Finding accommodations for a trip to Europe with kids presents two very different challenges. In cities, the main issue is that many hotel rooms in the best parts of a city – the historical center – don’t fit four or more people. Meanwhile, the countryside in Europe has so many great options it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
How does one choose?
Value-conscious travelers will experience sticker shock in big European cities during peak travel periods. Rome, Paris, London – you name it – room rates are high. Add a few kids to the mix and soon the already expensive prices are exacerbated because you need to book a few rooms or a suite to have enough beds.
Using a family-focused travel resource like Ciao Bambino helps. We’ve already done the homework for our Europe Family Travel Guide and only feature options that have rooms that will accommodate families.
Apartments can be an excellent option for space and value, but I’ve found them to be challenging for shorter stays (less than four days) and it is difficult to verify quality ahead of time unless you know someone that has stayed in a specific unit. The other thing to consider is that most standalone apartments don’t have a concierge desk to help with getting around and local reservations. In a foreign city, having a “go to” contact makes things much easier.
Irrespective of the accommodation category you choose, selecting a property in a convenient location is critical. Walking is an important part of experiencing a European city, not to mention that taxis are expensive and public transportation is crowded. While it’s impossible to be walking distance from every tourist attraction, you can at least opt for something in a neighborhood with an appealing atmosphere that is near a few of the main things you want to see. When traveling with toddlers, it’s also nice to be close to a park or playground.
Kid-focused amenities like arrival gifts in cities make children smile, but at the end of the day these treats are not what make a property the best option for a given stay (noting that the presence of arrival gifts is a good indicator that kids are genuinely welcome).
The reality is that in a city, you won’t be spending much time in your room. A pool can be a welcome feature for sightseeing breaks, although typical properties that have pools in cities are the high-end options and will be priced accordingly.
If you have young children and want to skip bringing a pack-and-play with you, it’s essential that you confirm your hotel can provide one at the time of reservation. This is particularly important for rentals. I get frequent emails from families that have booked an apartment and realize after the fact that the owner cannot provide a crib.
There is an increasing number of apart-hotel type properties in European cities where you have apartment amenities (kitchen and living space) combined with hotel services (housekeeping and a concierge). These properties are ideal for families!
The countryside in Europe is a fabulous venue for families, particularly when the weather is nice. Open space and amenities like swimming pools make it easy to combine sports and playtime with sightseeing – the optimal combination to keep kids of all ages happy and engaged. Given that most European families have 5-6 weeks of holiday per year, it’s easy to find “self-catering” accommodations with a wide variety of price points.
The planning challenge here is differentiating between all the options to ensure you find your desired quality level in a location that makes it easy to do day trips. For me, finding a countryside property that feels like “home” with lovely outdoor spaces for relaxing is essential.
There is a wide spectrum of amenities offered at countryside resorts. Some are more independent in spirit with only a swimming pool as the common space, and others have full facilities with kids’ clubs, fitness rooms, spas, restaurants, etc.
The key is to figure out an overall plan for how you want to spend your days to determine if more extensive amenities are important. Our family vacation extended search page enables families to search by age, accommodation category, style, location, as well as kid-focused amenities like kiddie pools and kids’ clubs.
Independent villa rentals are an excellent choice for multigenerational trips (I like resorts better for single families). VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) can be very useful in sourcing accommodations but there is a quality risk. Using a qualified rental agency has many benefits – see my recent post on CiaoBambino.com on finding the best family-friendly vacation rentals.