In November my wife and I experienced a rapid expansion of our family. We went from a traveling couple to an instant family of five. While travel was a bit lower on the list of things that had to adjust, there are still definitely changes in that department. One of the biggest is finding a hotel to fit all of us. So I started doing some research into the best hotel chains for families of 5.
In the U.S. I have found that finding a hotel room for 5 people isn’t especially difficult. You’ll pay a bit more cash, or maybe some more points. Or you’ll have to co-pay to make sure you get the room type you need (SEE: Staybridge Suites San Francisco Airport review). But the best option is to simply find a hotel that’ll fit you all in a standard room.
Some hotel chains are better for this across the board, and it is good to know which these are. So without further ado, here is a list of some of the best hotel chains for families of 5 (or more), mainly with a focus on redeeming points:
Hyatt shines for family travel is many ways. Their cheaper brands, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, are solid midscale options that offer free breakfast and pretty much all the amenities most traveling families need.
Last year I booked two stays for friends who were moving across the country. Their family is big, so finding a single room to fit all of them was a chore. But I managed to book the 6 of them into two Hyatt Place hotels at different points along the way, one of which had an occupancy of 6 people, so they only needed one room. This was exactly what they needed until they added an extra person to their party. But that is on them and not the guy who booked the rooms (they chose to sneak in the extra).
We also booked a stay at a Hyatt Place for 6 people using my free night certificate. While traveling back from our adoption trip to Costa Rica, we stayed at the Hyatt Place Emeryville. The room had 2 queens and a sofa bed (plus we requested a crib), and comfortably slept 6. This was also the occupancy rate, and it would come up in searches where you keyed in 3 adults and 3 children.
On top of the good occupancy rates, Hyatt Place hotels offer free breakfast, and it’s a good one. Our breakfast in Emeryville was once of the best I’ve ever had at a midscale place. Hyatt Place. became a go-to brand for us overnight.
Among other locations, you can find Hyatt place hotels with a standard room occupancy of 5 or 6 people in: SF Bay Area, Chicago, NYC, Denver, Seattle, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Washington D.C. and Orlando.
Considering that Hyatt Place hotels are often a steal, only requiring 5,000-8,000 points per night (and at none of those locations more than 12,000, save Manhattan), they top my list of best hotel chains for families of 5 or more.
Residence Inn by Marriott
My wife and I are actually looking at booking the Residence Inn at Wailea for an upcoming trip to Hawaii for the very reason that it is one of the few hotels to offer two queen beds and a sofa bed at the base points rate. It’ll fit all 5 of us just fine. Plus, the free breakfast will save us a bundle.
Beyond that, Residence Inn hotels typically feature larger rooms that include a kitchen (SEE: The complete beginner’s guide to cooking in a hotel room), living, and dining areas. Most also have a sleeper sofa, giving you three beds if you can book a room with two queens (not always an option as a standard room). Many have base rooms with occupancy rates of 5 or 6 people, so they are available for larger families on points.
I’ve only stayed at one Residence Inn, and I was impressed with the experience. They are a great mid-scale option for families. Again, the free breakfast is fantastic. No need to work toward hotel status for that perk! Hopefully our second Residence Inn stay will be in Maui in a few months.
Staybridge Suites are the one bright spot in the IHG portfolio for families. Sure, you could stay at any old Holiday Inn Express and be content. But if you can find a Staybridge instead, you’ll likely have a much better stay (SEE: Staybridge Suites San Francisco Airport review). They offer spacious rooms with kitchens and typically a separate sleeping area. Plus, like the other options in my list of best hotels for families of 5 or more, free breakfast. The more people in your family, the better free breakfast becomes.
In my experience, rooms at Staybridge Suites are large and comfortable rooms. My wife and I even got upgraded to a huge 2 bedroom suite on a quick trip to the Bay a couple years ago. Appreciate the thought, but we really didn’t need it for the two of us. In our new situation, I would be ecstatic.
IHG has just devalued their award program yet again, which was one of the first pieces of unhappy news of 2018. With many Staybridge Suites hotels already going for between 25,000 and 35,000 points per night (pre-devaluation…I know some were affected), stays will cost you a good number of points. I’d look to use our IHG free night certificates (SEE: Where I wasted my 2 IHG free night certificates). If you’re lucky, you might catch one on Point Breaks (SEE: The IHG Point Breaks map and sortable table is updated).
Embassy Suites by Hilton
Embassy Suites are one of the great family options in the Hilton portfolio.The brand offers free breakfast and spacious rooms with separate sitting areas, sometimes with a dining table. They lack a full kitchen, unlike other options in this list. But they have another plus: the manager’s reception.
The manager’s reception is one of the best features of the Embassy Suites. In the evenings you can grab a drink and some snacks. If snacks are enough to tide you over, you might even be able to get away without dinner (SEE: Which hotels give dinner for free?). Add in the free breakfast offered by the brand, and most of your meals are covered each day. Definite win.
One of the issues with Hilton, though, is that while they will offer you many room types on points, the prices aren’t always good. Sometimes a standard room at a given Embassy Suites only accommodates 4 people. If the standard room is going for 40,000 points, you might expect a slightly larger room to be 45,000 or maybe 50,000 points. Nope. they are usually like 95,000 points. Or 173,000 points. There is really no ceiling from what I’ve observed! This is the only knock I have against Embassy Suites. They are otherwise one of the best chains for families.
Holiday Inn Express
Yes, the most vanilla brand of all makes the list. But honestly, many HIX have everything a family needs on vacation. Free breakfast is standard. I haven’t come across one that doesn’t have a pool. What more do you need? (SEE: “All I want is a swimming pool and a waffle maker”)
Holiday Inn Express hotels are everywhere, which is one plus. They are pretty much all the same. I’ve never been disappointed by one, and I’ve never been impressed by one. I find my expectations are matched every time I stay, and that is just fine. They are a great brand for a domestic family vacation.
You won’t find that all Holiday Inn Express hotels can be booked for more than 4 people, but some can. And many in the U.S. are relatively cheap on points, even after IHG (yet again) devalued their program. You could definitely argue that this shouldn’t be on a list of best hotel chains for families of 5 or more. But I think it has earned a place.
There are a number of other brands that I would consider taking my family, but we would be more prone to running into capacity issues (Candlewood Suites). Or the points price is astronomical for a larger room (my experience with Homewood Suites). I’d also consider any other hotel with a kitchenette, such as Hyatt House or Element.
Beyond that, you could always consider trying the standard flagship brands, such as Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton. But I have found that you pretty much always run into capacity issues beyond 4 people. These may be options for many people, but I wouldn’t call them the best hotel chains for families.
How to deal with capacity issues
There are two primary routes you can take when confronted with this. You could book the room and ask the hotel for an upgrade to a room that accommodates you, either prior to your stay or at check-in. I have had no luck getting firm confirmation prior to check in that the hotel would upgrade us to the room we need. You could offer to pay the difference in cash (Dan did this at the Staybridge Suites SFO) as well to the room you need, though.
The other route is to just book it and bring the people in. From everything I have read, this is not a huge issue in the U.S. But it may be seriously frowned upon abroad. Often hotels ask for passports for everyone staying. Adding to that the fact that some hotels abroad are only bookable for 2 or 3 people. Not 4. So bringing 5 people into a room meant for 2 is a much more iffy proposition.
If at all possible, I prefer to have the room size and style we need confirmed ahead of time, even if it means paying a little bit more in either cash or points.
Any other best hotel chains for families?
These are the first hotel chains that come to mind when planning a trip for our family. The space and amenities they offer are great. Gone are the days of aspirational hotel travel, where my wife and I stayed at places like the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes, the Park Hyatt Milan, and the St. Regis Rome. With 3 more mouths to feed, the scales tip toward any hotel with free breakfast. And any hotel that can simply offer the space we need for 5 of us.
What are your favorite hotel chains for family travel? What do you think the best hotel chains for families are?