Top hotel chains for family travelers

We get asked for hotel recommendations all the time. And we have plenty to give: after all, we spend over 100 nights per year in hotel rooms, suites, vacation rentals, and condos. While specific hotel picks in family travel destinations are important, it can be equally useful to know which are the top hotel chains for family travelers…no matter where you’re going.

top-hotel-chains

We have our favorites, which we’ve broken down into a variety of family travel categories, with the overall winners below:

Best boutique/lifestyle hotel chain:

kimpton-hotel-lobby

We love frequenting boutique hotels with kids, especially during city travel when location and character are most important to us. The best boutique and lifestyle hotels offer something beyond the cookie cutter amenities of more mainstream chains, with X-factors like rooftop decks, s’mores on the courtyard, wine hours, and funky furniture. They can turn a standard stay into a memorable one! The only downside: sometimes, boutique hotels will lack amenities such as free parking or complimentary breakfast, so budget accordingly.

Winner: Kimpton hotels

Kimpton wins at making families feel welcome with special touches in many of their city hotels such as goldfish ‘pets’ and hot cocoa bars for the kids. Our favorite Kimpton stay included a family game night hour and resident dog in the lobby. Read a review of a favorite Kimpton property.

Runner up: Lark hotels

Many boutique hotels are located in urban areas and–let’s face it–cater mostly to business and adult travelers. Lark is different in that their properties tend to be situated in popular vacation destinations, such as Nantucket or Newport.

Best ‘bang for your buck’ hotel chain:

where-to-stay-in-dc

Let us elaborate: when we say ‘bang for your buck’, we’re talking about value, not cheap prices. Our picks in this category include hotel chains that focus on giving the most for the price, including extras that will save families money as they vacation.

Winner: Grand Hyatt (club level)

For years, I assumed that upgrading to club level at a Grand Hyatt hotel would be a frivolous expense. Not necessarily. Upgrading is typically only $75 more per night, and gives families access to a club level lounge serving food and drinks all day long. With some planning, families of 4-5 people can save far more than the price of the upgrade by eating in the lounge most meals. Plus, it’s far more convenient and comfortable than finding dining options out every day during a city trip. Read a review of a Grand Hyatt club level stay.

Runner up: Embassy Suites (Hilton)

Embassy Suites could have also won in our ‘all suites’ category, but we’re placing it here because most properties in this brand offer value on multiple fronts. Not only do families get the space to spread out in suites, but the free breakfasts are the highest quality in the business. Some properties also offer complimentary cocktail hours. Review of our favorite Embassy Suites.

Best luxury hotel chain:

Ritz Carlton laguna niguel

Ready to splurge? Many deserving hotel brands vied for our top spots in this category, and quite frankly, we have our favorites across many brands at specific locations. But this post isn’t about specifics…it’s about winners across the board. Who we picked:

Winner: Ritz Carlton

Time and again, Ritz Carlton delivers on prime location, beauty, service, and amenities. Will a Ritz stay set you back? Absolutely. Expect to pay extra for freebies at budget resorts, such as parking, breakfast, and WiFi. But also expect to be wowed with things like butler services, turn-down, and amazing ambiance. Read about our favorite Ritz Carlton stay.

Runner up: Fairmont

I’ve always loved Fairmont hotels due to their physical beauty, inside and out. At many a Fairmont, families will feel like they’re staying in a castle or mansion. Details abound, such as infused water in the lobby, cookies at bedtime, and planning programming just for kids. Read about our most magical Fairmont stay.

Best budget hotel chain:

IHG villas

When we say ‘budget’, we don’t mean cheapest. ‘Cheapest’ is a very simple thing to find–a quick scroll through Expedia will find your winner. ‘Budget’ to us means cheapest with amenities we need. What amenities are these? How about free parking, free WiFi, and free breakfast. What might but might not be included: customer service worth mentioning, location, pools, or rooms beyond the uninspired standard.

Winner: Holiday Inn Express (IHG)

It’s nothing flashy, but consistently, we’ve had good stays at Holiday Inn Express hotels. When you just need a place to lay your heads, and want competent service, clean rooms, and a free breakfast that doesn’t suck (or only sucks a little), this is your pick.

Runner up: Best Western Plus

For us, Best Western Plus would have made the top spot, but many properties have room rates a bit too steep for us to consider ‘budget’. However, like Holiday Inn Express, Best Western Plus properties can be counted on to be quality stays, and often have extra amenities like nice pools or on-site dining.

Best suites-only hotel chain:

marriott-vacation-club

Yes, you can find a suite in any price range, but for families, finding a economic hotel that still provides ample space is like hitting the jackpot.

Winner: Marriott Vacation Club

We’ve yet to meet a MVC property we don’t like. Like Grand Hyatt or Embassy Suites, this chain is all about value over budget price. Families get condo-like suite living with full kitchens (a big savings when vacationing and eating out), plus tons of family-friendly programming options in vacation destinations. MVC properties shine on the amenities front too: they have some of the best pools, beaches, and playgrounds we’ve seen, and most include free parking. Read about just one of our top Marriott Vacation Club stays.

Runner up: Holiday Inn Club Vacations

Always in a vacation destination that appeals to families, Holiday Inn Club Vacation properties are similar to MVC, with a (usually) lower price tag. While they don’t have quite the polish of the latter chain, they do offer up value for families in condo-style vacation villas, amenities like nice pools and dining options, and sometimes, shuttles to popular sights.

Best moderate luxury:

omni-hammocks

What sort of category is this? The one for those of us who enjoy luxury, but can’t always swing a Ritz stay. If that’s you, read on.

Winner: Preferred hotels

Definitely check the PreferredFamily.com website before looking for a Preferred hotel in your vacation destination, because most of these hotels have independent names. However, across the brand, they shine as moderate luxury options that include family amenities that may be missing from top luxury brands, such as child proofing in rooms, family-friendly dining, and toddler pools. Read some of our tips on the PreferredFamily blog list.

Runner up: Omni hotels

Often located in cities popular for family travel, Omni hotels give parents luxury while offering kids fun amenities, like backpacks and kid packets upon check-in. You’ll still pay for extras like parking and breakfast at most Omni hotels, but their prime locations and spacious rooms may make up for this. Read a review of our favorite Omni.

Tip: learn how to use IHG points toward your next hotel stay, no matter the category.

What is your favorite hotel brand for family travel?

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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