Many hotel companies proclaim their family friendliness these days. But we wanted details: Exactly how do these lodgings make kids feel welcome -- and guarantee peace of mind (not to mention plenty of R&R) for moms and dads? To find out, we sent 28 families to 32 different hotels nationwide. They sampled the food, put room service to the test, searched for safety hazards, checked out child-care programs, splashed in pools, and took pages and pages of notes.
Here, our comprehensive report on the best of the bunch -- don't book a trip without it!
Our grand-prize winner has earned the right to flaunt its slogan "Loews Loves Kids." Though once considered conservative, Loews has recently reinvented itself as the hip hotel company for all travelers, particularly families. There are currently 13 Loews hotels in the United States; by 2001, the company plans to add 4 more.Pluses for Parents
Kids under 18 stay free in the same room as their parents; a second adjoining room is discounted. Childproofing kits (with night-light, outlet covers, and soft edges for furniture) are free if you're traveling with children under 4. The Did You Forget Closet stocks such items as heating pads and portable tape players. At some properties, you can also borrow VCRs, potty seats, baby swings, and strollers.Lures for Little Ones
Children under 10 receive gift bags at check-in, which contain such items as yo-yos, playing cards, and plastic water canteens.Noteworthy Properties Loews Coronado Bay Resort, San Diego
"My 5-year-old loved the playroom -- with bright murals, a playhouse, and mazes to crawl through," comments Jeannette Turnbull, who also has a 13-year-old. The summer Kids Camp offers swimming, treasure hunts, sand art, kite making, and sailing and tennis lessons. Prices start at $235 per room per night.Loews House of Blues, Chicago
"My kids were mesmerized by the lobby, with its rich jewel tones and fiber-optic lights that continuously change color," says Sandra Manske, who has a 1-, 6-, and 10-year-old. "They were also delighted to find that their pillowcases had a Rugrats theme." Prices start at $149 per room per night.Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tucson
With two golf courses, two large pools, two Jacuzzis, a spa, and an 80-foot waterfall, the resort was "a big hit with parents and kids alike," reports Gwen Brown, whose children are 8 and 12. "Our bathroom had a huge tub. My kids thought it was so cool that they took bubble baths for fun." The Coyote Kids' Club offers arts and crafts, Ping-Pong, croquet, and nature walks. Prices start at $110 per room per night through September.