If there is one thing that is the most important element of the travel we have done with kids, it’s accommodation. It is easy to get caught up with worries about flights, packing, whether to take a stroller, etc, but of all these things, picking suitable family friendly accommodation is the part that has the biggest impact on the success of our trips.
We have recently decided to head to Europe later this year and are currently in the process of trying to find accommodation for the 4 months we plan to spend there. This is not an easy process, but I hope that by sharing our views about the main types of accommodation, the pros and cons and how to find the best options in every category, that we can help you plan your own adventures.
Hotels are perhaps the easiest option. If you have ever travelled before then you have probably booked a hotel at some point. They are easy to find online. We often stay in hotels and like the comfort factor that comes along with knowing what to expect. As long as we have ensured that we have picked a family friendly option in a good location with good reviews then we know we will most probably have a positive experience.
However, booking hotels is rarely the most economical option when travelling with kids. Standard hotel rooms tend to be too small for a family of 4 and once you are booking big suites or if they have a high extra person charge, the costs can add up quick. For short stays, however, we do definitely favour hotels for just how easy they are to deal with.
Our tips for finding the best hotels in Europe for families:
- Go to a hotel booking site, we recommend HotelsCombined.
- Search for a hotel in the city that you want. Made sure you add the fact that you have kids and their ages to the search engine – although if your kids are young then consider only entering the oldest one. Often younger kids are allowed to stay for free in the rooms but hotel booking engines don’t always show you all these options if you enter in all the kids into the filter.
- Use the filter to only show you hotels that have at least a 7/10 rating as well as anything else that is important to you. For example, we always want to filter by free wifi. In hot destinations, we also want to ensure we have air conditioning.
- Filter by what price you are willing to pay.
- Look at the remaining hotels in the map view.
- I then look at the hotels that are as central as possible and choose whichever seems like the best value.
- If I was using a hotel booking website that doesn’t have reviews, then I would also go to TripAdvisor and look up any hotels before booking them ensuring that they get good ratings by other families (you can filter reviews by families).
By following the above process, it has been very rare that I have booked a hotel that I am not happy with. It is how we are ensuring that we pick the best hotels for kids in Europe.
For more than a few nights, we look for holiday rentals. They are a big favourite of ours as they just work so well with kids and can be very economical compared to hotels. They are generally a lot bigger and it is so nice to have space where we can spread out and have the option to self cater. There is also a wide variety of rentals meaning that you can also have a wide range of experiences from living in a city apartment to a country manor.
The downside of a holiday rental is that you generally don’t have assistance on site if you need it or daily cleaning. I generally don’t find this to be an issue except when it comes to check in and out. Some places you need to arrange to meet the owner at a designated time and this has presented us with problems in the past. However, these small issues are outweighed by the great experiences we have had in holiday rentals.
For a different approach, we love a family villa holiday from Oliver’s Travels. They specialise in hand picked luxury villas which are unique and full of character. With this option, your accommodation could easily be the focus of your trip. They also allow you to search for family friendly options (of which there are many). Once you view an individual property, you can also click on a “Kids” tab to see what options exist such as available baby equipment and what kid suitable activities are nearby. You can also filter properties based on these options.
In addition to the glorious properties, Oliver’s Travels also have a concierge service that can usually organise things like a chef. You can also use this service to tell them what type of property you want and they will find the best deal for you. Daily maid service is included with some of the properties or can be purchased as an extra for many.
For an example, check out this villa in France (you can also see it in the photo above).
Our tips for finding a fantastic family holiday rental:
- As soon as you know you are going to Europe, start looking. The best places can be snapped up fast.
- We recommend Oliver’s Travels for a special rental experience.
- As with hotels, search via the booking site for the number of people and dates.
- Filter by any facilities which are important to you, like internet.
- Use the map to help you choose a holiday rental in the best location for you.
- If you are booking using a site such as Airbnb, check that the property has received positive reviews and doesn’t have any issues that may cause you problems. For Oliver’s Travels, there is a lot of information about each property on their site – read it all.
Hostels are not just an option for young backpackers, they are also a very viable option for families. The best hostels in Europe usually have rooms perfect for families with multiple beds as well as shared facilities to help cut costs such as a kitchen.
However, although hostels can be an economical option when you are travelling alone, they often are not once you have a family. The per person price can quickly add up to be more expensive than a hotel room or a holiday rental. This is something to be mindful of when searching for a hostel and comparing your options across accommodation types.
Our tips for finding the best hostels in Europe:
- Use a search engine such as Hostelworld.
- As with hotels, search for your city and dates.
- In the results, it can be hard to tell exactly how much it will cost you for a room and what room you will get for that money. You need to click through to each property individually.
- Be mindful that prices are per person and if you want a room for private use, you will need to pay for the total number of occupants that fit into that room, not just how many people you are travelling with. For example, if you want to book a four person family room, but you are a family of three, you will need to still pay for four people.
- Check out the review scores that each property has based on reviews. Only book a place with good reviews.
- Make sure the hostel is located somewhere convenient.
Motor Homes and Camping
Another option for European accommodation is to use camping grounds. You can do this via camping or renting a motor home. A motor home can be a great option for families who want their own vehicle and love the idea of not having to continually pack and unpack. It can allow you a lot of freedom.
Motor homes are a great option for extended vacations where you want to take your time and explore a big area. They are also more economical this way. They are not so great if you are a city person and want a shorter break. Camping sites are generally well out of cities although they are usually not hard to find anywhere in Europe.
Our tips for finding a motor home and camp grounds:
- Compare prices across motor home hire companies for your dates.
- Consider checking prices in multiple countries. Sometimes the price can vary by a fair bit depending on your pick up country. Germany is generally the cheapest place to hire from.
- Check any extra fees for extra insurance or a damage deposit.
- To find campsites, try sites such as this that also offer reviews so you can find the best one.
Finding the best accommodation in Europe for a family can be time consuming but it does not have to be difficult. Simply narrow down to what type of accommodation suits your family best, follow the tips above and start booking!
What is your best tip for finding the best accommodation in Europe?
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