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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

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In Kids & Family Commentary

The right hotel room can make or break a family's travel experience. Choose wisely. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Happy hoteling with kids


Check in early and stay late during OnMilwaukee.com's "Hotel Week" sponsored by VISIT Milwaukee. The next seven days will be packed with stories about historic area hotels, reviews, famous guests, food and drink, overnights with kids and more. Find out what it's like to be a tourist in this town. (Chocolate on your pillow not included.)

Most parents choose to travel with their children – if they can afford to do so – because they want to create happy memories and because they hope to broaden their horizons with new experiences.

However, traveling with kids is often not relaxing and it can be downright perturbing. Choosing the right hotel can help limit the amount of vacation stress a family experiences.

Erin Fitch and her husband recently returned from a trip to Florida with their three sons, all under the age of 10. The family traveled on a tight budget but splurged to get the right hotel accommodations.

"Booking the right room is crucial," says Fitch. "Getting enough sleep is key to having a good time otherwise everyone's crabby. We learned this the hard way last year when we went to Texas for a wedding and all tried to squeeze into one small room. We had a really terrible time."

Here are some things to consider when picking a hotel for your family's next adventure.

Get a room in a hotel with a pool / waterpark. Most kids are just as thrilled with swimming in the hotel pool as going to a pricey, off-site destination. Just don't forget the suits and goggles otherwise hotel shops will gouge you for replacements.

Get a room with a refrigerator and microwave. Not only does this cut down on expense, it also allows for more "down time" in the room. I've become an expert in meal planning with solely a small fridge and microwave. Pre-make spaghetti or other casseroles that just need a warm up and bring them along for overnights. If you're going for a longer stay, swing by a grocery store – Trader Joe's is ideal – for snacks and frozen burritos or egg rolls before checking in.

Get a hotel that offers a free breakfast. This also reduces meal costs and it's so easy because of the close proximity to the room. Plus, it's fun – especially if it includes an extensive pastry selection and a make-your-own waffle station. We like Country Inn Suites for this very reason.

Inquire about parking. Make sure you will be able to park close to your room. Families generally have a lot more to haul in and out of the hotel and, consequently, don't want to park too far away. This can be an issue in large cities.

Inquire about cribs and pack and plays before arriving. If you have a baby or toddler, find out what the accommodations will be for him or her before you go.

Find out about the washroom amenities. Some hotels only have showers, so if you have a little one who prefers baths, you will want to know this before you book.

Consider the layout of the room. Although more expensive, sometimes renting a suite can cut back on the amount of stress – especially for parents who like to watch television before bed and / or don't want to go to bed at the same time as the kids, which is usually required when everyone's in the same room.

Inquire about car seats. If flying somewhere, make sure the shuttle or taxi service you are using has a car or booster seat. If not, check one of your own.

Do things you wouldn't do at home. I always let my kid watch a fair share of TV (we don't have one at home) and I buy junk food whenever we travel. Letting kids have a sense of indulging while on vacation – within reason – is fun for them just as it is for adults. I've even been known to allow pillow fights and jumping on the bed during a hotel visit.

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