When it is time to take the family on vacation, most of us think only about getting a hotel room. Sure, we might also consider a tent campground, a RV or travel trailer, and possibly even a beach condo, but how many of us realize that we have more choices for a place to sleep while on vacation?
To be honest, I am a pretty smart guy and I have been doing the vacation thing, first with my parents and then with my wife and kids, but until a few years ago, I never knew there was such a thing as a bed and breakfast or vacation home rental. I only become aware of these alternate types of vacation accommodations when I was in my early thirties – a decade ago.
The Campground Experience
My dad knew about hotels of course, but he would never consider spending money in such a wasteful manner. Until I was twelve, we only stayed in a tent when we went on vacation. Three years in a row, we got caught out in massive downpours while we were camping. Our tent – although pretty nice – leaked when it rained. Three vacations in a row, we had to pack up and leave in the middle of the night, after we woke to find ourselves in an inch of water inside our tent.
My mother had a great deal of influence over my dad… in a weird kind of way. After three years of ruined vacations, she put her foot down. She told him that we would never spend our vacations in a tent again. She got her way, but not in the way she expected. She won her argument; we never again spent our vacation in a tent. But dad got his way too; we never did spend money on a hotel room, instead, we spent his vacation in our own house. After I was twelve, we never again took a family vacation.
Well, that is almost true. When I was sixteen, dad bought one of those pop-up campers. When I was sixteen, we took a family vacation and stayed in the pop-up camper travel trailer. But wouldn’t you know… it rained and the camper leaked too. So that was the final end of our family vacations.
The Hotel Experience
As an adult, I did not have the same kind of qualms my father had about hotels. When my wife and I went to Las Vegas for our honeymoon, we stayed at the Stratosphere hotel. From our overpriced hotel room, we were able to look out our window and see… the concrete wall at the base of the tower. It was awesome.
After our kids were born, we took two vacations to San Antonio, where we stayed with my wife’s aunt and uncle. But the drive down was pretty lengthy, so we caught hotel rooms in transit. We would catch a hotel room for one night on the way to San Antonio, and we would catch a room on the way home.
We got on well with hotels in our travels, up until we stayed at the Best Western one night. Everything went well, until we went to check out. Imagine our shock and anger, when we realized that the hotel had supplied a PlayStation in our room, and our four- and six-year-old children got up in the middle of the night to play video games. Our $45 hotel room ended up costing us $120!! OMG I was pissed!
The Vacation Rental Experience
I have to say that when I finally discovered vacation home rentals, I was pleased to no end. If I am going to spend $120 per night, you simply cannot beat the vacation rental experience.
Especially when you are doing several nights at your vacation destination, the vacation rental makes a whole lot of sense. If you are yet aware of it, the vacation home rental is exactly what it sounds like. It is a home that you can rent, in the same way that you rent a hotel room, with a major exception. That exception is that the rental has seperate bedrooms for the guests, a full kitchen, a fenced backyard for the kids to play in, sometimes a swimming pool to swim in, and a comfortable living area, frequently with a big screen HDTV in it.
Think about the homes of your friends, and then think about the nicest home that you have been to. A vacation rental is generally even nicer than the homes of all of my friends and family.
Vacation home rental prices vary considerably, depending on location, size and features. But I have managed to rent a number of vacation rentals for as little as $125 per night. What was exceptional about that is that the vacation home rentals had a full kitchen in the house, with a complete set of dishes for cooking and eating. Although we were in some far off destination, we did not have to take every meal at a restaurant. That one advantage more than compensated for the additional cost of renting the vacation home. In the end, we found that our vacation home ended up saving us so much money on food, that we made a profit against what we would have spent on the hotel and restaurant food.
The Bed And Breakfast Experience
The bed and breakfasts (B&B) are an ideal solution for living the good life, but they are not always suited to bringing the kids along on your vacation.
A friend of my wife had told us about a bed and breakfast establishment that she had visited with her husband. She spoke of the experience of having someone cook for you and pamper you to no end. My wife’s friend enjoys the B&B experience so much that her and her husband visit one as often as possible, even if it is just across town.
My wife’s friend had talked up the experience so highly that my wife insisted that we must find a babysitter for our kids for the weekend, so that we could indulge ourselves in the Bed And Breakfast experience. We did, and it was truly enjoyable, relaxing, and memorable.
We checked into the B&B on Friday night and spent the weekend there. Friday night, we slipped into the hot tub for an evening of refreshing bubbles. Along with the hot tub bubbles, we enjoyed champagne bubbles in our drinks.
Saturday morning, we arose early to go horseback riding. Unlike the first time I rode a horse, it was an enjoyable outing. The first time I had rode a horse, the horse would just stop along the beach and snack on grass, ignoring me when I told him to go. After the horse guy came back and got my horse moving on two separate occasions, he finally broke down and switched horses with me. The change of horses did not fix the problem. Somehow, both horses had known that I had never been on a horse before, and they took advantage of me. 😉
But when my wife and I did the B&B weekend, we rode horses on Saturday morning, and my horse cooperated and did what he was supposed to do… Thank God.
For lunch, we were treated to a special meal – one of the best I have eaten in my life. Then we took a dip in the pool during the afternoon, and then took a short nap. At dinner, we were treated to a candlelight dinner in our room. We returned to the hot tub on Saturday night, then to our room for a night we will never forget.
We spent a leisurely Sunday morning in bed, before checking out in the afternoon. After leaving the B&B, we took a relaxed and slow drive home, and then picked up the children from the babysitters’ house.
It was a nice change from the ordinary.
The Overall Vacation Experience
I have learned a few very important lessons in the last ten years:
* I have learned that we don’t have to do the tent or camper experience and experience the frustration that my parents experienced on a family vacation.
* I have learned that hotels really are not all that they are cracked up to be and can provide many ugly surprises.
* After having taken the chance on a vacation home rental, I learned that if I was going to spend more than a night away from home with the kids, then a vacation rental would make our vacation time much more pleasant and enjoyable.
* After having taken the chance on renting a Bed and Breakfast suite for the weekend, I learned that if my wife and I get a chance to get away from the kids for a weekend, we would be fools to pass on the opportunity to spend our weekend at the B&B of our choice.
In the constant struggle to find holiday accommodations, many people see the best and worst of what can happen while on a family vacation. My parents struggled for years trying to create a memorable family vacation, and they were successful in all the wrong ways.
Unfortunately, vacations more often create abnormally high stress levels, when one is supposed to be trying to relax. As a result, many families frequently prefer to stay home when vacation time comes. But the good news is that there are better options available to anyone looking to experience a family vacation to remember – a vacation that is memorable for all of the right reasons.
It is my hope that you were able to laugh with me as I shared some of my personal vacation experiences. It is also my hope that I have opened your eyes to alternate vacation ideas that you can use to lower the stress and increase the enjoyment of your next family vacation, in the same way that I have been able to do for myself and my family.