Introduction – What is child friendly accommodation?
When you start traveling with your baby or toddler, you really have no idea about what will work and what doesn’t work. So very naively, the first time I planned a road trip here in South Africa, I just phoned the accommodations and asked:
Are you kids friendly?
Kind of assuming that they would understand the needs of parents to make our holiday as little stressful as possible. Let alone the holiday of us single parents!
Little did I know.. We ended up having to cook ourselves almost every night because either the menu wasn’t flexible or dinner / breakfast was only served way too late. Not relaxing for us at all.
I realized that I hadn’t asked good questions. I needed to come up with some better questions next time to avoid this from happening again and get our expectations clear.
This is how I learned to check if hotels are truly welcoming children and doing the best they can.
Sometimes it is all just about a flexible attitude and other times it is about the facilities. Being a traveling single mother, I don’t HAVE a pair of extra hands so certain things I want to know otherwise I might as well go on a camping trip right, where I know from the start that I will need to do everything. But when I stay in a lodge, hotel or guesthouse I want certain comforts to make my stay enjoyable and that I can feel like I’m on holiday yes.
10 Questions to ask before booking child friendly hotels
Question 1: Are there a lot of stairs to reach the facilities and rooms?
This is especially handy to know if you are a single parent like me and your child can’t walk yet. It is often not clear from the web site, ask them to send a video or pictures. We stayed in one place and they said they were child friendly but we literally had to climb a mountain to get to the restaurant. It was ridiculous!
If you visit The Netherlands and are looking for family friendly accommodation, check out the Stayokay brand. We stayed in a Stayokay in De Biesbosch and really enjoyed it. You can find them throughout the country and they often are located in iconic buildings like The Stayokay in Rotterdam.
Question 2: Is there anyone to help with luggage upon check-in and check-out IF there are a lot of stairs?
When I searched for an Airbnb in Paris I could only find availability on the 6th floor and no elevator. I decided a hotel with elevator would suite me better because my daughter was still small and all the carrying would be done by me.
The hotel we stayed in Paris in wasn’t particularly kids friendly BUT breakfast for kids was on the house and THIS I appreciated especially in Paris. Check out the rates and availability of the hotel n Paris we stayed in HERE!
Question 3: How are your meals organized?
Do you have flexible meal times? Can we order off the menu or is it a set menu? We stayed in places where breakfast started at 8am and dinner at 7h30. This obviously doesn’t work with small children. They are hungry from when they wake up. Then if there’s a microwave and a kettle in the room, that would help a lot. So that could be your next question. Obviously when the hotel offers buffets it is very easy but we don’t always enjoy buffets.
An hotel who does an AWESOME job making kids meals fantastic, fun and nutritious is Crawfords Beach Lodge in Cintsa in South Africa. We LOVED our last holiday here and the kids loved it too! You can check rates and availability HERE.
Question 4: Do you have high chairs in the restaurants and a baby cot in the room?
Most high chairs we encountered were pretty disgusting, even in 5 star hotels. It doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s job description to clean them. Bring your own if you can. I always carried this super handy fabric high chair for Rosie and it worked perfectly on most chairs.
Check out Rosie’s super handy fabric high chair that I carried around at all our adventures when she was too tiny to sit. I actually bought this one from an other single mother because I had never ever seen anything like this. If you’re looking for more handy gadgets, check out THIS article.
I also loved the portable baby cot that I got for Rosie. When I saw it, I know I NEED THIS. We had been on a family vacation and cots were not always provided, then I asked for a LOT of cushions so I would build a fortress on the bed instead. But this little tent on the right was my other favorite baby gadget. It also worked very well on the beach when I wanted to protect her from the sun, wind and sometimes mozzies when we would stay close to a river.
There you have 2 of the best accessories I bought for when Rosie was tiny.
A beautiful place where we stayed when Rosie was still a baby, very close to the Kruger National Park is Dawsons Game & Trout Lodge near Barberton. They provided many pillows for lil’ Rosie to be comfortable. Their staff was incredible and we felt pampered ALL the time. Check out the rates and availability for Dawsons HERE.
Question 5: Do you have plastic plates and cups available?
That way we don’t need to stress about breaking any of your precious porcelain. Some waiters give children very sharp knives, thin glasses etc. Not ideal. Be aware of that.
One of the best hotels in the country for families is Kurland Hotel & Spa near Plettenberg Bay. We had the pleasure of staying there for 2 nights and it was totally amazing. If you want to pampaer your family, this is it. Find the best rates HERE..
Question 6: Is your staff trained to deal with children?
Or at least are they used to children and happy to serve them? In South Africa this is almost never a problem. It seems EVERYONE LOOOOOVES small children which is great. In other destinations it is not always the case I find.
And sometimes it is not rocket science. In Paris we stayed in a normal 3 star hotel with nothing specifically for the kids but the receptionist was super friendly. He loved chatting to my daughter and she enjoyed chatting to him about our day. It is just a very simple thing which we as parents appreciate a LOT.
Question 7: Is there a play area or room or stretch of lawn where kids can play or run around without being a disturbance? Do you have some paper and crayons or a puzzle at the dinner table?
These kind of things make it for parents SO much more enjoyable and easy to have a pleasant stay too so if they don’t have it, you can bring it yourself. The BEST is when there’s a kids club but this is usually only in resorts geared towards families like the one we stayed at in Mauritius.Check out best rates for the amazing Club Med La Pointe Aux Canonniers in Mauritius HERE!
One of my favorite places near Cape Town to go away for the weekend is Bluegum Country Estate in Stanford, not far from Hermanus. There’s a BIIIIIIIG lawn, great pool and a trampoline. Perfect to keep the kids busy while the parents enjoy the amazing food! Check out rates and availability HERE.
Question 8: Do you offer babysitting services?
In case you would like to go out at night check if they offer babysitting services. We stayed in a small B&B in Johannesburg and they had the most amazing babysitter who looked after our kids while my friend and I went to listen to some jazz. So nice to have a night out and off during your holidays. Make it work for everyone.
Oh and ask the times.. I once was at a safari lodge where the jeep safari left at 5h30am in the morning but the baby sitter was only available from 7am. Not very helpful and it really irritated me as a single mom with then no option to take part in the safari because small children are usually not allowed.
A safari lodge that does an AMAZING job looking after children is Amakhosi Safari Lodge a few hours from Durban. The mainly Zulu staff are the most loving you will ever find. I had such an amazing experience there as a single parent. They took all my worries and tiredness away. Check out rates HERE.
Question 9: Do you have family rooms available and where are they situated?
We once had to carry our toddlers up and down hills when we booked a family room in a backpackers… (same place where they only had late dinners so we just cooked ourselves and left a few days early). The stay at that lodge was actually the inspiration for this article.
Question 10: Can I talk to you about my child’s allergies?
In case your child has allergies, you would need to double check if the hotel accommodates this. The child of a friend of mine has a deadly allergy for peanuts so peanut butter on the breakfast buffet was an issue because it could literally kill her child. It is always better to inform the hotel beforehand and then again upon arrival so that you’re sure that everyone knows if it is an issue. Most hotels will want to accommodate but often they don’t understand allergies and you will have to explain to them how severe it is.
Other tips for newbie adventurous traveling parents:
- check out parenting / travel Facebook groups and ask for recommendations there
- check out accommodation reviews and filter for family friendly accommodation
Staying in family friendly accommodation will make all the difference for the enjoyment of your holiday. Happy Travels!
Always wander, always wonder!