Finding the Perfect Hotel: Boutique Hotels for Families

How do you find the perfect hotel for families? I’ve always loved staying in hotels and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in a great many, from luxury resorts in the Maldives to tiny little places in the Greek Islands.

I do love the big luxury resorts –  provided they’re not too big or too bland. Hotel groups like The Four Seasons, Soneva and the Mandarin Oriental offer an indulgent experience second to none – and they’ve got some great facilities for children too.

But I do have a soft spot for the small and quirky, for those little boutique hotels that are stylish, friendly and that little bit different. Like riads in Morocco, paradors in Spain and havelis in India.

So when my oldest child was 18 months old, that was exactly what I was looking for – and I couldn’t believe how difficult it was. I wanted a small, chic boutique-style hotel like the ones we’d gone to before having children but that was welcoming to families. But everything I found seemed to be set up only for couples. If children were allowed in at all they were put up at the far side of the hotel, well away from the other guests.

Boutique Hotels for FamiliesAll the ‘child-friendly’ places I found were the sort of huge, impersonal hotels with crèches that we always swore we’d never go to.

It made me furious. Why should people be forced to compromise on their holidays when they have children? When you have a family, time as a couple becomes even more precious. When you do get some time alone together, do you really want it to be in the sort of place that you would never have gone to if you didn’t have children? Why should families feel that their only option is one of those vast, all-inclusive family resorts, with wall-to-wall entertainment and child care?

Other people told me that families with young children should go camping – or hire a villa somewhere. While I’d certainly agree that sometimes that little cottage beside the sea or apartment in a city is exactly what you’re looking for, whenever I go self-catering I end up doing all the jobs I came on holiday to avoid – the washing, the cooking and the cleaning. If there’s a washing machine I can’t resist the temptation to use it. If I’m in a hotel I’ll quite happily bundle all the dirty laundry into a bag and leave it in the suitcase until I get home.

For me, the ideal hotel is stylish and has a mix of both families and couples. You really don’t want to stay somewhere where you’re the only family. When we did that, we were constantly paranoid that our two boys were making too much noise in the swimming pool.

But I don’t want to stay in a hotel where everyone has children either. There is a fine line between staying at a hotel that welcomes children and staying at a hotel that is so welcoming to families that every room is full of them. There are children everywhere: in the pool, at the bar. The babies are crying, the teenagers are dive-bombing into the pool. You feel as if you’ve gatecrashed someone else’s house party and it’s not the kind of party you’d have wanted to go to anyway.

At these places there’s no need to worry about your own kids running around and shrieking. Yours seem positively quiet – but at a price.

We stayed at Villa Pia in Italy when our two were little. On the website it looked perfect: an 18th-century manor house in Umbria with the atmosphere of a country house party. There are great facilities for children – a pool, a tree house and garden – and in the evenings the adults all eat a four-course meal around a big table in the dining room.

But there were plastic toys all over the courtyard day and night and children absolutely everywhere. They were having a wonderful time of course but it wasn’t exactly relaxing.

Back when my son was 18 months old we got really lucky. I finally found a chic pousada in Brazil. It had a small pool and was a pleasant 10-minute walk to an idyllic beach with shallow water perfect for a toddler. Every afternoon they cooked a special meal for our son’s tea: rice, fish, mince and fresh fruit. There was no charge and they always asked us what he’d fancy.

Dinner was served every night in the restaurant which, because the hotel was so small, was so close to our room that we could put Edward to bed at the usual time, then tiptoe down to the bar and drink caipirinhas, baby monitor in hand, safe in the knowledge that he was fast asleep.

We had found exactly what we wanted: a hotel for grown-ups, where couples could enjoy some time together, but which was also perfect for children.

So how do you find that perfect hotel for your family? There are some great websites with lots of suggestions of places to stay. Take a look at:-

i-escape

Baby Friendly Boltholes

Smith and Family

Chic Retreats

I’m always on the look out for perfect hotels for families so do get in touch with your own favourites.

Pin It!Boutique Hotels for Families

 

COMING UP NEXT: My Four Favourite Boutique Hotels for Families

 

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21 thoughts on “Finding the Perfect Hotel: Boutique Hotels for Families

  1. We said! We are not campers and we feel your pain. We don’t think families with young kids should be forced to go without running water on holiday if they don’t want to do so!
    We share your penchant for resorts as you can see from our website.
    We never worried about “family friendly” hotels. We stayed in some super-swank places throughout Europe and the USA when our daughter was little. Our experience is that a good hotel will be welcoming. Always. The concierges are usually filled with excellent ideas for kid-related activities, if you just ask.
    Having said all this, for the first 3 years of our daughter’s life, for the most part we rented small cottages in Cape Cod and enjoyed the new experience for us of being a family.
    Looking forward to seeing your top four boutique hotels!

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  2. Most of the time we go self-catering because we just love having our own space. Apart from breakfast, which is best had in our own schedule and PJs (I hate having to get dressed to go to the bfast buffet in hotels), we go out for other meals, so no big chores in cooking and cleaning. But we also love staying in small boutique hotels when we think it’s better value, and our best experience with family friendly boutique hotels were in Bali. Apart from the child-friendly culture of the locals, we also found bungalows with private pools to be on the affordable side, so no sharing your (albeit small) pool with other people. Most of the restaurants were also happy to babysit your young kids while you’re having dinner. This is why we’ve been back in Bali time and time again (first time when The Kid was 7 months old, last time she was 7 years old).

    Another possibility that we found by accident, was to hire a villa next to a resort. You get as much privacy as you want, but you can sneak next door for drink, meals, beach lounges or playground for the kids. 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for your comments, Cherrie. I have to admit I’m a bit obsessed with nice breakfasts in hotels (!). I totally agree with you about Bali – one of my top four favourite family hotels was in Bali – and I’m desperate to go again.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes it’s all about the places that are small on space but huge on service and character. While in Italy this summer we focused on these types of places and it completely changed the way I look at travel!

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  4. Pingback: My Four Favourite Boutique Hotels for Families | suitcases and sandcastles
  5. My friend has recommended Baby-friendly boltholes to me – she’s used them and been very pleased with their offering. I have to say, I’d put up with having loads of children around, if the facilities were there to make the stay relaxing for parents – babysitting, play areas, children’s activities etc. There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you’re intruding on an adult-only space, when you travel as a family. Great post, some interesting points raised here.

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  6. Oh I hear you on the villas and camping – I don’t wan to do any housework on holiday either.
    When I have booked our family holidays, I spend the most time choosing the right hotel/resort for us, which is usually something that caterers for all demographics.

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    • I can spend ages choosing the right hotel. It’s one of the most important choices for me. I do love staying in cottages too sometimes but there’s something so wonderfully indulgent about a good hotel, even if it’s a tiny little b&b with stylish rooms and a good breakfast. Thanks so much for commenting.

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  7. Great topic for discussion Clare! I still don’t have children, but I always worry when I do I will have to compromise so much that i will have to end up changing our way to travel (I honestly hate that idea). So it’s very interesting to read about boutique hotels, which are also family friendly. I’m glad you found a good one in Brazil 😀 normally there shouldn’t be a problem finding a nice and family friendly hotel 😀

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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    • I really hated the idea of changing the way I travel when I had kids. Obviously you have to make some changes when you have children but I really don’t see why, with a little planning, you can’t still find brilliant places to stay in that are just as lovely as the sort of places you used to love – but not the sort of places where everyone’s going to roll their eyes when they see you coming either! Thanks for having me on #MondayEscapes. It’s a great linky.

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