You have lots of options!
Everyone has travel preferences. But whether you’re the backpack/hostel type or perhaps the exotic locale/boutique hotel type, once you have children and decide to travel with them, you have to be open to new and different travel experiences. I was always a travel snob. To me, unless you were staying in B&Bs and taking public transport, you were not experiencing the true culture of where you were visiting. It never occurred to me that traveling was meant to be relaxing as well! Since opportunities to get away are now fewer and further apart, I now wholeheartedly embrace the ‘travel as vacation’ mindset, but I still need a little local culture as well.
Staying in little Bed & Breakfasts or small family-run hotels was always my preference, but they aren’t always an option when traveling with small children. While the proprietors or host families would undoubtedly be very welcoming and friendly, they likely won’t be able to offer the types of amenities that you’d prefer when toting your tots. Things like a shared bathroom or paper-thin walls may not be an issue pre-kids, but certainly would be now. Things like a pool or garden to play in may also be harder to locate in a smaller lodging. Not that the perfect little pensione or casa doesn’t exist – they’re just a little harder to find. This is where time (or lack thereof) comes into play. I just don’t have the time to research destinations and accommodations to the extent that I used to. Smaller places also don’t usually have the kind of budget required to extensively market themselves, or create a website. This is where word of mouth comes into play. If you know of a great B&B, or a small family-fun hotel that welcome small children and have facilities to accommodate them, please let me know!
Self-catering hotels and condos are generally very family-friendly, and having 24-7 access to a kitchen when you’re traveling with babies is certainly the easiest way to go. We traveled like this pre-kids, and loved being able to pop in some toast in the morning and sort ourselves out for most lunches as well. But some families don’t feel like they’re on holidays if they have to cook at all, and part of a vacation is a big breakfast in a restaurant everyday. There’s also the issue of having to go grocery shopping, but personally, I love going to supermarkets in different parts of the world. That said, it can be a hassle to locate a store and figure out what you want to eat. Unless you’re paying big bucks, these types of accommodation are usually in more residential areas, or mean walking to the beach instead of being right on it. Car rental may be another factor in choosing a self-catering holiday, since a variety of restaurants or shops may not be located within walking distance. The nice thing is that decent self-catering lodgings are easier to locate online, with many rental agencies operating websites for individual owners, as well as larger chain hotels offering a kitchenette as part of a room upgrade.
For some, resorts – be they all-inclusive or not – are the only way to go. For the most part, all your needs can be met within the boundaries of one hotel. These can be cost-effective options as well, since all-inclusive resorts usually cover the costs of all meals, snacks and drinks, including alcoholic drinks. Larger resorts often have amenities especially for children, which can be helpful if yours are the type that need to be kept busy at all times! My difficulty with large resorts, is feeling somewhat removed from the local culture, although this can easily be remedied by actually leaving the resort – and not necessarily on a pre-arranged tour. In fact, I tend to shy away from package tours simply because we found it easier to ask around and find a person willing to take us around at our own pace, with our own car seat installed in the car. But some don’t require culture, they just want sun, sand, and to not have to think about anything. This is where the large resort can offer a worry-free holiday – no need to take out your wallet or move very far from your sun lounger.
Our first holiday with our daughter was at a large all-inclusive resort, and it was a good way to ease into family travel. Once we were there, all our needs could be met with little effort or brainpower, which actually allowed us to relax. It also helped us to realize that we could one day manage more independent travel – modified of course – and that as our daughter grows and becomes more settled that our travel options will one day be wide open once again.