Author: Jillian Ryan
Tags : Business Travel, Canada, Family-Friendly Hotels, Mexico, North America, USA
Looking for a hotel brand that provides a standard of comfort, extra space and all the other things you would expect at home? Then make sure to look into Homewood Suites, your new vacation home away from home.
Traveling families know the difficulties of vacation life: the cost of three full meals a day for mom, dad and the kids; lack of space in a tight hotel room for the entire clan; and loss of the basic comforts of home that young children, especially, are accustomed to. As an option for families who would like to limit the downsides of travel, Homewood Suites, a Hilton Hotels brand, is a great choice, offering spacious accommodations, plus services and amenities that will make your family feel right at home.
Known as an "extended stay" hotel chain, the average length stay at a Homewood Suites hotel is 11 nights, and that is probably because 80% of guests across the brand are business travelers. But that statistic is not one that should keep a family away. In fact, a large family has similar needs to those of a traveling businessperson: space, food and convenience.
Considered to be in the top tier of extended stay hotels in terms of service, amenities and décor, Homewood Suites currently has 270 hotels opened throughout North America. Seven of these are located in Canada and there are also two in Mexico. As of the summer of 2009, there are more than 120 hotels in development and the plan is to continue expansion with more than 500 hotels expected to be operating by 2014.
Spacious Suites Sleep Big Families
Growing up within a family of five, sleeping and showering in a hotel room for me was always an event, and not necessarily a fun one. My brother, sister and I would fight over who would have to share a bed and who would get stuck on the cot that would be by the bathroom door. Then there was the inevitable territory debate over who would get one of the limited drawers or space on the bathroom counter.
After a recent stay at the Homewood Suites Markham (905/477-4663), in a suburb just north of Toronto, Ontario, my mother and I realized that if such a hotel existed during my childhood, such arguments would have not have occurred. Every Homewood Suites hotel offers guests three different suite options: Studio (350-square-feet in size), One-Bedroom (500-square-feet) and Two-Bedroom (600-square-feet). The ample space provided by all of the choices allows for a family of any size to be comfortable in their lodging as 4 individuals can fit in the Studio; 4-6 individuals can be accommodated in One-Bedroom Suites, and up to 8 adults can stay in the Two-Bedroom option.
The layout of each room is consistent across the brand, no matter which Homewood Suites you find yourself in. Two-Bedrooms Suites are less common than the other two choices and are not readily available at all locations, so make sure your larger family inquires in advance.
The Homewood Suites standard demands that every suite be equipped like your home. There is a full kitchen with a microwave oven, full-size refrigerator, dishwater, a stove, and coffeemaker, as well as all the utensils and plates that a family would need to have a meal in their own dining area. Each suite also features at least one television and movie player (some even have a video game console attached). Finally, for families that like to stay connected while vacationing, there is complimentary high-speed internet in all rooms, as well as two telephones.
“Suite” Services Include Meals
When my mother and I arrived at the Homewood Suites we were pleased to find hot and delicious coffee waiting for us in the lobby (plus we lucked out and each had a warm fresh chocolate chip cookie). In the morning hours, all Homewood Suites offer guests the brand’s Complimentary Suite Start, a hot breakfast that is served in the Lodge area of the lobby. Served from 6am-10am, we enjoyed a rotating daily menu of hot items including pancakes, eggs, French toast and hash browns. Everyday staple selections of cold items include bagels, toast, muffins, cereal, fruit and yogurt.
Plus from Monday through Thursday, families can also save money by dining in at the Lodge, which also features, from 5pm-7pm, a Welcome Home reception that boasts a light dinner and beverages. Every night is themed, so review the schedule upon check-in to see what your children will enjoy. Menu options during our visit at the Markham Homewood Suites included Asian Express, Italian Night, Fiesta, German Night and Lodge Bistro. Note that different hotels across the brand may offer different menu themes.
The one assurance that Homewood Suites makes to its guests is that all menu choices are healthy and fresh. The General Manager of the Markham property, Amar Samuel, claims that while other hotel chains are depleting the amount of add-ons they offer for complimentary meal services, Homewood Suites is “beefing it up.” He continued, “We don’t compromise on quality with breakfast or dinner even if the meal is included in the rate.”
Suite! They Stock Your Fridge, Have WiFi & Laundromats
And although daily breakfast is included, and dinner is also complimentary four nights a week, Homewood Suites still offers guests a 24-hour option for food and other necessities: its Suite Shop, a mini convenience store that carries everything from frozen dinner and chips to ice cream and canned soup. Plus, for the convenience of business and family travelers, they even have toothpaste, baby wipes and other toiletries.
If your family is occupied with sightseeing and too busy to shop, that is quite alright, too. If you know that you will need some baby food, diapers, juice and maybe granola bars, just fill out the blank list that is posted on your refrigerator, then drop it off at the front desk. Upon your return to your suite at the end of the day all of your requested items will be in your room and ready for use. The service is free and the cost of the groceries will be added to the roombill.
The Markham Homewood Suites has a Business Center with free internet access (only available to adults), a saltwater indoor pool, a small outdoor golf-green with a tee (club available for use at the front desk) and an exercise room. There is even a barbeque in the courtyard if guests wish to grill on a nice night. [Note that all of these amenities are not available at every Homewood Suite hotel]. Plus, laundry machines were on-site for guests staying for long periods of time. The detergent is free and each cycle is $1.50; great for families who want to pack light.
Lewis The Duck
During a stay at the Homewood Suites, it is impossible not to realize that the chain’s mascot is the duck. A symbol of versatility and adaptability, the brand says this creature shows the hotels’ ability to serve guests with resourcefulness and flexibility. And since this concept may be boring to children, Homewood Suites has named their duck Lewis and has even given the character his own book series. With two books (Lewis the Duck and His Long Trip and Lewis the Duck Goes to Canada) on the market thus far, the brand hopes to teach children about business trips and vacationing. Written by Homewood Suites’ Vice President of Brand Marketing and Sales, Bill Duncan, the illustrated books are fun and available for purchase at all Homewood Suite locations.
The best part of staying in a Homewood Suites is the price. The average daily rate across the brand is only $120 per night; depending on season and location, that number may fluctuate but you're guaranteed a good value.
The only downside is that many hotel locations may not be as central to city sightseeing as a family traveler would like. Staying in Markham was great; the hotel was comfortable, welcoming, beautifully decorated, had tons of extra services and lots of space, but it was quite removed from downtown Toronto. Located at 50 Bodrington Court in Markham, a cab back to the hotel after touring with my mother in the city was nearly $50 CAN. However, for a traveling family, staying a little further away from all the action may be the sacrifice that needs to be made for a good night’s sleep, a complimentary breakfast and children being able to watch TV in a separate bedroom from mom and dad after a long day of sightseeing.
Families should note that as expansion continues, more and more Homewood Suites are opening in more downtown-oriented locations. Opening soon will be Homewood Suites in Miami, Florida; Brooklyn, New York; Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Niagara Falls, Ontario. And some major cities covered by FTF as top family destinations already boast Homewood Suites that are in close proximity to a myriad of attractions. However, as mentioned, certain locations to do not feature all services and amenities; thus, please inquire in advance before booking your stay.
• Seattle-Convention Center-Pike Street, 1011 Pike Street, 206/682-8282, located minutes from the Children’s Museum, City Center and Historic Waterfront. Features a quiet courtyard with grill facing the room; lacks a pool and the two-bedroom suite option.
• Chicago-Downtown, 40 East Grand Avenue, 312/644-2222, located minutes from Lake Michigan, the Chicago Theater District, American Girl Place and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Features a pool and fitness center and has no two-bedroom suites.
• Washington, 1475 Massachusetts Avenue, 202/265-8000, located minutes from the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress and Arlington National Cemetery. Newly renovated in 2007, this location does not have a pool or the two-bedroom suite option.
• San Antonio-Riverwalk/Downtown, 432 West Market Street, 210/222-1515, located minutes from the Alamo, the Missions of San Antonio and the King William Historic Area. Features 13 two-bedroom suites and also boasts a small rooftop pool and spa.
• New Orleans, 901 Poydras Street, 504/581-5599, located minutes away from the Aquarium of the Americas, French Quarter and Audubon Zoo & Gardens. Newly redesigned with an “Old World” New Orleans charm, this hotel has 36 two-bedroom suites and an indoor pool.
• Philadelphia-City Avenue, 4200 City Avenue, 215/966-3000, located minutes from the Philadelphia Zoo, South Street and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. With 10 two-bedroom suites, this hotel shares an indoor pool with the Hilton located next door.
To learn more about all other Homewood Suites locations visit www.homewoodsuites.com or call 800/CALL-HOME.