A Safe Gamble: Picking the Right Place to Stay

Seven simple commandments for traveling with young kids from the parents who know.
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Family On a Beach
LOCATION, LOCATIION, LOCATION: Getting a hotel within a half-mile of the beach (or other attraction) will keep your kids in the swing of things  (Stockbyte)

Let's be honest. Taking vacation time with young kids is a crapshoot with only two possible outcomes: you hit the jackpot and experience some unexpected slice of leisurely nirvana. Or you go down in flames desperately trying to roll snake eyes.

But unlike tangoing with Lady Luck in the gambling dens of Vegas, there are ways you can stack the deck in your favor when it comes to vacationing with the family. You can't control the weather, the unexpected transport snafus, the kid-friendliness (or lack thereof) of your fellow restaurant-goers…but you do hold the keys to your choice of lodging. Call it melodramatic, but this is the place on which the success of your trip literally rests. Here, then, is an unfiltered guide to choosing the right place to rest your weary heads from the people that know—parents who've run the family-vacation gauntlet.

1. Pick Your Property Carefully
Survey the family-lodging landscape and decide what will work best for the particular dynamic of your little traveling band, as well as your budget. Hotels with adjoining rooms and suites, as stressed below, are a parent's number-one ally. Also consider all-inclusive destination resorts for convenience in everything from food to organized children's activities to on-site amenities; know, too, that this may lock you into more of a fixed daily routine, perfect for some, torture for others.

More free-spirited families might want to opt for accommodations that have full kitchens, or at least kitchenettes, to build in the self-catering option, which can offer huge savings, scheduling flexibility, and convenience, whether that's a remote cottage on the Newfoundland cape or a spiffy new condo unit on Orlando's Lake Buena Vista. As father-of-four Michael Bopp notes, the self-catering route also means that "you can do it with another family and reduce the cost—and increase the fun."

2. Be Willing to Pay a Little More for Your Collective Sanity
All the parents surveyed for this article stressed the importance of separate rooms for kids and parents. This is the gateway to your own private sanctuary when it's time for Junior to snooze. It's a place to watch television or movies, read that book you've been trying to finish, or crack open the bubbly. "It's amazing how much this figures in," says Mike Hall, parent to a two-year-old daughter, "but unless you have a completely separate room, it makes her naptime and bedtime less relaxing for us. That's our alone time, and we don't want to spend it sitting in the dark being quiet." Keep your eyes peeled for special family rates and packages, but consider the additional cost money well spent.

3. Eat Free and Eat Fast
You don't want to fuss with menus, orders, and slow service first thing in the morning when the kids are aching to hit the pool. If you don't have the space or ability to prepare meals in your condo or room, hotels offering free continental breakfast should be all you need for the troops to fuel up and fly. The same theory applies to on-the-road lodging, leaving parents to take care of room cleanup, bag patrol, and checkout with minimal stress. "That's at least one meal we don't have to worry about," says Julie Anne Kito.

Published: 22 Jun 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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