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One of the big challenges of family travel is finding hotels for kids. Some places don’t have family rooms, other places charge an extortionate price for families. BUT it is still possible to find AMAZING hotels for kids – and get epic deals in 2024.
As a full time travel fam our part of our job and life is finding the best family friendly hotels for the best prices. We have experienced a wide range of accommodation all over the world. Some places have been hilariously bad, and others incredibly good.
In this article we will answer all of your questions: How do you get the best prices for family friendly hotels? What do you look for? How do you know if your hotel is family friendly? We will even share some of our TOP PICK family friendly hotels around the world.
Top tips for getting great deals on hotels for kids
1 Use booking tools
If you’re looking for the best hotels for kids, use booking tools such as comparison websites. Booking.com and Agoda are great ways to find deals on hotels. Booking tools allow transparency, accountability, assurance. You can pay in advance, contact properties and read reviews. The map function is also very helpful to get a quick overview of properties.
2 Arrange results by price
If you are using booking tools like Agoda and Booking.com make sure that you arrange the results in order of price (from cheapest to highest prices). Step 1 plug in your dates and destination. Step 2 look at the top bar and arrange by price (lowest first). The absolute cheapest hotels may not be worth staying at. For example, if the reviews are below 6 we recommend ignoring the hotel. You’re looking for the best and cheapest option at the low end of the budget range. Once you have found a few places, check if they have the room options, bed space, facilities and location that meets your needs.
3 Use filters
When you are using comparison sites use the filters to get rid of any hotels that don’t meet your needs. You can generally find the filters on the side bar to the left hand side of the results page. So you need to stick your destination and dates in first and then get clever with some filters. For example, you can filter hotels in terms of your nightly budget. You can also search for properties with specific facilities and amenities such as bathtubs and swimming pools.
4 Ignore family rooms
When you are searching for hotels for kids, don’t look for family rooms. Hotel rooms marketed as “family rooms” are often a lot more expensive that big rooms without that label. So don’t look for family rooms unless you have a big budget. The main thing you will need as a family is bed space – so plan how you are going to sleep and search for rooms based on bed space. We recommend searching for twin rooms, triple rooms, quadruple rooms – think creatively about sleeping arrangements.
5 Don’t add kids to the bookings (at first)
When you first use a comparison website to search for your room just search for the adults (solo or couple) without adding any kids to the search. Look for cheap rooms with sufficient bed space. Once you have found an option that works for your family, then try and add kids to the room. See if the price increases when you add kids to the room. If the price does increase – try contacting the property to see if they can include kids for free. If the price does not increase, then add your kids to the booking before you reserve the room.
6 Look for cots and extra mattresses or beds
If you cannot find triple or quadruple rooms that work for your family, try searching for double rooms or twin rooms and then look for options to add a cot or extra bed to the room. Some hotels will offer this service, others will not. Some may charge extra for an additional bed or mattress. The moral of the story? Always check. Even if it is not advertised. Try bartering for a free bed or mattress – especially if you are planning a longer stay. Some places offer a suprising amount of space for the money if you are open minded.
7 Search for guest houses and hostels
The property name is a big clue for the price. If you are traveling on a real budget with kids then it is not a good idea to look for hotels. Rather search for guest houses and hostels. They often have private rooms and are significantly cheaper than hotels. You may even be able to find a filter for property type to help you narrow your search down.
8 Contact hotels directly
This is one of our top tips for snatching up the best deals on accommodation that we use regularly as a full time travel family. Bartering is everything. Use the comparison websites to find some hotels in your budget range that meet your needs. Then contact the properties directly to see if you can negotiate a better deal by booking directly with them. Many hotels, hotels and guest houses have facebook pages. We have found properties can be very responsive to messages. If you are planning a longer stay this may give you additional bartering power.
9 Consider alternative locations
Hotel prices are almost always very strongly related to the location of the hotel. Hotel prices tend to be higher close to beaches and in tourist hotspots. However, if you search a few kilometers away you will often see big drops in prices. Use the very helpful map function (“Search on Map”) to browse places by location quickly. Hover over the pins to check the price and review scores. Alternatively, look away from the classics and find some hotels in lesser-known-locations. They are likely to be cheaper and emptier – which may give you more bartering power.
10 Be willing to rough it a little
This is Mabul Backpackers hotel – the cheapest accommodation on Mabul island in Malaysia. Look cozy? We’ll come back to this sweet little room in a minute…
If you are really looking for the best deals on budget accommodation with kids you will need to be willing to rough it a little. This can look different. You can bed share, be willing to take a shared bathroom, stay in fan rooms rather than A.C. rooms. Some rooms may not have windows. Others may just be very small. BUT it’s not all bad news. On the budget end in many countries you can often find places that are clean and reasonably nice.
Ideally, you are looking for the best balance between low price and sufficient standards of comfort and hygiene. You can tell a lot from reviews and pictures too. Reviews of 6 or below tend to be the tipping point for budget accommodation. Below 6, there may be some big problems. If in doubt, check how many reviews there are and read a few. Oh yeah – this is assuming there is a reasonable number of reviews. If there are less than 5 reviews overall don’t take review scores too seriously.
The tiny twin room above is at Mabul Backpackers hotels in Malaysia. It is the cheapest property on the island. Just outside the room, this is what the water looks like…
Sometimes roughing it is not that rough! By the way Mabul Backpackers does also have twin, triples and quads too.
Can children stay for free at hotels?
Every hotel that we have come across will let babies (0 – 2 years old) stay for free with paying parents. “Adult only hotels” do not allow babies or kids to stay at all. So it is always worth checking before you book. The age that kids start having to pay varies from hotel to hotel. Some will charge for kids when they are 5, 7, 12 or even as old as 18.
This should be included in the hotel information. If not then drop them a message to check. We have done our fair share of budget travel with a baby too, and it is possible to have great stays in budget accommodation with a baby. We even reckon it is possible to stay in a dorm if you plan carefully and know your baby well.
Look for hotels on booking.comBooking.com
Find deals on Agoda
Top tip: If you are travelling on a budget you may be able to make cheaper arrangements with hotels. When you enter your details on booking.com don’t initially include children in the guest details and look at what is available. See whether your family can be accommodated by the hotel by adding cots or extra beds (there may or may not be a charge for these so check). If you are on a real budget consider whether the bed or beds are big enough for bed sharing. If you can work out an arrangement like this for your family, it may well work out cheaper than a “family room”.
What to look for in a hotel for kids
Many booking websites do not let you contact the hotel until you have made a booking. This is probably to stop people trying to make their own bookings. Some hotels will allow free cancellation up to a certain date. So you could book and then ask questions and cancel if you need. There is another good way round this. If you do need to contact a property they will often have facebook pages and most hotels are very responsive on these pages. You can normally drop them a private message this way.
Things to check if you are travelling with a baby 0-2 years old
Location: Consider hotels that are close to the main places that you plan to spend time. Also look for things like public transport, shops, food and ATMs nearby. For example, if you are planning to spend most of your time on the beach – find a beachfront hotel. Or as a cheaper alternative get a property close to the beach. Watch out for airports, main roads and other sources of noise. Try to find a quiet tranquil property. Reviews often give you a good idea if a hotel is sufficiently quiet.
Cots: Most good hotels will include a cot or crib for free in the room. This should come with bedding – but if your hotel is at the cheaper end, we recommend that you check this. It is definitely worth checking availability of cots when you book your room. Some hotels will advertise a cot, but not remove the advert if the cot is broken or unavailable. Also, some hotels may have a small charge for using a cot. It is well worth paying for this rather than bed sharing. Just for your own sanity if nothing else.
Not too many ornaments in the room: This one can be hard to find in the information. But pictures will give you a good idea. Many hotels on booking.com do include pictures of specific room types. Just click on the hotel to go to the booking page and then click on the room type to bring up example pictures of the room type.
Flooring: Carpets are lovely if your little one is taking their first wobbly steps. They also add a coziness to the room. But the only downside is that carpets are not ideal for baby leaks and spills. Laminate or wood flooring is nice but can be a little slippery for early walkers. It is also slightly harder for falls and bumps. We recommend that you avoid rooms tile floors. Although they are easy to clean, they can lead to nasty bumps if your little one is mobile. Also tile floors tend to be cold.
Balconies: Many rooms have balconies. We have always found that balconies are only accessible through lockable doors. But do be aware of this. It is worth checking that the locks function correctly when you arrive. Check that the balcony has decent safety rails.
Air conditioning or fans: Depending on where you are travelling, think about the climate. If you are travelling in a hot country or in the summer consider air conditioning. Personally we prefer fans. Fan rooms tend to be cheaper and the flowing air keeps mosquitos away. Air conditioning can actually be too cold. Some units may be noisy. Some people also find that air conditioning can cause headaches. They can dry the air so stay hydrated. Having said this, air conditioning does allow good temperature control and may actually be very important for younger babies in hot climates.
Insects: If you are travelling somewhere tropical think about bugs. Actually don’t think about bugs because they’re creepy. Anyway, in tropical countries mosquitos get everywhere. Don’t presume that paying more means the mosquitoes will stay away. They don’t know or care how much you paid for your room. It is worth grabbing a mosquito net to throw over a cot. Or bring a travel cot that has a mosquito net option. The other thing to do is to use a natural mosquito repellant. Also if your baby is well clothed when sleeping they should be fine. Think about onesies that cover your babies cute little arms and legs.
Sound proofing: Some hotels for kids offer rooms that are soundproof. It is nice to know that no unwanted sound will get in. But when your little bundle of joy is crying at 3am, it’s also nice to know that you wont need to make any awkward apologies to your neighbors in the morning. Seriously, I can’t overrate this one. When we were staying in cheap backpackers hostels in Laos with our 9 month old boy, I ended up on some rather long night walks.
A kettle in the room: This is particularly useful if your baby can bottle feed. You can boil water to make up sterile formula. You can also use boiling water to sterilise and clean baby bottles.
A lamp or dimmable light: It may not seem like a deal breaker. But a lamp is a nice addition to a room – especially if you are travelling with a baby. If (or when) you need to be up in the night making bottles up or breast feeding, it is wonderful to have a good night light so that your little nest is not startled by the bright main lights. This is ideal for soothing you little sweetheart back to sleep.
Black out blinds: If possible look for a room with good black out blinds or curtains. This is especially important after long haul flights if you are trying to help your child adjust to a new timezone.
A bath rather than a shower: If it is an option, it is better to get a room with a bath. We have had to wash our baby in many showers and there are numerous disadvantages to this. Many babies don’t like to get water on their faces. Babies get very slippery when they are being showered. Also, you need to be super careful of the temperature. To be honest, if a shower is your only option, then consider using a sink if possible. But best of all, use a bath. This is much more fun and baby friendly. You can even throw some toys in for extra giggles.
Elevators: You may not think to check for this, but actually it is really helpful. If you use a pram, this makes it very convenient to get back up to your room. If you don’t use a pram, then this is just a nice convenience at the end of a long day of travel fun and adventure with your family. Also once your little one can walk, they will probably love elevators.
Food and dining: Consider the feeding needs of your baby. What does your baby normally eat? Can you mix it up before your travel? Try things like porridge, bread, fruit and eggs. These types of foods are available almost everywhere! You may need to drop your hotel a message if your baby has any special requirements. If your baby is still on blended foods, good hotels may be able to blend foods for you. Always worth asking. Also make sure high chairs are available. We really missed high chairs when we travelled in central asia with our baby boy. Having a meal without a very curious baby on your lap is bliss. True bliss.
Swimming pool: Many places include a swimming pool and normally it is free for guests to use. Don’t forget to pack some swimming nappies and arm bands. Be aware that some hotel pools can be quite cold. Baby swim suits can help keep them warm. Also consider whether there is a baby pool or shallow end. Good hotels may also be able to lend you inflatables for your baby to play with. And most good hotels also include towels saving you valuable packing space. Also watch out for salt water pools – a nice alternative to chlorine.
Babysitting services: Some hotels for kids offer babysitting services.There is normally an additional charge for this, but it may well be the best money that you spend on your holiday! Some places may give a cheaper rate if you add extra kids. Always worth asking!
Play areas: Very good hotels for kids actually have specific play areas. If you have a baby keep your eye open for soft play areas. Some hotels may also have outdoor play facilities such as climbing frames and swings.
Friendly welcoming staff: Having caring and hospitable staff is possibly one of the most important things for your experience as a family. Staff that understand the needs of parents and babies.
Top tip: If you think you have found some good hotels for kids, you may want to peruse the reviews. Don’t be put off by every negative review you read. You will find negative reviews on every hotel out there! Just think about whether any of the negative reviews are actually a real deal breaker. You can filter reviews on booking.com so you can read specific reviews from families.
If you are travelling with a toddler 2-5 years old
You will probably still be interested in many of the things that we have mentioned above. But once you are in the 2-5 stage there will be new needs and challenges to consider.
Potty training: If you haven’t already potty trained your little one, chances are you will be doing in the 2-5 stage. Our main advice is don’t let this put you off your adventures. We would encourage you to get some practice at home before you go – holding your little one on a toilet (no adaptations). If they are used to doing their 1’s and 2’s this way you shouldn’t need to worry about bringing a potty. It is probably worth bringing some night nappies for your trip. Hotel cots don’t generally have mattress protectors. And little ones seem to have a way of knowing that the mattress is unprotected and timing their little accidents perfectly for maximum chaos.
Feeding: At 2-3 years old they are probably still small enough for a high chair and it can be nice to have your little monkey secure at meal time. It is also fun that your little one may be brave with food and able to drink from cups and bottles. All of this makes feeding that bit easier.
Kids activities: Some hotels will offer kids clubs with different activities. Some places will offer arts, dance, music and crafts. In some cases you may need to be there to supervise children. There may also be an additional charge for kids clubs. This is a particularly good stage to get your child interacting with other children and being part of a group. The best hotels for kids will include these types of activities and clubs for not additional costs.
If you are travelling with children over 5 years old
By this stage (or earlier), your infant will have graduated from a cot to their own bed. The main thing now is that you don’t need to worry as much about the baby proofing side of things. Entertainment and activities are getting more important. Look at whether they offer family friendly tours and excursions. Here are a few ideas of the types of things you might be able to find:
- Kid’s bike rental options (check for kid sized bike helmets too!)
- Visits to local sites of interest
- Children’s eco tours
- Walking tours for families
- Cooking classes
- Cultural shows or activities
- Sports and fitness activities
Although your hotel may not directly arrange activities like these, they will probably be able to recommend people who can help.
It may seem like there is a lot to check for when you are looking for hotels for kids. Remember if you book through a travel agent it will literally add hundreds, if not thousands to your trip. So the time you invest in planning, really is saving money. We also want to help as much as we can. We love our readers. And we also love travel. So we will plan to continue offering specific recommendations of top family hotels in awesome places around the world.