The One Phone Number You Need When on a Family Road Trip
Accommodation planning can be tricky on road trips, especially when traveling with babies and toddlers. If you book accommodations prior to your family's road trip, you lose flexibility to respond to events as they arise - whether that's wanting to spend more time at a place of interest; heavy traffic; or the restless little one in the backseat that's had enough driving for the day.
However, trying to find accommodation on the fly can be tricky and stressful - especially if you do have a restless child in the backseat.
What's more, outside of city centers, cellphone data connectivity can get dicey - dropping to 2G or losing data all together, making an online search for a hotel via Google Maps or Hotels.com next to impossible.
When I was a child, family road trips wrapped each day with my Dad pulling into a hotel, waiting at reception, and then inquiring about availability and prices. If the hotel was full, or too expensive for my parents' budget, we'd drive to the next hotel, and Dad would repeat the whole process.
On a recent road trip with our two year old daughter, my husband and I found ourselves resorting to the same process after an interstate accident sent traffic to a grinding halt late in the afternoon, and our cellphones' data was too slow to efficiently search for nearby hotels.
We pulled into one of the first hotel we saw off the interstate - a Fairfield Inn & Suites - only to discover that the hotel's 94 rooms were completely booked.
So we sat in the car, huddled over our phones, stealing the hotel's wifi signal, and began our hotel search in earnest. Then my husband decided to call Marriott's 1-800 number for bookings. In less than two minutes, the operator was informing us that there were two hotels close by with availability, both with pack and plays and a pool - two amenities we requested. After another two minutes of talking through the options with the operator, she helped us settle on a TownePlace Suites by Marriott. It was newer, she told us, and the room had a kitchen. Booking (using points that the operator accessed via my husband's profile!) was instantaneous and painless, and by the time we arrived at reception and went up to our room, the pack and play was already in our room.
The time we saved in finding a hotel, booking a room, and getting the room set up with the pack and play meant that we still had time to take our daughter to the indoor pool before her bed time, where she happily splashed around and benefited from some active play after a day of driving.
In the current age of online travel planning and bookings, it often feels that we parents need to slog it out and do all the work ourselves. I was impressed by the expediency with which Marriott's booking systems and operators quickly identified hotel properties near us, with the amenities we needed. What's more, Marriott, with its large portfolio of hotel brands across North America, has properties in many towns and cities, meaning that a quick phone call will often return one or more options for a comfortable night's stay.
Whether it's Marriott, InterContinental Hotels Group, or another hotel brand where you have status, guest rewards points, or simply properties you enjoy, it pays to program a hotel group's toll-free bookings phone number into your cellphone, for on-the-road hotel search and bookings support, wherever your trip takes you.