Finding a good place to stay during a family vacation can be tough. There are so many options and it can be overwhelming trying to decide what is a good fit for your family.
Best Websites to Find Accommodations
Almost everyone has heard of Airbnb these days and it can be a great place to find family friendly homes to stay in. Last summer, we stayed in one apartment that had a toddler bed (great for our 3 year old!) and a playroom full of toys totally age appropriate for our two girls (3 and 1 years old at the time). It was perfect for days when our girls needed a break from all of our outings and great for naps as well. While Airbnb can be a fantastic (and budget friendly) way to stay somewhere, it definitely has its cons. We constantly worry about our kids breaking things (including other children’s toys) and sometimes it can feel a bit weird making ourselves at home when someone else clearly lives there.
Our favorite place to find accommodations is Booking.com. Here, you can find vacation rentals and hotels all for a good price. If we’re looking for apartment style lodging, we prefer using booking.com as the apartments listed are usually vacation homes with little decoration (besides the stray IKEA fixture here and there) and without priceless souvenirs/heirlooms like one might find staying in someone’s actual house.
Also, while we’ve never personally tried it, there are new websites starting to pop up now that specifically cater to family vacation rentals. One site that I’d love to try out someday is kidandcoe.com. They specifically list lodgings that are accommodating to the needs of families. Homes include sleeping arrangements for children, toys, and many seem to also have a highchair. They also give out information about local transportation and nearby family friendly sights to enjoy.
Apartment vs Hotel
Which is better- An apartment or hotel? For our family, it really depends on the length of our trip. If we plan on being in the area for more than a few days, we definitely prefer booking an apartment or home. We can put the kids to bed in one room and still have some downtime for my husband and me in the evening out in the living room. Having a kitchen doesn’t just help save money by cutting down on eating out, it can also be a more convenient way to eat breakfast and/or dinner (especially if you have little ones like ours that wake up starving!). It can also be interesting to check out the local grocery stores and a fun way to learn about local food habits (for example, Dutch grocery stores have an impressive selection of peanut butter, which is difficult to find here in France, while Italy has amazing salami).
However, on a shorter trip, hotels can be nice. There’s a front desk where you can check in at a flexible time (rather than setting up a specific meeting time with the owner of an apartment) and maid service that will clean up your room for you. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking (or needs a well-deserved break from it), than a hotel has many options from room service, to breakfast buffets, to nice restaurants all at your fingertips.
Of course, if you are willing to spend a bit more money for a resort, you can have the best of both worlds with an apartment style hotel room and all the perks of maid service and the flexibility to choose to cook your own meals or have a nice dinner on site.
No matter what type of accommodation you decide is best for your family, here are a few more thoughts to help everyone be more comfortable during your stay.
- Prior to booking, pull up a map of the local area and scout out transportation options. Is there an underground or bus route within walking distance? How close are you to the different sites you want to visit?
- Likewise, if you’re staying in an apartment, check out where the nearest grocery store is and what restaurant options are nearby.
- Also, if you have light sleepers, keep in mind noise that might be around your accommodation (is there a bar or restaurant open late nearby? How busy do the streets below look?) and possibly plan on bringing a white noise machine or app to play during the night.
- If you plan on using a stroller, check to see which metro stops have wheelchair access (for example, less than half of the tube stations in London are wheelchair/stroller friendly, but we made sure to stay near a stop that was easy access in and out of the underground).
- What baby or kid gear will you need to bring with versus what will your place provide? If necessary, make sure to send an email to the owner or hotel asking about specific needs.
Finally, don’t forget to relax and have fun. No matter how perfect the hotel or apartment is, there will be things that don’t go according to plan (for example, your baby might start teething and waking up multiple times during the night even if you are sleeping in the most comfortable bed you’ve ever laid down on). Likewise, if your lodging becomes a bit of a bust, chances are that you’ll (hopefully) be able to laugh about it later (like staying in a tiny house in the Netherlands where the only room the travel crib would fit was the living room/kitchen). No matter what kind of accommodations you decide is best, just remember to enjoy spending time with your family and seeing new places (and visiting old favorites!).
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