Tips, Tips for Sleeping on the Road and Avoiding Jet Lag

What makes for great family-friendly lodging on the road?

When you’re planning a trip with your family, how do you decide on where to stay? Is it all about price and convenience? Or are there other things you look for?

We posed these questions to some of our favorite family travel bloggers, and here’s what they had to say:

Traveling with kids changes hotel stays for us completely. Since kids travel is more of the slow-relax-enjoy mode, we have discovered that staying at unique, not necessarily expensive, hotels is a huge perk. My one recommendation, stay away from all inclusives. Why visit a new country or location, only to be bound to your hotel while missing out on the whole travel experience. We’ve stayed at hotels that were in the middle of jungles with treehouses, chilled out at eco lodges with trails and butterfly gardens, enjoyed a working 100 year old hacienda, and so many more. Just remember, you will be spending a lot of time at your hotel (like it or not), make sure it’s a ‘destination within a destination’!

– Marina Kuperman Villatoro,

After traveling with a toddler to Brazil and Asia, I learned that the best place to stay with children is a house.  We now look for homes we can rent for a few nights; they are more expensive than a hotel room but totally worth it.  The larger space allows us to play games or cook while the baby sleeps.  The kitchen is a must for traveling with kids—it means we never have to endure sitting at a restaurant with kids after a busy day of traveling, and we can prepare the foods that they like. The outdoor space gives our kids a place to burn off some energy.  When we travel by car, we always bring our dogs, too.  It feels like a real family vacation.  My older son affectionately refers to the vacation rentals as the “yellow house,” “brown house,” etc.  He has specific travel memories attached to each one.

– Jenna Francisco,

I think the best place to stay with kids is camping in the woods – there is no end of toys to keep the kids entertained!

– Nancy Sathre-Vogel, Family on Bikes

When we began our indefinite life as world nomads, we began in Cozumel, a small island off Mexico’s Caribbean coast.  One of my goals for our time there was to get further training as a scuba diver since I wanted to become an instructor and needed some additional certifications prior to that happening.  I found this homey hostel online.  The two big attractions for me were that one of the owners was a scuba instructor and that they were about 30 meters from the beach.  Also they had a small swimming pool, and my son is extremely attracted to water.  It ended up being the best choice we could’ve made for lodging, especially to begin our new lifestyle.  The owners became like family to us and introduced us to more of the community and even helped us find our first small house for our extended stay on the island.

– Talon Windwalker – Windwalker Duo

Thailand surprised us as being much more touristy and expensive than we had imagined. We wanted a place to be with our family for a few weeks, a place where we felt we could chill and relax and enjoy ourselves. When looking for a good place for our family, we wanted a location where we each had some space to breathe and explore, where our kids could run around and make noise, where they could connect to nature and to the local kids, and that was comfortable enough for the family. We are now in Kanchanaburi, Thailand (about two hours South of Bangkok) and found this perfect place. It’s called Sugar Cane (not to be confused with Sugar Cane 2) and we negotiated down to $4 (125 baht) a night. The rooms are nice and clean, with a queen-sized bed and a nice table fan. There is a great lawn area, a dock right on the River Kwai (where our kids fish and we exercise), and an open dining area/restaurant (where we do our lessons, use the computers, and hang out). The staff is nice and polite, and they like kids. It’s amazing how you can find anywhere in the world, a quiet place to call home – you just have to be patient in looking until you find that perfect place.

– Gabi Klaf, The Nomadic Family

My wife and I have very few rules when it comes to finding a place for our traveling family to rest our heads for an evening.  We try to avoid packs of men in suits, fine china, and vibrating beds (although my kids get a kick out of them).  We look for free breakfasts and swimming pools!

It’s the little things my kids love.  The unique nature of each place.  It doesn’t matter if we’re camping, couchsitting, or staying at the Holiday Inn, if my kids have the freedom to uncover the uniqueness of a place, they are happy (and then we are happy).  I think any place that affords kids the opportunity to explore and discover is great.  Bells and whistles are more for us adults; all my kids need is unpretentious space.

– Justin Mussler, The Great Family Escape

When we travel, we more often than not bring our two small children. It is important to us that they get ample opportunity to see the world, experience different cultures and have memorable experiences. It is also important to us however, that it is enjoyable for everyone, which means adjusting our itineraries to incorporate ample down time and enough space to create a temporary home. For this reason we use home rentals. The reality is that in most major cities around the world it is less expensive to rent an entire flat than a hotel room. You just have to be willing to sacrifice the amenities of a hotel like daily fresh towels, a maid or a swimming pool. We prefer the flexibility of being able to make our own meals, come and go as we please and have more than one room for when it is time to put the kids to bed. We have used home rentals multiple times now and while not always 100% pleased with the decor or lack of a lift, we learn as we go and each time gets better as we refine our needs going into our search for a home away from home.

– Krista Ewert  One Beautiful Life

So family-friendly lodging should be unique, with a kitchen and outdoor space, and should give kids the opportunity to make noise, explore nature, and get to know the local community. A pool helps. As does a staff that likes kids. Do you have more ideas? Places to recommend? Let us know in the comments.


14 Responses to “What makes for great family-friendly lodging on the road?”

  1. We love camping. The kids view it as a great adventure, plus when we put the kids to bed it’s nice to sit around the fire and talk instead of whispering in a hotel room while the kids sleep!

    We love staying in hotels too though — the kids love the pool and the elevators. Great learning opportunities too for our 2 young kids. They pick out numbers on the elevator buttons and search for our room number on the doors. First thing we do when we get to our hotel room is unplug the phone because that quickly becomes a toy!

    Posted by Clark Vandeventer | May 25, 2012, 12:45 pm
    • Oh my gosh, kids and elevators. I remember loving to play on them when we went on family vacations. My daughters still fight over who gets to push the button, and they are 12!

      Great tip about the phone!

      Posted by Paige | May 25, 2012, 12:58 pm
  2. i love how you scoped the field and got such a wide range of answers from those of us with kids on the road paige! what a great resource for travelers to stop for a second and make that little mental note: does this fit for my kids? otherwise, it can be hellish. thanks so much for including us. we’re honored to give our two cents.

    gabi (the nomadic family)

    Posted by gabi klaf | May 25, 2012, 1:18 pm
  3. Great idea for a post!

    I love Nancy’s comment about the woods. My kids cringe at ants at home, but once we are in the woods they become superheroes. They love it!

    Posted by Justin | May 30, 2012, 1:43 pm
  4. What a nice collection of thoughts about where to stay with kids! Thank you for including me. After reading through these, I realize that there is no right or wrong way; it depends on what suits each family, and the most important thing to remember is that kids love traveling no matter what, whether it’s camping, hotels, resorts, houses, etc.

    Posted by Jenna | May 30, 2012, 8:15 pm
  5. For a family about the begin their travel adventure in 10 days time, this article is very timely indeed. Thank you.

    We are open to try all types of lodging but agree that space is a big drawcard for our largish family.

    One thing I would like to know is apart from the sites I already know of, Airbnb, agoda and hostelworld etc. Is their a place that you guys can recommend to locate great family lodging ?

    Or is it a case of getting to the destination and then searching on the ground ?

    Thanks again for this info, very helpful.

    Posted by Cindy Fuhrer | May 30, 2012, 10:15 pm
  6. I totally agree about the home rental. We did it a couple of times and it’s just the best.

    And I love the camping, but I’m not much of a camper so one night for me is plenty, but gives the kids a great taste of nature and thank god my husband is a nature freak and he gets to show them his element!

    Posted by Marina K. Villatoro | May 31, 2012, 5:25 pm
  7. What a great post with lots of very good thoughts. Thanks for including me Paige!

    Posted by Krista | June 1, 2012, 7:59 am
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