Caveat: Unless you are defining what makes a property top by quantitative or statistical information, creating a list of them is subjective.
Since Ciao Bambino specializes in uncovering family-friendly hotels that enhance vacations with kids – versus listing a list of any and all possibilities — top for us means favorite brands within the kind of properties we cover, i.e. those that offer something special for families in one way or another.
When I started Ciao Bambino around family travel to Italy, the focus was identifying independent, experiential properties that work well with kids. Chains rarely played a role, particularly outside of cities.
In North America, however, many of our chain hotels offer unique family-oriented services and amenities. Plus, the number of independent family-friendly options simply doesn’t exist the way it does in other markets.
“If I loved that chain any more, I’d have their name tattooed on my forehead. Pet loaner goldfish by request, leopard print robes in adult and kid sizes, plus fun extras depending on the location,” responded Jamie Pearson of TravelSavvyMom.com after I asked her about her favorite chain hotels for families.
Kimpton Hotels creates a wide range of boutique hotel experiences for a variety of guest-types including families. All Kimpton Hotels share a reliable four-star quality rating and are known for casual, modern-yet-comfortable décor.
I asked the Twitterverse last year for favorite kids-focused hotel amenities and Kimpton’s gold fish program got the most mentions.
KimptonKids is their kids’ amenities program and although specifics vary from hotel-to-hotel, the consistent presence across the portfolio means that families can count on basic, family-friendly services at any one of their hotels.
Joie de Vivre
This California-focused brand is not as universally kid-friendly as Kimpton, but many of the hotels in this collection are great for families. Value-oriented, these hotels not only hip and fun, but integrated with the local community both in terms of the physical features and the philanthropic programs where they partner with local non-profits, making a minimum donation of $200 per guest room per year.
Each Joie de Vivre hotel has a distinct California-style vibe. It’s part of their mission and it works. I love their hotels and again, a few stand out when it comes to families. We profile Hotel Del Sol in San Francisco and The Dream Inn in Santa Cruz. At either one you’re likely to see kids everywhere given ideal locations, room configurations, pricing, and amenities.
I’m certain enterprising hoteliers in other markets are working to emulate Chip Conley’s success with this brand.
I was introduced to Affinia Hotels last summer in Chicago. After walking into the lobby it was immediately clear to me that I just uncovered another one of those stand out boutique chains that found a way to create a unique, quality hotel experience for those traveling with and without kids. We’ve since added both the Affinia Chicago and Affinia 50 in New York to the Ciao Bambino portfolio.
The dedicated family-focused amenity program My Family is offered across their properties. After staying at a few Affinia hotels now, the atmosphere and decor between properties is not consistent, but that brand is working hard to create a comfortable guest experience. Those on Ciao Bambino are located in unbeatable areas for sightseeing with kids and Affinia is now on my short list for brands to review in other locations including Washington DC.
Four Seasons Hotels
In some ways it’s more of a risk to stay at an unknown 3 or 4 star hotel vs. a 5 star property — the reality is that any truly service-oriented hotel will make an effort to accommodate every guest. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel uncomfortable in the lobby or by the pool where other guests may frown on kids because the overall atmosphere is not kid-friendly.
Amazingly, Four Seasons consistently caters to families successfully throughout their portfolio. I think the key is separation in conjunction with family-friendly public areas. Meaning, everyone has a place to go — an adult pool vs. family pools, adult restaurants vs. family restaurants — not to mention their outstanding Kids for All Seasons Program, which is hooray, complimentary!
We feature The Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island, The Four Seasons Aviara, and the Four Seasons Punta Mita on Ciao Bambino. I’ve stayed at all of these properties and they are all truly fantastic luxury hotel experiences. We’re about to add The Four Seasons Boston to our portfolio and I’m staying at the Four Seasons Scottsdale this weekend. To be honest, we could probably add every Four Seasons to our portfolio and be confident that we’ve identified a “best” option in a given destination.
Not every Fairmont is family-friendly, but there are a few properties that really stand out as exceptional options with kids, particularly in Canada.
Despite being big and part of a major chain, these are hotels that create a unique, local experience through their spectacular architecture, venue, and services. If you are a luxury traveler and heading to Canada with your kids, Fairmont should be on your list!
That said, there are some outstanding hotels in other destinations too. In fact, we have more Fairmont Hotels on Ciao Bambino than any other large chain including the Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico, Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows in Santa Monica, Fairmont Scottsdale, The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, and The Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island.
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