I booked over three months of travel in about two weeks worth of nap and bed times, and let me tell you, it sucks the fun right out of travel planning to do so much at once. With small kids though (we flew out when Henry was just over two years old, and Tom was 10 weeks old) I didn’t want to guess where we were sleeping at night. Here are my top tips for picking a hotel when travelling with small kids.
1.) Stick to the budget.
I had three rates I was willing to spend — one price if it were just the hotel, one if it were the hotel with breakfast included, and one if breakfast and parking were included. This trip was throughout Europe where parking can be upward of 30 euro a night, which is a flippin’ boat load in my opinion. It’s a pickle because in stereotypically dodgier locations we’d want to spend more to assure we were in a safe area, with a comfortable stay, and then in nicer areas we were tempted to spend more for a really cool experience. We held to the budget though and were able to find excellent options in all of the locations visited…there’s nothing fun about debt, so hold to your plan.
2.) Budget in a cool one-off experience if it’s truly once-in-a-lifetime.
Henry loves Peppa Pig (truth bomb, so do I! Any other Pedro fans out there??). When we went to Gardaland in Northern Italy to go to the newly opened Peppa Pig World, we paid a premium to stay in the Peppa themed room. We budgeted for it because we knew it would be a highlight for Henry and that we could make it up later in countries that are less expensive. This is true in any location though — to me, if it’s clean and safe and you can pay less, then pay less, but if it’s a unique one-off that you absolutely cannot experience elsewhere, spend the money as long as you’ve planned for it.
3.) Make breakfast included.
Save yourself the hassle of waking up in a new country, hoping that there is a restaurant open nearby that your kids will be able to find something healthy to eat that they also want to eat for breakfast. Too hard. Consider something like Ibis, the budget hotel chain, where there is a well-rounded buffet in the morning with breads, yogurt, fruit, eggs and sliced meats on offer as options. It’s already worked into your price, there are a variety of things to choose from (notoriously picky eaters at this age) and it’s in the same building you wake up in so it could not be any more convenient. This is also a good use of divide-and-conquer time if one of you can take the kids for breakfast while the other packs up for the day.
4.) Be aware of occupancy limits.
I presume it’s fire code, but a lot of rooms wouldn’t take more than two, three, or four people. In two cases we did the old “baby-wear-Tom-in-and-hope-for-the-best” but in most cases we abided by the numbers. A few reasons — I was still able to find rooms that would accommodate all four of us in our price range so why not (they’re more spacious anyway) and I didn’t want to have any confusion showing up to a hotel if they were strict on the policy. Imagine showing up after an eight hour travel day, tired and cranky, speaking a different language, and having the hotel say they couldn’t accommodate you all. Brutal! I’d rather play by the rules.
5.) When possible, get a room with a balcony.
With small kids, we spend a lot more time in the room than we would prior to having had kids — there are a lot of naps, and early bedtimes. If you have a room that has a balcony, you can put the kids to bed and sit for a bit with a view without waking them. Or, if your kids are like ours and go to sleep at different times and you’d be keeping the other one up, this extra bit of space comes in handy for avoiding working each other up at bedtime.
6.) Pick the hotel with a white duvet.
It doesn’t take much to please me…something about a fluffy white duvet just feels like the place has been updated recently.
What is your non-negotiable when booking a room? Anything I missed?