When you ask for age-appropriate activities for teenagers and the hotel concierge suggests the local petting zoo, credibility evaporates.
Kid-friendly means different things to different families and the age of the children changes absolutely everything. Planning travel for families requires knowing what to ask, what to look for, and having a ready list of qualified resources for different ages and interests.
We specialize in planning trips just for families at CB! Vacation Consulting. We’re not perfect and there are plenty of times we realize that we also need to be more detail-oriented about family needs, but we’ve got a good foundation going as we’re all moms (sorry, no dads onboard yet) and we book hundreds of trips for families a year … we truly understand the issues.
Common Family Vacation Planning Challenges
You ask for connecting rooms and the quote returned is for adjacent rooms or worse, rooms separated by a hallway or floor.
This is our biggest challenge at Ciao Bambino. Standard hotels, particularly in Europe, have a wide variety of room configurations and limited connecting room options. Hotels will quote what they do have available, even if it’s not optimal and sometimes fail to mention this in the copy or just don’t bother specifying how the rooms quoted relate to one another.
The action required is to confirm if what’s quoted is the only thing available and then families need to make an informed decision if they are willing to sacrifice optimal for whatever that hotel can offer.
All possible guest room configuration options are not presented.
It’s disturbingly common to receive a quote back for one configuration and not all the possible configurations. Many reservations teams do not take the time to outline anything and everything that can work for a family.
Always go back a second time if the selection seems very limited.
Family room configuration pricing is not appealing.
We prefer working with brands who package up connecting rooms to make pricing palatable for families. When a second room is occupied by children, families always appreciate having some sort of package versus just doubling the rack rate of the room. Likewise, cost-prohibitive extra person fees often add up and make otherwise affordable room configurations, unaffordable with children.
If a family-focused package is not presented, ask for one. Many brands aren’t willing to do this — but those who are serious about catering to families amend their ways.
Kid-friendly restaurant suggestions aren’t exceptional or interesting.
You are a foodie, ask for kid-friendly dining options, and are sent to the nearest burger joint as the best option. Kid-friendly dining has made huge strides. In most destinations, there’s plenty of interesting and exceptional variety for families, but the right answer may take some digging.
Bloggers are a better resource for family-friendly restaurants than many concierge desks.
Kids’ menus don’t have enough variety and healthy options.
Hotels and restaurants have made huge strides in offering quality kids’ menus since I started Ciao Bambino in 2004. There’s always room for improvement. When staying at an accommodation for consecutive nights, kids want the same variety of options as their parents. Nightly specials are appreciated and so are plenty of kid-pleasing vegetable options (not an oxymoron!).
Rather than eat off the kids’ menu every night, ask the kitchen to make smaller portions of adult options (and reduce pricing accordingly).
Guides and Activities
Activity suggestions aren’t age-appropriate.
Kids of different ages have vastly different interest levels and savvy travel agents, tour operators, and hoteliers know this and provide relevant options when asked for advice. Programming for pre-school and school-age kids has come a long way. Meanwhile, programming for tweens and teens still has a long way to go.
Use travel agents, tour operators, and/or hotels that actively cater to families.
Kid-friendly guides aren’t kid-friendly.
Finding kid-friendly guides is tricky. One issue is that matching guides with clients is very personalized. I’ve literally had a client tell me one day that a guide was fabulous with her kids, and a client tell me the next day that the same guide wasn’t family-friendly at all. Was it mood? Weather? All of the above plays a role.
The more information you can provide around what you want out of your guide for your children, the better. The best kid-friendly guides know how to adjust information so it is interesting and understandable for all participating ages. In general, less is more. Guides lose kids quickly when too much information is presented with no engagement.
Travel agents and tour operators over-schedule families.
CB! Travel Consultants only books the big things for our clients (guides and special activities), we don’t outline the day-to-day schedule by the hour. This is both a practical consideration and based on our experience that the best trips for families have a balanced approach with equal parts of play time and structured and/or sightseeing time.
That said, there are some very active families out there who want to make the most of every single minute. Communicate clearly what you want your activity level on the trip to be and how much free time is important.
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