I’ve received a few comments and emails recently urging me to do some posts on what it is is like for families to stay in various hotel chains on points. The biggest issue is often maximum occupancy limits. While my own family is currently just a family of three (and will remain at three for the foreseeable future), I know that many families have at least two, if not more children. Free or reduced-price rooms are all well and good if you need one room for one to two adults, but what happens when you are trying to use miles and points for a large family? While this isn’t an issue I have yet had any personal experience with, I am happy to do a little research and open up the discussion, so that those who do have experience with this can help share ideas for families who are facing this dilemma. If you are new to thinking about this whole issue, here is an article from a parent of four young children that I think captures the problem (and possible solution) perfectly.
I think the easiest way to tackle this issue would be to do it chain by chain. However, some of the issues around occupancy are not chain specific, rather they are location or property specific. Either way, to combine it all into one or two posts would be overwhelming, so I am going to start by just looking at Hilton. I selected Hilton because they have one of the very best family friendly hotels out there, so it seemed like a logical place to start.
As I will do for all of the various brands that I look at, I did searches for hotels within that family of hotels in various cities all over the world with different occupancy levels to see what would happen to availability. I will also point out some basic elite benefits, and examine how that translates to family travelers. Since this is a new series of posts, I am also open to hearing any suggestions you might have for additional topics you would like to see covered as the series progresses.
Hilton Family of Hotels:
There are many hotel brands within the Hilton family, but the two that are the most family friendly, especially in terms of occupancy, are Homewood Suites and the Grand Champion of Family Friendliness (according to me), Embassy Suites. If you have a large family and you aren’t familiar with Embassy Suites, I highly recommend that you rectify that situation immediately. As their name implies, all of their rooms are two-room suites. These two-room suites are meant to be used by people for sleeping, so the couch folds out into a bed. They also offer a free full cooked-to-order breakfast for all guests and a nightly manager’s reception that offers free snacks and drinks – both alcohol and non-alcoholic. The only problem with Embassy Suites for many families is that they located in more cities around the world.
In doing some searches as research for this post, I found that you can have two adults and up to four children (0-17) registered and still get the standard points rate for a room at the Embassy Suites that I searched. Six people for the standard points level is virtually unheard of in the miles and points world. I presume it is because you can put two people in each of the double beds in the bedroom and then two more on the pull-out couch. I actually found the same results for HomeWood Suites. Their two double beds suite was bookable for the standard rate on points even with two adults and four children. Homewood Suites are designed as extended-stay hotels and include (small) full kitchens that advertize having full-sized refrigerators. They also provide hot, full breakfast daily plus evening dinner and drinks on Monday – Thursday evenings.
Elite benefits are something that has become more important to me over time. Especially with hotel chains, there are often ways to get at least mid-tier elite status without living your life on the road. So, don’t discount hotel elite status just because you only take a couple of trips per year. I’m going to focus on two elite status levels within Hilton as they can both be obtained without spending any nights at Hilton to qualify.
The first, and best overall deal by far, is Hilton Gold status. It normally is achieved when you have 16 qualifying stays, 36 qualifying nights or 60,000 base points earned during any calendar year at Hilton Hotels. Gold status benefits vary some depending on the type of Hilton property, but in general it gives you 25% additional points, upgrades to “preferred rooms” (including potentially the executive floor/lounge), free internet, and continental breakfast for two. At hotels such as Embassy Suites, where breakfast is already included, you get your choice of two snack items (Cokes, waters, candy bars, fruits, etc) or 500 additional HHonors points. At Homewood Suites you get water, cookies, and 250 additional points.
The easiest way to get HHonors Gold status for many folks is to simply have the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. Not only do you get two free weekend nights to use as a sign-up bonus (though they do technically state double occupancy), but you get Hilton Gold status for as long as you hold the card. If you have stays a few times a year at Hilton properties, that is a very good investment for the $95 annual fee. Even though the Gold breakfast technically is just for two persons in the room, having the parents eat breakfast free makes it much easier to be able to afford the kid’s meals for the little ones.
If you want top tier status with Hilton, you can also get it without spending tons of nights in Hilton hotels annually. Diamond status normally is attained by having 28 qualifying stays, 60 qualifying nights or 100,000 base points earned during any calendar year. However, you can get Diamond status by spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Citi HHonors Reserve Card or the Amex HHonors Surpass card (that card also provides Gold status for free for the first year, but requires $20K in spending for Gold status in subsequent years). Diamond members enjoy a 50% points bonus plus many of the same benefits as Gold members. Some key differences between Gold and Diamond are guaranteed executive lounge access for Diamonds, where available, and the possibility of being upgraded to a suite. Truthfully, unless you have the ability to just put a ton of spending on a credit card each year, I would not worry about shooting for Diamond. Gold status really should do the trick for most families since having Diamond status still doesn’t guarantee suite access.
I mentioned at the beginning of the post that Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites were typically the two best bets within the Hilton family if you are looking for larger rooms that are bookable for larger families. However, it isn’t always possible (or even preferable) to only stay at those two brands, so here were my experiences looking at various Hilton family hotels in cities across the world for an October 1st reservation.
New York City
My observation was that most Hilton hotels in NYC stayed available on the standard points level up to two adults and two children in one room. Once you went to two adults and three children, many of the hotels either were unavailable, or they only had suites or other non-standard rooms available for an increased number of points. The one exception was the Hilton DoubleTree Suites- Times Square which had a suite with two double beds and a separate living room with pull-out couch available for the standard level of 50,000 points for up to two adults and four children.
The Conrad Hong Kong shows no availability on points or cash once the occupancy of the room goes above two, but for what it’s worth Frommer’s states children under 18 can stay in the room for free with their parents, with a maximum of three per room.
The Hilton hotels in Tokyo seem to be available on points or dollars through two adults and one child. However, if you have two adults and two children then your one option at the standard points level of 50,000 points was the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel (though it was for the Twin Hotel Guestroom which sounds very small to me). This property’s website indicates that children six years old and over are treated as adults, but children under six can share existing bedding for free. For what it is worth, the “Happy Magic Room” at that property looks awesome for kids, but it is not available at the standard points level.
Most of the Hilton hotels in London are only available at the standard points level up to two persons in the room. There are several DoubleTree Hotels in London, but they also max out at an occupancy of two for the standard points level for their regular rooms. One exception to this two person limit is the Hilton Metropole. In the comments section it was pointed out that the Family Superior Room can be available at the standard points level. My random searches have not found that room available as a standard room, but I did find the Triple Hilton Family Room available for 50,000 points per night when searching for two adults/one child. I would personally prefer two queen beds to three twin beds for a family of three, but it could be a good option as a second room if you are looking for a room for the kiddos.
Orlando is clearly a haven for family vacations, so it isn’t surprising that pretty much all of the Hilton hotels are available at the basic points level through a family of two adults and two children in one room. If your family has more than three children, then you still have many options at the standard points level, including various Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites, and Homewood Suites. If your family has two adults and four children, there are a few less options, but there are still multiple hotels available at the standard points redemption level. One example is the Embassy Suites International Drive for 35,000 Hilton HHonors points per night for up to two adults and four children.
This exercise could go on and on, but the point is that there are hotels in the Hilton family that can be booked on points for families with multiple children. There are more options in some cities than others. In the event that you have more children than the stated maximum allowed on points or dollars for that room, you can contact the hotel directly to get more information and see if the children would be allowed for no additional charge. I think that in some cases children up to a certain age probably are allowed even if that information is not reflected on the website. Your other option is to keep your mouth shut and try and not draw attention to yourselves. I’m not advocating for or against this option, and it will probably work better in some parts of the world than others, but I have no doubt that it is a popular option for some families.
Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using my affiliate link. The Citi Hilton Reserve card is one of my affiliate links, but the Amex Surpass card is just the best offer available for that card, and is not one of my links. As always, thanks for your support.