Kids Concierge Makes Family Travel Fun

WASHINGTON—There’s nothing a good hotel concierge can’t do. For families visiting the nation’s capital, must-see itineraries can read like a Christmas wish list—the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument and Smithsonian Institution, to name a few. There’s much to see and do and planning is key. At the Willard InterContinental Washington, Brian Thomasson, the new Kids Concierge, is readying for a fall debut of the program, making his youngest guests feel right at home.

“We’ve received great feedback since we started a few months ago. The way we initiate things is we look through our arrivals ahead of time and send out a field email welcoming them to our hotel and asking if they have children traveling with them,” Thomasson explained. “Once we get a response, we will then give them information on things to do, recommendations for restaurants and museums to visit. We cater to all the different age groups.”

Thomasson understands that traveling with children can be challenging—he’s a father, too—and his primary goal is to help families relieve the pain points of coordinating their stay and share the rich history of the hotel and the nation’s capital.

“If a family is coming in with two kids, we’ll set up amenities such as cookies and little notes on the local history, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Abraham Lincoln. When they check-in at the front desk, we’re thinking about something we can hand out to guests. History is shared through the amenity,” Thomasson said. “You’ll see lots of children’s books about DC from politics to prose. They can borrow the books and we also have a treasure chest with boardgames and interactive books and toys for kids.”

Families also receive an introduction to the program and history on the property itself, which is just steps from the White House. The Willard InterContinental Washington is an institution, hosting nearly every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce in 1853, Thomasson noted. In addition, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., finished his “I Have A Dream” speech while a guest at the Willard.

“We have props with the history, a timeline and state field maps. When they sit down with us, we give them a treasure chest card and a Willard library card with our logo on it and they flip it over to write their name on back. Children can borrow a game and the cards are a memento they can keep with them. Years from now, they can show their cards to their own kids.”

Membership has its privileges, as they say. Pint-sized guests receive Duck Bucks, which is the hotel’s reward system for returning books and games, and it looks like a dollar bill. Featuring Millie the Mallard, a duck who has laid her eggs in a planter on the property over the years, the bucks can be redeemed at the onsite café for a treat.

“We’ve tested a few restaurants we really like and will recommend, as well as all of the museums with different exhibits inside. We tell guests which ones are inappropriate and we also share ones that offer a highlight, such as the butterfly exhibit and daily feeding of the tarantula,” he said. “I find it’s been extremely rewarding when the kids know more than you do. They’re smarter than we think. We’re really connecting with families and it’s amazing. We’re very lucky to have that appeal and lots of places don’t have that rich history. It makes for a unique experience.”

— Corris Little