Welcome back readers!  This week I’m excited to share with you the interview for the best ways on choosing family accommodations from our International Travel Mommy Experts.  If you recall, these amazing family travel bloggers have been sharing with us tips and tricks for traveling will children.  Quick recap: week 1 was inspirations on how to start planning your family vacation.  In week 2 these family bloggers shared how to save money on transportation.  That brings us to this week (3), Mommy And Me Travels is excited to bring you the interview about Choosing Family Accommodations: Tips from the Mommy Experts!   Without further ado let’s jump in and here from our mommy’s.

Mommy And Me Travels will kick it off with how I choose family accommodations when planning a trip!

When choosing family accommodations for vacation I find the most important thing for us is cleanliness.  While this seems like a given, we have found when traveling the USA and the World, the cheap places are not always the clean ones.  I have young children that still enjoy playing on the floor and taking a bath.  I cannot in good conscious let my kids do either of these activities if a place is dirty.  This sometimes makes people refer to me as that person who has champaign taste on a beer budget.  While this might be true, I find ways to make budget traveling work.  I accomplish this by researching more and finding other creative ways to save money.  Here are just a few ideas on things I do to save money and find the perfect sleeping arrangements.    

Quick hitting money saving ideas:

1.  Think outside the box for accommodations.  We have flown to other countries and rented an RV to stay at camp grounds while we drove around to visit different locations.  This not only saved us hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars but it also gave our kids more stability as we traveled because they weren’t unpacking and repacking their suitcases.  I was able to stop by a grocery store and buy some cleaning supplies to ensure that the RV met my standards of cleanliness.  

2.  If staying in a hotel: join rewards programs, look for places you can cook (with a kitchen) or has food provided (such as breakfast and/or evening receptions), sign up for their email alerts, and be flexible on dates such as traveling during the week.  Here is a list of a few places I like to look for deals on hotels:  Travelocity, Expedia, Booking.com, and Hotels.com.  

3.  Many sites are now available that let you stay in a house for a few nights to several months.  You can find places such as houses that are only used for rentals and everything up to true house swapping.  House swapping is where you and another family agree upon a length of time to switch houses.  Depending on your requirements and level of comfort this could mean your accommodations only cost you pennies a night.  Here is a list of places that I review when looking for houses:  Airbnb.com and VRBO.

Welcome, Kristy from World For A Girl, I hear that you only book accommodations with a kitchen.  What tips can you share with us for finding these types of rooms?

When it comes to choosing good family accommodation with kitchen facilities, we have two favourite routes. The first is using hotel booking platforms. We use the search functions to really narrow down the options. For example, if you use Booking.com on a PC you can use the search bar on the left to select only apartments or only places with swimming pools. On AirBnB.com, there is a similar search feature where you can search only for family-friendly properties (under the Trip Type tab) and select items that you require like cribs and high chairs (under the More Filters tab). 

Our second favourite way of finding exactly the right accommodation is home-swapping. We are huge house-swap fans having had successful swaps in Denmark, Switzerland, the USA and Jamaica. We swapped our 4 bedroom house in London with families and retired couples. Sometimes for just a week and twice for over a month. I can’t even begin to list all the benefits of house swaps here but they include cost (it’s totally free except a small fee to the organizing website), the opportunity to swap cars as part of the deal,  child-friendly houses filled with toys, meeting locals and exploring lesser-visited parts of the world. If you’re open-minded and relaxed about sharing your home with strangers house-swapping really is a fantastic and unique way to see the world. 

Thank you Kristy!  

Hi Sarah from Dandelion Seed, I understand you have food allergies in your family and also look for accommodations with a kitchen.  What tips can you share on how you decide the best accommodations for your family?  

Choosing accommodations is different for us than it is for some families. We don’t always want to be in the middle of all the action. We crave downtime to decompress after exploring, so busy hotels aren’t our thing. A relaxing “home away from home” is perfect. I’m reframing that old adage, “If mama’s happy, everyone’s happy” to “A well rested child makes for an easy vacation!”

Moreover, with food allergies, we need a rental home with a full kitchen so we can have home cooked meals. Fortunately, Airbnb and VRBO, and some of their lesser-known international counterparts, let us “tour” potential accommodations before we go. If the place looks good for sleeping and cooking, we’ll gladly walk a few extra blocks for sightseeing. My advice for renting a home is to Google “best website for lodging in [the country you’re visiting]”. Know that it might be a different site than the one you use in your home country. You’ll likely get the best rates, security, and overall experience this way.

Thanks Sarah!

Annette from Tips From A Typical Mom, I’m always in awe when I see big families traveling together.  Securing accommodations for 7 people can’t be easy, what is your secrets for ensuring an accommodation has everything you need?

When it comes to choosing accommodations for my family, there is a checklist I like to use. This way I can be sure that we will be comfortable and have a chance to sit back and relax without stepping on each others toes.

1. Does it have enough beds for everyone to sleep comfortably in?

2. Is there a kitchenette so we can prepare some of our own meals to save money?

3. Is there a pool for the kids to spend some time in?

4. Is there a complimentary breakfast?

5. Is it close to all the sights we want to see while we are in the area?

6. Does it provide transportation to and from the airport and to activities and events?

If I can’t find a good deal on a hotel that can sleep our big family of 7, I start looking for Condos or Airbnb. I always find great deals at https://jifu.life.  They have time share condos to rent when they are not being used! It’s amazing!

Great checklist Annette, thank you!

Hi Shannon from Grab My Passport, I find it interesting that your approach to booking accommodations is to book directly with hotels.  What is your approach for finding the best deals when using direct hotel bookings?

I do a lot of research into accommodations to make sure that where we stay is not only affordable but that it will provide everything we need as a family. Our two favorite online booking tools are Airbnb and Booking.com. I usually start with Airbnb to check out what’s available in the area and compare it to the pricing and locations of local hotels. Typically, I’ll check booking.com for prices and reviews and then I’ll head to the hotel’s direct website to check their price. Booking.com runs great specials sometimes that can’t be beaten, but I prefer to book directly with a hotel if possible, as it’s usually easier to make changes when you do so. Traveling with young children, accommodations are the most important part of our trip!

Thank you Shannon!

Kris from Gadventures, I’m told you are an avid Airbnb user.  Please share with us the lessons you’ve learned about using this booking website?

When choosing accommodation for our family holiday, I just can’t go past Airbnb.  We have had a series of wonderful bookings worldwide and totally think it is the best way to go.  

A family of 6 has little options with hotel rooms, often having to pay double for interconnecting rooms.  However with Airbnb we have so many beautiful homes to choose from, and the prices give you so much better value for money.  Our kids are still little and don’t mind sharing beds or sleeping on couches too.

Having little kids, I value the inclusions that you get from Airbnb such as a kitchen and laundry.  It’s also the personal touches to a place that really make you feel you are at home away from Caution-home.  Sometimes the owners fill the fridge with enough food for breakfast!  Or I have seen welcome baskets of fruit too.  Hosts are the best point of contact if you need to organise an airport transfer, or local ground transport too.

The most important thing when booking through Airbnb is to make sure you read the reviews, and if anything is unclear, ask questions of your host before you book.  Hosts respond within 24 hours in most cases.  

Airbnb has started advertising experiences now as well as just houses which can give you some great ideas on things to do during your stay.  Have a browse, it’s totally free to join!  

Great pointers, thank you Kris!

Hi Nikki from Yorkshire Wonders, please share with us what your #1 tip is for staying in a hotel with kids?

Here are my tips for staying in a hotel with kids!  The best arrangement are adjoining rooms.  If you have older kids they have their own space, but more importantly, with younger kids you can maintain their bedtimes.  You can settle them into bed and keep the room quiet, without having to sit in the dark yourself while they fall asleep!  If you can’t afford adjoining rooms (and it does make it very expensive) then try and get a room with a balcony.  Then at least you can sit with a book and a glass of wine on your balcony while the kids fall asleep!

Thanks Nikki!

Welcome Yamy from Gofamgo, you seem to have a similar interested to us here at Mommy And Me Travels in that you like to stay in 4-5 star hotels.  What are your secrets for finding great deals to this level of accommodations?

When booking for accommodations, our family usually prefer staying at 4-5 star hotels that we could get for the price of a lower tier hotel or maybe even “free”. We saved hundreds of dollars with hotels through the use of mileage and points accrued from a travel credit card. 

One such credit card available to travelers in the USA is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. When I applied for it, I received a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points and an annual credit of $300 towards travel expenses. On top of that, I also earn bonus triple points for using it towards any dining and travel related expenses. Everyday expenses such as groceries, eating out or even filling up the gas can turn into a free vacation once you accumulate enough points. 

These credit card companies have online travel portals where you can book your hotels on a discounted rate. Otherwise, you can easily transfer your accrued points to their hotel partners in a 1:1 ratio. The points are not exclusive to a certain loyalty program.

Thank you Yamy!

Regina from Full Time Field Trip, you have a similar approach to Yamy on finding ways to save money on accommodations.  Will you share with us your secret tips for saving money?

These days there are a variety of accommodations for family vacations. But at some point, you’ll probably have to stay at a hotel. When that’s the case, here are four ideas to reduce costs. 

1. When planning, search incognito or use a search engine that focuses on privacy like DuckDuckGo. That way your searches, and thereby rates, are not stored in your cookies.

2. Take advantage of hotel reward programs. Credit card sign-up bonuses add up to huge savings. 

3. Be flexible with your dates. You may get a better rate staying on a Sunday night, during the week, or a certain number of nights.

4. Only stay in hotels that offer free breakfast and have a mini fridge. Free breakfast means one-third of our food is free. Mini-Fridge means we can pack our own lunches and save money. And while it’s usually against the rules, I’ve been known to bring a crockpot on vacation to prepare dinners. 

Regina, I’ve never heard of that search engine.  Thanks for sharing!

Welcome Shannon from Captivating Compass!  I’m told that you have an interesting approach to securing accommodations overseas.  Will you share some insight on your process?

Choosing accommodations for traveling families can always be a challenge. If you stress most about organizing lodging for your international destinations, these 2 tips are for you!

1. Consider Hostels – They aren’t just for backpacking college students anymore. For any size family, but especially large families, this is a great money saving option to consider. If traveling mid-week and off season, hostels are generally very quiet.  Many hostels have family-friendly game rooms and lounges to relax in. Perfect for kids that want to blow of steam and parents that want to relax. Most are family friendly, but make sure you ask before you make reservations, just in case. 

2. House sitting – If the price of lodging has put you off international travel, house sitting is the way to reduce your travel lodging budget to nearly zero.  Joining websites that offer  house sitting opportunities, preparing a profile to share, and asking plenty of questions during any house sitting interviews will secure you the perfect lodging arrangement while helping out a fellow traveler.

Thank you Shannon!

Next, lets here from Deborah at World Wise Kid.  Deborah before we started you shared that you love car camping.  How do you manage car camping when traveling by air to a destination?

Choosing where to stay depends on location, climate and the focus of our travels. For wildlife and nature-based trips, we love car camping. We fill one big check-in duffel bag with tent, tarp, sleeping bags, and pads. We rent an economy car at our destination and seek out small campgrounds at beaches and parks. Wherever we pitch the tent the kids call “home” – and we get to use our own personal bedding! When the kids wake up, there is wild space to run around. We’ve toured Hawaii, Costa Rica, Alaska, Florida, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand this way. 

With trips focused more on history and culture – in more urban areas – we find an apartment, bungalow or guesthouse through Airbnb or Booking.com. Homestays are great to get to know the locals and culture. Scanning the website photos helps us identify simple, rustic accommodation that matches our style and needs. We use the mapping feature to choose a quiet neighborhood, within walking distance to sites and stores. 

Traveling mostly in the off-season, and avoiding the beaten track, we decide on a day-to-day basis where we will stay, rather than booking in advance. The trip is a spontaneous adventure!

Such a neat idea Deborah.  Thanks for sharing!

Sarah from State by State, as a full-time RV’er, most would think that you don’t have to research accommodations as you always have your place to stay with you.  We know this isn’t factual as finding a place to park is just as important as finding a place to sleep.  Please share with us how you decide on the accommodations for your RV?

Choosing where to stay is probably just as important as choosing where to go. Accommodations need to be comfortable, affordable, and most importantly close to our destination and the activities we plan to do. Our family travels full-time in a travel trailer, so our choice of places to stay consists of campgrounds, both public and private. 

We love staying in State and National Parks, but they are not always close to the activities we are planning to participate in. Honestly, price plays a big part in our decision on where to stay. We research quite a bit before making our final decision. Whether the campground or RV park has full hook-ups, showers, gravel or paved parking pads, trees or open spaces, fire rings, picnic tables, and other things all influence our decision. Since we usually only stay a few days or a week in any place, it allows us a lot of flexibility in choosing our accommodations, if we aren’t happy with the place we are in, we move! 

One of the great things about traveling in an RV is the ability to be flexible. We almost never make reservations because we like to be able to change our plans on the spur of the moment. If someone tells us about a really cool activity, but it’s not on our route, we can change course easily. Some of our favorite accommodations have been in the least likely places.

Great ideas Sarah, thanks!

And last but certainly not least, welcome Melissa from Disabled Disney.  I’d imagine that you have to do a lot of research to find accommodations that meet your needs.  What are those top 3 items you look for when deciding on a place to stay?

When we are looking for a place to stay on vacation we look at price, location and amenities. First factor we look at is price. When I am researching I use Travelocity to compare prices. I also look on Priceline and Hotwire if we are flexible on location. When it comes to location I try to get within a few miles of everything we plan to do. Since we normally drive, we have our vehicle to use. Lastly I look at amenities for the hotels. The things that we need are handicap accessibility, refrigerator and microwave. If our stay will be longer than a few days I try to get an extended stay with a full kitchenette. If I can, I also try to use Booking.com to reserve our hotel room because I can earn Kicks from ShopKick and they have rooms you can wait to pay until arrival! 

Thank you for sharing Melissa!

Final Thoughts:

First, thank you to everyone who contributed today in our Choosing Family Accommodation series.  These are amazing tips and I can’t wait to try out some of the new ideas I learned about.

How about the readers out there?  What new ideas did you learn?  Do you know of any that you can share?  Drop us a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Enjoying this adventure with these family travel experts?  Check out all the Planning A Family Vacation ideas on our dedicated page.

 

For Pinterest:

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