You can’t blame Aston Hotels & Resorts for tooting its horn a little. The company, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary, started out with just one 14-room hotel and has come to manage 40,000 condo and hotel units in 27 properties (mostly in Hawaii). It has expanded its repertoire, too, by taking over Waikiki’s Hotel Renew, an 82-room designer hotel that’s catnip to sophisticated couples and singles.
The majority of Aston’s properties, though, are decidedly family-friendly, albeit without rigidly following some cookie-cutter design. “We always strive to offer the widest range of hotels and condominium resorts,” says Kelvin Bloom, president of Aston Hotels & Resorts. Each Aston property has “its own personality and attributes that allow for unique and memorable experiences across any lifestyle, taste or budget,” explains Shari Chang, senior v.p. of sales, marketing and revenue management.
Typically, condos appeal to families because of their living rooms, washer/dryers, and kitchens. No wonder most of Aston’s 25 properties in Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island are apartment style, as are the South Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas resorts. But Aston benefits families in other ways, too. The Kids Stay, Play, and Eat Free program at its Hawaii properties allows free-stay “kids” to be as old as 17. Each child 12 or under gets an Aloha Book with coupons for free admission to attractions like the U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park and, for your budding Tiger, discounted golf. The book also has coupons for some free meals, including a few at off-property restaurants. Each child also gets a gift at check-in, and many Aston resorts offer families grilling and picnic facilities. Although these properties are best for families that like to do things together, most offer reliable babysitting services, too, and a couple of them schedule kids’ activities.
With 27 Aston resorts, where should you book your clients?
- Oahu: The 28-story Aston at the Waikiki Banyan has a playground, pool and tennis, and it’s a short walk from Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium in Kapiolani Park. Winter rack rates for 1-bedroom suites start at $265 per night. Aston Waikiki Sunset offers 1- and 2-bedroom suites; no playground, but it’s closer to Kapiolani Park although farther from the beach. Both feature outdoor grilling and kitchens. From $269 a night.
- Maui: Although Maui Camp Kaanapali is open to kids 5-12 staying at any Aston on Maui, drop-off is obviously easier for families staying at its home base, Aston Kaanapali Shores. “We go swimming and have a lot of fun,” says Christie, one of the teachers, “but we educate about the local culture, too, with nature walks, art-and-crafts sessions (e.g. making leis), hula lessons, and other activities.” The $10 registration fee includes a T-shirt; the $35 per-session rate covers snacks and a meal. This beachfront hotel with pools, tennis, free scuba lessons, a spa, and grills offers a variety of rooms and suites. In winter, 1-bedroom suites start at $269.
- Kauai: Boasting the only protected beach on Kauai and proximity to Kamalani Playground and Lydgate Beach Park, the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel also offers multiple restaurants, tennis, a fitness center, and PlayStation 2 consoles with unlimited access to a DVDNow kiosk. No real kitchens, but the jr. suite (from $139) has a refrigerator, microwave and wet bar.
- Big Island: No Big Island Aston offers camps or playgrounds, although the Aston Waikoloa Colony Villas does have a separate children’s pool as well as easy access to Anaehoomalu Beach. It’s the place to book families with teens who’ll appreciate the nearby golf, world-class shopping and volcanoes. One-bedroom, 2-bath suites with kitchens from $266; 2-bedroom suites from $302.
- Las Vegas: Aston MonteLago Village Resort has smartly furnished suites, separate kids’ pool, shuttle to The Strip, and access to myriad recreation (including free on-property fishing). Good spa and fitness center for teens and grown-ups, too. Studios with “kitchenettes,” $82 during high season; 2-bedroom at $145.
- South Lake Tahoe: Aside from Aston Lakeland Village’s heated pools (one for tots), grills, shuttles to multi-season attractions, and vistas, this resort offers children’s daytime activities (with Olympics, western, and dinosaur themes) at no charge; the fee for evening activities is $5. There’s also a weekly luau (hey, this is an Aston). Weekend rates are higher than on weekdays, but in general, a studio with loft costs about $189; 1-bedroom suites $200.
agent shout out
“Aston Hotels & Resorts places great value on travel agents, pioneering innovative programs and incentives such as seasonal cash-back bonuses that make it easier to get to know Aston and book vacations at our properties,” says Chang. “Our commitment to our travel agent partners includes the industry benchmark STARs Online program, a completely web-based incentive system designed to provide agents with a convenient…and rewarding experience. Aston also offers sales support, discounts, commissions, FAMs, and eduVacations where travel agents can learn, stay and play at Aston properties.”