collegeSpace is the key to a successful week of college tours. My teen son, his godmother, his buddy, and I had all the space we needed while staying at Residence Inns during our college tour of Southern California and all of the trunk room we needed thanks to the Dodge Journey.

Residence Inns are extended stay hotels, so they cater to business people on long-term assignment. But the same features that make a Residence Inn a comfortable place for a business person to stay for several weeks make the hotel chain a perfect place to stay when traveling with teens: extra space, a fully equipped kitchen, and plenty of high quality, free food.

Staying in four different Residence Inns as guests of the hotel chain, we discovered that each had its own personality but also had a standard list of amenities we could count on: free parking, free wi-fi, free FULL breakfast (with waffle maker), free cocktail hour (nights varied), free newspaper, pool, gym, and — get this – grocery buying service. You pay for the groceries, they buy them and stock the fridge for you at no charge.

Ours was a whirlwind tour that covered the landscape in Southern California. Not only did we have plenty of room in the hotels at night, we had plenty of room in the car during our long drives from one college campus to the next. That’s because Dodge loaned us a Journey to drive around SoCal. The vehcile has plusses and minuses–mostly because it drives and feels so much like a truck (a plus for feeling safe and storing all the gear that comes with a traveling family), and a minus for feeling like the vehicle was too big for the lane. For a full look at the Dodge Journey, check out my review on SheBuysCars.com.

Residence Inn for Space and Free Extras

Residence Inn is a division of Marriott. There are several generations of Residence Inns. The older generations have an apartment complex feel and all rooms include a fireplace whereas newer generations fell more like a hotel, although the differences are obvious once you get inside the room. We stayed in four Residences Inns, all of which had been updated.The Residence Inn in El Segundo offers a free local shuttle service within a three-mile radius–a nice amenity to have someone else drive for awhile–and a social hour four nights a week that includes a light dinner–for free.

The Camarillo Residence Inn has fireplaces in the one-bedroom suites and a pool table just off the lobby. The rooms are comfortable, clean and include the requisite full kitchen and full breakfast every morning.

The Residence Inn San Diego’s Gas Lamp district has a contemporary custom design to fit its urban location, its own restaurant and bar, a communal business area and cozy lobby. Our studio suite was enormous and big enough to fit a rollaway if we needed it. The one- bedroom next door is even larger, with a king bed and separate living room with pull-out couch. This hotel feels very boutique-y and very contemporary. The kids ate from the restaurant and said the food and prices were good.

Our last stop, the Torrance Residence Inn, has loft-style rooms, all with a fireplace and the complex feels more like a community than a hotel. No shuttle, but it’s two miles from the beach, a block from a Pinkberry, shopping, and other fast food and minutes from the freeway. The only minus here is that it’s often sold out and that means a lot of people at breakfast. The breakfast flow could be improved and more seating is needed but the quality of the food did not disappoint.

The kitchens in every Residence Inn hotel come stocked with dishes, pots and pans and silverware. Some properties even include popcorn as a free amenity and a message board near the front door. The appliances are full size – fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher so you can save money and calories. The two bedroom layout gave us plenty of space and privacy. Old generations and new each held their own charm and the service at each one was friendly and conscientious.

Residence Inn is a home away from home–only better, thanks to a pool and maid service.