Not Disney

12 Subtle Signs That A Trendy Hotel Is Secretly Super Kid-Friendly

So you can travel in style without feeling like your brood is a buzzkill.

Written by Elizabeth Narins
Originally Published: 
A family checks into a hotel room.
Anchiy/Getty Images

Having two kids under 4 years old means I don't travel often. But when I do (with two littles in tow, naturally), I still gravitate toward the splurgy boutique hotels I frequented before having children. After all, all I really want from vacation these days is to sip a really good cup of coffee I didn't make and sit in a lounge that's significantly cooler than my living room — somewhere that will inspire me to go home and redecorate, dress better, and garnish my own avocado toast on a random Tuesday morning. Extra points if the place is indestructible, because #kids.

Am I crazy to bring two teeny tornadoes to "cool" places? Maybe. But at least I'm not alone: "Parents want the same level of quality in a hotel experience that we had in our pre-kids lives," confirms Christine Comer (@thelittlegoldmix), a family and fashion content creator who takes her 3- and 7-year-old boys on countless little getaways and staycations in addition to two bigger trips a year. (Are we millennials, or are we millennials?!)

Most of the hotels that Comer has stayed at — from Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach to The Standard High Line in New York City — have been accommodating to her family of four. But there was that time a manager angrily asked her to relocate her then-2-year-old to her room so the poor kid could "finish crying." (Rude!) And she's no stranger to guilt, which comes for her every time her kids splash with delight around a hotel pool.

No one wants to spend the entirety of their vacation shushing the sh*t out of their children in a place that clearly loathes under-18s. But how's a mom to tell whether a hotel will welcome her brood or stare them down until they're silent, especially when staying at a cute little spot rather than a big box hotel or — shiver — family resort?

Read on for signs that cool accommodations are secretly family-friendly, according to... well, me.

Besides being a mom and writer, I'm part of the founding team of Hotel Lilien, an 18-room boutique design hotel and cocktail lounge in the Catskills Mountains. While we like to think we have an ~aesthetic~, we've hosted hundreds of families and made an art of offering low-key kids amenities ranging from pack 'n plays to individual ice boxes for milk storage, lawn games for littles to get their sillies out, and a selection of snow sleds including a pink flamingo tube because hey, it's their vacation, too.

"'Family-friendly' doesn't have to mean generic," says Comer, who's stayed with us. "We shouldn't have to sacrifice quality and style in a hotel stay once we have kids." (Amen!)

Here are 12 subtle signs that the cool hotel you're eyeballing for your next family vacation is actually kid-friendly.

1. Pack-’n-plays are available upon request.

Chic hotels might not make a thing of pack 'n plays on their websites — no one wants to remind travelers without kids that, hey, babies exist. But call and ask if they've got pack 'n plays. Do they come with mattresses to make babies more comfortable? Do you have to set things up yourself? Three no's means they probably don't host too many little people (or simply don't want to). *Cue side eye when you strut in with your stroller.*

2. There's at least one parent running the place.

While trendy hotels sure do worry about alienating guests who don't have kids, hotel operators who are parents will understand if a consistent trail of Cheerios rests in your child's wake or why, in god's name, you let your toddler pack their absolute noisiest toy.

3. They've got staff who say hi.

While you can't always predict who will be on-site when you are, reviews speak volumes. So, check them for mentions of kids. "Staff that actually greet your kids, remember their names, and acknowledge them when you come and go make them feel welcome and relieve parents of stress and anxiety for an overall more pleasant stay," Comer says.

4. Concierge is brimming with kid-friendly activity ideas.

I once rolled up to a boutique hotel's reception desk with one crying kid on my hip and one whining at my feet. When I asked — with acute desperation — what the hell I should do with my children, she blanked and resorted to Google. (Eek.)

5. They offer rooms with multiple beds.

At Hotel Lilien, we built one connecting room with bunk beds, one with two queen beds positioned as far from one another as possible, and one suite with a kitchenette, pull-out couch, and closet (IYKYK!) that's big enough for a pack 'n play. Psst, we didn't design these *just* for adults. It's always worth asking what room configurations a place has to offer.

6. They don't charge for extra peeps.

Places that charge a fee for your firstborn or second are a raging red flag — and not just because they make traveling with your crew extra expensive. Skip at all costs.

7. They sneak some kid-friendly foods onto the main menu.

Cool boutique hotel bars *might* have a kids' menu. Or, they might slip kid-friendly items like French fries and grilled cheese (but make it fancy!) right onto their main menus. Either way, when a hotel serves up dishes like these, you can bank on the fact that your kids won't leave hungry... or dissed by the staff. Bonus: No food battles on vacation, tyvm!

8. They offer non-fussy desserts.

Speaking of hotel bar menus: Creme brulee sure is nice, but among kids, nothing beats a warm homemade chocolate chip cookie, with extra points for cookie-dough-covered smores.

9. The mini-bar is inaccessible (or absent).

When sharing a hotel room family-style, no one needs to wake up with their curious kids' hands in the (expensive) cookie jar. While you can't expect all hotel rooms to be 100% child-proofed, even vaguely kid-friendly places will keep the mini-bar under lock and key, position it out of reach of kids' reach, or skip it altogether. They'll also be cool with you stowing your own kid snacks in the room.

10. They offer breakfast on-site.

Hell hath no fury like a hungry child, and complimentary breakfast is the ultimate anecdote. On a recent trip to the Berkshires, we stayed at a hotel with bottomless berries and bagels. I'm certain they had no idea how many blueberries a baby could eat, but they offered to-go cups for us to pack breakfast bar snacks for the kids, nevertheless, and encouraged us to feed our kids bagels for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Can you guess who's been begging to go back?!) FWIW, Comer agrees this perk is pivotal, and says a snack shop or restaurant in the lobby can also help hit the spot.

11. They stock junior board games.

Sure, games are a fun amenity at any age. But the offering lands differently when you've got kids and limited luggage space for toys. Does the hotel solely provide chess and billiards, or pick-up sticks, Jenga, Guess Who, and Sorry? The curation of their collection can speak volumes about a hotel's attitude toward littles.

12. They have blackout shades or curtains.

Blocking out the light can help little kids adhere to their normal nap schedules and keep sleeping kids of all ages in dreamland after sunrise — at least in theory, since we all deserve to sleep in on vacation... or at least try!

Inquire before you book to steer away from hospitality snobs and ensure a cool but juvenile-friendly jaunt — all any of us want besides, like, two weeks in Europe by ourselves.

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