Pack your bags – it's time for a relaxing holiday with your growing family! But before you hit the road (with those nursery rhyme tapes blasting away) it's always wise to do plenty of pre-trip planning. First things first, you'll want lots of car snacks. Secondly – and maybe more importantly – you need to find a child-friendly hotel to stay in on your travels.
While self-catering can sometimes seem like the easiest option when you have a whole hoard of fussy eaters on your hands, family-friendly hotels can be really accommodating to your needs. Think baby equipment, playgrounds and menus designed for even the pickiest of diners. To know what to look for, here's a short guide to finding child-friendly hotels.
the right location
To make getting around with little travellers simpler, book accommodation as close to the beach or local attractions as possible. Check out the local transport in advance too. On city breaks, plan to stay only a short walk from a green, child-friendly park. This way, they can jump on the climbing frame and let off steam after the long car or plane ride. Before you arrive, mark the local convenience stores on a map to avoid awkward about-to-run-out-of-nappies moments.
There's no need to rule out a country house or hotel-style break either, as some pull out all the stops for families. Keep an eye out for child-friendly spa hotels, which offer crèche facilities for when Mum and Dad go for a pamper session.
There’s more to choosing a family room than finding one with a cot. After all, you're going to see much more of your hotel room than you did in your pre-family days, so comfort is important. You'll be popping back for their afternoon naps, and bedtime can often seem very early. The last thing you need is to feel cramped. Is there somewhere you can relax when the children are asleep, like a sofa area or a balcony?
A bath is much easier than a shower with under-fives, so double-check what's in your en suite before you book. Think about fridges and microwaves as well – will you need to heat up food or store baby bottles?
Doing your pre-holiday research can save you hassle later. 'Cot in room on arrival' is a useful phrase to look out for, as you won’t have to wait for it to be assembled. Find out if you can also store the buggy at reception, saving you some bedroom space.
On-site restaurant baby-changing facilities are ideal for nappy disposal, and a laundry service can make living out of suitcases much easier. It's also worth checking if there's an on-call GP service, just in case someone's not feeling well.
A kids club is an excellent indicator of child-friendliness. Does the swimming pool have a shallow area for little swimmers? Hotels abroad sometimes have special outdoor baby pools with shady covers.
Some places have outdoor playgrounds where little ones can run wild and let off steam before bedtime. Unreliable weather doesn't necessarily have to put the good times on hold either – if your hotel has a soft-play area, the fun can continue indoors!
finding out more
As the old saying goes, if you don't ask, you don't get. If you have any queries, just pick up the phone and give the hotel a call. There’s also TripAdvisor and forums like Mumsnet, but nothing beats a personal recommendation from friends with children. If you know someone who’s stayed in the location you’re researching, drop them a line. They’ll know first hand whether the restaurant is a touch too formal for families, or they can reassure you that the reception staff are friendly.
And just think – no cooking, no washing up... and for a few days, you may even get the laundry done for you. With everyday tasks taken off your hands, you’ll have more time to relax and have fun. Perfect!