I find that when we decide to travel anywhere, one of the hardest things to choose is where to stay. With small infants, you’d need to be very brave to attempt a hostel; if you have a small infant who doesn’t sleep well and a toddler who needs to sleep on a set schedule, a regular hotel room can be a disaster. You might say that accommodation is a tricky choice for any traveler, and you would be right. But, there’s an old parental adage which says something like “when the kids are happy, you’re happy”. This is particularly true when traveling: nothing can make a family trip turn into a disaster more quickly than cranky, sleep-deprived kids and grumpy, sleep-deprived parents. Conversely, when your little Marco Polo can find his bed and lay out whatever night-time cuddlies have been brought from home, creating his own “home away from home”, things tend to go more smoothly.
We took a short trip to California when my boys were 6 and almost 2 respectively. We rented a regular hotel room in a regular hotel. It was not a successful trip. Bedtime routines for both kids were impossible to maintain and no-one got a good night’s sleep. Lesson learned, the next time we stayed away from home, I looked for alternate options. I found two things which have served me well since:
1. “Family suite” style rooms. This may seem obvious, and in the US it is. Outside the US, these are rare and hard to find.
2. Owner-direct rental, usually houses, apartments and condos.
If you’re traveling in the US, there are a variety of all-suite hotels to choose from – the Marriott chain even has multiple brands just within their family of hotels. Outside the US (I’ve traveled with kids mostly in Europe), suites – if available – are usually monstrously expensive and intended for the super-luxury traveler. However, this past year, I did “discover” the Novotel hotel chain. Although they do advertise as a “network of convenient and modern hotels for business and leisure travel” – which doesn’t sound family-friendly – they have good facilities for parents traveling with children at a reasonable price. Check out Novotel children. The rooms are tiny by American standards, but they do come with sleeping space for 4 which is better – for your budget and your peace of mind – than having to get two rooms.
We started using owner-direct rental accommodation initially for ski trips. Whistler, in B.C. Canada, is a 5-hr drive from Seattle for some of the world’s best skiing (or so I’ve been told). At any rate, it’s a popular place and it’s expensive to visit. Add equipment rentals, lift tickets, lessons for kids, accommodation and a 4-day weekend can start to look pretty pricey! More than 8 years ago, a friend of mine recommended VRBO to me. She said you can get the same accommodation (condos and suites) for less money because you’re renting straight from the owner – rather than through an agency. We haven’t looked back. I’ve used it for renting accommodation in: Canada (Whistler), California (Tahoe), Utah (Park City) and Cyprus. There are listings for houses, condos and apartments all over the world. Worth checking out the next time you travel!