I had the pleasure last weekend of spending a night at the Residence Inn Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf, courtesy of Residence Inn by Marriott, which is reaching out to blogging parents for feedback and ideas.
I’m very picky when it comes to doing commercial promotions on this blog—probably more so because I’ve been in corporate marketing myself. I don’t want to blindly shill products and services. Having said that, I do think it’s important for LGBT parents to be in the mix when companies are reaching out to attract families, and I’m delighted to help when companies truly seem like they want to be inclusive.
I spent the time with four other bloggers—Charlene of The Charlene Chronicles, Jennifer of Savor the Thyme, Mitch of Gay NYC Dad, and Ramesh of The Papa Post. We were a delightfully eclectic group. The Residence Inn PR team seemed genuinely interested in our feedback—they spent an hour and a half asking us questions about family travel and our reactions to their services and facilities.
Here are my thoughts on the hotel, for what they’re worth.
Full disclosure: I received one night’s accommodation in a one-bedroom suite at the Residence Inn, which included the complementary breakfast buffet. I also received dinner the night before, and a bag of small gift items worth (I estimate) no more than $30. There was no requirement that we write about our experience, or that our writing, if any, be positive.
The first thing I did, even before accepting the offer to attend the event, was to look up the rating of Residence Inn’s parent company, Marriott, in the HRC Corporate Equality Index. They score a respectable 90/100, earning good marks for inclusive policies but missing a perfect rating because they have yet to add transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage.
The PR director told me the brand has a very active LGBT employee resource group.
One suggestion, though: I’d like to see some images of LGBT parents and our kids among the many families that grace the Residence Inn Facebook page.
Residence Inns are designed for extended stays—and while the company has made its name serving business travelers, they are also serious about reaching out to families.
For good reason.
I’ve long loved suites when traveling with my spouse and son—but I’m too cheap to upgrade to a suite at a regular hotel, where I envision all the suites as palatial and pricey.
The few times we’ve stayed at an all-suite hotel (or stayed in a suite as a family when one of us was traveling on business), however, we’ve really enjoyed having a separate room for our son to fall asleep in while we parents stayed up later. We’ve tried it in one room, and either our son doesn’t get to sleep or I’m disgruntled about not getting in my usual pre-bedtime reading.
Residence Inn isn’t all suites—they have studios, too—but all rooms are geared towards extended stays. All have the same kitchens (see below), and a couch in the living area that pulls out into an additional bed. A one-bedroom suite is only about $10-$30 per day more than a studio (depending on the specific hotel), and includes a glorious closing door between the bedroom and the living area. The two-bedroom suites cost even more, but may be a good option for larger families.
The suites have flat-screen TVs in both the living room and bedroom; studios have one.
Residence Inn also offers lower rates for longer stays. Overall, they consider themselves part of the “upper moderate” price tier—which means they won’t always be the very cheapest option, but may be a good value depending on your needs. (Sanity has a cost.) The price includes the extensive breakfast buffet. (See below.)
The rooms are modern, but with a warmth that keeps them from that cold look that some ultra-contemporary interiors have. Because they are designed for extended stays, there are also more drawers around the rooms for putting your stuff. (This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether your toddler decides to play hide-and-seek with her stuffed animals, and then can’t find one when you’re ready to leave.)
Travel cribs with covers, tub toys, nightlights, outlet covers, and disposable bibs are available for families with very young children.
The price of the room includes a full breakfast buffet—fresh waffles, pancakes, eggs, cereals, muffins, pastries, juice, fruit, coffee, and more. For families traveling with children, this could be one of the best perks of the stay. Personally, I find breakfast the hardest meal to eat out while on vacation. Often, we want to get going to see the sights and not be delayed by slow waitstaff or cooks.
My only complaint was that the lobby seating filled up quickly at breakfast time. Families may want to plan on getting breakfast and taking it back up to eat in their rooms. Suggestion to Residence Inn: Have trays available for families who want to do this. It’s tough to balance plates of food, drinks, and a child.
The other big perk of a Residence Inn, however, is the full kitchen in all rooms: two-burner stove, microwave, full (not mini) fridge, toaster, coffee pot, dishwasher, dishes, and a reasonable assortment of pots and cutlery. Some include an oven. There’s also a proper dining table and chairs, in addition to the hotel-standard desk.
With my family, after a few nights of vacation, the fun of eating out has worn off. Another heavy restaurant meal seems daunting, and we just want to get back to the hotel after a day of sightseeing. Having a kitchen in the room would allow us to whip up something quickly so we can eat, relax, and then whisk our son right off to bed.
I know what you’re thinking, though. Who wants to do dishes while on vacation? Fact is, the hotel staff will do them for you. Woo hoo!
As for food shopping: Residence Inn offers free grocery delivery from a local supermarket. (You only pay for the cost of goods.) There’s also a small 24-hour on-site “market” with snacks, drinks, and other necessities.
Not only does the hotel offer dry cleaning, like every other hotel, but it also has guest laundries. (At the Boston Harbor location, they are coin operated; some locations offer them free.) I know—no one likes to do laundry on vacation—but spills are a fact of life when traveling with kids. I also know that at the rate my son is growing, he doesn’t always have enough fitting clothes for a nine-day, weekend-to-weekend vacation. A self-service laundry option could be a lifesaver, and quicker than going through the usual hotel laundry service.
Free WiFi comes with every room. That used to matter only for business travelers, but in these days of iPads as kid entertainment, families will appreciate the connectivity, too.
There’s a small 24-hour fitness center with treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, along with a pool and whirlpool. I’ve seen bigger fitness centers at many hotels, but this should at least keep you in shape if you really feel the need to exercise more after schlepping around with the kids all day.
All Residence Inn locations welcome pets. (Extra fees may apply.)
Those on the other end of the pet-hair-loving spectrum may want to try one of the “PURE” hypoallergenic rooms (though these cost more).
Lobbies may vary from location to location, but the Boston Harbor one includes a fireplace and sofas, and is a nice place to hang if you need a change of scene from your suite.
The staff (who didn’t all know I was there with the special bloggers’ tour) all seemed friendly and welcoming, without that stuffiness of some hotel staff. They wore Residence Inn polos, not blazers, which should give you some idea of the vibe.
The Residence Inn Boston Harbor offers great views of the eponymous area, including the historic U.S.S. Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), a great place to visit with kids. Not only is the ship fun, but the Constitution Museum next door is an interactive, kid-oriented place that gives children a sense of what life might have been like on a 19th-century ship. (I didn’t visit it during this trip, but have been there before with my son, who loves it.)
The Constitution also marks one end of the Freedom Trail, the 2.5-mile route of 16 sites associated with the American Revolution—making the Residence Inn a great location if the Trail is on your agenda.
Charlestown, the area of Boston that includes the hotel and harbor, has a number of nice restaurants, including the Navy Yard Bistro, where I dined with the bloggers. Great American fare (my crab-stuffed haddock was delicious), although geared more for adults than kids.
The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the historic North End, which includes Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House, and more, along with many wonderful Italian restaurants and bakeries. (Seriously. Stop at one of the latter and bring back a box of cannolis to have in your room. You’ll thank me, even if you have to hit the fitness center later.) It’s about a 20-minute walk to the New England Aquarium, or 15 minutes by bus.
Residence Inn has more than 600 locations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Bahrain and Costa Rica, however, so you’re not limited to Boston by any means. (Though I would welcome you to our fair city!)
Residence Inn has just launched a new series of three television ads, starring a giraffe, and elephant, and a family of penguins, respectively. The first two are aimed at business travelers, but the last is aimed at families. (See it below.) Wonderfully, the penguin parents in the ad are not gender specific, allowing the ad to speak to both opposite- and same-sex parents. I’m not sure that was intentional, but I’m hoping Residence Inn realizes the value there and runs with it. Given the long association between penguins and lesbian and gay parents, the ad would be a terrific one for LGBT-specific media.
Overall, I had a great time seeing the hotel and meeting the other bloggers and Residence Inn PR team. Kudos to the PR folks for reaching out to a variety of parent bloggers for our input. Having done marketing and PR work myself, I feel that listening to customers is the most important part of the job—and I love when I see it done right. I hope they take some of our suggestions and continue to make Residence Inn a welcoming place for all types of families.
What do you look for in a hotel when you travel with your family?
Have you ever stayed at a Residence Inn? What was your experience like?
Have any questions about Residence Inn? Ask away, and I’ll try to find the answers from my contacts there.