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]

Video: Recreating A Medieval Inn


Recently we reported on the discovery of King Richard III’s remains at a grave in Leicester, England. Now historians have recreated the medieval inn where he stayed the night before being killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The Blue Boar Inn was the new, posh place to stay in late-15th-century Leicester, and so it was a natural choice for the king to rest there before facing his enemy Henry Tudor in the decisive battle of the War of the Roses.

The Guardian reports on several legends related to the inn, including that it was originally called the White Boar Inn. White boars were featured on Richard III’s coat of arms, as shown below in this Wikimedia Commons image. When the owner of the inn heard that Richard had fallen in battle and Henry Tudor had won the day, he quickly painted the boar on his sign blue and renamed the inn. Another story relates that a bag of gold was found hidden in a secret compartment in the king’s bed a century after the battle. This wasn’t the stroke of good fortune it should have been. Someone murdered the landlady to get the treasure.

By the early 19th century, the Blue Boar Inn had become a tourist attraction but that didn’t save it from being demolished in 1836. Luckily a local architect made detailed sketches of the inn along with measurements. The video explains how these were used to create a computer animation and a scale model, allowing a glimpse into what it was like to stay at an inn 500 years ago.

Oddly, the site is still used as an inn. A Travelodge stands there today.medieval, Richard III

San Francisco’s most exciting 2012 opening: The Inn at The Presidio

inn at the presidioJust one hotel is planned for a 2012 opening in San Francisco, but it’s a rather exciting venture. The INN AT THE PRESIDIO, the first hotel in the Presidio of San Francisco. Located in a national park, The Inn will be located in historic Pershing Hall, previously the post’s bachelor officers’ quarters, The Inn will will feature 22 spacious guest rooms – 17 of which are one bedroom suites for the low price of just $195-$350 a night.

Established in 1776 by Spain, the Presidio served as the northernmost outpost of colonial power in the New World. Today the Presidio is a unique urban national park spanning 1,491 acres at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula.

Historic touches like memorabilia and photos as well as modern regional art will add a local touch. Guests will have access to the Presidio’s wide variety of recreational opportunities including a golf course, wedding and event facilities, bowling, a YMCA gym/indoor pool, urban spa, fitness/Pilates/yoga studio, indoor rock-climbing studio, trampoline park, and hiking and biking trails.

The hotel is expected to open in April 2012 – we’ll mark this on our “must visit” list.

Gordon Ramsay to host new hotel makeover show

Gordon Ramsay to host new reality television show on Fox called Hotel HellWhile mostly known for his angry outbursts on reality cooking and restaurant-themed shows such as Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, and Kitchen Nightmares, the screaming Scottish chef apparently also has talent in hotel management. While no air date has been set, Gordon Ramsay has been chosen to host a new Fox reality show called Hotel Hell where he will partner with hospitality experts to revive struggling properties around the United States. Apparently, Ramsay has taken college courses in hotel management and has also been in charge of several hotel-based restaurants.

According to Entertainment Weekly, in a statement about the new project Ramsay said, “These are stories that everyone can relate to, because virtually all of us have had a bad hotel experience that’s turned a holiday or business trip into a total disaster. It’s time to put the hospitality industry to the test.”

Five steps to a romantic New Hampshire getaway

New Hampshire romantic getaway
Put the stress and pressure of the workday behind you. This is exactly what was on my mind a few weeks ago. I needed to get away from the daily grind for a bit, and the back roads of New England were calling. I wanted something quiet, remote and relaxing. New Hampshire came to mind immediately.

It had been a while since my last trip to New Hampshire – close to 20 years since my last visit to the White Mountains. So, I had to reacquaint myself with the local options. In the process of doing so, I found five crucial steps to planning a great romantic getaway to the Granite State.

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When you’re planning your long weekend (or longer) in New Hampshire (or western Massachusetts, Vermont or Maine), keep the following in mind:

1. Invest some time in picking the right room: for me, this was probably the most important part of planning my getaway. I wanted to find an inn (not a bed and breakfast or a hotel) that had a fireplace and an in-room Jacuzzi. I wouldn’t compromise on these criteria … and I wanted them at less than $200 a night (all in). Since the New England Inns and Resorts Association website allows you to search member properties based on these elements, that’s where I went to do my homework and book, finding the Christmas Farm Inn, in Jackson, NH. It wound up being exactly what I was looking form.

2. Remember the New Hampshire state liquor stores: wine is not expensive! The state liquor stores have a wide selection of wines, and they’re a bit cheaper (in most cases) than they are in nearby Boston and not-so-nearby New York. Pick up a few bottles, depending on the length of your stay, for in-room enjoyment. Think about it: (a) wine by the fireplace, (b) wine in the Jacuzzi, (c) wine on the deck and (d) wine in bed. This really is a no-brainer.

3. Get a sense of the cuisine ahead of time: if you’re visiting northern New Hampshire from a city, be ready for some differences. The restaurants close a lot earlier, especially off season. So, hitting the local restaurant at 10:30 PM just isn’t an option – you’ll starve! Plan to eat earlier dinners, leaving more time for chilled wine in the Jacuzzi back at your room (there’s an upside to everything). While there are some interesting options in the area (such as Wine Thyme in North Conway, NH), upscale alternatives aren’t as common as they are in New York or Boston. Be ready to de-prioritize culinary and focus on the “romantic” part of “romantic getaway.”

4. Fight the urge to stay in your room: the whole point of a romantic getaway is to enjoy the person you’re with … which sometimes leads to longer mornings in bed and the temptation not to wander too far from the room (hint, hint). Keep the spirit without becoming a hermit by packing a lunch and a bottle of wine before heading over to Rocky Gorge in White Mountain National Forest. Sit on the rocks as the river rushes by, and sip on a glass of Pinot Noir if the air is crisp (Gruener if it isn’t). Circle the nearby lake for a bit of privacy; the trail is easy to walk and won’t draw as much traffic as Rocky Gorge.

5. Take in a sunset: for a fantastic sunset, head over to Cathedral Ledge. It isn’t far from the Conway, NH area, so you won’t lose much time to the drive. In summer, the later sunset might leave you scrambling to find dinner afterward, so choose a restaurant that’s nearby to make sure you aren’t scrounging after enjoying a bit of natural beauty.