Location, location, location, has always been the main criteria when choosing hotels. We would suggest you take more into consideration: Room and services are critical for a good night’s sleep; facilities such as swimming pool, kids club and babysit services, are not a must but always good to have; on-site restaurants become important when you don’t feel like going out for dinner after a long day.
Lissy Syoo, a destination expert and mother of a 4-year old, has been traveling in Asia and some European countries for over 10 years. Along with feedback from our previous customers, this article will help you make the right decision for your family trip to Asia.
Location is still certainly a major criteria. In most Asian countries you will find hotels, ranging from 20-buck guesthouses to high-end hotels within a 10 mile radius in the town centers. Some luxurious hotels and resorts even sell themselves for unbeatable view of a certain major attraction, such as the sunset view of Taj Mahal. However, an absolutely centrally-located hotel might not necessarily be ideal for families.
Instead of hotels at the very heart of the city, families with small children should go for hotels at short distance to downtown, yet away from the hustle and bustle. Less traffic and less noise, so your family can get a good night’s sleep (you know how kids can get very cranky if they are sleepy). Sometimes you can save a lot with such hotels. It is also important that you can find ATMs, restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores within walking distance.
One heads-up: there are still some red-light districts in some Asian countries, so try to avoid them (despite the fact that hotel prices may look VERY GOOD in those neighborhoods). Examples: Kabukicho in Tokyo, Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur, Nana in Bangkok, Tilawala in Jaipur, Grastin in Delhi, and Svay Pak in Phnom Penh.
Rooms and Amenities
A great hotel can be your temporary home. You will see a long list of facilities of a hotel but remember, not all of them are important to you. For example, as a mother of a 10-month old, you might care more about if they have an electric kettle for formula, rather than if they have a daily fruit basket. Pick a few things that are the most important to your family. Those little details are what make you “feel at home”.
According to Lissy’s experience, she will pay special attention to these features:
Room: Ample for Everybody
No matter how many people you are traveling with, one room for a family should not be less than 25sqm. In some particular countries or regions, it is very common to have rooms of 20 to 25sqm, namely Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and some parts in India. In those scenarios, get a twin room instead of a double as it is always slightly bigger than the latter; one child is allowed to share the bed with the parents free of charge (however, policies differ in different hotels). Connecting rooms deserve prior attention.
Most hotels partition 3 to 10sqm for bathroom and western-style toilet, and stand-up shower are basic standard. Although not a must, it will be nice to have two sinks (for kids and adults to use at the same time), separated bathroom, bathtub (good for a dip for small children), and a DIY laundry (you will need it badly on the 3rd day of your trip).
Traveling with a big family, just look for all-suite hotels and you will be granted a big room, ample living space and well-equipped bathrooms. Vacation rental is also a good option, especially for families of more than five. The home features of a kitchen and a laundry facilities, make it as enjoyable and comparable as a mid-priced hotel.
Amenities: Essential is the Key
Sure, a welcome candy bar or free drinks kick some extra scores. However, it is often easy to overlook some amenities that can really solve problems: Think of turn-down service, and 24-hour receptionist if you are arriving late.
Extra beds are the top concern for family trips. Most hotels don’t charge anything for one child under 6 years, sharing the bed with the parents. For children between 6 and 12, rollout beds or sofa beds can be added at extra cost, mostly 20% to 50% of the room price. Children above 12 are likely to be charged as adults. Extra bed policy is detailed on the hotel website or booking agent.
If your children are hooked on iPad and Xbox or you bring a lot of electronics, make sure the room has more than 3 power sockets. Two bottles of complimentary water is not enough for a family so make sure they have an electric kettle. Free in-room Wifi comes in handy when you need to check next day’s weather and stay online.
Most hotels offer free toiletries including toothbrush, tooth paste, shampoo, shower gel, and after-shave for men. This means you don’t need to pack these things. Towels are changed daily. However, out of respect for the environment, we suggest you bring your own towels. They don’t usually offer kid-size slippers, shower caps or bath robes, so bring your own or purchase at a close-by store.
Services and Facilities
Besides all the common features of a hotel, some special services can actually improve your experience. Room service, free instant food or mini bar might rank high as desirable offers, yet a hotel’s generous service is what makes a family trip memorable. For example, in-room babysitting service gives you a couple of free hours for a romantic spa treatment. Kids club for bigger children and free activities (banana boat, flying kite, pottery making and so on, are great touch.
With certain service details, some hotels win by a nose. For small children and babies, hotels with stroller rental or delivery gets picked easily. Teen and kid concierge is introduced into more and more hotels, such as Omni, Ritz and Marriott. It provides great ideas to explore the city with a family-friendly itinerary or customer map. Some hotels allow late check-out till 18:00 for families.
As for facilities, without doubt, a swimming pool might be the only facility that your children care for. Especially so for your family trip to Asia. It doesn’t have to be big but it can be a good distraction or “reward” for good behavior during the day. With parental permission, hotel staff will play kids movies on a PS4 for your children free of charge. Elevators and lifts are a must, since families always travel with big suitcases.
Dining: included breakfast and more dining options for dinner
Check the “Breakfast Included” box without thinking twice, as you know kids always love buffet breakfast, and eating in saves you a lot of time in the morning. For hotels in Asia, buffet breakfast is oftentimes continental with a good variety, plus options for local delicacies. Many have made-to-order hot stands, such as for omelet, waffles, scrambled eggs or, in Asia’s case, Pho (rice noodle soup).
Based on our survey, most kids love fresh fruit, yogurt and made-to-order infant menu, and take-out services can be a bonus. As for the food itself, better pay attention or get more information if you have some special dietary requirements such as gluten-free, none-dairy or none-seafood. Sometimes you will want to dine at the restaurant. Choose those hotels with more than 2 dining venues, catering for both, children and adults. One important heads-up is: some hotels require dinner reservation during Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year.
Well-being: stay happy and healthy
Don’t get frazzled during your trip. Get yourself some free time while your kids are playing in the pool. Think about enjoying a spa, high tea at the executive lounge or hitting the gym. Fitness centers at some mid-priced or international chain hotels are actually pretty good; some come along with sauna or Onsen bath (Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa in Hakone, for instance).
A doctor on call will keep your mind at ease. Such a warm and fuzzy fad has been brought to some up-market hotels and resorts, such as Trident in Jaipur, Peninsula Excelsior Hotel in Singapore, InterContinental Saigon Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and Ramada Khao Lak Resort in Phuket. Aligned with local hospitals, most hotels provide emergency transport to the local medical center.
“Instead of searching with a fine-toothed comb,” said Lissy, “it would be nice if somebody can do the ‘dirty work’ for you. Somebody who knows your needs.” Take a shortcut and look at our list of Top Hotels for Family Trips in Asia. Or email us with your ideas.
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