Today’s guest post is from Amie O’Shaughnessy, the editor of Ciao Bambino, a family travel planning website that I regularly recommend to family and friends looking for help finding accommodation which has been rated and reviewed by other parents.
When I first started Ciao Bambino in 2004, there were a surprisingly few number of online resources providing family travel information.
The explosion of blogging has dramatically changed the travel information landscape. Now, experienced travelers have an effective technology platform to share stories, tips and advice on how they make travel with kids fun and easy. Every blog is focused on a different and important aspect of family travel.
Most parents agree that where you stay is an essential part of any successful family vacation. This has always been Ciao Bambino’s area of expertise and focus. Many hotels say they welcome kids, but lip service is very different than room configurations that support families and a friendly atmosphere. We started screening hotels in the most popular family tourist destinations in Europe, and have now expanded our coverage to North and Central America (the blog covers Asia, stay tuned for related hotels).
Thank you Michelle for inviting me to share why Ciao Bambino is a valuable travel planning resource for families! Grab a cup of coffee, there is much to say. Just kidding, there is quite a bit to say, but I’ll be brief.
When I look back at what I thought I knew when I founded Ciao Bambino I laugh. Yes, I lived out a suitcase for a year traveling around the world pre-kids, but we all know that this perspective is practically useless once you have a family.
Fortunately, I love my job and we’ve been diligent about frequent travel inside and outside the country with our son. We have one child so my perspective is limited, however, I’m so lucky to work with a great team including Nancy Solomon who has traveled extensively with her four children under 10.
Our direct experience is important, but what makes our perspective unique is that we’ve helped literally a few hundred families develop detailed vacation itineraries. Through running the Ciao Bambino trip planning service, I learned what parents want and need in accommodations when traveling with kids of all ages.
This matters because I took the feedback from our planning service clients and developed our hotel review methodology. We take the time to contact every hotel featured on Ciao Bambino. This allows us to thorough vet every property featured on the website and showcase the nitty-gritty details. We work on standard industry commission rates across our portfolio; there are no hidden agendas to push one property over another.
Every Ciao Bambino review is comprehensive. Written by and for parents, we feature those tidbits that are otherwise in the fine print or not available at all without picking up the phone. Favorites for me include starting babysitting rates and the driving distance to medical facilities for more remote properties. We note the starting age requirement for every kids’ club, and if there is an associated fee to use it. Every property has unique pros and cons and our reviews clearly communicate what they are for families.
We also take the time to understand the starting rate based on the number of people traveling. This is the only price data point that is relevant with kids; even the hotels catering to families fail to list pricing in this way on their websites.
We cover all age groups
Babies, toddlers, school age, and teens – all of these stages have very different needs and requirements. What makes a property great for a toddler may not make it great for a teenager. We provide age-appropriate ratings for every property featured.
User-generated content is more popular that ever now. It’s a great way to efficiently grow the amount of information on a website, however, the downside is quality. The vast majority of websites that rely solely on user-generated content have a quality challenge. The information presented may or may not be valuable and when you are a parent looking for consistent details, it’s impossible to compare two properties using reviews that do not provide an apples-to-apples comparison.
All of our reviews are template-driven, so the details presented are consistent and our readers can easily compare and contrast properties.
Time is scarce for parents and we need a very efficient way to plan travel and make decisions. Our reviews use bullets to ensure details are easy to read and digest. My goal is that Ciao Bambino users are able to figure out the high level, relevant pros and cons for a property within five minutes or less. Full narratives about a property are great to evaluate your short list, but who has time to read through all that text just to narrow down a list of good options?
Even the best laid-out reviews are useless if the property reviewed is not appealing. We try to find independent, unique hotels that enhance the travel experience. This is more difficult to do in the US vs. Europe since many of the family-friendly options are chains, but we still manage to uncover the gems.
All requests made through the Ciao Bambino website go directly to the hotel for the latest pricing and information. We follow up with each and every client to ensure every part of a request has been handled. Plus, we give great free gifts for bookings.
Here’s the bad news. All the painstaking effort it takes to feature every property on Ciao Bambino means that our portfolio has been slow to develop. If you don’t see something that fits your needs – please check back – we’re working hard to review the best price and amenity options for families in destinations around the world.
Amie O’Shaughnessy is the Editor of Ciao Bambino, a family travel resource providing tips and advice, as well as comprehensive reviews of the best hotels and resorts for kids of all ages.