The Deal Mommy

The Definitive Family Friendly Hotels in Europe Post

schloss grubhof

Schloss Grubhof in the Austrian Alps: $84/night via EVR, my top tip for family hotel rooms in Europe.

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:

Endless Vacation Rentals

#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.

Club Carlson Business Class Rooms

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.

Accor/Best Western/Choice Hotels

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.

AirBnB/VRBO and HomeAway:

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.

Booking.com

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.

Suite Upgrades

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:

etoile

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.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network.  

Family friendly European Hotels


16 thoughts on “The Definitive Family Friendly Hotels in Europe Post

  1. andreas

    Thanks for the post. I just made reservations for business class rooms for club carlson hotels in stockhom and milan for 4 nights each. Both hotels have great ratings and prices are > $200/night for standard rooms. 12.5k points per night is well worth it for breakfast and space.

    I agree that moving too much makes a stressful vacation. Someday I’ll have chance to stay at that same austrian castle.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Andreas,
      Glad to hear! We really enjoyed the Radisson in Belfast, too. I can’t recommend Grubhof highly enough. There was an entire morning we just went from room to room lying on the floor admiring the ceiling frescoes. The most recent renovator (1850ish) had a real Pan fetish! Then we played crazy 8s (renamed after Mad King Ludwig) in the 400 year old game room.

  2. bluecat

    Novotel (by Accor) hotels are family-friendly…up to 4 in the room. And I’ve noticed that IBIS (and maybe other Accor) hotels offer 2nd room for half price.

    Be aware that Carlson business rooms may say that they require a rollaway. In Iceland, this will cost me 50 Euro a night. Not cheap. In general, be aware of the “extra bed” pricing.

    Finally, we’ve had luck with HIExpress in Europe. Was nice to have a breakfast just downstairs and the HIE breakfasts are different in Europe from country to country. 🙂

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Bluecat,
      50 Euro for a rollaway? Yikes! I’ve never had that one pulled. Sorry to hear.
      I thought about mentioning HIE but have found room size to be very YMMV.
      Accor in general seems to get families right.

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    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi RavenMaven,
      I’ve not tried, but have trouble imagining why it would be listed in a category other than travel.

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  5. Erik

    No Marriott love? Unlike some of the other American chains, many of the Marriott properties in Europe have rooms that allow occupancy of 4 people. I think this is because they typically have the American standard of two queen beds in a room, instead of 2 double/full-sized beds seen elsewhere (or two twin beds – I’m looking at you Hilton). Even if the room has 2 queen beds but states an occupancy of 3, call Marriott Rewards to see if they can clear the reservation with the hotel. As long as your kids are under a certain age (typically 12 or 16), most Marriott properties will allow it as long as you use the existing bedding (no rollaways) and it isn’t legally prohibited. I’ve scored some great stays on Marriott points this way – probably the best was the London County Hall property adjacent to the London Eye during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Erik,
      Thanks for the Intel. The reason I didn’t list Marriott was the very one you mentioned: I could never get their search engines to show a single room sleeping 4 in many large cities! I’ve had similar luck calling SPG (for a fee) into their junior suite level. It’s just so variable that I didn’t want to list as a reliable resource.

  6. Brian

    We are looking into Berlin for fall 2016 with 4 (myself, wife, and to be- 2.5 year old twins). I’ve talked to the manager of the Westin Grand Berlin and he stated that Starwood policy is that there can only be one rollaway/crib per room. If one (or both) twins can sleep in existing bedding than it is no big deal. Still in the early planning stages so haven’t looked much at other chains yet (I have a hard time breaking the points addiction… it serves me so wells in the States!)

  7. Rachel

    Great advice! Searching for rooms with two little ones (one in a crib and one who can share our bed) is slightly more doable than with older kids. It is time consuming though since it can vary hotel by hotel within the same brand. I think next time I might pick our destinations by where there are Endless Vacation Rentals!

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Rachel, I’m doing an entire session at FT4RL this time on hotel alternatives for families because it’s the missing piece in travel hacking. If you want to waste a few hours on a rainy day, browse EVR and you’ll find some amazing bargains. Be sure to get on their mailing list as coupons are frequent.

  8. Family6Travels

    We visited Europe with our 4 kids last summer. Had the best luck with Marriott in London, 2 doubles, connecting rooms. Also did Park Plaza, nice big suite with full kitchen, washer/dryer but only a king and uncomfortable pullout (also had to do 2 rooms/night).
    We looked at Airbnb, but it would have been cost prohibitive for our family. Will certainly check out the EVR website as we’re planning for Europe 2018.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      That two rooms/night thing is a killer. I’ve had great luck with EVR especially outside of big cities. In major areas I’d try Accor Adaggio Apartments if EVR doesn’t pan out. You could also try serviced apartments on booking.com.

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