There are few things I enjoy more than a really good hotel; boutique, design, luxury, I love them all, and pre-kids it was one of my favorite things about travel: finding the perfect accommodations. But then our little travel companions came along, priorities have shifted, logistics have changed, and it doesn’t really seem feasible or honestly even enjoyable to stay at a swanky place with our frat boy-esque toddlers. Shushing my kids constantly and being on top of their manners is added stress that I really don’t need while on vacation, so like lots of families we’ve mostly focused on rentals from sites like VRBO where we can have our own space, and hotels that have extravagant amenities like “make your own waffle from the hours of 6-10 AM”. Luxury hotels with toddlers just haven’t seemed like the right fit for our family.
But then a few weeks ago I saw an ad for a ‘Family Fun Easter Weekend’ package being offered by the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva, a bit under 3 hours away from where we live in central Switzerland. I was intrigued. Here was a luxury hotel, blatantly inviting families like ours to come and stay with them, and they even dared to call it “fun”. Could it be possible? We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo for our babymoon, which was the dreamiest experience. We are Fans. But we certainly haven’t thought to stay in one ever since baby #1 joined us on the other side and is decidedly. . . less controllable. This, though, felt like the perfect opportunity to give it a try, so we hit that “book” button and began to anticipate our much-needed staycation getaway. Would plush surroundings beat out pluses like additional space and full kitchens that home rentals can provide? Or would security be called, and exactly how many times before they would ask us, kindly, of course, to leave? What exactly would luxury hotels with toddlers be like?
Luxury Hotel vs. Rental Home
The package we booked included several enticing features for families, including breakfast served in-room or at the restaurant, a 100CHF dining credit (about $100), special Easter treats and an Easter party for the kids, and most incredibly, an adjoining second room! If you’re like our family, you’ve spent many a night sitting in a pitch-black hotel room at 7:30 PM, or drinking wine while sitting on the bathroom floor, watching a movie on your phone propped up on the toilet and wondering what has happened to your life. You know that an additional room for the kids is not just a great benefit, it is THE benefit.
All of these family-inclusive amenities were enough to put me at ease, but as we arrived at the hotel, I still felt compelled to have “the talk” with my kids, explaining that we were entering a grown-up space, so we need to be nice, quiet, and good listeners. Miraculously, they were, and when one of the staff members greeted them each with a sweet stuffed cow and a smile, I was able to breathe easier. They were charmed, I was relieved, and it was an auspicious sign of things to come for the weekend. When we got to our room and saw the personalized chocolate treats, plus even more fun Swiss-themed presents, the boys officially decided that they’re on Team Luxury. Great.
So, okay, of course, we can gather that when we’re staying in a luxury hotel, things are going to be nice, so let’s talk about what the Mandarin Oriental Geneva was offering specifically that made this a standout for families:
- Kid and parent-approved dining options. I loved that their in-room dining menu included a double-sided kids menu: one for all of the tried and true kid favorites like pizza and chicken nuggets, and on the back, healthier but still kid-friendly options that you could feasibly convince your kids to try.
- Efficient room setups. From nice, big bathtubs, to plentiful storage space, the rooms are designed in a way to ensure all your “stuff” can be tucked away and easily accessed…not to mention plenty of cabinets and high shelves to safely keep things out of reach. There are also adjoining rooms on this property, so we felt safe having our kids sleep in one room together, while we could be in the other room and enjoy a later bedtime.
- In-room baby care items. The hotel can provide essentials, such as a crib, diaper bin, changing table, baby robe, and the aforementioned stuffed toy, which at this location was the Swiss-themed cow named Marguerite. If you require any special requests, like diapers or baby food upon arrival, the concierge can help with that for a fee.
- Childcare. The hotel organized a party with crafts, games, a bounce house, delicious food, and even more treats for the kids as part of the Easter package that we booked. They had a blast, and my husband and I got two hours to relax and have lunch together stress-free. The kids club is open on Sunday afternoons April through May, and then daily thereafter. You can find details of all the hotel offers for kids here.
- Excellent rewards program. Before you stay at any hotel you should join their rewards program, and the Mandarin Oriental’s Fans of M.O. is an excellent one. The perk that I love the most is that you get to choose two benefits from a list of several that you can take advantage of during your stay. These include things like upgrades, early or late check-ins, breakfast, spa credits, and more.
- Welcoming staff. Even before we arrived for our stay, every encounter with each staff member at the hotel was lovely. When we arrived and everyone was warm, welcoming, and sweet to our kids, it immediately allowed us to relax. Two and three-year-old boys may not be ideal luxury customers, but we were never made to feel uncomfortable or out of place.
All of these fantastic things contributed to a truly enjoyable weekend getaway — but were they enough to beat out the cost and logistical efficiency of renting a home?
We decided that, overall, no. Renting an apartment or house is a much more efficient way for our family to travel at the moment than staying at luxury hotels with our toddlers. Given the access to a kitchen, multiple bedrooms, and possibly some outdoor space, not to mention the cost, it is a much better option for our family. If we’re staying somewhere for more than a couple of nights, we will continue to use sites like VRBO for our trip planning.
But you know that traveling with kids isn’t necessarily a vacation. It’s a trip, but it’s not a break. The Onion says it best with this classic headline: Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity to Ocean. It’s true, and those trips are worth it and the reality for most of us, but when we want to escape reality for a bit, to really get a chance to actually relax, a family-welcoming luxury hotel like the Mandarin Oriental is a really excellent option. Even though we only stayed for one night, that one night was more of a getaway than any trip we’ve been on recently because I didn’t have to think about or do any of those daily household things: it was all taken care of for me while I wore a comfy robe, slept on obscenely large thread count number sheets, and drank rosé while someone else entertained my kids for a couple of hours.
For our sight-seeing and more in-depth trips, we will likely continue to rent vacation homes for cost-efficiency and space, but when we’re feeling like we just need a change of scenery and a bit of an escape, I think we’ll absolutely start working the luxury hotels with toddlers in here and there. And we will definitely be on the lookout for packages such as this one, that are crafted with families in mind for a bit of balance. Thank you to everyone at Mandarin Oriental Geneva for being so welcoming and warm, for making our weekend truly enjoyable, and for helping us to start thinking about hotel travel in a different light.
Do you like staying at luxury hotels with your toddlers? Let us know in the comments below!
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