August 12, 2009

Things to Know When Booking a Family Vacation to Europe

Most European hotels accommodate only two guests, which can be challenging and expensive for families planning a trip overseas. Many hotels have “triple” rooms that will accommodate three, and some even have “family rooms” or suites that sleep four. But families need to be very careful when booking these rooms, especially if trying to make their travel arrangements online.

There are two problems travelers can run into. First, the hotel may appear to have no rooms available, when that is not the case. Because these types of rooms are limited, hotels often require that the rooms be reserved directly with them, so they can block them off immediately and ensure they are not overbooked. Thus triple and quad rooms may not be offered online. The second is especially problematic because it is invisible to the traveler. Sometimes the booking engines are either not properly designed, or their database is incorrect, and they will allow a reservation to be made in a room even if there are too many occupants.

This happened to one of my clients, who booked two triple rooms with a well known internet travel company at what appeared to be a great price. I was working on other parts of her trip, so as a favor (and because I was suspicious), I called the hotel to confirm their reservation. I was informed that the family's reservation was for the wrong room type! Apparently the travel supplier was supposed to call the hotel and request the triple rooms before confirming reservations to make sure they were available, which they obviously did not do. My clients would have shown up in Rome, during high season, to find out that two of them had no place to sleep. Fortunately our agency had a good relationship with this hotel, and they corrected the reservation at my request.

So the moral of the story is: confirm, confirm, confirm! Or better yet, call a travel professional who is knowledgeable in booking Europe hotels. They can not only find the right hotel at the best price, but will have connections locally to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises when you arrive, and may even be able to obtain complimentary amenities or upgrades.

Instead of booking two hotel rooms, another option for families is an apartment or villa rental. This provides more space, privacy for the parents, and many of the conveniences of home such as a kitchen and laundry facilities. And often a two or three bedroom rental is no more expensive than two hotel rooms, and sometimes even cheaper. In my next post, I will give some specific recommendations from my favorite source for Europe apartment rentals.

For more information about planning a family vacation that exceeds your expectations, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist at

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