During the course of redesigning all 411 bedrooms and suites at the Royal Lancaster London, I stayed with my family on two occasions to ’test’ the rooms. We had a compact ‘classic’ room of 22sq/m and a matching adjoining room for our boys. It was a great experience for them – Ruben 11yrs and Brodie 6 yrs – to see what Daddy does for work, and to hang out in a cool hotel. I was especially interested in how it worked for us as a family and it raised a few issues that we dealt with in the final designs. Thinking back to other stays in various hotels over the years a few incidents come to mind that showcase the challenges for families with children.
First are shower controls. I well recall screams of horror piercing the walls as our boys managed to either scold or freeze themselves, the lesson being that manufacturers and designers need to ensure controls are clear and obvious for guests of all ages.
Next up are heated towel rails. On one stay a sudden burst of tears revealed that my smallest boy had burnt (not badly) his bare bottom on the heated shower rail. Not the hotel’s fault and to be fair it was ‘restricted’ so not to cause bad burns but not all hotels do this.
Bath robes. Brodie once took great pride in patrolling his room as a self-declared king, wearing a gown so big for him it looked like a bride’s train dragging along the floor. So how about a few kids-size bath robes kept in reserve?
Then there is the minibar. “Hey Dad, what does whisky taste like?” I’m next door in a shot to find they’ve laid out the contents of the minibar for closer inspection. Happily, the main interest focussed on fizzy drinks and crisps but perhaps hotels should remove inappropriate contents if children are staying or is that the parents responsibility?
Looking back at other hotel visits I can clearly recall the features that have really excited my kids. The breakfast feast and the incomprehension that they could keep going back to get more (“Wow, this is soooooo cool!!). The games console and table football they discovered in a business centre breakout zone. The bunk beds in the Generator Amsterdam family ‘quad room’ and the novelty that mum and dad also slept in bunks alongside them (“It’s like camping!”). The basement kids zone at Ickworth House with its kids-only movie suppers, games room, and their intercom based babysitting facility to all rooms.
Another boon is on-line check-in and check-out which saves much time waiting in line at the lobby reception with tired children. Added to this is the practical value of devices like ‘Handy’ smartphones provided by the hotel with free calls and preloaded city maps and ideas for your stay, especially when they’re tailored to the interests of young families.
So what makes a great family hotel? Well a few in-room novelties help although if your kids don’t stay in hotels regularly then the stay itself is novel. Staff that actually help to meet your often unusual requests, and a concierge who knows about stuff that families and kids might like. Emptying the ‘adult stuff’ from the minibar would be good, along with easy access to the kids channels on the tv (they’re often not noted or saved). And above all the ability for parents to relax without fear of quarrels, imminent injury, or sugar intoxication affecting their little darlings.