You’ve spent lots of time researching and invested plenty of money, so you want your family vacation to be a relaxing, fun-filled experience. But sometimes, things don’t go as planned at the hotel where you’ve booked a room.
From noisy neighbors to leaky toilets, hotel problems happen. We’ve rounded up a list of common issues that might impact your stay and what you can do about them.
For every situation, a considerate and calm approach will get you much further than a temper tantrum. “My general travel attitude with kids is that parents should model the behavior they want their children to adopt,” says Kyle McCarthy, editor of the Family Travel Forum. “For us, that’s a pretty easy-going attitude about travel. I have never found that making an angry speech or a public scene was successful at accomplishing anything.”
Some noise, like construction crews at work on busy city streets, is out of a hotel’s control. But if that’s really bothering your family, you can explore your options, like switching your room to another hotel in the same general area operated by the same brand.
Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are a Trip recently stayed at a city hotel at the same time a group of striking workers were gathered nearby and banging drums all day. She put up with it because she was traveling without her kids. “But in hindsight, if faced with a situation like that, I think you have every right to go and ask to be moved to another property,” she says.
If the noise is being made by your hotel neighbors, then it’s time to speak up at the point it becomes excessive or highly disruptive (like late at night). If you don’t say anything about it, you don’t give the hotel the chance to fix the situation.
“It’s up to the customers to complain so management can do something about it,” says Diego Bufquin, assistant professor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. “Complain while the noise is happening; hotel employees should be quick to intervene as soon as possible and make sure the hotel rules are followed by all their guests.”
“If you’re concerned about noise, it’s always great to give the hotel a call before you check in to ask if they would place you in the quietest spot in the hotel,” says Kelly Brown, general manager of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Jumping ahead of it always helps.”
Booking a room through a travel agent can also help reduce the chance of loud music or dinging elevators keeping you up all night. “We as agents know these hotels and their layouts,” says Sally Black, director of the Family Travel Association and founder of the Vacationkids travel agency. “We know that this is a great hotel, but that this is where they do the entertainment on the beach at night.”
2. A Room That’s Not Ready
It’s well past the hotel’s advertised check-in time, your room’s still not ready, and your kids are getting antsy. First, remember that things happen, and that the hotel is hopefully doing everything it can to deal with whatever’s causing the delay.
But it never hurts to ask—nicely—for a little something to ease the pain of waiting. For Maxwell, that’s meant requesting some complimentary food and drinks from the hotel restaurant or a place to change so the kids can swim at the hotel pool while they wait.
“More likely than not, they’re going to accommodate you,” she says. “And if you’re the sweet person in a bunch of bitter angry people, they’re more likely to bend a little bit for you.”
Brown does that kind of thing if there’s a hold-up at her hotel. “Know that the team at the hotel wants you to be checked in and comfortable just as much as you do,” she says. “So they’re going to be willing to work with you to ensure that you are comfortable.” She’s lucky enough to be able to direct waiting families to the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel’s super-cool recreation room, which has bowling lanes, a basketball hoop, a Ping-Pong table, and a two-story spiral slide.
3. Requests That Weren’t Met
When you’re traveling with a family, it’s often vital to get the specific type of room or number of beds you requested. If your room doesn’t match your reservation, bring it up with hotel staff. But know that if you’re traveling at especially busy times of year, the hotel might not have a lot of other rooms available.
“Sometimes they can accommodate you,” says Maxwell. “Sometimes you might end up with a kid sleeping on the floor. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra sheets and pillows if that’s the case; sometimes you have to make do with what you get.”
Booking directly with a hotel or through a travel agent can help ensure you get the exact type of room you reserve. And if you absolutely need a crib or rollaway bed, call the hotel before you arrive. “As long as you’ve called and it’s listed on the reservation, we’ve planned for that,” says Brown. “But if you show up and say, ‘I really need a rollaway,’ and we’re out of them them, unfortunately we’re not able to procure that in the moment.”
4. Maintenance and Housekeeping Issues
Maxwell’s policy? “Inspect the room to make sure it’s to your satisfaction before you take anything out of your suitcases,” she says.
Then it’s up to you to weigh any issues with other factors. For many families, a room that smells like cigarette smoke or has any traces of mold is a non-starter. In that case, you’ll want to ask to be switched to a different room.
But if the hotel is booked solid and you have that perfectly sized family suite you requested, then put in a maintenance request for the clogged drain or the spots housekeeping seemed to have missed.
“We’ve run into problems like a lack of any toiletries in the room and even a huge mattress stain,” says Christina Erickson from the Travel Maven Mama blog. “In each of these cases, calmly bringing it to the manager’s attention has more than made up for the problem. We were given a huge gift basket of toiletries and a free night to make up for the stain.”
5. Rude Staff
If you experience rudeness when dealing with hotel staff, Bufquin says its better to address it during your stay than to wait until you write your online review.
“When the complaint is only made online and the hotel manager was not informed at all during the customer’s stay, that’s pretty frustrating for them because they weren’t given the chance to fix the problem while the guest was staying at their property,” he says.
He says families should bring up any rude treatment they experience with a hotel manager or the employee’s supervisor. “Sometimes it’s through that type of feedback that an employee gets better at their job,” he says.
“It’s tempting to say ‘just fine’ when asked how your stay was during checkout,” says Erickson. “But if you take the extra couple of minutes to give feedback on your experience, it helps hotels improve and gives them the opportunity to make it up to your family if anything was wrong. In my experience, it’s been worth it each time.”