Most villa and hotel booking websites are great pre-kids, but after that they somehow fail to deliver all those little details you need to know as a parent travelling with children. “Kid-friendly” can mean anything from a mere tolerance of children to step stools in the bathroom and a fully accredited kids club. So the best way to find the type of accommodation that works for your family – no matter the kids’ ages – is to go to the sites that specialise in helping parents find the right fit in accommodation when planning family holidays. Here are some of the best accommodation websites for families for vacations primarily in Europe.
Luxury brand Mr & Mrs Smith are branching out to embrace their readers who still want that unique, boutique accommodation experience – but with kids in tow. As with the parent brand, Smith and Family is a combination of both hotels and self-catering properties – what makes their catalogue unique is their level of sophistication and attention to detail.
Reviewers are sent out to regularly experience the properties mystery shopper-style and the property descriptions are quite comprehensive – they list everything you need to know for every age group rather than giving just a generic description of “kid-friendly facilities”. For instance, they will tell you if a property is too large that you won’t be able to use the baby monitor from the restaurant as well as whether your pre-teen can attend the kids club.
Currently Smith and Family is soft launched in Europe only with properties in the UK, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, France, Italy and Spain. But expect a huge expansion next year when they will likely broaden to Asia and beyond. [To see some of Smith and Family's London offerings, read the suitcases&strollers story here. To read about Smith and Family's founder Tamara Lohan, read the suitcases&strollers profile here.]
This is a luxury family travel agent so once you have told them what you are looking for, they will do everything from coordinating appropriate car seats for your transfers to pre-booking the kids club and golf tee offs for the days you want a bit of a break. They can even organise to send nappies, sterilisers and other baby goods ahead so they are there on your arrival. Plus there is a 24-hour emergency concierge service to take care of annoyances such as lost luggage.
Their portfolio starts at babymoons and follows families right through all the stages. You can also search via experience, whether you want to pay full board or half board or even via flight durations and distance from the UK.
Particularly interesting are their Nanny Too packages where you can pre-book your allocated personal nanny who will be on-site with you throughout your holiday – without the cost of having to pay for her flight.
This luscious-looking site specialises in luxury hotels (although they do have some villas too), that cater to kids. Their collection includes properties in the UK, Switzerland, Spain, Morocco, Seychelles, The Carribean, Malaysia, France, Portugal, Greece, The Canary Islands, Mauritius, UAE, Oman, Thailand, The Bahamas, Italy, Cyprus, Tunisia, The Maldives, Jamaica, Indonesia and South Africa. Phew! As with most specialist luxury websites, some destinations have more options than others.
The search engine allows you to browse via experience, children’s age or activities and each property comes with a hotel round-up broken down into relevance to kids and benefits for parents.
This site acts as a full travel agency so Luxury and Little Ones can book flights and transfers as well as the properties for you. If you are booking accommodation in the UK, all payments are made by you direct to the hotels themselves.
This well-established accommodation booking website specialises specifically in places that go the extra mile for pre-schoolers. The presumption is that high chairs and cots should be standard – but it’s the little added extras that really change a hotel from being kid-tolerant to kid-friendly. But these are not tacky hotels with bright colours – Baby Friendly Boltholes also tries to source accommodation that is stylish and chic too.
Their search functionality on the site is extremely detailed – you can search the site by experiences (think foodie or beach, for instance), by age, by walking distance from the beach, heated swimming pool, ski lodge versus boutique hotel, the number of high chairs…it’s impressive. There is a comprehensive description of the accommodation plus, quite importantly, it’s content – where is it, why is this a good area to visit, what else is there to do in the region. See something you like? Then just click to book.
This site has been well established since 2006 so they are kind of experts in travel accommodation for families, especially for pre-schoolers. Their point of difference is that once you decide you are interested to book with them, Tots to Travel will set up a one-on-one consultation to help you find exactly the right property for you.
They visit every property specifically sourcing for kid-friendliness and they cover a range of prices of accommodation from luxury to the not-so. Their properties tend to be private villas, so these are not budget holidays. If you do want to do some pre-research yourself, you can search via helpful child-specific criteria that is more relevant to under 5s such as pool barriers, enclosed gardens and home-cooked food. Particularly interesting is their Tots Essential Kit guarantee which ensures that no matter which property you book, you will always be assured a minimum of child and baby basics will be onsite including stair gates, booster or high chairs, a hand-held blender and night lights in the kids’ rooms.
If you’re a bit obsessed with Downton Abbey, Luxury Family Hotels might be the site for you. Their niche is British countryside manors – think huge aristocratic properties set among lush greenery for walks, open fireplaces and just chillaxing. The specially selected English accommodations all boast unique historical charm with heavy oak doors or peekaboo widows and windy staircases. (There is even a bona fide Tudor castle for the kids to really live at playing princesses and knights.)
What makes this site work well for families is that along with a very comprehensive description of each property’s atmospheric offerings, they are quite clear about which ones work well for older kids and those that really go to extraordinary lengths to make even infants welcome (think synthetic bed linen for allergies, bibs and an integrated baby listening system that allows the receptionist to keep an ear on your baby if you are out of the room). To make this a true family holiday, if you prearrange it, you can bring your pets along with you.
Unlike the other websites, Luxury Family Hotels does not have a search mechanism so you will need to read every property description to compare – but given they only have 8 places to choose from, this isn’t too tedious.
For more on family-friendly accommodation booking websites, see the suitcases&strollers story Airbnb With Kids.