Travel Trends 2005: Kids Dig Hotels Designed With Their Needs In Mind - My Family Travels

Family Travel Forum's FTFc consulting division reports on forward-thinking hotels with kid-pleasing rooms and amenities.Family Travel Forum's FTFc consulting division reports on forward-thinking hotels with kid-pleasing rooms and amenities.

As the family travel market grows, savvy junior consumers are playing an ever larger part in marketing strategies. According to the Travel Industry Association of America's Travel Poll, an estimated 93 million American adults took a family vacation in 2003 (up 8% from 2002). Looked at from the parents' point of view, 83% of all leisure travelers with children under 18 took them along on at least one trip. Whose choice was it? Smart marketers know that in the United States, children influence $300 billion in household spending each year. According to a 2003 survey by YPB&R, 68% of parents admitted their children were also "very influential" in vacation decision-making.

What Makes Parents & Kids Happy?

When ASTA polls its travel agent members regarding their family clients, 95% say that the top two influencers for parents in choosing a vacation destination were the variety of activities for different age groups, and the cost. Family Travel Forum Consulting (FTFc) research indicates that "cost" doesn't mean "cheap;" to most family travelers, it means "value." So, what's good value?

The American Hotel & Lodging Association recently reported that 27% of all member hotels in its Luxury category offer children's activities, while only 5% in the Budget price range do. Families perceive complimentary or low-cost children's activities at a hotel to be a good value, as are spacious suites or residential style accommodations. As all-suite brands in the mid-range price category have proliferated (the AHLA says the number of suites in the US has doubled over the last 10 years to more than 18% of all available rooms), families have begun to see separate bedrooms as a necessity rather than a luxury, regardless of cost.

What are the major influencers for kids? Children informally surveyed by FTF most often cite swimming pools, in-room video game or entertainment systems, themed décor, kid-themed restaurants, kid's clubs, and nearby attractions such as amusement parks as factors that make a hotel most appealing.

More than ever before, every segment of the travel industry must address the desires of children as well as those of their parents and grandparents. To evaluate how the hospitality industry is meeting clients' expectations, between February and June 2005, FTFc examined hundreds of "family-friendly" properties. We found several with kids' suites designed specifically for children ages 3 to 8-years, or some type of unique Family Room, and took a closer look at those with at least three of the other attributes that kids told us are especially appealing. These are the success stories.

Developing Brand Loyalty

Hoteliers interviewed say they hoped their youngest guests would feel like VIPs when given their own space to play, sleep and watch TV (freedom from parents!), and in-room perks like toys, entertainment systems, and snacks. As a marketing strategy, the concept is ingenious because brand loyalty is developed at a very young age. When children feel like valued customers and associate positive feelings with a hotel, their vacation is memorable and they clamor to return. A memorable vacation equally delights parents, who find it a good value, and may return to the brand for a future vacation.

Terry Whaples, founder of the Nickelodeon Family Suites, and 2005 recipient of Intercontinental Hotels Group's Kemmons Wilson Spirit of Family award, originated KidSuites at a Holiday Inn franchise in 1996. The hotel has since changed ownership, and is no longer a Holiday Inn property. The concept of providing children with their own bedroom, bedding and amenities was as revolutionary a decade ago as Kemmons Wilson's idea — back in 1952 — to build a roadside holiday inn where kids could sleep free in their parents' room.

Times have changed, and expectations along with them. A multitude of Holiday Inn hotels now offer guests a choice between KidSuites and standard rooms and, according to the company's Senior VP Brand Management Mark Snyder, a high percentage of their total Sunspree Resort inventory will soon be KidSuites. Jennifer Hodges, PR Director for the Loews Portofino Bay and Hard Rock hotels, says that the uniquely designed kids' suites at both of these properties are almost always sold out. Families book them well in advance, simply because, she says, "If the kids are happy, everyone benefits."

Pleasing Kids At US Hotels

Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn
14500 Continental Gateway
Orlando, FL 32821
When it was Ms. Whaples' Holiday Inn Family Suites, families adored this convenient, all-suite Orlando property. Now that is has partnered with cable TV giant Nickelodeon to become the first Nick Hotel, children will have an even better time at the Lake Buena Vista resort. Nick Family Suites, now independently owned and operated, are wall-papered with themes from Nickelodeon cartoons like Jimmy Neutron, the Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants. The suites have either two or three bedrooms, a common area and a kitchenette. In addition to a master bedroom, the suite's kidsroom has bunk or twin beds, a junior pullout bed, a TV and in-room movies, PlayStation 2 and an activity table with chairs. Families can reserve a special Character Breakfast to get autographs, and children five and under eat free at all other meals. If you can get kids away from the two water parks with their Rube-Goldberg-like climbing structures at either side of the property, they'll find plenty of entertainment in the Mall, which offers fast food snackbars, interactive games, an arcade, and a Kids' Spa. Facilities include a basketball court, a mini-golf course, Studio Nick with nightly entertainment, Nick-After-Dark Kids Activity Program, and a Nick at Night lounge for the adults.

Hard Rock Hotel
5800 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32819
Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida is already a great family destination, and the Hard Rock Hotel creates an even more family-friendly environment. The kids' section of the hotel's family suites has two twin-size beds, a small table and chairs, and a television, and the room is decorated in playful patterns. The rooms have a music-theme catering to the littlest rock'n'rollers in training. The hotel is located inside Universal Orlando, so all families have to do is walk outside to get to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks and the Universal Citywalk Entertainment Complex. Additionally, all guests of the hotel receive Express Pass Entrance to bypass waiting lines for rides — priceless. Other amenities include priority seating at Universal restaurants, resort-wide charging privileges with your room key, and a kids camp. This hotel is a Loews Hotels property.

Portofino Bay Hotel
5601 Universal Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32819
This deluxe Loews Universal Orlando property boasts 18 upscale Kid Suites that feature a master bedroom with a king-sized bed, plus a room with two child-size beds. Guests may choose between two twin beds or a bunk bed. Other room amenities include a small table and set of chairs, separate closet, TV/VCR, and a CD player. These rooms are just as tasteful as the elegant, adult-oriented public spaces resembling an Italian villa. Children really enjoy strolling around the hotel's piazza and watching gondolas ply the hotel's man-made lake, as well as playing in Campo Portofina, a supervised activity center. The family-friendly hotel also offers Loews' range of welcome gifts, special menus, supervised recreational programs, a game-lending library, three themed pools, and much more just for children.

Knott's Berry Farm Resort Hotel
7675 Crescent Avenue
Buena Park, CA 90620
714/995-1111 or 866/752-2444
Even though this hotel provides a free shuttle to Disneyland (10 minutes away), you won't ever need to use it—because this Buena Park, California resort has its own theme park, which boasts some of the world's best roller coasters for teens and adults. The Knott's Berry Farm theme park stretches across 160 acres of what used to be an actual berry farm, featuring rides, roller coasters, games, and live entertainment. For preschoolers, the Camp Snoopy section of the park, based on the famous "Peanuts" comic strip, has gentler rides and child-friendly shows and attractions. The property contains only one (out of 165 park rides) water ride, but that's because Knott's also owns a Soak City Water Park, located right next door! Family amenities within the hotel itself include Snoopy Rooms, which have two queen beds and Snoopy-themed décor. The innovative telephone system features six dial-up bedtime stories that the children can listen to from their beds. If families staying in these rooms plan ahead, Snoopy himself will stop by to tuck in the young ones.

Hotel Metropolis
25 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
800/553-1900 or 415/775-4600
Each floor of this unusual San Francisco, California boutique hotel is designed with the motif of earth, wind, fire or water. The Urban Explorers Kid's Suites sleep up to six adults and three kids. They feature bunk beds and child-sized furniture, and are connected to the parents' master bedroom. Some amenities include in-room refrigerators, televisions with Nintendo, an e-Mac computer and pay-per-view movies. All kid's suites come stocked with crayons, chalkboards, movies, a selection of books and a rubber ducky for bath time. Check their site for seasonal family specials, and look for Kid's Suites at the Hotel Diva and the Hotel Union Square, two of Personality Hotels' other properties in San Francisco.

Hotel Helix
1430 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
800/706-1202 or 202/462-9001
From its Magritte-esque mural on the outside to its outrageous color scheme on the inside, Washington, D.C.'s Hotel Helix promises a fun-filled stay. The hotel has Bunk Rooms — large rooms with one king size bed, and one bunk bed (the bottom bunk is actually a clever sofa that transforms into a full size bed. ) The colorful modern furniture and the pop art adorning the walls make for an interesting environment. Rooms come equipped with high-speed Internet access, Sony CD stereos, in-room movies and 37-inch flat screen televisions with Nintendo and WebTV access. Hotel Felix's Bring the Kids Along package includes accommodations in a Bunk Room and all the supplies for a pizza party: two large pizzas, two one-liter soft drinks, two pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and a board game of your choice. When families get bored with the hotel, they can venture outside. Felix's downtown location is nearby all of D. C. 's free, family-friendly museums. They didn't forget about the pets either, as Hotel Helix offers pet-friendly accommodations.

Howard Johnson Crayola Kid's Rooms
When booking a Howard Johnson property in the U.S. and Canada, inquire if the location is one offering the Crayola Kids Rooms. These are one-room junior suites with a partition wall separating sleeping areas for kids and parents. The kids' section features two twin beds, an art easel with crayons, stuffed animals, a kid-sized table and chairs, and a half-bathroom for emergencies. Crayola rooms feature some other value-added amenities to provide a fun and relaxing environment, such as a TV/VCR, a mini-fridge with complimentary beverages, a microwave, a nightlight, and primary colored bedspreads and drapes. (Editor's Note: These rooms are no longer offered at Howard Johnson locations).

The Omni Hotels' Texas Collection Kids' Sensory Suites
Select Omni Hotel chain hotels in Texas offer Kids' Sensory Suites, which contain separate rooms that are "fit for a kid." Featuring twin beds with colorful sheets, beanbag chairs, board games, cozy bath robes, aquatic-themed bath accessories and even a Kids' Sensation Bar that is jam-packed with toys and snacks. An informal advisory board of 10-year old children that was set up by Omni helped the chain design these one-of-a-kind suites that have one goal in the mind: pure fun! Also all kids staying at the Omni's Texas Collection can participate in Sensational Kids, which includes a special kid's menu, milk and cookies every night before bed and a complimentary gift bag with gift items that correspond with each of the five senses.

Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts
323 East Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
312/565-0565 (Chicago Hotel)
Swissotels are located in cities around the world, ranging from Istanbul to Los Angeles and many of their properties contain Kids Suites. Their special Kids Suites are tailored for children between 2 and 12-years, and have child-friendly materials and furnishings, as well as a play area with a large selection of toys and a collection of CD's and DVD's. Children's coloring books, crayons, games, fun bedding, and child-size tables and chairs are provided, yet each hotel and family room is slightly tailored to its location. For instance, Swissôtel Chicago's Designed for Kids Room was developed with the celebrated Shedd Aquarium. A hotel stay includes an element of education through a fun exploration of marine life with books, movies, and puzzles provided by the aquarium. When families book a stay in Chicago, they also receive four complimentary tickets to the Aquarium. Other Swissotels have similar marketing promotions with local attractions. Additional amenities include Very Important Kids check-in, a special kids menu, babysitting, and a pool on the 42nd floor.

Best Western Great Northern
229 Great Northern Road
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada P6B 4Z2
800/563-7262 or 705/942-2500
Located in Upstate Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, this hotel doesn't rely on brand name characters to appeal to kids. Instead, their Family Suites have furniture and walls painted in themes such as Jungle Fun, Astronaut and Wildlife. These rooms have bunk beds, a TV with Sony PlayStation, a mini-fridge, and a pull-out sofabed in the common area. The parent's room offers a king-size bed. In the main hotel there is a 24-lane bowling alley, a 5 1/2-story indoor waterslide (the biggest in Ontario), a pool and a whirlpool. What's not for a kid to love here? The fun never stops! (Editor's Note: This hotel is under new management and is no longer a Best Western property. The new name of the hotel is Great Northern Resort & Conference Center).

Pleasing Kids At International Hotels

Canad Inns
The Fort Gary, Garden City, Transcona, Windsor Park and Brandon locations of this Winnipeg, Canada-based hotel chain feature Kids Theme Rooms with adjoining bedrooms that are designed especially for young children, with four bunk beds, and a queen bed for adults. The children's rooms' wallpaper and sheets are decorated with themes such as Outerspace, Under the Sea, and Jungle Fun. Other family-friendly amenities include bunk beds, Play Station 2 units with games, and colorful lighting. The newest destination is in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which offers Family Suites and similar amenities, and features a 40,000 square foot indoor aquatic park, Splasher's of the South Seas. Most important, each themed suite has its own direct entrance to the Splashers Indoor Pool and Waterslide Park.

Mayfield Inn & Suites
16615-109th Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta

Canada T5P 4K8
800/661-9804, 780/484-0821;
Minutes from Canada's West Edmonton Mall (aka "The World's Largest Mall"), the Edmonton Space and Science Center, and Fort Edmonton Park, this four-star hotel in Alberta province offers a comfortable place for the family to relax after a busy day. In the Mayfield's family suites, there are two separate adjoining bedrooms: the kids' room has bunk beds, a TV, DVD player and Xbox ($400 deposit required), and the adults' room has a king size bed, a queen pull-out sofa bed, and its own TV. The inn itself has an extensive athletic club with a fitness room, a swimming pool, and squash and racquetball courts. A lounge with billiard tables and arcade games, as well as a separate (unsupervised) children's room with TV, toys, and art supplies is also part of the complex. For adults and children over 5, the hotel puts on a dinner/theater program most nights of the week, featuring some of the region's actors in popular plays and musicals.

Ritz-Carlton Cancun
Retorno del Rey #36
Zona Hotelera
Cancun, Q. Roo Mexico 77500
52/998 881-0808
The Cancun, Mexico location of this luxury hotel chain now has three Itzy, Bitzy, RitzKids Rooms. These three deluxe guestrooms offer notable features such as a safety-approved crib, a changing table, a television armoire strategically positioned so as not to disturb the baby at nap time, miniature hangers in the closet, and a telephone programmed to light up, not ring. A "Shh, baby sleeping" sign is personalized for every young guest and hung on the door to alert others to lower their voices. The Ritz-Carlton staff personally contacts every parent in advance to offer a menu of services and products that can be ordered prior to arrival. They include all of the essentials you'll need, from formula to swimming diapers. As at other Ritz-Carlton resorts, there is a fee-based supervised kid's club operating daily except Sundays offering full or half day sessions for ages 4-12, and an evening program on Fridays and Saturdays.

Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments
116 Piccadilly
London, England W1J 7BJ
Voted one of London's top ten hotels by Condé Nast Traveler, The Athenaeum has, for nearly a decade, extended its upscale, friendly service down to its youngest guests. Family amenities include a welcome teddy bear, children's toiletries and seasonal family packages including nanny service. The Athenaeum's facilities are especially family-welcoming, with 111 rooms in a modern tower and 12 private apartments in adjacent Edwardian townhouses. Some traditional, others more contemporary, the apartments each have private entrances, a sitting room, one or two bedrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen. In a 2004 renovation, one of the apartments was redesigned with the traveling family in mind. It has a vintage games console loaded with classic video games, a children's table and chairs, and high-tech TVs with Internet access. There are two bedrooms, and the sofa in the sitting room converts into two single beds when opened. Creative, contemporary art and design features abound. The back wall of the sitting room is a dry erase board; similarly, the walls in the kitchen are painted in magnetic blackboard paint. For larger families, booking an apartment costs considerably less than booking two hotel rooms. The hotel is located across the street from Green Park, and a short walk from Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, the Royal Academy of Art, Piccadilly Circus, and the theater district.

Seaworld Nara
Seaworld Drive
Main Beach, Gold Coast
Queensland, Australia 4217

This Queensland, Australia property bordered by theme parks has 90 Family Suites, which are two standard hotel rooms joined together. There are two double beds, a bathroom, a balcony and a sitting area in each room, and both rooms share a kitchenette with a refrigerator and microwave. Suite amenities include TVs, Sony Playstations, Internet access, and in-room pay-per-view movies. On the property there are two playgrounds and an indoor playroom, and for a small fee the resort offers a kid's club nightly that includes dinner and supervised play. The biggest draw for families is the resort's convenience; it neighbors several theme parks including Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet N' Wild Water World and Dreamworld, an amusement park with rides, attractions, and entertaining shows.

Hotel Highland Resort
5 6 1 Shin Nishihara
Fujiyoshida, Japan 4030017
Situated across the street from the Fuji-Q Theme Park (home of the one of the world's tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coasters, Fujiyama), this Mt. Fuji area resort is a popular weekend destination near Tokyo, Japan. The hotel boasts an indoor pool, arcade, and a 20-lane bowling alley. In the summer, there is an outdoor pool, and in the winter, two outdoor ice-skating rinks. Parents appreciate that entrance to the theme park is free to hotel guests year-round. Like the theme park, the hotel is designed with Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends in mind. In the hotel there are Thomas Rooms, adorned with images and bed linens of Thomas and his pals, Edward and Harry. At the adjacent park, railway-themed rides are designed for everyone from preschoolers to honeymooners in this train-crazy country.

Allamanda Laguna Phuket
29 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Road
Cherngtalay, Phuket, Thailand 83110
66/ 76 362 700
Allamanda, on the island of Phuket off Thailand's southwest coast, offers families a top-notch tropical vacation surrounded by the Andaman Sea. Family suites have two rooms, and the kids' room has its own bathroom, colorful furnishings, games, toys, videos, and a GameBoy. For ultimate comfort, the suites also have living and dining areas, a kitchenette, satellite TV, and a veranda with a view of the lagoon. For a fee, children ages 4-8 can participate in the daily Allamanda Kids Club and, for children 8-18, the Laguna Club offers daily outdoor programs during in-season months. The resort also offers in-room babysitting. Activities include canoing, sailing, windsurfing, and even batik painting lessons. There are six swimming pools, three of which are especially for children.

Bali Dynasty Resort
J1 Kartika
Tuban, South Kuta Bali, Indonesia 80361
62-361 752-403
Self-described as "Bali's most popular family resort," this Kuta village hotspot offers plenty of activities for children to keep them occupied, such as the nearby water park and an on-site kids club (for ages 4-12) housed next to the swimming pools, a 56-meter waterslide, outside playground, and playhouse. In addition, special Kids Suites, which adjoin the parents' bedroom, have Pokemon character painted walls, large bunk beds, and Playstations and are located on the ground floor with a terrace leading into the garden. To meet the needs of a broader market including older children, parents can choose between these and family suites—basically just extra-large rooms with a king size bed, and either two twin beds or a combo of a trundle bed and a sofa bed that can accommodate up to five. In catering to the many extended Asian families who visit, children under 21 may stay free when sharing accommodations with parents.

Adam's Beach Hotel
Nissi Avenue
5340 Ayia Napa
357/ 23840000
Set on the sands of Nissi Bay on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the Adams Beach Hotel is a top choice for Europe's beach-loving families. Although there are dozens of beachfront hotels around the island, the Adams Beach stands out because of its kid-pleasing facilities. One of the property's major assets is its free-form, multi-pool waterpark with bridges, waterfalls, Jacuzzis, fountains, a lazy river and winding waterslides. There is also a children's pool and playground, an indoor kids club (ages 4-12, Apr-Oct) and children's menus. Babysitting can be arranged upon request. Moreover, the hotel has seven family-friendly rooms and suites, which sleep 3-5 people. The suites have separate rooms for children and parents; the main room has a queen-sized bed and the children's room has bunk beds. There is a TV in both rooms, which are separated by sliding wood doors. Family rooms are also offered, differing slightly from suites in that rooms have one full bed, and two twin beds.

Share Your Thoughts: What are your favorite themed suites? Which hotels are implementing the most innovative kid-pleasing ideas for amenities and facilities?

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