And What We Do Instead...
Jennifer Allen is a mom and travel blogger who shares her experience on her blog, Wonders Within Reach. Here, she shares why she's moved away from staying in hotels, and what she likes to do instead.
We are travelers. My husband and I loved to explore anywhere and everywhere before we had kids, and as parents it’s been a joy to share the world with our children.
While a posh resort sounds ideal for a couple’s getaway, the more we’ve traveled, the more we’ve moved away from the hotel scene. At this point, we’ll only stay in a hotel if we’re just passing through for a night and can’t find other options. Here’s why we’ve changed directions, and how we’ve improved how we travel.
A few summers ago I checked into a three star beachfront hotel with my three kids. As soon as we walked in the door and saw sprinkles on the counter, we knew the room hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned. There was toothpaste in the sink, smears on the mirror, and a razor in the tub. I assumed they accidentally assigned a room that hadn’t been cleaned and asked for a new one. The replacement room was even worse.
This stay is more extreme than most examples, but it was a good reminder that things are often missed by the cleaning staff. Bed bugs are shockingly common and a quick surface wipe isn’t enough to kill most viruses. It’s hard for me to feel comfortable taking my kids to a space that has had multiple people, from various locations, pass through in the past few days.
Regardless of the size of your family, most parents who travel are familiar with late night movies in the hotel bathroom. Once the kids are in bed, there’s no space for the parents to do anything that makes noise or requires light. This is the exact opposite of a vacation vibe.
The limited space in even the best of hotel rooms can make it challenging to engage in activities such as exercising, working, or relaxing comfortably. It’s impossible to organize a family’s belongings into the limited storage space in most hotel rooms, which means we’re tripping over suitcases and stepping on each other’s toes. When we’re staying in a hotel, we spend as much time out as possible, since there’s no good space to relax, eat, or play once we’re back in our room.
3. Noise Levels
With numerous guests coming and going, coupled with thin walls and shared spaces, hotels can be prone to high levels of noise. As someone who has traveled with young kids, I can confess to contributing to that noise level! The constant noise can disrupt sleep patterns, for both children and adults, making it challenging to rest and relax or to keep up with sleep routines. Having to call the front desk to report an unruly neighbor is uncomfortable, at best. Yet, I’ve had to make that call on multiple stays. On the flip side, when you’re traveling with a fussy newborn, it’s stressful to try and calm them before someone makes that call on you!
We’re just getting to the stage where my children are big enough that some hotels request that we book two rooms instead of one to accommodate our five people. One hotel room is pricey. One week with two rooms is easily more than our monthly mortgage. If we were still paying to stay in hotels, we would only be able to take a tiny fraction of the trips we manage in a year. For many families, the cost of a hotel rules out their top destinations, since tourist destinations often have significantly higher prices. For other families, it rules out family vacation altogether. In the best of situations, the cost of accommodation can consume a significant portion of the travel budget, limiting funds for other experiences or activities.
While some hotels offer kitchenettes or dining options, most rooms lack the necessary facilities for preparing real meals. This not only leads to increased expenses from dining out for every meal, but it limits flexibility with dietary needs and the ability to explore cooking local cuisine.
Wait! Before you give up on travel altogether, you should know there’s a better way.
We skip the hotels, and all of their inconveniences, and stay through HomeExchange, instead.
We stay in real homes, cared for by the families who call them “home.” We know who’s stayed before us, and we can communicate with them about any concerns or needs ahead of time.
You can choose from a variety of sizes and designs, but we always have a separate room from the kids! Instead of sitting by the toilet watching a quiet movie on a laptop, we snuggle up for movie night on the sofa in the living room, relaxing with a bowl of popcorn. With our own rooms, we have space to organize our things and create a home-away-from home in someone else’s living space. In the morning, we can put the coffee on while the kids play, or read a book on the back deck while the kids explore a new backyard.
Typically, we have our own home with plenty of privacy. Even when we stay in a condo or a split home, the walls are designed to better hold sounds for active families.
For $220 for a HomeExchange membership fee I can have endless exchanges. Last year, we ended up spending less than $2 per night for exchanges in five different states and three different countries. We can travel as much as as little as we wish, all for the cost of one night in a hotel.
HomeExchange is more than just a full kitchen with the ability to cook in. It’s an immersion in the local culture. Instead of the standardized experience of a hotel, our hosts connect us with the charm and authenticity of staying in a local neighborhood or community. We have all of the insider tips on best farm markets and local secrets.
HomeExchange restores the freedom to travel as a family. We don’t have to worry about unhygienic rooms. We’re no longer limited by space or inconvenient check-in times and restaurant hours. We can relax and be ourselves in a home away from home, and we can afford to escape as often as our schedule allows.