Review: San Francisco’s Intercontinental
"Hotel Homeroom" Package
Sometimes You Need A Well Deserved Break,
Even With the Kids
By Kathy Chin Leong and Sally Lisa Chin
The impressive Intercontinental opened in 2008 in downtown San Francisco with much fanfare. The gleaming multi-story premiere property with stellar city views was built to serve as a cornerstone convention hotel to meet the needs of conference attendees. Within the last few years, to draw more convention business, the City expanded the Moscone Convention center only steps away. Further, the hotel recently launched a refresh of its rooms and public spaces with new carpeting, paint, bedroom upgrades, and more. The timing, it seemed, couldn’t have been more perfect. But then, like everything else, Covid hit.
Since March, the hotel has pivoted and taken on a new customer base. It helped house essential workers when the pandemic was at its worst. It dropped nightly rates in order to bring leisure guests since business travel is pretty much kaput. In keeping with the times, it now offers a clever program called Hotel Homeroom where families can come and experience remote schooling/work in the comfort of a premiere hotel.
My sister, Sally Chin, and I test drove the new program with her three children: Mitchell, a high school junior; Jessica, a high school sophomore; and Tyler, fifth grade. The program itself costs $150 and can support up to eight students per day, and the price includes hotel parking for one car. Additional cars in the party pay $25 for the day which is a great bargain in San Francisco. The program gives you complimentary wi-fi and all-day access to a conference room with your own desk and stationary items such as pens, pencils, scissors, etc.
For another $40 per student, parents can forego packing lunches and let the hotel provide a healthy and yummy breakfast, lunch, and snacks. While the pool is not open (bummer) due to current regulations, the kids can enjoy the sixth floor terrace with warmed seats and outdoor heaters and fire pit. When the students are at last 14 years old, parents can leave them alone and step outside the hotel for a short walk or break for about an hour. And kids who are at least 16 can stay at their desks while parents can go out for a few hours. Children under 14 must have a parent or adult guardian nearby.
Hotel rooms are not included with the price. Rates at this time are excellent, however. You can get a lovely room for under $150 per night. When we stayed and had a connecting suite with a bedroom of two queens, the rate was quoted to us as $550 for both rooms. Usually the suite we were in runs $1500 per night. Imagine the savings and opportunity you have at this time of year to enjoy a prime, luxury hotel with your family.
We stayed two nights,Thursday and Friday. We made the most of Hotel Homeroom for Friday, an official school day, from 8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Here’s what my sister, Sally, had to say from a parent’s perspective.
BAFT: What is your favorite aspect of the Hotel Homeroom service?
Sally: The private work/study space was the best part: well-thought-out spaces with practical office supplies on each large desk that were comfortably spaced apart, we had “classrooms” with large windows, city views and high ceilings. I felt that we were in a safe and clean space where I could get a break from juggling a million things at home with the kids learning at home, and the service was excellent. At home I am always busy cooking, or preparing the next meal or snacks, cleaning and helping the kids. It is definitely a treat as a mom who can get a break and relax from the busy schedule. We are all taken care of here, and it was nice to look forward to walking around the beautiful city together as well.
BAFT: What was your expectation when you came?
Sally: I wasn’t sure of how inviting and safe they could create a study space, but they did - from the private, well supplied study areas, to the healthy and tasty breakfast, lunch and snacks. I thought it would be hard to focus and that there would be more distractions. It turned out to be very quiet and conducive to getting personal work and class work done. For any needs, we just called the staff and they helped attend to everything. For a break, it was nice to go one floor up and sit out on the balcony for fresh air as well.
BAFT: What was the favorite aspect of the program for each kid?
Sally: My ten-year-old boy loved the little LEGO box and bag of treats on each desk. My fifteen-year-old daughter loved the little desk supplies with colorful paperclips, highlighters, sticky notes and paper pads. My seventeen-year-old son liked the ambience- the large private room with views of the city. He worried that he couldn’t focus on his exams in a hotel but it was great, less distractions than home even.
BAFT: What about the pricing of the "homeroom" program at $150 for the day (for up to eight kids)?
Sally: It is not cheap, but if you split with a couple of other families, it is reasonable and not outrageous. Instead of $40 for each kid for food, I can spend under $40 easily, but when you want to have it all taken care of, that is the price.
BAFT: What did you think of the Hotel Homeroom food?
Sally: There was plenty of Homeroom food, and it was healthy and safely packaged in individual cooler bags with Tupperware. Breakfast included individually packaged croissant sandwiches, parfaits, fresh mixed fruit cups, and bottled waters. Inside the lunches were turkey wraps, salad, potato wedges, and a cookie. Snacks included packaged granola squares, trail mix, and fresh fruit. Parents do not have to worry about their kids eating junk, it was all pretty healthy. The kids did enjoy the little bag of mini-chocolates and candies at their desks and their cookie.
BAFT: Was there anything negative or was there any disappointment?
BAFT: What was the experience in the hotel room itself?
Sally: Our hotel room was beautiful with the large windows and city views. The adjoining suite had a large gorgeous living room that worked out so perfectly for our family for more study/work space, for dining, for relaxing.
BAFT: And what do you think of the pricing of the hotel rooms, many at under $150 a night?
Sally: The pricing for the rooms are very good considering the hotel is new and the location is excellent.
BAFT: And what about location? Can you go into more detail?
Sally: It is within walking distance to Museum of Art, Ice Cream Museum, Yerba Buena Gardens, Chinatown, Union Square, Westfield shopping center, so plenty of San Francisco fun stuff to take in and enjoy. It was great having the basic Target and Walgreens closeby, too, for convenience. There are plenty of restaurants nearby that deliver food, which is what we did. Gyu Kaku is delicious and right across the street from the hotel. Market Street is a bit dicey for walking around with little kids, but the teens are fine as long as you walk quickly, and they definitely get an education that life in the city looks different than the suburbs that they have grown up in.
BAFT: What did you think of the amenities such as the terrace?
Sally: It would have been nice to have the outdoor fireplace working, since it is quite chilly at night; the heated seats on the patio were AWESOME though! We were able to hang out on the terrace because it fit our family and kept our bums toasty.
BAFT: Would you recommend it to friends or how would you imagine bringing other families here?
Sally: Yes, I have already recommended it to my friends and sent photos of the kids in their cool study spaces and in our beautiful suite! Coming here with a couple of friends with their kids could be a nice alternative to vacation and study together. It is more social, yet safe, and definitely a much welcomed break from our routine at home!
When you Go:
Intercontinental Hotel San Francisco
888 Howard Street
For Hotel Homeroom, contact Gail Gerber: firstname.lastname@example.org