How To Find the Best Place for a Traveling Family to Sleep
7 Key Points for Finding a Perfect Place to Stay
My criteria, which has evolved and been fine-tuned after a few months of travel, is made up of seven key points.
- Location. Ideally near the city center or within easy walking distance of one of the the city's transportation stations.
- Wi-fi. This is tricky and where many listings are misleading. I always double-check listings that high-speed wi-fi is available and available in rooms. The fine print of many listings will clarify the wi-fi situation — many properties offer it for a fee, while sometimes it's in the lobby of the hotel only. Ideally, we like our wi-fi free, high speed, and available in our room.
- Space for a Family. If we book an apartment we like two bedrooms. For hotel bookings, most offer a family room. We always double-check the size of the beds in the family room, since many claim a family room, but only with double beds. We can manage that (and have), but ideally, we love a hotel such as The Murray Hotel in Perth, Australia, which is our shining example of a perfect hotel. At the Murray, we had a queen for the adults and each of the kids had a twin—in the same room!
- Food. This is key. If we are renting an apartment, a kitchen is essential. While breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, spending too much money on breakfast is a budget killer. So, we look for apartments near a grocery store. For hotels, breakfast included (preferably free) is essential. The amazing Murray Hotel introduced us to the joys of the pancake machine while the Hanoi Elegance Diamond had the best free breakfast buffet we have ever seen—plus they made eggs, pancakes, and pho to order in addition to their buffet.
- Amenities. Laundry facilities, an in-room refrigerator, or kettle for hot water are all little amenities that go a long way. Particularly when you travel with our 8-year-old, who uses her shirt as a napkin ...
- Reviews. I cannot state enough the importance of reviews. While you definitely have to keep them in perspective, the reviews often make the difference. When I hear that staff went above and beyond, a property moves up on my list. Feedback that the listing wasn't the same in reality versus the description is critical. And, the review is the only place you will find out how an Airbnb host or hotel management will handle an issue.
- Cost. Of course, all the other criteria aside, the listing has to fit our budget. I will comparison shop neighborhoods and factor that into my decision. For example, in Bali, I was determined we should have a pool since it was so hot, but then compromised on a location slightly outside of Ubud. (Even with a driver, another cost to factor in, we were within budget.)
One other learning of late—many hotels offer great rates for transportation from the train station or airport to their hotel. There is nothing more stressful after travel than having to figure out how to navigate to your lodging when all you want to do is go to bed.
We worked with our hotels in Vietnam to arrange transportation and were never happier at the airport and train station when we saw a sign that read "SAMANTHA" at pick up! And, for our Airbnb stays, we have asked our hosts for advice, and that has always helped tremendously and helped build rapport with them.
A few other considerations:
- We travel with sleep sacks for those times in which we need more layers (Seoul!) or the bedding is questionable (train from Hanoi to Saigon). Our friends Jen and Mark at a yeartothink.com swear by traveling with a pillow in a compression bag, though we opted out of that for the sake of space.
- Most hotels and even Airbnb hosts provide soap and shampoo. However, we always have a few extras of each (picked up from other hotels of course) since you never know what you will get and often a shower is the first thing we do after a long travel day.
- A few tea bags and some instant coffee go a long way to keeping the adults happy.