***I’m out of town and have limited access to my computer, but I wanted to make sure I still had some posts in the A-Z challenge. I’m keeping these simple until I come back. I’m going to expand on these later, but I’d love your thoughts and opinions in the meantime. Thanks for stopping by, and if you’re also participating in the challenge let me know and I’ll be around to check our your blog in less than a week.***
After the worry of flying deters a lot of families from traveling, the next “problem” are the expenses associated with accommodation.
I’m a huge fan of hotels, but for the times when a hotel doesn’t make sense, here are some alternatives. (The companies listed below are ones I have personal experience with, but none of these are affiliate links. I just like them.)
What I love about hostels is that many are centrally located. And family friendly hostels, tend to have more families staying there. Extra bonus.
There are many ways to search for a hostel. I recommend using HI (Hosteling International). Search for your city and nights and the hostel description will tell you if it’s suitable for families. Please note that HI hostels in some countries require a membership, while others are available to anyone. Membership does give you a discount, though, so consider if it’s worth it for your travel style.
Just like hostels, these can be centrally located. It depends on you. Here you have a little more room to spread out, cook your own meals, and feel like a temporary local.
Also like hostels, there are many ways to search for apartments. Many apartment owners offer their places through multiple services. Try the interface with different companies to see which you prefer. We have used Air BnB (I love their app) and Flip Key with success.
TIP: Read the fine print to see if it’s family friendly.
I prefer an apartment that’s sole purpose is to be rented by other people. I don’t want to stay at someone’s home that they rent out randomly and have to deal with their food in the fridge and toiletries in the bathrooms. This is all personal, obviously, so do what you need to do.
My unscientific way of determining if an apartment is one and not the other:
- If the artwork on the wall is large photos of the city you are visiting, or artwork by famous artists of said city, it’s more likely not someone’s permanent home.
- If the photos on the wall are of family members, the bathroom is filled with shampoo bottles and hairbrushes, and there’s mail on the kitchen table, it’s likely to be a private dwelling sometimes used as a rental.
Unlike the above, I’m not sure to what extent these exist outside of Europe.
Holiday parks in Europe are closer to small towns and villages instead of big cities. The word “holiday” is used in more the British sense meaning “vacation” instead of the US sense meaning “thanksgiving”. They are a place to connect with your family instead of site-see (though there are usually many tourist-worthy sites in the vicinity). There are activities at the parks like mini-golf, swimming, bowling, and hiking. The accommodations are private ranging from apartment-style, private chalet, treehouses, houseboats, and everything in between.
There is usually a minimum 3-night stay. What I love about these is the affordability. For example, we stayed at one with a private chalet, kitchen, and two bedrooms in Belgium for 99 EUR for 3 nights. However, depending on the season and location they can be as expensive as 2-300 EUR a night.
What you have to remember is that necessary (bedding) and unnecessary (birthday decorations) extras are not included in that price. It can get expensive if you have a happy “select” finger.
I recommend Landal GreenParks (located in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary. I’ve also heard great things about CenterParcs.
These are just three of my favorite alternatives to hotels.
If you get a chance, please visit Reflection En Route today. She’s another A-to-Z Challenge participant who happens to be an American expat in Germany.
Ann, Thanks for the shout out! I’ve stayed at all that you mention and renting houses and apartments are my favorite, especially with kids, because of the freedom it gives you.
Huge fan of Hostelling International! We also loved using House Trip- and as for parks, Center Parcs cannot be beat. Great ideas- so many wonderful alternatives out there for families vs. just a hotel 🙂
Depending on how long we are staying in a place, I’m an fan of apartments as well as small boutique hotels. I agree with you on the apartment situation. I definitely prefer an apartment that is solely geared for renting and don’t want to be surrounded by someones personal effects. Luckily there are plenty of these around.
Great tips, Ann! Wonderful job with your challenge this month!
I’m not very familiar with holiday parks- sounds pretty cool to try sometime.
Where did you get that awesome deal in Belgium? That’s phenomenal value.
Good advice about Airbnb. We have hosted and we do not have photos of Dublin in our apartment! hehe
Hope you’re having a great time in London! 🙂
Great post Ann! We often get asked what kind of accommodations we use in Europe as North American’s are typically use to hotels and B&Bs only. We love Air B&B (a full apartment rental when possible but we’ve stayed with some people before and it’s been a great experience too). We don’t use hostels much, instead we often stay in “guesthouses” or “pensions”. Small, family run, often with a great breakfast 🙂
I agree about the apartments, nothing more off putting then seeing other people’s personal belongings. We often travel in Europe and when not staying in apartments or hotels we love a bit of camping. Now I know a night under canvas isn’t for everyone but like you mentioned above you can also get some really great deals to stay in mobile homes/chalets etc. We are off to France over May Bank holiday weekend, staying for 3 nights in a mobile home for £48. That is for 4 adults – all we needed to get was our ferry crossing from England on top of that. Check out http://www.keycamp.com if you are interested in similar deals 🙂
Great post here on alternatives! I have stayed at a few hostels here in the States, notably in New York City and it is a real great way to save money. I also have some good experiences with holiday parks, also known as caravan sites in my opinion and these are very different between UK and USA. England have very nice, well-maintained caravan/camp sites that are really pleasant to stay in but from my experiences in USA that’s not particularly the case. Now I am not going to stereotype that all are like this because I don’t know but many that I have seen leave a lot to be desired.
This is a really great post that folks would do well to pay attention to when considering cheaper alternatives to hotels!