Note: This post expresses my own thoughts; I was not contacted or compensated by Marriott.
Airbnb and Homeaway are popular ideas when it comes to housing while traveling and I love the idea of staying in a neighborhood and really becoming part of a community. I also know several people who love hitting the road in their camp or trailer, or even camping in an old fashioned tent, communing with nature. For me, and my husband and young(er) children, it’s less hassle and gives me more of a “vacation” versus “trip” feel to stay in a hotel when we're traveling as a family. I like the idea of someone making my bed with fresh sheets each day, whipping up breakfast, and helping me navigate around a new place.
My family has become loyal fans of the Marriott company. You’ll read specifics about my favorite Marriott properties in some of my posts, but my favorite brand of the company is the Residence Inn. Residence Inns are designed to feel more like a home than a “regular” hotel room. Plus, they’re consistent in many ways I appreciate:
The locations: I have yet to plan a trip where I could not find a Marriott property. They are everywhere. And I can almost always find a Residence Inn, my preferred hotel. According to their website, there are almost 4,000 Marriott properties in the United States alone, and almost 750 Residence Inns. For many of trips that have brought us to major cities, I can park my car in their garage, and walk everywhere, like we did at the Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile or at the like at the Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown. It’s a nice break to not drive for a couple of days. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, we had an oceanfront room at the Residence Inn Virginia Beach Waterfront. One of the most convenient, and most stylist, Marriott properties we have stayed at is the Newport Marriott. The Newport Marriott is within walking distance of dozens of things to see and do, has a gorgeous nautical decor, and check out the lobby- my children loved the hanging chairs.
The cleanliness: Every.single.room I have stayed in has been clean, from the kitchen, to the flooring, to the bathroom, to the bedding. I like that there is no comforter; it tells me that any bedding I am coming in contact with has been cleaned before I arrive. Some of the hotels even leave notes reassuring me they’ve cleaned the tv remote (I usually bring baby wipes to clean remotes before anyone touches it!) and telephone.
The layout: We always try book a one bedroom suite when we stay a Residence Inn. When they were younger, my children would stay in a pack and play we’d set up in the kitchen because it had open space. Eventually, we graduated them to the sofa bed in the living room, and we were able to shut the bedroom door (okay, maybe we left it a crack open so we could hear if they needed us) and enjoy time to relax, shower, catch up on email etc without have to tiptoe around in the dark. The bathroom is usually attached to the bedroom so, again, we don’t have to worry about waking up the kids if we want to shower. The kitchen is fully equipped to make meals if we want to and it’s nice to have a full fridge and freezer (no more searching for ice machines!)
The food: Breakfast is included in the cost of some hotel stays. At Residence Inn hotels, there is a full spread in the morning, including a hot meal, cereals, tons of carb options, fresh fruit, and my children's’ favorite: the waffle maker. There is always a variety of hot and cold beverages, and plenty of choices for people with allergies and on diets. I distinctly remember that the Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown even had my children’s favorite organic yogurt (which is not cheap in grocery stores) every morning. Residence Inns also have evening socials a few nights during the week, with a different theme each night. We’ve attended many socials, with themes ranging from “grill night” to “Taco Tuesday”. They have a “Marketplace” where you can purchase everything from toiletries to snack to full size frozen dinners and many hotels have a restaurant and bar located in house.
The amenities: Marriott does a great job of providing all sorts of amenities, some consistent in every hotel, and some specific to the area. There are the (always) popular pools, hot tubs, and exercise gyms that we use on occasion (okay, the pool more than the gym). Our kids especially loved the pool at the Residence Inn Orlando at Seaworld (bonus, it was ten minutes to go from the hotel parking lot to the ferry to Magic Kingdom) and the pool at Delray Beach Marriott in Florida. Residence Inn Downtown at the Depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota is attached to an indoor water park. Every hotel has laundry facilities on site that have been useful, and some hotels have nightly entertainment for children. We’ve received help from concierge who have interactive, electronic maps for directions, like at the Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown. (PS- This was one of most our favorite hotels, which is why it gets three shout outs in this post.) We’ve been able to print directions and tourist information right from a computer station, without cost, at the Residence Inn St. Louis Downtown. At some locations, local transportation will pick you up from the entrance of the hotel if you need a break from the car.
The staff: I have come to trust the opinions of Marriott employees. They have given me great restaurant advice based on my criteria (whether I say “no wait time”, “within two mile radius of the hotel”, “best chicken nuggets”, “sports on TVs in the bar.”) Many hotels have a printed list of nearby houses of worships (we never miss a week of church no matter where we are). Virtually every staff member I have met is friendly and helpful. One story that sticks is my mind occurred at the Residence Inn Rochester West/Greece. When my daughter threw up in the middle of the lobby, the staff not only cleaned up the entire mess while reassuring us it wasn’t an inconvenience, but within a half hour of returning to our room, the same staff came with complimentary ginger ale and a box of saltines for our daughter with a handmade “get well soon” card.
The rewards for being loyal: When we planned our first big trip back in 2012, and booked nine different Marriott properties for our three week trip, we decided it made sense to sign up for the credit card. We have accrued many a free night since the summer of 2012 and have received many perks and special rates when we book. You can read more about becoming a Rewards member here and applying for a credit card here
And while I mentioned we enjoy staying at Marriott properties when we travel as a family, I am writing this post from the oceanside pool at Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a Marriott resort where my husband and I are staying tonight, sans children.
I’m well on my way to planning for 2018 and I’ve booked eleven different Marriott properties for our travels. So far.