This year, picking a hotel chain to honor was tough. In the end, it came down to who offered the most peace of mind to wheelchair travelers before arrival. Our independent hotel pick was much easier.
We loved the unbelievable, top notch service of the Riu
hotel. When arriving at the front desk, the agent would tell us "if you are unhappy, let us know. We want you to be happy. If you're unhappy, that is not good for anyone...we will do whatever it takes to make you happy."
I know, sounds like just some PR puffery to get you on your way, but we came to find out they really mean it and take it seriously. Our less than perfect first night was quickly forgotten by all the management did to make sure they made up for any deficiencies starting with a great room upgrade through reserved spots of honor at the pool, and even the towel sculptures they left in the room.
This was our most enjoyable stay this year but they Riu reservation system makes getting an accessible room hard. They will block an accessible room for you, but you must call the hotel manager directly and there is no toll-free number to do so, meaning an expensive international call. We must give Riu our honorable mention but the difficulty imposed in making an accessible reservation just keeps them from the top spot.
On the other hand, Marriott
hotels keep stepping up to the plate in welcoming wheelchair travelers. With a variety of handicapped accessible rooms in premium locations on their properties, the brand shows that it knows that special needs travelers don't want to be stuck in the back of the hotel next to the laundry room.
The facilities, such as counters and dining areas, are thought out for accessibility and built accordingly. For all travelers, service by the staff is friendly and professional.
Reservations for accessible rooms are a breeze on their website with room descriptions and accessibility options right on the online reservation form. Accessible rooms are guaranteed when booking this way.
From the standard Marriott, to the casual Courtyard, the comfortable Springhill Suites, to the luxurious JW Marriott, the hotels of the Marriott brand continue to be the standard for understanding the wheelchair travelers' needs, not to mention they have one of the best loyalty programs around.
is our hotel chain of the year.
Our independent hotel choice is not in the heart of any big tourist area, though it is within an easy drive of such popular places as Sequoia National Park. I do recommend you spend a day or two here to slow down and live a slice of rural America.
Charter Inn and Suites
is in the San Joaquin Valley town of Tulare in California. It is right off of the main highway, highway 99, and is pretty central to everything.
The suites here are huge. Roll-in showers are available and even the non-accessible units are big enough for a chair and, if you can use a bathtub, might even be preferable to you. There's a pool and spa, breakfast is served daily, cocktails during weekday evenings, and there's even a lending library for books and videos. Wifi is free and strong.
The staff here is wonderful and the rooms are pretty spectacular for the location.
This is easily the best hotel along highway 99 and is pretty affordable to boot.
Charter Inn and Suites
in Tulare, California is our pick for the independent hotel of the year.