rooms for families of six or more

For larger families, things get complicated and expensive. When my kids were younger, we may or may not have viewed occupancy limits as, well, suggestions from time to time.

However, now that the children are older, we have two main options for using our points to book hotel rooms. We can find a room in a “suites” hotel that sleeps eight, or we can book two rooms.

(Photo by Jasper Cole/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jasper Cole/Getty Images)

We use either strategy interchangeably, depending on the hotel or the destination. For our last family trip to Nauvoo, Illinois, for example, we stayed one night at the Residence Inn Peoria in a two-bedroom suite that slept eight for 15,000 Marriott points.

On the drive back, we spent two nights at the Hampton Inn Keokuk in two rooms for 10,000 Hilton Honors points per room.

One thing we are always looking for when we choose to book two rooms is adjoining rooms — rooms that share a connecting door. I know many travelers don’t enjoy adjoining rooms because it might mean you’re sharing a door with a stranger, and there may be noise issues. For me, it means the difference between sharing a bed with my wife or sharing a bed with a wiggly nine-year-old.

We always call and ask the hotel for adjoining rooms. While they rarely guarantee it, they usually accommodate us if they can. I have roughly a 50% to 60% success rate in securing adjoining rooms when requested, so it’s possible — but certainly not promised.

If we have adjoining rooms, we will usually take one room for my wife and me and one room for the kids (something we don’t feel comfortable doing if the rooms are completely separate).

Related: Why I prefer limited-service hotels over luxury chains

Best hotel chains for large families

My favorite hotel chains for larger families are the ones that comfortably accommodate our family of eight. I’ve had the best luck with the following:

These are the chains I have found most frequently offer a suite with a door that closes the bedroom off from the rest of the hotel room. This is super important for families with young kids who have early bedtimes, since it means when the kids go to bed, everyone has to go to bed.

Other hotel chains with “suite” in the name such as Candlewood Suites, Country Inn and Suites or Embassy Suites typically have an area partially separated by a wall and aren’t always true suites.

Vacation rentals and other options

While it is not the primary focus of this guide, I want to briefly mention another option for large families.

Vacation rentals can be a smart way to book a family vacation on points. For example, Wyndham Vacation Resorts charge a flat 15,000 points per night per bedroom, and there are some good values to be had here. You can also use Marriott points to book multi-bedroom units through the Marriott Vacation Club program.

Though Airbnb is often touted as a great alternative for large family lodging, I have not had much success in this arena — especially compared to booking hotels on points. To find Airbnbs that fit my family of eight, I usually have very few options. And those options are often quite expensive.

Family travel expert Dan Miller runs Points With a Crew. Dan and his wife have used miles and points to travel with their six kids to Puerto Rico, Sweden, Greece and more.

The $20 trick

If you have read about trying to score upgrades in Las Vegas, you've probably heard about the “$20 trick.” It refers to slipping the front desk agent a $20 bill with your ID and credit card when you check-in, with the hope that this tip may result in an upgrade to a suite. While I’ve never found much success with that particular version of the $20 trick, I’ve used a variation of my own to secure larger rooms.

Many hotel chains have big enough rooms for a large family, but they’re not bookable on points, even though the cash prices are not significantly higher than standard room rates. Here’s an example from the Staybridge Suites San Francisco, a hotel I stayed at with my family on a recent trip to California:

(Screenshot courtesy of IHG.com)

The only room that is bookable with points is the standard one-bedroom suite. There’s no way to use points to book the two-bedroom suite that sleeps up to eight. In this case, I make a refundable award reservation and then e-mail the hotel (even though Richard says not to) and ask if I can pay to upgrade. I generally get one of three responses:

  • Sure, as a valued [whatever status I happen to have for free with a hotel credit card] guest, we’ll be happy to offer you a complimentary upgrade.
  • We can upgrade you if you pay the difference between the cash rates of the two rooms (which I’m generally more than willing to do as it’s still a significant discount over having to book two rooms).
  • No, we can’t guarantee that at this time.

In my experience, about 80% of the time, it’s the first response (free upgrade), with a relatively even split between the other two responses. If the hotel won’t guarantee an upgrade, I usually look for another hotel in the area that will.

Related: Best credit cards for families

Amenities to look for when booking rooms for a large family

A few of my favorite amenities that I prioritize when booking hotel rooms for my family of eight includes:

Free breakfast

When that’s included, that means eight meals are included for my family.

Free dinner or evening appetizers

Several extended stay hotels offer an “Evening Social” or “Managers Reception” a few days per week. As long as you aren’t picky, this could mean a free dinner.

Full or partial kitchen

This can help your family eat healthier meals and save on the expensive food costs typically associated with a family vacation. Of course, we’ve been known to cook meals in our hotel room with a rice cooker.

Laundry

If you’re staying for more than a few days, having access to laundry facilities means you don’t have to pack as much and can save on room in the car or airline bag fees.

(Photo by Dan Miller/The Points Guy)
Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees