The travel world, especially hotels, generally are created for families of 4. Here in the US we are semi-experts in finding places like Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn’s, and Holiday Inn and Suites that will accommodate our family in 1 room. Unfortunately that is even more difficult in Europe.
We have rented houses/apartments through VRBO before and have had great experiences. We prefer to have a kitchen when we travel, eating out as a family of 5 adds up very quickly and multiply that by 3 meals a day…it would take up our entire vacation budget! In general we eat 1 meal out a day when we travel and either pack picnics or eat in the room for the other 2 meals.
We rented a house through VRBO in Sun River this summer, the boys were thrilled to have our own private hot tub!
And we saved money by cooking at our house. Not much beats some bbq burgers on your back patio in Sun River after a long day of exploring! It definitely doesn’t always feel like a sacrifice to eat in!
Eating in Europe can be very expensive, especially when you add in all the yummy snacks you “have” to have like gelato and crepes. Yum! So I knew when we planned this trip that we would want access to a kitchen for the majority of our trip. Our plan this time is 1 meal out per location, so 1 meal in London, 1 in Scotland, and 1 in Paris. Plus we will have a snack out each day because we all need more of this in our life!
We do have a few days where we won’t have access to a kitchen so we’ll probably do some grocery store picnic type meals or eat out. And of course if we have a long day out on adventures and everyone needs food, because we all know sometimes kids need food NOW, then we will definitely eat an extra meal out. Traveling with kids has taught me to be extra flexible in my planning!
I spend a lot of time researching our hotel/rental options before booking one. I had a coupon code for airbnb which I had never used before so I added that into my usual search options this time. ( I have $25 off codes for airbnb if anyone wants one, it’s a referral link so I can e-mail it to you if anyone is planning on booking through them!) I like to use Expedia as a general guide to find out what hotels are in the area and what price range most are in, it also helps me to know which hotels will actually fit our family. I occasionally book through Expedia but I prefer to book through the hotels own website. We have reward programs set up through all the major chains and stays booked through 3rd party sites don’t earn points. When Justin travels for work he is always booked at Hilton chain hotels so we tend to accrue the most points through that chain. He also has gold status there from all the work travel so we get extra things like bottled water, free breakfast, room upgrades, etc. So Hilton is often my preferred chain to stay at if the price is good. The Hilton chain includes Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn’s, and Hilton Garden Inn’s which often have rooms for a family of 5. For longer stays I always check VRBO, the price is often comparable to a hotel and with a kitchen it often ends up being overall cheaper for us since we’re not eating out. I also do some google searches because not all hotels are available on Expedia, mostly smaller mom and pop type places which are sometimes the best places!
And when I say a lot of time, I mean hours and hours of researching and reading reviews. I look at location and how far from the places we want to go to it is. Especially in Europe, when we won’t have a car, it’s important to see how far away from public transportation it is. The place in London we booked is actually a little further out than I had originally planned but it’s less than a 5 minute walk to a tube station which will take us right into the city. One of the closer houses I was looking at was only on a bus line and would have required changing buses to get into the city. I also look very critically through the pictures. Do they have a lot of breakable things out? It’s not worth it to me to worry the whole time about my boys breaking stuff, our time at the rental needs to be restful for all of us! Will the bed arrangement work for us? I found one that had bunk beds but no rail on the top bunk, my boys aren’t ready for that yet so it was ruled out. Reviews are so valuable. And number of reviews. That said, our rental in Scotland only had 1 review (it was a good one), but from the minute I saw it I fell in love with it and knew we had to stay there!
Tomorrow I’ll post the places I picked for us in Europe!