Congratulations! You followed my tips and found the cheapest flight, now you need family-friendly budget accommodation.
Whether you are dreaming of a rustic cabin in the mountains, a hip apartment in the city centre or a beachside villa, one thing is certain – you don’t want to pay more than absolutely necessary.
The good news is that a limited budget does not mean limited options.
Choices for family-friendly budget accommodation include:
At first glance, hotels may not seem like a budget option, but with some planning, you can often find a bargain.
Booking as far in advance as possible sometimes results in an “early-bird option” with substantial discounts.
Alternatively, you can also find some great discounts by waiting until the last minute, when hotels are desperate to fill empty beds. Unfortunately this is rarely the case during special events, in peak season, or for hotels in prime locations.
Be sure to check that the hotel charges per room, not per person, or you may face extra charges as a family. Some hotels will allow young children to stay for free using existing bedding or will provide a roll-away bed or crib for a nominal cost.
Hotels.com offers stay 10 nights, get one night free and has regular “secret offers” with extremely cheap deals.
Booking.com is a great accommodation search engine which offers one night free accommodation after you have booked nine nights through their site. As well as hotels, you can also search for resorts, apartments, hostels, home stays and even caravan/trailer parks.
HotelsCombined searches more than 40 major hotel chains in 220 countries to find the best prices for you.
Agoda is another comprehensive accommodation search engine. Apart from helping you find discounted rates, their speciality is finding hotels which are linked with your loyalty rewards scheme. They partner with thirty different schemes through their PointsMax system. This enables you to either earn rewards points for your hotel stay or to book your stay using existing points.
Tripadvisor is a valuable resource for researching reviews and photos of the hotels you are interested in. Honest reviews by previous guests, in addition to their candid photographs, may give you a rather different impression than that provided on the hotel website!
Guesthouses, Bed and Breakfast and Homestay all fall into the same category. Usually a privately owned and run home which provides accommodation (and often some meals) while providing a personal home-away-from-home feel.
Lacking in some of the facilities of a hotel, a guesthouse nonetheless has the advantages of personal attention and local knowledge to make your stay more enjoyable.
It is advisable to check before booking if there are any restrictions on young children as shared facilities and noise constraints can be an issue at some establishments.
Previously the domain of twenty-something backpackers, hostels are now frequented by families and retirees alike.
Although a bunk in a dorm room with a shared bathroom is the cheapest option, it is probably not the best choice for a young family. A family room with an ensuite bathroom is far more suitable and still a very reasonable price.
Hostels usually have a shared kitchen, enabling self-catering, to save even more money. Add to this facilities such as games room, lending library, tour desk, and bike hire, all at a reasonable price, and you can see why a hostel makes the perfect family-friendly budget accommodation.
Last weekend my family visited Sydney, Australia. The hotels I looked at were in excess of $400/night for the five of us – much more than we could afford! Instead we stayed in a hostel, in a 6 bed family room with private bathroom for $200/night. The location was unbeatable – minutes walk to Central railway station, Chinatown (for delicious affordable meals) and Darling Harbour. Breakfast was also included (D.I.Y toast and cereal). We were not the only family with young children staying and certainly felt welcome. It wasn’t without its problems – it was quite noisy overnight and the shower wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, but the location and price outweighed the negative aspects.
Renting a private apartment or house has many advantages over a hotel room or hostel dorm. A kitchen enables self-catering which, apart from the obvious financial benefits, allows families to eat familiar food at times which suit, without the added pressures of eating in a restaurant or cafe.
Having separate sleeping accommodation for parents and children (and separating siblings where necessary) generally results in better sleep for the whole family. It’s no fun having to huddle in the bathroom with a glass of wine, in fear of waking the sleeping children in the hotel room!
A laundry is also very valuable on any holiday longer than a few days.
Many private holiday rentals also come equipped with cribs, high chairs and even toys.
I have booked private holiday homes through AirBnB many times with great results. They have homes of all sizes and styles in 191 countries, so you should be able to find one to suit.
Other sites for renting private homes are:
Until now, our focus has been on family-friendly budget accommodation. How would you like family-friendly FREE accommodation?
House sitting means that your family take care of another person’s home (and often pets) while they are away travelling. No money changes hands and it is mutually beneficial for all involved. Your family has free accommodation, with all the facilities and benefits of living in a fully furnished and equipped family home. The owner can enjoy their vacation safe in the knowledge that their home and pets are being well cared for.
Obviously you need to ensure that both parties are compatible in terms of expectations and requirements. A family with a toddler may not be best suited to a home filled with fragile antiques. You may be delighted to walk a dog but allergic to cats. Are you confident caring for reptiles or farm animals? An enormous selection of house sits of many types ensures that you can find the best fit for your family.
Last December, my family house-sat for a beautiful home on a rural property near Canberra, Australia for four weeks, through Aussie Housesitters. We cared for three dogs and two chickens and watered the gardens. In exchange, we had the most wonderful summer farm holiday: collecting eggs, playing with the dogs and enjoying the serenity of country life.
For more detailed information about how it works, and how you can become a Housesitter, have a look at my post on Housesitting with kids.
A variation of Housesitting is House Swapping, also known as home exchange. Two families swap homes and sometimes cars – either simultaneously or at different times, facilitated by a paid membership to sites such as Love Home Swap, Home Link or Home Exchange.
Whether it’s back-to-basics in a tent in the wilderness or a luxurious motorhome or RV, camping has much to offer in our search for family-friendly budget accommodation.
Camping fees can be a fraction of the price of a hotel, with opportunities to experience your destination in an unrivalled manner. If you are staying in a country area, the camping itself is a major part of the holiday. Fishing, swimming, and campfires create priceless memories.
A city holiday is another matter. Campsites are usually located outside cities, so you will have to take into account travelling to attractions and sight-seeing. Do you really want to drive your massive RV through the medieval laneways of Rome? Is public transport available to take you where you need to go?
Camping is also weather dependent. Sleeping in a tent is great fun for the whole family on balmy summer nights, but not so much when it is pouring rain, howling a gale or just plain freezing.
Whether a hotel, hostel, home or tent is the best fit for your family, you now have the tools to find family-friendly budget accommodation.
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