Finding family friendly accommodation can be really time consuming. When we started travelling, most of our planning time went into finding places to stay. Choosing where to go was relatively easy, it was finding the perfect place to sleep that was a challenge!
We've been on the road for over 600 days, most of that in South East Asia. We've stayed in some fantastic hostels, hotels and guest houses ... and some not so great ones. Here are the highlights, broken down by country. I've tried to include a range of accommodation to suit everyones budget.
We stayed in Bali at the very start of our holiday, before we'd learned how to budget so the accommodation prices below reflect that!
Little Pond is a small budget guesthouse with rooms set in two rows facing a small swimming pool and Balinese courtyard. It's not on the beach but if you cut through one of the nearby villa complexes you can be there in just a few minutes. The rooms are small, with either two single beds or a double. At only $20 a night with AC and private bathrooms a night, we booked two so everyone had a bed but at $20. We enjoyed our stay so much we ended up coming back a second time.
The company that manages Little Pond, Ellora also has several other fantastic budget properties. We had hoped to rent on of their apartments at Scape or The Studio but unfortunately they were fully booked out at the time.
We booked into Paradise Plaza Suites for four nights and ended up staying two weeks. What can we say, it was a great place to splurge! The hotel has giant-sized two or three bedroom apartments, as well waterslides and a kids club staffed with friendly attendants. We paid $90 per night on a last minute deal.
The big negative of this hotel is it's no where near the beach or town. But the apartments ahve a full kitchen and the hotel runs a free shuttle bus to the nearest supermarket (and the beach) so it's easy to self-cater.
Waking up each morning to fresh tea in a thermos on my balcony that overlooked a small creek ... still one of my favourite travel moments!
Nicks Pension has bungalows set amongst rice fields or down in a gully near the creek. We liked the latter. It's not on the main street but a short walk across a bridge gets you there in just a few minutes. We liked being halfway between the main street and the quiet rice fields as it made it easy to explore both. We paid $45/night for a bungalow with AC, private bathroom, WIFI, fridge, balcony, two twin single beds and two mattresses on the floor for the kids. The rooms were large enough that even with the mattresses on the floor we still had plenty of space. The rate also included breakfast for four (pancakes or toast with eggs/jam and fruit).
The pool at Nicks was also one of the best we've come across for young kids.
Closer to the main road than Nicks Pension but still down a quiet back street backing onto a rice field, Gayatri 2 had giant rooms with a even larger balcony's that offered fantastic view of Ubud and the mountains. For $45/night we had AC, fridge, private bathroom, a double bed, single bed and mattress on the floor. Breakfast was included (fruit, pancakes or toast with eggs/jam) but only for two people and it was served at their other establishment, Gayatri, a 5 minute walk away.
Overall we preferred Nicks. The WIFI was more reliable, the bathroom nicer, the pool better for young kids (Gayatri 2 had a pool but the childrens section was too deep for our 2 year old to touch) and the breakfast better. But the benefit of Gayatri 2 is the giant rooms and balcony. We met several families of 6 or 7 staying there that were easily accommodated in the one room. So if you are a large family it might be the better option for you.
Life in Amed is just like the village it's set in - small, picturesque and friendly. An A-frame bungalow with breakfast, AC, a queen bed and two singles costs $50-60 per night depending on the season and your bargaining skills. There's a pool and it's right on the beach, although the beach is certainly nothing to rave over. The restaurant serves amazing chicken satay and nutella jaffles (although not together)!
Les Manguiers is a small, family run budget resort set on the river 2km from Kampot. If you're after somewhere to relax for a few days, swim in the river, walk through rice fields, paddle kayaks and let the children run exploring the great outdoors this is the place to go. Since it's family run there are plenty of toys to play with, as well as a sandpit, treehouse, swing and badminton court.
The wooden bungalows are simple but have lovely furnishings. A bungalow with fan, private bathroom and two double beds will set you back $22 per night.
The negatives are there's no AC, there were a lot of bugs when we were there and you need to let the staff know several hours in advance if you want to eat any meals there as being out of town they need to get to the markets for food.
For $23 per night we had a room with two huge twin beds that opened up onto the swimming pool, with AC and breakfast included. The big selling point was the number of kids under 7 also staying there. It's a 5 minute walk to the beach and the main street, but we enjoyed the walk.
Orchidee also has family rooms for $30-40 per night.
The location isn't the best in town - on the main street but you're a short walk to everything. But we didn't mind as tuk tuks are cheap, Lucky supermarket is close and it has a pool. We bargained hard and were able to get a room with a double and two singles for $24 per night. The rooms and hotel grounds are spotlessly clean, the beds comfortable, the staff friendly and the restaurant serves great breakfasts. Even with the less than perfect location, Mekong Angkor Palace is hard to beat.
Hotel Royal is a budget hotel. The rooms are nothing special but they're clean and large. We paid $15 a night (walk-in rate) for a twin room with AC and private bathroom, but they also have a family room if you want separate beds for everyone. The highlight is the rooftop restaurant. It's relaxed and serves the best museli, fruit and yogurt I've ever eaten. We kept meaning to eat breakfast elsewhere but the breakfast was just too good.
The staff were also lovely. We arrived late in the night after a 14 hour boat ride that was supposed to be only 6 hours and when the staff found out it was our daughters birthday they ran out and bought her a Mickey Mouse cake with candles free of charge at 8.30pm!
Hotel Royal is located near the main markets, a 5 minute walk to the river and a 10 minute walk to most of the restaurants. They don't have a website but the instant you arrive in Battambang, Hotel Royal will have touts there ready to sell you a room!
Ahh VilayVong. Without a doubt the nicest budget accommodations we've found in South East Asia. Their advertised rates are $24 a night for a family in one of their garden villas, but their walk-in low season rates are half that if you bargain well. Ridiculously cold AC, cotton sheets of a similar quality to 5 star hotels, TV and a giant but basic bathroom. The beds are possibly the best we've slept on too!
VilayVong's bungalows are set just back from the water (sadly not riverfront) near the only car/bike bridge river. In other words it's just far enough out of town that you miss the tourist craziness but close enough into town to be convient to everything. The gardens and nearby river make it a perfect spot for families.
Youth Inn 2 is true backpackers territory. The rooms are bare and basic, the bathroom even more so ... but they're also clean and cheap. We paid $10 per night for an AC room with a queen bed and single bed. The location is good - halfway between the popular riverfront and the main road where many of the coffee shops, temples and mini-markets are located.
We stayed at Sarang Vacation Homes during our first visit to Malaysia and left feeling one of the family. Since then we've stayed there at least ten times and get the same warm welcome every time. The owners, Michael and Christina have several houses and two apartments down a small back street in Kuala Lumpur halfway between Bukit Bintang and Chinatown. You can rent a whole house or just a room. Their staff also make excellent babysitters. The monorail is just a few minutes walk away, which makes it easy to get around here even if the location isn't the most central.
Hotel Paradiso is a pretty typical hostel. The rooms are clean but uninspiring and the bathrooms are shared. The family room has a double and two bunks. Hotel Paradiso is quiet despite how busy it is and the staff love children, It's not the most glamourous place you'll ever stay and if hostels aren't your thing don't stay here, but we loved it for it's central location. Less than 1 minute walk to the monorail, taxi, restaurants and shopping centres. If you want somewhere cheap, family friendly and central it's hard to beat.
The Nest only opened two months ago. Inside is spotless and well designed. They have two family rooms with a queen bed and two singles, private ensuite and AC. Unlike a lot of places in Asia, the beds are actually soft! The staff are lovely and very friendly towards children. Situated in a local neighbourhood behind the hotels, it's less than a 5 minute walk to Bukit Bintang and a huge range of restaurants, and a 15 minute walk to KLCC. Well OK with kids it's probably closer to 20-25 minutes to KLCC but not for long - there's a new overpass walkway that should open early 2012 that will allow you to walk from behind Pavillion shopping centre to KLCC without crossing any roads in AC comfort. So soon a walk from The Nest to KLCC will involve crossing two roads and that's about it.
Set in a converted two story house, with rooms upstairs and a shared living area and kitchen downstairs, Annies Homestay is a great place for families. The location isn't perfect - a 10 minute walk to the beach but having a yard and lounge room for the kids to play in makes up for that! Prices range between $18-30 depending on whether you want AC, fan and your own bathroom. The nicest part about Annies are the owners. They treat everyone who stays there as a long lost friend.
Old Town Guesthouse in Melaka is basic but where else will you find an AC room with a double and two singles in Malaysia for less than $18 a night, including breakfast. It's situated in Chinatown, an easy walk to the river and heritage areas. The guesthouse is run by a family so they're very understanding when it comes to accommodation family travellers.
Malaysia doesn't have a strong gambling culture, except for a couple of exceptions. One of these is a one night cruise on the Superstar Libra out of Penang into international waters. While many people go on the overnight cruise to gamble in international waters, there are swimming pools and family-friendly activities. It's a great chance trial cruising as a family if you've never tried it! The online prices advertised through Superstar are expensive but keep an eye on Groupon Malaysia or ask the local tour agencies in Georgetown. You can get some ridiculously cheap deals!
Just a short walk to Orchard Rd, Holiday Inn is a great hotel to stay in if you find the right special. We were incrediably lucky to get a room with two queen beds for $45 a night including breakfast. The roof top pool has shade part of the day, the buffet breakfast had a great selection of cereals and fruits for the kids, and it was a short walk to all the best shopping on Orchard Road.
After staying at a particularly horrid budget resort on Koh Lanta we stumbled across the small boutique hotel, Phra Nang Lanta. We knew it was instantly out of our budget but we thought we'd look anyway. Big mistake!!! The rooms were amazing and huge (we could have easily lived in one). See the small bed on the right in the photo above? That's actually a large double bed. It just looks tiny against the largest king sized bed we've ever seen. Phra Nang Lanta was right on the beach and had a pool ... then they offered us a 50% discount due to it being low season and our budget went out the window.
It also had a very impressive bath!
If you are happy paying hotel prices on your holiday or want to splurge somewhere for a week, do it here. The rooms, food, staff and location are amazing.
Twin bed bungalows sprawling over a large area in a quiet bay in a relatively unknown tourist area of Thailand ... Prasarnsook is as nice as it sounds. It's a lovely place with kids - no traffic, secret paths, quiet beach, rocks to explore and the skeleton of a whale that washed up 30 years ago. The online advertised rates are a lot higher than the walk in rates - we paid $40 a night for an AC room with breakfast included.
SK House 2 offers a swimming pool, giant rooms with AC and private bathrooms, and a large family friendly restaurant area to hang out inside the walls of the old city for 400 baht a night. Need I say any more?
Cat Huy is a small hotel down a back alley in the heart of the backpackers area of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh. The AC rooms with private bathrooms are nicer than most 5 star hotels. We paid $34 a night including breakfast for their largest room. There's no lift so be sure to ask for a lower floor. The morning food markets outside your front door are fantastic to explore with kids.
Located in the heart of the old quarter, Classic Hotel 2 charges $24 a night including breakfast for a huge room with a king sized bed and twin single. The private bathroom is pretty basic but otherwise the rooms are clean and furnished with gorgeous solid wood furniture.
We stayed at the Romance Hotel in June 2010 just a few weeks after they opened. Everything was shiny and new, the rooms were huge and had all the appeal of a 4-5 star hotel. We had a superior twin room with an extra mattress and buffet breakfast for $40. The best part was it's one of the tallest buildings in Hue, so the view from the rooftop pool is fantastic. Just one block from the river next through the main backpacker area of Hue, it was perfectly situated to explore Hue by foot. The only negative thing we have to say about the Romance Hotel is that the pool isn't really designed for small children as there's no shallow area and the edges are slippery.
Want to do Halong Bay in style? Bai Tho Junks are amazing. 5-6 course fine dining, goreous cabins, staff that bent over backwards to make meals for the kids ... I can't recommend them enough. They don't have family rooms but the rooms have a large bed and a small couch/daybed that's large enough for a young child. It's cosy ... but certainly doable! The only negative was the boat moors in the same harbour as everyone else each night. Which after hours of cruising through Halong Bay without a glimpse of any other boats slightly spoilt our trip ... but only slightly.
I'm not sure how much we paid for our 1 night cruise as we arranged it was part of our Vietnam tour arranged through Private Asia Tours. I do know it was a lot less than the advertised price though so I'd definitely recommend contacting Private Asia Tours.
Speaking of Vietnam, we visited Vietnam with my mother and her partner so we decided to do a tour. Family had previously used Private Asia Tours and recommended them to us so we got in contact and were really impressed with not only their price but their flexibility in accommodating the kids. I asked for numerous modifications to their suggested itinerary to make it less hectic for the kids (shorter tours, family friendly destinations etc). Each time they happily modified the itinerary. Their local tour guides were really knowledgable and great with the kids. Our Hanoi tour guide spent most of his time teaching the kids magic tricks and how to make animals out of leaves. When our son split his eye open in one of the hotel after the tour had ended, the tour guide even caught a taxi in and took us to the nearest hospital. When they found out that most of the party were having a birthday within the next month the owner brought us a birthday cake and wouldn't accept any payment.
We were the only ones on the tour and paid rougly $60 per adult per day and $20 per day per child. That price included accommodation in minimum 3 star hotels, an internal flight, overnight train, airport transfers, tours, breakfast and an all inclusive 2D1N tour of Halong Bay. We could have got it even cheaper if we chose to stay in 2 star hotels, which in Vietnam are usually just as good.
The tour wasn't sponsored and we're not getting any kick-back for recommending them ... the company was just fantastic and Mr Ha that runs the company was just a genuinly lovely guy so we're happy to recommend them!!!