I received an interesting call in the office this afternoon from a fellow Mom and it went something like this:
CINDY: "Hi, I'm Cindy. I need your help to book an affordable, all inclusive resort vacation for this July. It will be for me, my husband and our three kids. We're looking for a room where we can all stay together that has a kids stay for free deal. I've looked all over the internet and I can't find anything. I just keep frustrating myself so I need your help"
ME: Always glad to help Cindy, First please tell me a little about your family - to start, how old will your kids be at the time of travel?
Cindy: My kids are 27, 22 and 19.
Say what?....Hold the phone Cindy!
As a mom, I know it never really matters how old they get, they will always be "our kids". That said, hotels and resorts have a very different "definition" of the word "kid" when you're trying to make vacation reservations. Our friend Cindy here needed a little "reality check".
All hotels and resorts have occupancy rules and age requirements in place. This is done to assure the comfort and safety of all guests. This may seem unreasonable to the family that is looking to economize and stay together. It also works the other way around for "kids" looking to travel without their parents. That said, nobody wants to find themselves next door to a room crammed with 20 crazed Spring Breakers!
Regular hotels usually have an occupancy and age limit for the number of people that are allowed to share the same room. Each and every hotel has different rules based on bedding, the size of the room, liability insurance, local safety ordinances and corporate sales policies. These types of hotels normally charge by the night.
All inclusive resort prices are a little bit different. The price of food, beverages, alcohol and activities are all calculated into the cost of your room. Obvious a 27 year old "kid" will eat more and will probably consume alcohol that a 7 year old kid would not. This is why most all inclusive resorts define a "kid" as being under the age of 12. All inclusive resorts normally charge a per person rate based on the age of each guest and room occupancy limits do apply. This explains why Cindy wasn't allowed to book online when she tried to enter in the ages of her kids.
Some hotels and all inclusive resorts do offer kids stay free deals. For regular hotels the cut off age is usually under 17 and for all inclusives it's usually for kids under 12. Normally we'll see these offers during the low, slow season, not during peak travel times like holidays or during summer vacation. Generally you need at least two adults for one or two kids to stay for free. Even though the kids stay free in the room, they are still charged for taxes and any required local fees.
So let's get back to Cindy and her family -
Is she ever going to get a "kids stay free deal" for her family? - Nope!.. because her kids are adults and not kids.
If she's interested in an all inclusive resort, in reality her family is defined as 5 adults. Very few resorts will allow 5 adults to share the same room. The ones that will allow it are upgraded suites with separate bedrooms. Obviously these rooms are far more expensive that getting two separate standard rooms.
But there is another issue at play here...Most resorts and hotels will NOT guarantee adjoining rooms no matter what ages your kids are. Guests can "request" two rooms that connect with a door but it is NEVER a guarantee. It all depends on current availability at the time of check in and the mood of your desk clerk.
I did suggest to Cindy that her family might want to consider a family cruise vacation instead of an all inclusive resort. Cruise lines charge by cabin occupancy, not by age...so it doesn't matter if your "kid" is 29, 19 or 9, they will pay the same rate. Some of the cruise lines do offer family suites that will accommodate families with 5,6 or more people but again these suites are upgrades and do come with a higher pricetag. The really good news is that, unlike hotels, when families book a cruise then CAN select and confirm their exact cabin, including cabins with connecting doors. This is a great solution for families that want to guarantee rooms next to one another.