10 Characteristics All Top-Ranking Family Hotels and Resorts Share

Why do certain hotels and resorts rate so highly with parents on TripAdvisor? Here are some common themes they all share.

Certain family-friendly amenities, programs, and characteristics are repeatedly mentioned on TripAdvisor – both when they’re available, and when they’re lacking. As a frequent family traveler, with more than 17 years of professional experience in the tourism marketing industry, I’ve analyzed scores of reviews. The top-ranking family properties all share these common denominators:

Location, location, location

Location can make or break a property in its ratings, but the most vocal reviews come from families raving about being across the street, or within a few minutes’ drive, from local attractions, shopping, and restaurants. Hotels or resorts can overcome less-than-optimal proximity by offering frequent, and complimentary, shuttle transportation to the popular nearby points of interest.

Activities and Play Spaces

Keeping the kids occupied means more to parents than putting them in front of a screen; it means providing activities which engage them physically and mentally. These run the gamut from informal arts and crafts sessions, magic shows, or campfire sing-alongs for kids of all ages, to structured days of supervised, “drop-off” camps or clubs for specific age groups.

Playgrounds, or even just lawn space, are also valued by families with active children.

Home-Like Characteristics

If a property feels like home – with all the space and conveniences – families will love it, recommend it, and return. Spacious suites with room for kids to play are highly regarded. Amenities such as refrigerators, microwaves, washers and dryers make a stay easier and more cost-effective.

Value-Added Extras

For families, there is value to the extras that enhance a trip. “Exclusive” deals are even better. If your rates compare with other properties in the area, but include admission to the local water park, that’s considered a value.

What other extras do families consider as adding value? Some are universal to all travelers, like hot breakfast, free parking, early check-in and late check-out. Families also appreciate complimentary services such as: wifi for multiple users, cribs, and children’s meals. Complimentary activities, like arts & crafts or movies shown “under the stars,” are also well-received.

All Inclusive Activities

The positive psychological effect of paying one price for everything is multiplied for families with kids to feed and entertain. There is a lot of perceived value in the inclusion of programs, lessons, and activities like snorkeling, skiing, geocaching, or zip-lining. Equipment use should be included, as well.

All Inclusive Meal Plans

The value of all-inclusive meal plans is generally perceived in terms of quantity, i.e., being able to enjoy ample food and drink without having to “pay” for it. But from a parent’s perspective, the value comes from not having to pay for uneaten food. Small children have small appetites. Paying $10.00 à la carte for a basket of five chicken tenders feels like a waste when only two are consumed. A one-time charge for their children’s food frees parents from the meal-after-meal worry of getting their money’s worth.

Swimming Pools and Water Parks

Whether indoor or outdoor, swimming pools are always a hit with families. The bar has been raised by properties incorporating water park elements, such as multi-level slides, lazy rivers, or play areas with water cannons and spray features. Separate shallow “kiddie” pools are especially welcome, as are the newer incarnation; splash pads with bubbling fountains erupting from the ground.

Entertainment for the Entire Family

Children’s activities are so often the focus, but parents and grandparents like to be offered activities, too, such as fitness programs and culinary events. This type of programming works well when children are participating in their own supervised activities, giving the “grown-ups” free time. For multi-generational travel, particularly when the grandparents are footing the bill, it’s important to cater to the tastes of the older guests.

Clean to the Extreme

Adults have higher standards for cleanliness when their children travel with them. They want spotless floors for their babies to crawl on, and sparkling bathtubs for their kids to bathe in. With an increase in childhood allergies, air quality is becoming a noted characteristic. Non-smoking rooms are de rigueur, and they should never smell as if they weren’t.

Friendly, Helpful Staff

Sometimes, it isn’t your property or amenities which make the difference; it’s your employees. Family travelers take note of helpful front desk staff who expedite check-in when they arrive late with tired kids; housekeepers who create origami animals out of towels; or restaurant wait staff who remember their kid’s allergy needs by their second meal. What’s more, they remember rudeness, especially unwelcome attitudes toward children.

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Traci Suppa

Traci Suppa

Travel Blogger

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Last Updated: October 1, 2013