When you travel with kids (and even when you don’t), two things make the hotel experience more enjoyable: enough space that you aren’t tripping over one another and plenty of things that help you save money. The all-suites Residence Inn by Marriott gets it right on both fronts. Its newest and biggest hotel just opened in Chicago’s Loop, which adds one more priceless feature: a great location in a great city.
Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop
When the kids were little, it wasn’t a huge challenge to fit the four of us into a standard hotel room with two double beds. But as they grew into adult-sized teenagers, a hotel room started to feel cramped. Once they got big enough that the two kids refused to sleep in one bed, or my son thought it was weird to sleep in the same bed with any of us, we found we needed more space.
Add to that their teenage need for endless supplies of food and the promise of a huge buffet breakfast and fully functional kitchen meant we could save plenty on the vacation food budget. Toss in free high-speed wifi, and we became big fans of the Residence Inn brand.
It all adds up to an affordable place to stay.
What Works for Families
- There’s plenty of room. Even my $289/night studio suite with its king-sized bed and pull-out couch would have been big enough for the four of us.
A full kitchen. It comes stocked with the basics you need to make a family meal—everything from dishes and cups to fry pans, utensils and colander. If you would rather not do the grocery shopping while you’re on vacation, fill out the grocery form in your room and leave it at the front desk before 9am. The hotel will send someone out to do your shopping and stock your kitchen while you’re out enjoying Chicago. There’s no charge for the shopping and delivery, the food costs will be added to your bill. (Note, you have to buy your own booze and cigarettes. The hotel won’t buy those for you.) There’s also a “market” behind the front desk, but it’s stocked mostly with junk food, so doesn’t really offer much in the way of nutrition.
- Full, hot breakfast buffet. At this Residence Inn, it’s a huge room full of food. There’s sure to be something to tempt even the pickiest eaters.
Free wifi that actually works.
- Amazingly comfy beds.
- Onsite laundry.
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- There’s no pool. That would have been a deal breaker when my kids were younger. Being in a hotel meant being able to swim. Period.
- Paying $62 a day for parking. While this outrageous fee isn’t out of line with parking in Chicago’s Loop these days, it can take a big bite out of a vacation budget. The reality is that you won’t need a car to see Chicago, so don’t bring one if you can help it.
- The spa-style shower is lovely, but I found it to be a bit slippery when wet. Be careful with the kids.
The hotel was fashioned from an historic Chicago building, the Roanoke Building, which turns 100 in 2015. It was extensively renovated, but its architectural heritage restored, including the gorgeous 1920s mail box that adorns the lobby near the elevators.
The Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop is named for its location inside the elevated train tracks that form a circle–or loop–around the downtown area.
The hotel is in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. That means it’s close to the city’s world class theaters, near several foodie stops and just a few blocks’ walk from Millennium Park and its iconic Bean sculpture. It’s also easy to get to the State Street shopping corridor and a short cab ride to the Museum Campus, home to the world-renown Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum. And, of course, it’s easy to use the public transit system to get just about anywhere in the city.
Residence Inn started in 1975, the first hotel chain to cater to business clients on extended assignments. Knowing those business travelers would be in one place for several days or even several weeks, the chain offered some of the comforts of home, such as more space and a full kitchen–the same comforts are great for traveling with children, too.