Whenever I travel with my children, I hope that I am creating amazing memories. I want each of my children to look back on our trips and remember how much fun we had or what cool experiences we shared. That is why I spend a lot of time thinking about our holidays. Usually, we have just returned from a vacation when I’m already asking myself, “Where should we go next?” Inevitably, I begin to review everything that I have ever learnt about how my family travels or what kind of holidays ended up being our best family vacations. A critical part of my reflection is whether we stayed at the right accommodation.
A Good Night’s Sleep is Fundamental for Success
Staying at the right accommodation is key for three reasons.
When we leave on holiday, my family is often very tired. School is demanding and their schedules before and after school are often filled with sports or theatre commitments. We are all usually sleep deprived and crave long uninterrupted nights’ sleeps. This is not only a problem for a family with teenagers. I can remember time and again when my children were younger, they were exhausted by the time Christmas or summer break arrived. Everyone is a little more irritable, impatient and inflexible when they are tired.
Everyone has different sleeping habits.
Whether you are young or old, we all sleep differently. Some need to read before falling asleep, others need to watch TV. Some children need a light left on all night, while others need it completely black. Some of us are night owls, while others are early birds who are ready for action first thing in the morning. And then of course, some of us are blanket hogs, while others think that sleeping on a diagonal is completely natural. Making children who have different sleeping habits share a room or a bed together will create difficult nights, but even more difficult days when everyone is tired and grumpy.
Not everyone is best friends all the time.
Everybody gets along with each other differently. No matter how much you love someone, there are days that you like them more than others. In my family of six, there are two boys and two girls, with an age range of 7 1/2 years between the oldest and the youngest. Tracking who is sharing a joke together versus who is ready to strangle their sibling is a skill set that I have had to finely tune! I have always avoided putting all of my children together in one room every night on holiday. I mix it up as much as possible. Sometimes, they need separation from each other as much as you need to close your bedroom door and take a moment for yourself.
To create a successful holiday, you should try think about how your children actually do sleep. You must also be honest about how they relate to each other. The right accommodation will help create relaxed and happy children, setting yourself up for an amazing day. The wrong accommodation may lead to a day filled with grumpy, ungrateful children who you wish you had left behind at home. Success is in your hands!
Is a Hotel the Right Accommodation?
When my children were little, we never stayed in a hotel. This was the worst accommodation for us for a number of reasons.
Hotel accommodation for six people normally meant two rooms – either the parents alone in one room and four kids in the other; or three and three. There was little to no way to deal with different sleeping habits without simply making someone endure the other. It also meant that beds would have had to been shared when my children were used to having their own beds. No one sleeps very well with another when they are not used to it!
It would have also been difficult to manage personal relationships. With four children, at least two kids were not getting along at some point in the day. Whomever they were that day, we all needed them to be separated for everyone’s peace of mind. There was not going to be any relief from that tension by merely putting them in a separate bed a few feet away. A separate bedroom and some of their own space was a much better solution for everyone.
Why a House or Condominium was the Right Accommodation
When my kids were little, we always rented a condo or a house, with a minimum of two bedrooms (but preferring three). I also always tried to rent ones that offered two twin beds in a bedroom, or bunk beds, or a pullout couch, rather than one large bed in each bedroom. Multiple bedrooms and multiple beds allowed for the separation that we needed. It allowed us to pair children together with similar sleeping habits. It gave each of them their separate bed and allowed for all of us to get that good nights’ sleep that we all craved!
Don’t forget the kitchen, the living room and the washing machine!
A house or condo just gave us more rooms, more space.
We had a full kitchen. We were able to provide nutritious meals that the kids would eat. It also allowed us to save money by making our own meals, rather than purchasing every meal at a restaurant. Of course, we could go to a restaurant whenever we wanted.
We had the living room for those who needed to stay up later, or for those who woke up earlier. It was a separate place to socialize, hang out, and play games with everyone. A living room also allowed my husband and me to stay up after the children went to bed. We could have a glass of wine, talk, and watch tv without feeling guilty about who we might be disturbing. It allowed us to have our own holiday time together.
Whether you are a family with young or teenage children, having easy access to a washing machine is always a plus. This is especially true on extended trips where it isn’t possible to bring enough clothes for each day of your holiday. Most hotels charge an exorbitant fee to wash any items of clothing. You could try and locate a laundromat. However, that could pose unique challenges alone. You would likely end up using a day of your vacation just doing laundry.
When is a Hotel the Right Accommodation?
Once my youngest daughter turned seven years old, I believed my children were old enough to stay in a hotel. They had consistent and more conventional sleep habits. They handled conflict with their siblings in a more productive way. Were they perfect? Absolutely not! But, we were able to start to stay in hotels in destinations where that was a better alternative. This was still not the ideal. It was better for everyone to have enough space to spread out. However, it allowed us to start looking at different destinations that we previously could not because of the lack of proper accommodation. In many instances, it was far easier to find two hotel rooms in the middle of a city for a decent price than a two or three bedroom house or condo.
Today, my children are 19, 15, 13 and 12 years old. We practically never stay in a house or condo anymore. Not because the advantages of staying in a larger accommodation with multiple rooms have disappeared with older children. But because we are now taking holidays in developing countries where hotel accommodation may only be the type of accommodation offered, or the living conditions would not make a house or condo rental a wise choice.
What’s right for you?
Whether you have one child or a bus load of them, you need to have the right accommodation for your family at the destination that you want to visit. There is no point heading to Peru for the trip of a lifetime with your children if you can not find the accommodation that will work for your family. It would be far better for you to wait a couple of years until they are older, have better sleeping habits and can calmly share spaces with their siblings. Everyone needs to be well rested to enjoy their day and to appreciate the wonders that they get to experience. This is true no matter where you go and what you do. If you are on holiday with your family, you are privileged to be there and it should bring out the best in all of you.
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