So, you’ve booked your flight and now have to sort through a multitude of websites and properties to try and work out which holiday accommodation is best for your family. It can be overwhelming.
I am a bit obsessive when it comes to trying to find the right family friendly holiday accommodation. But I always start at the same point by asking myself – what type of accommodation am I looking for and what suits my family this time?
While that might seem a a bit generic, the fact is that your requirements and preferences can change depending on the age of your children. Which is why you might have been disappointed with a place your friend said was amazing!
The following tips are based on my own experiences across 13 years of travelling with children and is aimed to get you thinking about age-appropriate holiday accommodation for next time you are planning your family getaway.
The baby to toddler stage
This is the stage when some of you may still be under the illusion that holidaying as a family is not really that different to life before baby. You can still stay at a lovely hotel, the only difference being the cot in the corner. However, others may find their baby is unsettled and wakes with every change in sound and light.
I remember one holiday in which I had to throw a spare blanket over the portacot as my toddler was fascinated by the new environment and refused to go to sleep. In this case, a larger hotel room with a sectioned off sleeping area or a one bedroom apartment may be the go.
You might also consider a B&B. This can be a more relaxing option, especially if you can have breakfast served in your room.
At this stage, you will most likely want to take your own pram/stroller. You should always check with the airline you are flying about their policies around baby equipment and excess baggage.
If you don’t want to take your own portacot, find out if the holiday accommodation provides cots or is associated with a hire service that does.
Handy tip: take some strong pegs to peg up a blanket to block out light if curtains are too light – or just to hold curtains properly closed together.
The toddler to pre-school stage
Looking back, I think this is one of the most difficult times to travel with children. The toddler stage (when they hate being strapped into a stroller or aeroplane seat) can be stressful for parents. And temper tantrums can increase in line with changed routine.
This is a stage where a hotel room can be difficult to negotiate, particularly at night where you might want to relax and watch TV, sleep or just chat with your partner. But with a light on and voices to be heard, little ones are often loath to go to sleep.
This is the time to give an apartment a go (I always preferred low rise with young children) – or even a holiday house. A family friendly holiday house might offer attractions including games and a fenced yard to run around and play in.
These options are also self-catering, which means you are not trying to drag tired children out to eat dinner – or have them jump on your bed ready to hit the breakfast buffet at 6am. Been there, done that. And I don’t recommend trying it!
This is also the stage where I found a swimming pool to be a valuable asset – kids love the water and it also wears them out so they sleep better.
Handy tip: If your children are used to bath-time, check that where you are staying has a bath and not just a shower.
The pre-school to early primary stage
Things are getting a bit easier now, but the kids are a bundle of energy.
I think this is the time for a resort or apartment complex with plenty of activities to keep your children occupied. If you are into kids clubs, I also think this is the perfect stage to give them a go.
Separate bedrooms are still the ideal, but two double beds in a hotel room now also works better – particularly if you want to doze in bed and let the kids watch (very) early morning cartoons.
Why not consider a farm stay as another alternative to satisfy the curiosity if young minds?
Handy tip: Try to find holiday accommodation that has extras to help keep the kids entertained, such as pool and beach toys and games. If you can’t, the local $2 shop will be your friend.
The mid-primary to early secondary school stage
About now you will find that sharing a bed is no longer a preferred sleeping arrangement, particularly for the older child. Check if the second bed can be split into two king singles (some hotels and apartments do have this option available but you will need to check).
Now children are getting some independence, so accommodation with garden areas where they can run around and play ball games is perfect. This is a great time to consider a holiday park where they can meet and play with other children.
Look for places with a tennis court, basketball hoop and if you are lucky, somewhere with a boogie board or two to loan out.
Handy tip: This is a time when siblings start to like their own holiday space away from mum and dad. One of my own children’s favourite finds was an apartment with a loft bedroom and lounge space where they had their own TV.
So, remember family friendly holiday accommodation is not a static thing. If you put a bit of thought into what features you are looking for (and how much you are prepared to spend) you can narrow down the options and hopefully make the perfect choice.
To help you even more check out my guide and checklist to family friendly holiday accommodation – and the types of features you can consider when making your choice.