Find: Great Hotel Chain for Families of Four or Five – Springhill Suites

Space for screen time and the fifth person

You have to upsize more than your car when your family expands; travel becomes a production. When the kids are young, you need extra floor space for all the gear such as carriers and Pack and Plays. Then they grow larger and you need space for longer legs, full size suitcases, and electronics. A standard two bed hotel room is a tight squeeze that can wear on nerves despite all your best Clark Griswold intentions for a pleasant family vacation.

We’ve discovered a reasonably priced hotel chain that offers adequate space and amenities, Springhill Suites by Marriott. These properties are managed with Marriott’s efficiency but with a more modern, Ikea-meets-Courtyard kind of feel.  The floor space is generous and the design is especially suited for four or even five people who need zones in which to pursue their own interests. The furnishings are designed for multiple purposes and feel like a suite without actually closing off a separate room. This can be more desirable than a true suite since you can be together (i.e., keep an eye on the kids) but be separate at the same time.

Although many of these features have become common, it’s the particular combination that hits the mark for family travel. Here’s how they’ve delivered everything you need and nothing you don’t:

Hot breakfast – a morning meal is almost becoming standard at hotels, and for good reason. Mornings are stressful enough at home, and breakfast on site saves precious launch time. With early risers (i.e., young kids), you dosn’t need the pressure of finding breakfast for yourself on top of serving baby gruel. With tween and teens, you need a buffet with a variety of items to satisfy them and, let’s be honest, shut them up. They can sit at their own little table like they don’t know you, and you have a USA today to go with your already brewed coffee.

An individual reading light that doesn't require switching three times and cycling through four lighting combinations

Study/electronics zones – Long gone are the days of just needing an outlet  for a hair dryer. Now we’re all packing electronics and need space to charge and use them. We love how the sectional sofas here allow someone to kick back with the Ipad while the coffee tables split to serve as separate surfaces for a couple of laptops or snacks. All this is within view of the large screen TV, because who only watches TV anymore? We’re all screen surfing simultaneously. There’s still a typical desk with task lighting and a serious office chair with lumbar support – wow, work could get done here.

Mini store – Tylenol packets, sodas, snacks and frozen dinners are at the store by the front desk. Could this mean that we will be able to skip the obligatory trip to CVS for once?

Sleeping space for your fifth wheel –  the world was made for even numbers. With three kids, this delicate balance is tipped in restaurant booths, amusement park rides, and hotel rooms. The sectional sofas at Springhill Suites contain a small pull-out bed that gives a third kid space to sleep that is out of the foot traffic in the rest of the room, unlike typical rollaway beds.

En suite fridge/microwave/coffee bar – whether you’re chilling baby bottles or juice boxes, snacks are essential. A method for reheating leftovers from your huge dinner entree would also be helpful, since those last bites will seem tasty again at 11 p.m. We haven’t even mentioned the mommy juice or dad’s brewski bottles, but wouldn’t it be nice to have them chilled and waiting?

Common area – if you are playing travel ball, a common area is essential for rounding up your troops. Most Springhill Suites have a large seating area near the front desk which makes for an easy meeting spot that even your stragglers are bound to walk through. The TVs and lounge sofas allow for some entertainment as you inevitably wait for the next schedule update.

Outdoor common area – we’ve found there are usually pleasant outdoor seating courtyards, sometimes with fire pits. Ask the manager to fire up the gas and you can mingle around the fire pit, visiting with the other team parents as you decompress after a day of games.

One possible drawback: Usually outdoor, but no indoor, pool. However, if you’re on a travel team, this is a blessing, because the kids can’t wear themselves out swimming indoors and can save their energy for their games.

Birmingham’s new Springhill Suites adjacent to UAB is super. If you have friends visiting who prefer to stay on their own, it’s an excellent recommendation.