Our Italy vacation contest provided such a wonderful glimpse of current family travel trends and preferences when we asked our readers to submit a comment about their favorite family-friendly hotel in order to enter our fall giveaway for a week-long stay at Al Gelso Bianco in Tuscany.
543 comments were submitted! Although a handful were for favorite overall hotels vs. with kids, the vast majority of feedback was all about families. I’ve combed through the comments (thanks to JT Swanson who entered them all in Excel!) and there are a number of telling trends.
Al Gelso Bianco in Tuscany
Here are highlights of some of the things we learned that are worth sharing about favorite family hotels:
Favorite family hotels run the gamut from uber-luxurious properties like The Palms in Miami Beach, Claridges in London, Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort to properties that are value-oriented like the Comfort Inn in Erie, PA, the Hampton Inn in Savannah, GA, to the Alpine Village in Jasper, Canada.
The conclusion? Luxury hotels are just as family-friendly as value-oriented properties. Choosing between the options comes down to budget and personal travel preferences. See my recent article about how, when, and why luxury hotels are kid-friendly.
Chains were more popular than independent hotels overall. Chains with the most mentions are Marriott, Embassy Suites, Hyatt, Hampton Inn, Hilton, and Four Seasons.
The conclusion? Essentially all the major brands had at least one mention; given that many chains have models where they are owned and/or operated locally, researching a brand in a specific location to ensure that expectations and quality needs will be met is always important.
Chain hotel locations were all over the map but Hawaii had the majority of mentions for resort properties.
The conclusion? Full service chain properties work well on the beach with kids. Chains are not as popular with our readers for international travel although the caveat here is that Asia was not well-represented on the list and brands like Shangri-La, Sheraton, and Hyatt are well-known places to stay with kids in larger Asia tourist destinations. See my recent article on top family-friendly chains(US edition).
After reviewing the comments for the most mentioned chains, patterns are obvious. Here is a summary of what families consitently love about these chains …
Embassy Suites: Free breakfast (and cocktail hour)
Four Seasons: Service, treats for kids, and overall beauty
Hampton Inn: Spacious and clean rooms, friendly staff
Hyatt Place: Multiple mentions for value, practical room features like bunk beds, and comfort
Hilton: Amenities and convenience for Hilton Homewood Suites
The conclusion? Understanding what brands are best known for is useful when making accommodation decisions. A great way to see these trends is to look at aggregate reviews in Trip Advisor for the comments that seem to be mentioned over and over again. When this happens, more often than not, the information is reliable.
Disney hotels came up too. The one with the most impressive comments is the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando, Florida. “Best hotel we’ve every stayed as a family …” and “I’m not a big Disney fan but it won me over”
The conclusion? This hotel is now on Ciao Bambino’s must-experience list!
The most exotic hotel mentioned? The Chedi Hotel in Muscat, Oman. The Chedi property in Phuket got a mention too.
There were a few properties that I’ve never heard of with excellent comments like the Grupo Mayan Resorts in Mexico, Hotel Gardena in the Dolomites in Italy, Les Vergers de Saint-Paul in the Cote d’Azur in France, Platinum Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Grand Hotel Palatino in Rome to name a few.
We love that many hotels on the list are featured on Ciao Bambino—it means we’ve got the right list going. Ciao Bambino recommended properties include Atlantis, Club Med Ixtapa, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Park Hyatt Aviara, Hotel Del Sol, Hotel Flora, Hotel Ponte Sisto, Jean Michel-Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, Kaanapali Alii, Kahana Village, Le Case Del Borgo, Montage, Montestigliano, The Fairmont Kea Lani, The Fairmont Orchid, and the Winnetu Oceanside Resort … to name a few!
The conclusion? We feature over 250+ comprehensive reviews on Ciao Bambino (we only showcase hotels families love). We have a great list showcasing the information parents need to know about each property, but we’ve got some work to do! We’ll choose those that are a fit for our portfolio and start working on adding them to our worldwide family-friendly hotel reviews.
If you are curious about the comments—and, it’s fun reading—you can still view the full thread attached to the original Italy Vacation Giveaway blog post.