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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Trip planning when travelling with children

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 22 April 2007 | Views [2227]

How times have changed.

It's not like years ago where we just set off with a thin Lonely Planet Guidebook first edition (which often turned out to be wrong) and made it up as we went along. You can do that when your 25 and able to rough it but it certainly is less simple and certain when you have two young children in tow. I think if I were young and travelling now I'd be a significant user of CouchSurfing, a site where you actually get to meet local people one way or another. Having hosted several people ourselves, including a journalist and a family of five from France it can be as much fun as a host as it is for the traveller.

But our current circumstances make this a less practical option so we have tended to stick to booking places in advance: it is plenty stressful enough travelling with children without the added uncertainty on arrival.

There are so many excellent niche online services out there these days it's so easy to find, ask, review and book online, largely thanks to the power of Google which makes these services so easy to locate. We use TripAdvisor.com as a sounding board but don't book through the site. Having found a shortlist of names we tend to use Google to search for the actual owners sites themselves which is somehow more authentic for us. Another very niche site we like and use is i-escape, largely because there is so much variety out there, these people have been smart by limiting the number of places they list to a few of the finest boutique places they have found.

So, where to stay and what would we recommend? This is bound to be very personal and very subjective but this is our condensed list of places we would definitely recommend both for service, range and price. It isn't mean' to be definitive by any means and we have stayed at many more places but this is the best:

In Vietnam by far and away the most memorable place to stay was the Ha An Hotel in Hoi An. A beautiful small courtyard with a number of tasteful rooms, but what remains memorable was our two boys peering out into the courtyard at 5am when it was still dark waiting for the staff to set out breakfast. The moment they appeared at about 6am I reckon they woke half of Hoi An with their squeals of "breakfast!" as they went tearing out. Sigh.

In Laos we didn't find much that was particularly memorable in Luang Prabang, even though the town was simply stunning. Poor value for money but don't let that get to you. Last time we took a break in Thailand we stayed at the Baan Orapin in Chiang Mai which is a traditional old family home with a few rooms and a bungalow in the grounds. A splendid place to base yourselves.

At the end of 2006 we were planning a trip to Sri Lanka but cancelled that as the violence escalated. We found and booked the Secret Garden down in the south, the Havelock Bungalow for an overnight stay in Colombo and the Stonehouse Lodge in Kandy. None of these places have been road tested but they were the best we found and we'll book them again if the situation settles down a bit. Then, having canned that trip we thought we'd do India instead and found the following, but by then it was simply too late in the year and all these places were already full! In Goa the best we found was the Pan Jiminn Hotel, in Mysore we found the Green Hotel which looks pretty special and then in Kochi there was more choice but all the best places were already full: Fort Kochi, Malabar House and the Old Courtyard Hotel.

Now Bali is on our doorstep and although we are almost reluctant to share it, if you are going, stay in Ubud and stay at the Alam Shanti which is simply superb and won't break the bank. Our family stayed in the Ganga room ... go! And if you don't believe me, try these reviews on TripAdvisor. Definitely one place I could live full time and never come home.

Sigh.

If you are going to Lombok try the Santai Beach Inn. We stayed there in 1990 and much has probably changed but back then it was beautifully discreet and private and we have fond memories of our week or so there.

So now we have almost finished planning our next family trip to Italy and Greece in September and it does seem to be getting easier and easier. For an apartment in Venice we used venice-rentals.com, for one right in the middle of Amalfi we found rentvillas.com to provide good service and then for Rome we used RomanReference.com.

Tags: accommodation, places to stay, recommendations, travel planning

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