Feb 06 2010
Blog comments can take interesting twists. A recent comment to a two-year-old post on Travels with Children began an interesting e-mail correspondence, and one of my readers got an answer to a question that many of us with larger families have asked: Is the prohibition against having five people in a hotel room really a violation of fire codes? Read the guest post below to find the answer.
Jenny is the wife of one and stay-at-home mom of three, trying to use the world as her classroom. She lives in Watertown, South Dakota.
Last summer I was sitting with a group of moms discussing travel plans. One mom had just returned from a long road trip with her family of five. As they were nearing their hotel destination one evening, her two-year-old got carsick all over herself. They were anxious to get to their hotel room to clean her up. Despite the fact that they had made advanced reservations, the desk clerk refused to let them put three kids in one room. The reason? Fire code. Furious and exhausted, they were forced to keep driving with their messy child until they found another hotel. Our group then discussed the methods we’ve used to get three kids into a room.
Is having three kids really that uncommon? A quick survey of my moms’ group revealed that 17 out of 29 moms have three or more children.
We adopted our third child a little over a year ago. She’s getting a tad big for cribs and now I’m running into this same situation. There are so many hotels which won’t let you put three kids in a room. We enjoy traveling, and this has definitely complicated things.
After a recent bout of cabin fever, I found myself hunting for a motel in nearby Sioux Falls with an indoor waterpark. There are only two such places in Sioux Falls. On a previous outing, we stayed at “Hotel A” and had an enjoyable time. This year, however, Hotel A was booked. I attempted to book a room at “Hotel B” online. The online reservation system would not let me reserve for five people.
Normally, I would have sneaked the third child in, but because waterpark wristbands were involved, I knew we’d be one short. I phoned the hotel directly. The clerk refused to let me book room for five people. She wanted me to buy a suite. I explained that my third child could sleep on the floor and that a suite was more money than we wanted to spend. No deal. I threatened to take my money down the road to their competition (figured she didn’t know they were booked). No deal. She was willing to let me walk away. I then asked why it was unacceptable to have five people in a room. She informed me that it was a “violation of fire code.” I hung up in frustration.
I was baffled for a couple of reasons. #1. How is having a child sleep on the floor any more of a fire code violation than having a crib brought into a room? #2. If it truly is a violation of fire code, how does “Hotel A” get away with it? I was beginning to suspect that this was all an elaborate scheme to force people into booking suites. What happened to the concept of a rollaway bed? More and more hotels seemed to be getting away from this.
Because I apparently have nothing better to do with my time, I went online and did some investigating. It was very simple to find a contact e-mail address for the fire department. I e-mailed the department with the name and address of the hotel and posed my question. Is it truly a violation to have five people in one room?
To my amazement, I received a reply within the hour from the division fire chief marshall. He stated, “Fire and building code requirements generally do not regulate individual sleeping rooms relative to occupant loading other than a requirement for more than one exit where an occupant load exceeds ten people. The statement ‘violates fire code’, in this case, is incorrect.”
I decided to call Hotel B again and ask them to explain themselves. I was forced to leave a message with a secretary. A short time later, the fire marshall took it upon himself to phone the hotel and set them straight. I only wish I could have been in the room to see the look on the manager’s face when she received that call. Shortly thereafter, the manager phoned me. Apparently, the managers had a huddle, did some investigating and discovered that this policy was a corporate policy, not a government policy. The corporate policy allowed two people per bed plus an additional person on the floor. I was granted my reservation. An apology was issued. A promise was made that staff would receive training on this matter. I told the manager that I believe a lot of hotels do not realize how much money they are losing with this policy. When I hunt for hotel rooms online, I will keep searching until I find one that will allow me to put three kids in a room. I informed her that her clerk was willing to let me walk away with a few hundred dollars’ worth of business rather than let me put a child on the floor.
Most people are probably not willing to go to these lengths to get a room. My determination stemmed from running across this issue frequently, plus a desperate need to get my kids to a waterpark in a town with limited choices. If you’re in a situation where you have your heart set on a certain hotel, or you’re in dire need of a room (like my friend with the sick child), take action. When a clerk refuses to provide your family of five with lodging, ask for the reason behind this. If you’re told it’s a corporate policy, ask to speak to a manager. If you’re told it’s fire code, call them on it. It’s simple to find contact information for a local fire department. Heck, you could phone them while you stand at the front desk! Be firm, polite and persistent and see how far you can get.
Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Have you ever called the fire department to check the “fire code” claim of a hotel? Please share your thoughts.
If you want to find a room that will accept families of five, six, or more without problems, I recommend starting at SixSuitcaseTravel.com, or if you’ll be traveling in the UK, find rooms for five at http://www.roomfor5.co.uk.