Six Reasons I Don’t Use Hotels on a Family Trip
Let me clarify up front that I have nothing against hotels. Not at all. They can provide a delightful experience, often a luxurious one. We use them ourselves on many occasions. It’s just that one of those occasions is not a family trip, particularly a family trip that lasts more than a couple of days! Now, I won’t lie, hotels do tend to be a little less hassle (walk up to a 24 hour desk, walk out the next day), but when all six of us are on the go together, I have found it so much more comfortable and enjoyable to rent an apartment or a whole house. Here are six reasons why:
Ah, follow the money; I have found that even with just two of us traveling it’s often cheaper to rent a little place than get a hotel, but this has definitely held true when traveling with kids! We have always been able to pay less than the cost of a hotel when renting other sorts of rooms, and we get more space (see below). It’s a massive price difference now that we would probably have to rent two rooms to hold us all (or some large suite sort of room!). I know that hotels often offer free breakfasts, but that’s such a cheap meal to eat anyway I personally don’t consider it a big perk. And visiting local bakeries is half the fun!
My top complaint about staying in a hotel with small children is that there’s nowhere to put to them to bed where they can’t see you. Tired babies need to go to bed early, and all of mine sleep so much better in a separate room from those of us who are still awake. It’s not like you can turn off the lights and leave your hotel room. . . enter lodgings with multiple bedrooms! I LOVE (love!) when we can stay in rooms where the kids have their own bedroom(s) and we can tuck them in at their usual bedtime, then relax for a while until it’s our bedtime. Or come back to take a break from sightseeing, and baby gets a really solid nap in. Everyone is so much better rested, and if you have children I don’t need to tell you how that impacts every other moment of the trip! Honestly, this is my number one reason why I don’t use hotels on long trips; I’d pay extra to have rested kids!!
Getting to sample local restaurants is, no doubt, one of my favorite ways to splurge when traveling. But not being forced to eat out every meal is also one of my favorite ways to keep travel costs down! If you have a real kitchen you can heat up food or cook an easy dinner and save yourself that cost (and let’s be honest: sometimes taking a tired two-year-old out to dinner sounds about as appealing as getting a root canal). Even if you didn’t pack meals or want to cook anything, it’s even easier to eat takeout in a real kitchen! Plus: I like drinking my first cup of coffee in my pajamas. . .
Tip: we’ve often whipped the kids up something super easy and fun (cheese quesadillas, mac n cheese, takeout pizza, grilled cheese, etc.) and gotten takeout for us parents. We save money, we feel like we’ve splurged, and everybody is still happy!
So this really ties back into my second point about space, but I love having a couch or a comfy chair to relax in at the end of the day. Or rather, enough comfy chairs and couch space for all of us! But it’s also helpful to have another room for the kids to wander off to play in and entertain themselves, or put on a movie that I don’t have to listen to. Or sometimes there’s even a yard for them to blow off steam in! For me, that space provides a level of mental relaxation that keeps me going for the long haul! Everyone needs a little space to recharge, no matter how much you’re loving that family togetherness.
5. Washing Machine
If you have little kids, someone will make a mess. It’s inevitable. And you probably packed for that. But who wants to schlep back clothes caked in three-day old filth? Plus, traveling lightly with kids is tricky enough as it is without needing to plan for extra clothes. I never pack more than a week’s worth of clothes for my children, and always plan on doing laundry. It keeps the size of our suitcases down, and gives us less to keep track of. Obviously, having a washing machine handy is what makes that feasible! Most apartments or houses that are big enough for a family usually have them; it’s not hard to find a place to rent with a washing machine. If we’re somewhere longer than 3 days, I definitely make sure the house we’re renting has a machine.
6. Local Vibe
So this is just lagniappe (as we say in New Orleans), but staying in a house or apartment means you’re usually in a more residential area. Or at least in a residential building in a city. Typically hotels tend to be in busier, more commercial areas with lots of shops and restaurants around. Which could be local, but often feels much the same as every other city. Staying in a neighborhood usually gives a more unique perspective of the place you’re visiting. There are local grocery stores to visit, the neighborhood bakery, and places to walk and play with people who actually live there! The best is when our host is an actual local who is there to greet us and give us tips about the area. (Fair warning: sometimes it’s just a lockbox and that’s not nearly as fun.) We get to visit a little with a (almost always) delightful person and get to know them a little. More than once, the sweet host has come back with beach toys for the kids, or something else they thought we’d enjoy. We love it.
So there you have it: the six reasons we don’t use hotels when taking a family trip! As I said, I certainly have nothing against hotels inherently, and I’m sure it’s a luxury we will enjoy again in the future. But for now, you’ll find us visiting local places in local houses. Stay curious, my friends!
If you really want a hotel, or can’t find a house, or are just curious about an alternative viewpoint, here’s a guy with six kids who stays in hotels.