A Lesson in How to Treat Family Travelers

by Matt Villano

A Lesson in How to Treat Family Travelers

The story of 5-year-old Ainsley, girl from Orlando who lost her beloved Elmo doll on a recent family trip, will break your heart. In a good way. And that’s great news for family travelers.

With all of the negativism in travel (and family travel) these days, it’s nice to hear a good story every once in a while.

That’s precisely why I heart the story of 5-year-old Ainsley, an ebullient and curly-haired cutie from Orlando who lost her beloved Elmo doll on a recent family trip to The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

The backstory is almost irrelevant. Ainsley was vacationing with her mom and dad. At some point, the Sesame Street icon disappeared. When they landed, the family placed a frantic phone call to the resort. And when hotel staffers learned of the furry creature’s disappearance, they fanned out to find him.

Eventually, Ritz employee Nelson Quesada saved the day. But this is where the story gets interesting. Instead of simply returning the animal, Quesada got creative. He took pictures of Elmo all over the resort, made a book of the pictures, and sent the book and the doll home.

The book itself is adorable—it’s got pictures of Elmo hanging by the pool, cooking with the chefs, and chillaxing on one of those uber-comfy Ritz beds.

More important, however, was what the book represents: A luxury hotel. Going above and beyond for family travelers. Just because they care.

At a time when most hospitality companies nickel-and-dime travelers incessantly, a time when “service” only guarantees that a hotel operator will greet you with a formal title, Quesada’s heartfelt gesture wasn’t just something Ainsley will remember forever. It was downright nice.

It also doesn’t seem like this was a PR stunt. One of my editors here at Parenting remembered a random visit with her daughter to the same property a few years back. The two of them weren’t even guests of the hotel, but staffers came over with stuffed animals and were “super-welcoming.”

Other hotel chains, take note! It doesn’t take outrageous amenities and 24-hour daycare to make us family travelers love you. Just be kind. And sincere. And give our kiddos reason to smile.