When it comes to planning a trip, especially an international one, the thought can seem overwhelming for many. Several times I have been asked the same questions: “Did you use a travel agent?” “Did you book through an all inclusive group?” “How do you pick where to stay?” From personal experience, I have learned that your accommodations can nearly make or break a trip. Now obviously I’m not referring to those who can backpack across the world and are perfectly content staying in a hostel (honestly I applaud those who can do that!) However, I’m referring to the average family (with kids) who are wanting to travel and make the most of their vacation. And although using an agent or going through a travel company is definitely an option, I pride myself that I always made our travel arrangements based solely on my research of that particular place. By researching your destination instead of relying on someone to do the planning for you, you gain a much better knowledge and appreciation of the area you are visiting, plus you can brag on yourself that you did it all on your own! Below I have listed my top 5 tips for picking the best accommodation for your family’s travels.
1. LOCATION LOCATION- I can’t stress enough of where your hotel, flat, apartment etc. is located. For example, if you only have 2-3 days to see a particular city, you really want all your main attractions and “Top Sees” to be in walking distance or in a very short transit from where you are staying. This is particularly true with kids and when you are visiting a large city. The last thing you want, is to have to take a 30 minute bus or taxi ride each time you want to get into the city center, which can just add more stress to your trip. By staying right in the center of things, you can retreat back to your place for afternoon naps (sometimes the parents need them too) or for a quick change of clothes when the occasional accident happen. You will be able to come and go as many times as you need and spend more time exploring rather than wasting time traveling back and forth. To know exactly the area you need to stay, map out your top attractions and narrow your search by looking at your options in those surrounding areas alone.
2. THINK OUTSIDE THE HOTEL- Before just picking a hotel, think about renting an apartment or flat. More times than not, for the same nightly rate as a hotel room, you can get an apartment that includes more space as well the added bonus of a kitchen and living room. This gives your family much more space to unwind and relax, plus can save you money if you decide to cook dinner or buy a few groceries to use for breakfast or make a picnic lunch for the day. The time we rented an apartment in Paris we really felt we were living like one of the locals. In the mornings you could here the family that lived across the hallway rushing around to get the kids ready for school. Just hearing the parents yelling in French trying to get them out the door just made me realize no matter where in the world you go, so many people’s daily activities are the same ☺️ Staying in that apartment was a really neat experience. Websites like AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO are all great options when trying to find your home away from home.
3. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE TRIPADVISOR- Before I book any place, I always check the top ranked accommodations for that area. I take a look at where they are located on the map in relation to the top attractions I want to see. Also take a few minutes to read the reviews…and even though there are 565 excellent reviews, take a look at those 3 or 4 bad reviews too. The reason being, once we booked a room at this amazing family run chateau in the center of Champagne, France. If only I had read that one bad review about how the guests really insulted the owner by bringing in their own bottle of champagne (since the owner’s family had their own winery) we could have avoided having their same experience! 😳 Tripadvisor also allows you to look at the all the travelers’ photos and not just the ones from the hotel website…which shockingly can be very misleading 😏
4. GOOGLE MAPS- Ok so here is where you an feel like your inner private investigator comes out lol. Yes, you may think it’s overkill, but if you want to make sure your place is not located down a sketchy street or that there isn’t some eyesore right in front of it, then take advantage of this tool. Simply enter the address of the location to get an up close view of the entire street. By also knowing nearby landmarks and the look of the street, it helps you get your bearings beforehand and reassures you that the taxi or uber driver is dropping you off at the right location.
5. SAVE OR SPLURGE?- When you determine your budget of the trip, you can see whether or not you want to save or splurge a little on where you choose to stay. Some are firm believers that you just need the basics to be comfortable. That is true, however, if you find that truly one of a kind place, whether it be with an amazing view or have a lot of history, then you may find it’s worth the splurge for the experience. During our trip to Santorini we decided to rent a house in Oia for our last few nights on the island. The nearby restaurants would be booked every night because of their view alone. When we went into one of the restaurants, we realized we had an even better view from our bedroom! We were perfectly content eating take out on our veranda rather than making reservations at an expensive restaurant 👌🏻Not to mention our rental house was in nearly every Santorini postcard we would come across in the souvenir shops!
The Townhouse at Old Time Chambers in Edinburgh was definitely one of my favorite places we have stayed. I was fortunate to snag a killer deal on it and it did not disappoint. The apartment spreads over 3 floors and it pre-dates 1490. The master bedroom on the first floor had a vaulted rock ceiling with a roll top bath in the corner. I couldn’t get enough of the second floor bathroom 😍 where there was a second roll top bath, surrounded by exposed brick which are part of the buiding’s original features. Brooks couldn’t get in his bubble bath fast enough! As you continued your walk up the spiral stone staircase you entered the top floor which was an open living, kitchen and dining area. It had two large fireplaces and a second adjoining bedroom that included wall art dating back to the 15th Century. The interior design of the living room used the same fabrics that the owners in the 16th and 17th centuries would have used. It was so neat to stay in a place with such medieval history! If you are ever visiting Edinburgh, I highly recommend this place 😁
I hope these tips help in your holiday planning!