This one thing in our hotel room took our dream vacation from terrific to over-the-top amazing. 

The One Hotel Amenity That's an Absolute Game Changer When Traveling with Children
Credit: Geber86/Getty Images

Here's the thing about children: They're completely unpredictable. Situations constantly come up that are totally out of your control and when those situations happen far from home? They threaten to ruin your hard-earned vacation. So when I travel with my kids I make sure to have flexible plans and the right place to stay. There are benefits to going the home rental route with children for sure, but there are times when we want to stay in a resort. The room service! The spa! The private beaches! However, to make a resort with my family work, a room with a balcony is a must. It's such a game-changer that I refuse to book a room without one.

Before you accuse me of being high-maintenance, hear me out.

I developed my balcony affinity four years ago, and I'm never going back. The setting: our first trip together as a family of four. I dreamed of a glorious, stress-free resort vacation with my preschooler and 6-month-old. (Not exactly realistic but those were the early days, back when I believed traveling with the family was a vacation instead of what it really is—a trip.) What I got was sunny skies, gorgeous beaches, fabulous restaurants—and a baby who reverted to a cluster feeding insomniac newborn. It was the most un-vacation vacation my husband and I have ever taken (although our preschooler had the time of his life). Our balcony, however, saved our sanity.

At night, when I did manage to coax my daughter to sleep, my husband and I would hustle out to our balcony to reconnect and recharge, while watching playful dolphins jump in the bay (one of the few moments that felt like a vacation). While the children napped, we could chill on our balcony with books, instead of hunkering down in our room in the dark, completely bored. There were times when we all wanted to be outdoors with just our little family and our balcony was there for us then, too. When my husband and I think back to that vacation now, our happy place always comes up.

Since then, I've discovered that hotel balconies never let us down. We recently traveled to The Fairmont Orchid, on the Big Island of Hawaii, with our children, now ages 8 and 4. We decided that instead of island hopping and staying at multiple resorts, we would choose one fabulous resort and spend the week there. It was spectacular. The food. The beach. The pool. All of it, perfect...and, like always, our balcony was our respite after our children were in bed. No tip-toeing around our room and no sitting in the dark with nothing to do either.

But it was more than an end-of-day retreat. Instead of suffering through a two-hour Caillou marathon one afternoon when our children decided the pool was too wet we lounged on our sun-soaked balcony overlooking the resort's incredible grounds: the swaying palm trees, the impossibly white sand beach, the crystal blue cove full of sea turtles, the gurgling waterfall in the lush gardens just below us. Our children were in plain view the entire time through the glass doors, so we could still see them and they could still visit us—we were just free to enjoy our gorgeous surroundings (the whole reason we were in Hawaii!) instead of being trapped indoors. Another night we enjoyed a fabulous room service dinner on our balcony after our jet-laged children fell asleep early Then there were the mornings where we would sip coffee (us) and milk (the kids), while taking in the view (top). We had our own private slice of Hawaii and we savored it every opportunity we got. The kids were as blissed out (below) as we were by the end of the week.

So parents, seriously: The next time you book a hotel room, make sure that it has a balcony. It will probably cost extra money, yes, but it's worth it. You deserve some vacation-like moments during your family trip, right?