Testing Family Hotels

We asked reader Jamie Blanco to check out four popular hotel chains near her home in Baton Rouge -- and give us a mom's eye view of the experience.
Zack Smith

Our Method

  1. We chose a family with a preschooler and toddler to see how well the hotels accommodate families with young kids. Jamie and her husband, Rafael, have a 5-year-old daughter, Alysia, and a 21-month-old son, Jaden.
  2. The Blancos didn't tell anyone on staff that they were doing a review because they didn't want to get special treatment.
  3. The family reserved the same type of room at all four Louisiana hotels (a double), and they spent one day and night at each during the same month.

RATING SCALE

1 is a rating of "We wouldn't go back."

2 is a rating of "Only if everything else is booked."

3 is a rating of "Good for a short stay."

4 is a rating of "We liked it."

5 is a rating of "Our home away from home."

Ramada Inn

At the Hotel

When we pulled up to the Ramada, we thought that it looked more motel than hotel -- all exterior rooms -- and the building was undergoing renovation. We asked for a room on the ground floor (I think it's safer with kids), but the guy at the front desk didn't have one available -- and he didn't seem that interested in helping us, either. The hotel also didn't offer cribs, childproofing kits, or room service. My first impression of the room was that it was small and needed updating.

What We Liked

The coffeemaker came with some delicious Community Coffee and mints. We also got free Internet access and HBO. While there was no mini bar, you could buy snacks, milk, and other basics in the lobby. The hotel had an attractive courtyard with a clean pool. There's no gym, but if you need to work out, they will give you a free pass to a local health club.

The Not So Good

The hotel wasn't a good fit (literally) for my family. The beds weren't comfy, and my kids really didn't have enough room to move around. I was happy to find out that there was a free continental breakfast, but when we got down there at 7:30 a.m., it was a bust: The coffee was cold, and the food was nothing special. And we had to ask several times before the staff would refill anything.

Best Feature

The price! Of all the hotels we stayed at, it was by far the cheapest. We also loved the location. It's near the zoo, water park, and museums, and it was right next door to mini golf, where the kids had fun playing a few holes.

Cost

$92.04 (with taxes)

Best Western

At the Hotel

The Best Western was relatively new and looked like a nice apartment building. The lobby was clean, and the staff was great -- check-in took three minutes. Alysia flipped over the room: She thought it was beautiful and was so thrilled that she gave each bed a quick jump (I was more excited about the huge walk-in closet).

What We Liked

The room was very large, comfortable, and quiet. When I booked the room by phone, I had requested a crib, and it was already set up when we got there. We also had a refrigerator (good for the kids' snacks), VCR, and free Internet. The hotel had an outdoor pool with a hot tub and a 24-hour gym near the lobby.

The Not So Good

Neither the woman who took my reservation nor the front desk personnel knew anything about childproofing. They acted as though I was the first person who had ever asked about it. So I had to keep a close eye on Jaden around the uncovered outlets (I'll pack my own covers next time!). The hair dryer in the bathroom was horrible -- the handle got so hot that I had to hold the tip to keep from getting burned.

Best Feature

The lack of room service here didn't bother me because they provided a free breakfast buffet with plenty of variety. There was even an attendant who kept our cups filled. On top of that, they offered a "Manager's Reception" every night (except Sunday) that included free snacks. I would rather have this setup over room service any day.

Cost

$145.77 (with taxes)

Hampton Inn & Suites

At the Hotel

The lobby was nicely decorated, and we felt welcome right away, thanks to the plate of chocolate-chip cookies at the check-in counter. The room was a bit on the small side and didn't have a mini bar or fridge. I was happy to see covers on the outlets, but the crib looked somewhat flimsy for Jaden.

What We Liked

The staff was super friendly and helpful. They actually asked us during check-in whether we wanted any extra supplies (toothpaste, soap) and quickly handed them over to us. When we needed directions to the zoo, a nice man at the front desk gave us a map and clear instructions on how to get there. The hotel also had an outdoor pool and offered free HBO, Internet, and continental breakfasts.

The Not So Good

The crib, which Jaden didn't even end up sleeping in, cost us an extra $10. Again, there was no room service, restaurant, store, or gym in the hotel (but to be fair, they did offer a free pass to a nearby one). Alysia and Jaden thought the hotel was okay, but besides the pool, there just wasn't much for kids to do there.

Best Feature

The kids loved the cookies at check-in. In the mornings, the hotel hangs USA Today on your door, which my husband loved. Without a doubt, the Hampton Inn had the very best beds of all the hotels. Mine was so comfortable I wanted to take it home with me!

Cost

$157.07 (with taxes)

Holiday Inn

At the Hotel

When I first called to book, there was some confusion about what was offered on this property, which was annoying. But when I arrived, I was relieved to find that there was an indoor pool. It was an older hotel, and our room was small for a family of four. But we were treated very nicely by the staff, and there was a lot for the kids to do.

What We Liked

This was the only hotel that had room service. On the downside, the dinner we ordered (one appetizer, three entrees, and two desserts) was way pricey -- $95 for the four of us. But when your kids are tired and cranky, you'd pay almost anything not to have to eat at a restaurant. We had a fridge (ask for it!), free Internet, and video-game controls. Alysia got a kick out of staying next to the game room, and Jaden had a great time running around on the playground out back.

The Not So Good

I had to ask for the reserved crib to be brought up to our room, and all of the outlets were uncovered. The hotel was also kind of stingy on the shampoos and soaps. But my least favorite part of our stay was trying to get some sleep in our room. The walls were paper-thin, and we could actually hear our neighbor snoring!

Best Feature

My kids would say the pool -- I couldn't get them out of it! Hands down, it was their favorite hotel and the most kid-friendly. My husband and I thought the Kids Eat Free program at the restaurant was a great perk. It's a much better deal than room service.

Cost

$151.19 (with taxes)

Parents Magazine

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