It’s a question I’m asked often and have answered piecemeal but never in just one post: how do I find family friendly hotels in Europe? I’ve decided to gather my top tips in one location for handy reference.
Before I start, I want to give you a basic rule: travel like Europeans do. You may now be thinking great, Deal Mommy, now what the heck does that mean?
Europeans have families, and they travel frequently, I assure you! After both living in Europe and extensively traveling there with the Deal Kids, I can tell you the European method of family travel is quite different than our own.
I’ll tell you what it DOESN’T mean:
American chain hotels. Now miles and points may be a handy tool in your kit, but I need you to chuck the notion that your European vacation will be 100% funded on points unless you want to severely limit your options.
Another thing it generally doesn’t mean: constant movement.Minimize Transitions is my travel mantra and I borrowed it from watching the relaxation European families achieved by settling in. Europeans get longer holidays than we do and even on shorter trips tend to concentrate on one location. None of the “cross off the list” mentality so many of us have when crossing the pond.
To me Europe is as much about “being” as it is about “doing”. It’s now been almost two years since Camp Mom Europe. You know what the Deal Kids talk about? The fireworks over the Eiffel Tower? No. (That’s what I talk about.) They talk about the playground we walked to everyday in Lofer, Austria. They talk about how on the way back one day they noticed a stream and asked if they could drink from it and how I told them to look for cows. Seeing no cows, meaning no cow poop, and running water from the mountain I told them it was safe to drink. They talk about drinking water they scooped from the Alps.
(and how I ordered ice cream for my Diet Coke)
Now, my top sources for family hotel rooms:
#1 on my go-to list for my own European travels. I used EVR twice Summer 2013 : for the East Clare Golf Club in Ireland ($87/night in a 2 bedroom condo) and at Schloss Grubhof (Yes, Schloss as in real live Castle) for $84/night in Austria. I’ve also rented in Southern Spain twice, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, and am now shopping for a return trip to Gran Canaria. In the past decade I’ve rented at least 15 condos worldwide and have had only 1 bad experience (for which I was promptly refunded).
Upsides: Full apartments with kitchens so you save a ton on food, lots of space, large company with thousands of locations, each location has multiple units so if there’s a problem with your individual unit you can switch.
Downsides: Weekly rentals only (you don’t have to stay a week, only rent a week), locations are limited in urban areas, no refunds.
We had good success with Club Carlson (Radisson, Park Inn) in Europe, especially in urban locations. Business class rooms are large enough for 4 and can be rented with points for 1.5x the normal points price or are often competitively cash priced. Free breakfast is usually included. Don’t forget that the Club Carlson credit card comes with Gold status and the terrific weekend extend rates which give you a free night with one purchased on the weekends.
The hotel chains we sleep on in the States are strong in Europe in the independent hotel market and as such often have quirky properties that contain family sized rooms. Last summer with Choice I saw rooms sleeping up to 6 booking at the same 10,000 points as rooms that slept 2. It will take a bit of work, but investigation of these three may turn up some gold, especially in cities.
Special note to Accor which has an entire chain of “adagio” apartments tailor made for families. Their ultra budget Ibis chain can sometimes price out so cheaply that two rooms make sense.
I’d be remiss not to mention these two for independent rentals. I tend to be a Homeaway girl over AirBnB (and have drifted more towards EVR lately) but friends swear by AirBnB, especially for cities. Like EVR, downside is no cancellations.
I actually have used Booking.com more recently in Asia than Europe, but they’re the leading source of all things independent. I especially like their ability to sort based on customer ratings.
Worth mentioning if you have them or you have points to burn. Hyatt offers 4 Diamond Suite Upgrades per year to Diamond members that I put to good use in Paris at the Etoile. The Presidential Suite was bigger than my house and was quite literally the tallest hotel room in the entire city:
The other chains offer complimentary suite upgrades to top tier members as well, so if you’ve got em, spend em!
Call and Beg/Lose a Kid
Two strategies to try in a pinch if you’re desperate to use a specific chain. Search rooms for 2 people and find a room with two doubles or queens (queens work best). Then call the loyalty program or email the hotel directly and ask if the room will actually fit four even though the website says it won’t. Alternatively, check in with one less family member than you actually have. I’ve had luck the the call and beg, but the lose a kid goes outside my comfort zone. No judgements here, though: Deal Kid is 11 and he’s going to stay 11 for at least another year if 12 year olds are suddenly “adults”!
What else goes on the list for family rooms in Europe? Please share your fave in the comments.
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