Why Ban Children From Hotels? In Defense Of Bringing Family On The Road

child cryingNo dogs, no children, no lepers please. It’s hard not to feel like an undesirable when a hotel you want to bring your family to says, “Sorry, we don’t allow children.” In America, and many other countries, it’s illegal for hotels and other public establishments to deny service based upon a client’s race, color, religion or national origin.

And it would be unthinkable for any business to exclude senior citizens, homosexuals or the disabled, for example. But it’s perfectly legal for hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, resorts and even restaurants to ban children. A growing number of childless couples, singles and empty nesters are seeking out hotels and resorts that exclude children, but are kids really the greatest threat to rest and relaxation?

These issues came to the fore for me last week while I was planning a trip to Costa Rica for my family of four, which includes two boys, ages 3 and 5. Almost every nice hotel anywhere near a beach in this country is booked over the long President’s Day weekend, and several of the places I contacted, including a couple that had vacancies, noted that they don’t allow small children (though most allow teens).A website called Leave Them Behind has a modest list of adults-only establishments and according to stories that have appeared in Yahoo, ABC, Ad Week and other media outlets, the travel industry is moving to meet a growing demand for child-free holidays. According to Ad Week, there are more childless couples in the U.S. now than ever before, and 20 percent of American women never have children, compared to just 10 percent in the 1970s.

Moves by Malaysian Airlines to ban children from first class in 2011, and from the upper deck of its Airbus A380 in 2012, also promoted debate on the issue of traveling with children. Spud Hilton, travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, defended the move and went so far as to claim that “with the exception of a family emergency and moving to another state, there is almost no good reason to take a baby on the road.”

Hilton referred to babies, not children in general but I think that a lot of parents don’t travel, or for that matter even bring their kids to restaurants or other public places, precisely because they fear that other people will find their children annoying. But I’ve found that the more you expose your children to hotels, restaurants and the like, the more they learn how to act in public. If we shut our children off from these experiences, they’ll never learn how to act in polite society.

I’m a parent but I can understand why some people want to patronize establishments that ban children. And I agree that in some ways, our kid-centric culture, where some parents allow their children’s activities to rule their lives, is out of control. But I question the notion that children are so disruptive that one can barely enjoy a holiday with them around and I can’t help but wonder what truly motivates those who seek out places where children aren’t welcome.

I estimate that I’ve spent somewhere between 500 and 1,000 nights in hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and inns around the world over the last 20 years. Out of all those nights away from home, I’d say that I’ve been disturbed by another guest or guests at a hotel perhaps a few dozen times. By disturbed, I mean occasions where someone caused me to lose sleep, made me want to leave the pool or other common area, or something along these lines. Out of these few dozen incidents, only one of them involved a small child or baby.

Several years ago, at a bed-and-breakfast in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a crying baby kept us up half the night. That incident occurred before we had children and it has colored our own travel habits – we never stayed in small bed-and-breakfast places, especially ones with hardwood floors where noises seems to echo, when our children were very young.

Of all the other instances of annoying and obnoxious behavior I’ve encountered in hotels, I’d say about 25 percent of the offenders were teens, most of them members of school or sports groups, and the rest were adults. Most of the obnoxious adults that have caused me to lose sleep or sanity on the road were also parts of groups – wedding parties, teams, family reunions and the like – and many were intoxicated.

Unfortunately, some people have no regard for other guests in a hotel and think nothing of slamming doors, shouting in the hallways, partying in their rooms, and blasting their television sets at odd hours. Two years ago, I stayed at a Westin in Mexico that allowed wedding receptions to rage until 6 a.m. with music loud enough for a rock concert and drunken guests rampaging around the hotel on consecutive weekends. This summer I stayed at a Westin in suburban Chicago where a family reunion got so out of control that the police had to actually make arrests in the middle of the night. And at an upscale hotel in Philadelphia last winter, members of an out-of-control wedding party actually brawled in the hallway outside our room at 3 a.m.

A certain percentage of all travelers – children, teens and adults – are going to behave poorly at hotels but I would argue that children are no more likely to cause other guests grief than teens or adults. In fact, I might assert that small children are less likely to be disruptive than teens or adults because they don’t get drunk and they aren’t up late at night when other guests are trying to sleep.

I’m not one of these blind parents who is incapable of seeing that kids can be annoying and I hate clueless parents who fail to control their children as much as anyone else. I know that kids can be disruptive and downright infuriating and I recognize that some businesses, especially intimate bed-and-breakfasts, aren’t a good choice for families with young children. But I think that most children are pretty well behaved and the adults-only movement is a kind of collective punishment that penalizes parents who do a good job with their kids.

Even before I had kids of my own, I never felt the need to seek out hotels that ban children. For me, kids are an integral part of the world and I wouldn’t think to try to avoid them any more than I’d try to avoid birds or squirrels or any other living thing.

I don’t tend to take these kinds of trips, but if people want to spend a week sitting by the hotel pool and can’t bear the thought of having kids splashing about, then by all means, go to an adults-only resort. I certainly wouldn’t legally compel all businesses to welcome children, but I find the ban-kids trend a little misguided and indicative of how intolerant and self-absorbed we’re becoming as a society.

I’ve noticed when we bring our kids to other countries, like Mexico and Greece, for example, that they are valued, cherished and fussed over. Those societies still view children as a blessing, not a nuisance. Yes, there are unbearably annoying kids out there, and we’ve all sat near crying babies on planes, but in most cases, it’s their clueless parents who are to blame. And if you’re looking for R & R, watch out for youth sports teams, wedding parties and drunks, not little kids.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara, Pink Sherbert on Flickr]

Innkeeper Challenges Guests to Take on Her Job

Over the years, innkeeper Ellen Grinsfelder has overheard plenty of comments about how much fun it must be to run the cozy bed and breakfast where she works in Logan, Ohio. Since so many people have wondered how grand of a time it must be work at the inn, she’s decided to take the day off and let a guest step in and run the place.

The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, located near Hocking Hills State Park, is now on the hunt for a friendly, energetic person to take over innkeeper duties on Sunday, June 3. Anyone who thinks they are up for the job-a task that includes checking in guests and taking phone messages, among other duties-is encouraged to contact Grinsfelder by email at ellen [at] innatcedarfalls [dot] com. In return for their service, one “lucky” applicant will receive a free overnight stay that evening. We’re looking forward to hearing whether or not the chosen one still feels like they got the better end of the bargain after Grinsfelder returns.

Photo of Innkeeper Ellen Grinsfelder courtesy The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls.

10 of the world’s most unique vacation rentals

unique vacation rentalImagine sleeping in the renovated fuselage of a vintage 727 airplane in Costa Rica. Or how about feeding giraffes over the breakfast table at a castle in Kenya? These one-of-a-kind lodging experiences, and others, are available through online vacation rental websites like Airbnb, and often for less than the cost of a shoebox room in a budget hotel in downtown Manhattan.

Take, for example, the following sampling of Airbnb’s unique vacation rental listings:
  • Boot and Breakfast (pictured at right). A childhood tale comes to life in Tasman, New Zealand. $225/night.
  • Romantic Igloo. Temperatures in Igloo Village Krvavec in Slovenia hover around 0-5 degrees Celsius – perfect for cuddling. $189/night.
  • Alone on your own Fiji Island. Really get away by booking the private Fijian island of Nanuku. $350/night.
  • Ecopod Boutique Retreat. A low-carbon pod designed in partnership with Zendrome, Berlin, in the woods of Appin, United Kingdom. $241/night.
  • Aircamp Furillen. A vintage Airstream on tiny Furillen Island in Sweden. $204/night.
Airbnb also groups their most notable listings into fun collections, like “Trees and Zzz’s” for treehouse lodgings, “Grape Expectations” for wine country accommodations and “I’m On A Boat” for, well, boats.

For 10 of Airbnb’s most unique vacation rentals, check out the gallery below.

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10 unique experiential hotels from around the world

A trend in the travel world that is becoming increasingly popular is the “experiential” hotel. Many travelers are no longer looking for a basic room in a premier location, but instead for an experience that will allow them to get to know an (often remote) area, or at least have their hotel be something they’ll never forget. From staying in mines in the deepest hotel suite in the world to getting in touch with nature in a tree-top accommodation, these ten unique hotels are must-stays for the experiential traveler.

SnowHotel in Finland is an experiential hotel made entirely of snow and ice The SnowHotel
Location: Ylläsjärvi. Finland

This hotel is an experiential property located in the Snow Village, a compound of snow and ice making a restaurant, bar, lobbies, sculptures, walls, slides, and, of course, the SnowHotel. Stay overnight in a room made completely of snow and enjoy the illuminated ice art that surrounds you. Rooms range from double igloo rooms to “furnished” ice suites.

The Sala Silvermine
Location: Sala, Sweden

The Sala Silvermine is not for the claustrophobic. Stay in the deepest hotel suite on Earth. Once you arrive, you will be given a guided tour of the mine, once Sweden’s largest producer of silver, which is 155 meters underground. After the tour, guests are given a goodie basket of fruit, biscuits, cheese, chocolate, and wine, which can be a romantic touch in the dim, candle-lit room. Prepare to rough it a little as the toilets are located 50 meters from the room, while the showers are above ground in the hostel.

Safari Land Tree Top Hotel in IndiaSafari Land Farm and Guest House Resort
Location: Tamilnadu, India

Often called the Tree House Resort, Safari Land will really get you in touch with nature. Safari Land is specifically designed with wilderness lovers, bird watchers, and environmentally conscious. Guests will stay in tree houses perched above 4,000 feet high hills. Look down and you will see a tranquil stream pouring down the hill. Look forward and your view will be of the Blue Mountains in India. And for those who want to have a rustic experience but still enjoy some comforts of home, electricity, toilets, and hot water are available.

La Balade des Gnomes
Location: Heyd Nr Durbuy, Wallonia, Belgium

La Balade des Gnomes is an experiential hotel for those who have a big imagination. With a fairy-tale theme in mind, the rooms are extremely detailed and over-the-top. Sleep in a boat under twinkling lights while floating in a swimming pool or opt for the enormous Trojan Horse Suite where you will literally be staying inside a trojan horse.

Palacio de Sal
Location: Uyuni,Bolivia

Those with high sodium levels, beware! The Palacio de Sal is, exactly as the name states, made entirely out of salt. Not only are the walls, ceilings, and floors made out of salt, but also the furniture. And, it doesn’t stop there. Salt artwork and a salt golf-course are also part of the experience.

Controversy Tram Inn
Location: Hoogwoud, Netherlands

Guests of the Controversy Tram Inn can experience sleeping in a railcar converted into a 5-room Bed and Breakfast, each with a unique theme. A double bed, shower, sink, and toilet are also included. Next to the experiential hotel live the owners, Frank and Irma Appel, who also live like their guests, sleeping in a London double-decker bus in their living room and eating in a kitchen that is now a French Van.

Diver at Jules Undersea Lodge in FloridaJules Undersea Lodge
Location: Key Largo, Florida

Imagine having to dive underwater to get to your room? If you stay at Jules Undersea Lodge, this becomes a reality, as guests dive 21 feet to get to this completely submerged experiential hotel. Meals and luggage are handled in waterproof suitcases, and the food is actually hot. Each room holds a 42-inch round window so that guests can check out the many species of sea life swimming in the lagoon. If you’re into diving, the hotel provides unlimited tanks for their guests to explore the sea.

Propeller Island City Lodge
Location: Berlin, Germany

With rooms designed by German artist Lars Stroschen, staying here is like sleeping in a giant work of art, with upside-down rooms and flying beds. Everything you find in the Propeller Island City Lodge is custom-made and one-of-a-kind. Rooms range from mild to extreme and have the ability to alter your sense of reality. Be prepared for surprises everywhere you turn.

Wigwam experiential hotel in Holbrook, ArizonaWigwam Motel
Location: Holbrook, Arizona

The Wigwam Motel is one of the last standing Wigwam hotels left from a 1950′s chain. In 2002, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guests have the opportunity to stay in one of 14 authentic-looking teepees. Making the stay more experiential is the fact that it is located in close proximity to a number of Native American Reservations. Unlike Indian-style teepees, however, guests at Wigwam can enjoy double-beds and air-conditioning.

The Boot Bed ‘n’ Breakfast
Location: Tasman, New Zealand

Remember the childhood nursery rhyme The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe? Well picture that, but a lot more luxurious. This giant boot is located on 6 acres of gardens, courtyards, and well-manicured property. With private outdoor seating, a spiral wooden staircase, a cozy fireplace, and fresh flowers in rooms made for two, it is easy to see why the Boot Bed ‘n’ Breakfast is the perfect romantic experience for couples. Still, if you’re single and still want to see what it’s like to sleep in a giant shoe, make the trip anyway.

Airbnb launches sublets

AirBnB launches sublets Airbnb, the company that provides a peer-to-peer accommodations marketplace, announced today that it will launch sublets. Currently, Airbnb offers only nightly or weekly bookings, but the new sublets category will enable travelers to book a home, apartment, houseboat, and scores of other types of lodging for a month – or months – at a time.

As Airbnb notes in its announcement, sublet rentals are convenient for students needing a place for a semester and business travelers on extended work assignments. But think, too, about the enormous potential sublets will have amongst the growing segment of round-the-world travelers or even families who want to take a long summer vacation. Subletting someone else’s home or staying for a month in a well-appointed Bed and Breakfast sounds far more appealing than booking at cookie-cutter extended-stay hotels.

Airbnb already has thousands of listings in its sublets category, from Portland, Oregon, to Paris, to Bangkok, and a quick search got me thinking: maybe I should list my home on AirBnB and go south for the winter.

[Photo courtesy Airbnb]