July 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
Traveling with two teenagers is, in many ways, much easier than traveling with younger kids. We have a third driver, two more people willing to prepare meals, and two strong bodies capable of carrying a pack up a mountain.
But finding the right accommodation is difficult or expensive.
When they were little–or even as recently as last year when they were just a little smaller–we could do a Priceline bid to get a cheap (and often upscale) room just a few hours before we needed it. We all fit into one room. But with Cole approaching 6’3″ at 15 and 13-year-old Ava hitting 5’6”, we need more space. It doesn’t help that these two teens are like Japanese fighting fish. If you leave them alone in the same bowl they’ll be fighting within seconds.
As I was planning our trip to the mountains, I was faced with having to pay for two–or three!?–rooms in order to have a place to crash after our long drive there and again after our overnight hike. So when the folks at Getaroom.com asked me if I’d like a bit of expert advice on family travel, I said, “Yes! Can you tell me how to get enough space for all these adult-sized bodies without going broke?”
“I have the same problem,” answered Bob Diener, co-founder of Getaroom.com and Hotels.com. “So we seek out vacation rental properties, professionally managed ones. These are usually available for the price of a small hotel room but have much larger (one- to three-bedroom) accommodations. Getaroom.com has these in many major destinations including New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando and many others.”
Knowing a bit about the market you are traveling to helps as well, he says. “Often putting two rooms together is less expensive than a suite in cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But in leisure markets such as Orlando, it’s less expensive to book a large suite.”
I quickly checked Getaroom.com for our destination: the Great Smoky Mountains. Getaroom.com had lots of hotels options nearby and the prices were great. But I didn’t find any suites or vacation rentals large enough to offer us enough beds.
I spoke to the folks at Flipkey.com recently, too, though. That site allows anyone with a property to list it for short term rentals including one night stays. And FlipKey.com does a little checking to make sure the people reviewing the places actually stayed there. So I hit that site next. And, sure enough, found quite a selection of managed condominium complexes available to rent by the night. The user reviews helped me find one that suited our family. I quickly fired off a few emails and had a bid on a two-bedroom condo with enough beds for all of us. It even had enough TVs for everyone. And the bonus that got my attention: A Jacuzzi tub in the master suite.
My husband Dan had already made a non-refundable reservation for two rooms at Howard Johnsons for the night we arrived. And his plan cost about $30 less than mine. He insisted we didn’t need to spend more. But when we checked into our Howard Johnsons rooms, he changed his mind.
“Wow! Sketchy,” Ava said.
“Seriously? Cole asked.
It was not as pleasant as it looked online. And we had trouble believing, as we looked for a working ice machine and at the weathered structure, the rave reviews he’d read at Hotels.com. Even the free Wi-Fi (an incentive for him to book here) didn’t actually exist. There was no Wi-Fi at all.
“What’s the number for that condo?” he asked, whipping out his phone. We still hadn’t booked anything for the night after our hike. And this hotel was not getting our repeat business. So he called and booked it.
Our hike was fabulous, though not easy. And after we hiked down the mountain and checked into our condo, I was delighted to have a full kitchen so we wouldn’t have to drag our tired selves out to dinner, a tub to soak in, and a wonderful comfy bed to crash on. The kids were delighted to get away from each other to their own TVs.
“Let me guess,” Cole said. “Mom found this?”
I got hugged and thanked by everyone and then I sank into the hot tub. You don’t really appreciate how brilliant a piece of technology the Jacuzzi tub is until you have hiked eight miles up a mountain, slept on a hard bunk, and then walked back down again.