Tag Archives: Airbnb

Why We AirBnb

Traveling with a bigger family can be expensive.  Obviously buying six plane tickets or train tickets adds up, but we also have other added complications because of the size of our group. We almost always need advance dinner reservations if we want a table at peak times because it’s hard to squish six extra people in.  That means we always have to plan dinners at least a day or two in advance, which isn’t always possible. We can’t rent a standard size vehicle because they only have five seat belts, so we always have to upgrade to an SUV or van, which is, of course, more expensive.

The worst thing though, is that we can’t usually fit in a single hotel room — the limit there is almost always five people as well — so we need to rent two rooms.  Obviously doubling the cost of accommodations is a big hit to the wallet.  We’ve also run into difficulty where hotels don’t have adjoining or even adjacent rooms, which means Matt and I separate and each take two kids.  That’s a pain in the butt, to say the least, and when coupled with the significant additional expense, it makes hotels not very appealing.

Before moving to England, we’d never used Airbnb before, but now we use it almost exclusively.  It is THE BEST source for family accommodations, in my opinion.  For far less than the nightly cost of two hotel rooms, we’ve rented entire apartments where every kid has their own bed and there are two bathrooms and a living room with couches and a television, and the best part — a full kitchen. 

My kids wake up hungry, but when we’re staying in a hotel we have to all get showered, dressed, and ready for the day before we can go eat.  Having a full kitchen means the kids can be eating breakfast while Matt and I get ready and by the time we leave the room, we’ve already eaten and can start whatever that day’s adventure is straight away.  It also means that Matt and I can usually get a cup of coffee in before we head out, which makes everything easier to handle.

The other great thing about Airbnb is that the hosts are usually really happy to help us plan our travel.  Our hostess in Rome arranged the van that picked us up at the airport and had treats for the kids and bottle of wine for Matt and I awaiting us on our arrival.  Our host in Praiano arranged the car service that drove us from Naples to the Amalfi coast and back and gave us restaurant recommendations for our stay.  Our hostess in Edinburgh stocked the kitchen with croissants, yogurts, fruit, coffee, and milk so we’d have breakfast on our first morning because we were arriving very late and no stores would have been open.  Our host in Chamonix coordinated our ski rentals with the shop in French so we didn’t have to deal with the language barrier.  We’ve had really great experiences and excellent assistance from our Airbnb hosts. 

We don’t even look for hotels anymore when we’re traveling because we’ve had such success with Airbnb.  Our one bad experience, when we couldn’t get in to the apartment near Disneyland Paris, was a complete fluke and we were compensated for the night we weren’t able to be in the apartment. 

Another bonus is that, with an apartment, you have a little more space to spread out than you do in a hotel room.  When we were in Edinburgh, one afternoon was really cold and wet and we were all hungry but because the weather had turned quickly, every restaurant nearby basically filled right up with people escaping the cold. After trying 3 or 4 places and being told there was a 45 minute to one hour wait, we walked to a take-out place and got food to go, hopped in a cab, and went back to our apartment.  We ate at the kitchen table, snuggled up on the couches in the living room and watched a movie, warmed up, rested a bit, then went back out that evening to the Christmas markets.  If we’d have been in a hotel room, we’d have been crammed in with little space to relax and would have had to eat basically sitting on the beds or on the floor.  Apartments give families more flexibility.

Plus, the places we’ve stayed have been SO MUCH COOLER than a boring old hotel would be.  Our apartment in Rome had two lofted bedrooms, and the coolest entrance ever — that’s it in the first picture at the top of this post.  Our place in Naples had the funniest entrance ever — basically a tiny hobbit door in the immense full-size door that even the kids had to duck to get out of.  Matt could barely fit! 

Our place in Edinburgh had a gorgeous view from the kitchen window.  Our place in Praiano looked right out on the Mediterranean and we ate breakfast on the patio every day.  Our place in Chamonix was directly below Mont Blanc.  We’ve had way cooler experiences in these quirky places than we ever would have had in a hotel room.

Traveling with a big family can absolutely be complicated and stressful, but Airbnb has absolutely made our travels more fun and for far less money we’ve had better accommodations.  I can’t imagine we’ll ever go back to hotels!

If you use this link to book your travel on Airbnb as one of my friends, you’ll get a travel credit for your reservation!

Save

Save

Italy, Part Three: Naples, Vesuvius & Pompeii

Naples with Kids

We took the train from Rome to Naples on the third day of our trip and again, loved the train ride.  It’s a really relaxing way to travel, seeming to slow down the often-frantic pace of traveling and forcing you to sit and look out the window as the scenery goes by.  We found train travel in Italy to be a fantastic way to get around this beautiful country!

IMG_0831

We arrived at around 10:30 AM and took a taxi from the train station to our next Airbnb apartment, which was very cool and VERY modern.  The apartment had several lofted sleeping areas that the kids LOVED, but for the sake of safety, we wouldn’t even let them sleep on the highest one.  (Not to mention that it was lofted above the room Matt and I were planning to sleep in, and the whole point of the Airbnb is so I don’t have to share a room with my kids on the trip!)

Naples sort of shocked me though; it is a DENSE city. 

IMG_0838

We had three very important events planned for our short (one-night only!) stay in Naples: a horseback ride up the side of Mt. Vesuvius, dinner with an old friend of ours who just moved to Naples for work last fall, and a tour of the ruins of Pompeii.  We were only in this area for about 30 hours, but we packed a lot in.

We booked the horse ride up Mt. Vesuvius months in advance; I read about it on Pinterest while researching the trip and, as far as I can tell, Horse Riding Naples is the only company that does this type of tour up the volcano. 

IMG_0865

It. Was. Epic.

Bridget and Gabe each had their own horse, but Owen and Quinn rode with me and Matt.  Although they were both annoyed that they couldn’t be on their own even though they’d both ridden before, once we actually started up the side of the mountain, I was really relieved the smaller kids were with adults.  Parts of the trail were really narrow and pretty rocky and uneven; in some areas my boots touched the rocky outcrops on either side of the trail we rode through.  Although it was absolutely breath-taking and amazing, if Owen and Quinn had been on their own I would have been really nervous about their ability to stay on through the particularly steep sections and to keep the horses going in the right direction.

IMG_0866

The ride itself really was not difficult at all; there was another family with us who had never ridden a horse at all before, and they had no trouble.  The guides and the horses know what they’re doing.  The scenery was pretty unbelievable the whole way up the side of the mountain.  But I was still glad that my smallest children — both weighing in under 60 lbs — were attached to adults with a little more strength and sense.   IMG_0888

When we reached our clearing, bordering a lava field from the last eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1944, and looking out at the most amazing vista of Naples and the Bay of Napoli, we dismounted to give ourselves and the horses a little rest and so we could explore this incredible location.  It was breath-takingly beautiful and just unreal. 

IMG_0884

The kids spent a good twenty minutes climbing around on the lava, picking through the rocks and pocketing some souvenirs.  Our guide Roberto pointed out some key sites and showed us the smoke rising from the crater higher up on the mountain, evidence that Vesuvius is still very much an active volcano.  It was absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

IMG_0908

After an equally amazing descent back to the stables, Roberto shared with us some lovely red wine made by his family from their vineyard located just a little ways away there at the base of Vesuvius.  Our other guides, it turned out, were Roberto’s uncle and his cousin!  The whole experience was so unique; rather than feeling like tourists simply looking at and hearing about this renowned and historic location, we were actively exploring it alongside people who had lived there their whole lives.  Such an immersive experience is hard to come by on a short trip, and I was so grateful for the experience.  The children ABSOLUTELY loved it and have said it was the coolest thing EVER.

IMG_0901

That night we met our friend Liz at a little restaurant not far from our apartment for dinner.  In Italy most restaurants don’t open for dinner until quite late by American standards, but we made a reservation for 7:30 — the earliest possible time to book.  We were literally the only ones there.  The food, as you’d expect, was amazing, and it was lovely to catch up with an old friend in a new place.

IMG_0937

The next morning we woke up and packed up — we had a tour of Pompeii that morning and instead of returning to the apartment afterwards, we had a car service picking us up at the entrance gate to Pompeii to drive us to our next stop on the Amalfi coast. 

Although there was a direct train from the station near our apartment to the Porta Marina gate of Pompeii ruins, we decided instead to take a cab.  With 6 suitcases and 6 backpacks, the train, though a much cheaper option, sounded a bit daunting.  Our cab driver brought us right to the Pompeii train station we’d have gotten off at anyway — we wanted to go there because there was a bag check service where we could leave our luggage while we did our tour of the ruins.

IMG_7317

We met our tour guide Jeanette, again from Angel Tours, at the gate to Pompeii and she expedited us through the line, another benefit of the tour service.  Jeanette was an extremely knowledgeable and personable guide; she kept the kids absolutely engaged throughout the day.  Pompeii was big — bigger than I anticipated — and we saw a lot of it.  Again Gabe was really proud of his knowledge of Ancient Romans when he was able to answer several questions on the tour. 

IMG_1109 IMG_7329

Before our trip we’d also made a point to read a few books geared toward Owen and Quinn that would give them a better understanding of what we’d be seeing: Vacation Under the Volcano is a Magic Tree House book about Mt. Vesuvius that did a really good job of explaining what happened without being terrifying.  We also read the Magic Tree House non-fiction companion book about Ancient Rome and Pompeii that I highly recommend if you’re traveling to Pompeii with younger kids.  And actually, I read both books out loud to all the kids over the course of a few evenings before the trip, so I think even my older kids learned a lot from the books that they were able to relate to the real thing when we were there.

The most interesting thing I think we all took away from our tour of Pompeii was this: scientists have learned that Vesuvius has a fairly regular eruption cycle.  The last major eruption took place in 79 A.D. and covered the city of Pompeii in the ash that preserved it until the present day.  Prior to that, the last major eruption was approximately 1,900 years earlier, and then again about 1,900 years before that.  There are also usually smaller eruptions about every 60-70 years, but those don’t generally result in major destruction — the last one took place in 1944 and created the lava field on the side of the mountain that we saw on our horse ride up Vesuvius.  However, 72 years have passed since the last minor volcanic eruption of Vesuvius.  And 1,937 years have passed since the last major eruption.  Some people believe that the volcano “skipped” the last minor eruption because she is gearing up for the major one that’s due…basically now.  You could almost see the gears in the kids’ heads turning as our tour guide posed the questions to them and let them do the math.  A bit unnerving certainly, but our guide assured us that scientists monitor the volcano very closely for any uptick in activity, so we were perfectly safe.  That little tidbit, though? An absolute highlight that has been widely discussed over and over since the trip.

IMG_7390

Although we were only in the Naples area for less than 2 days, it was one of the most interesting parts of the trip.  Between the incomparable horse ride up the face of an active volcano and the in-depth tour of the incredible ruins at Pompei, I felt like we’d really made the most of our time there.  I’d highly recommend both activities if you’re planning a trip to that area!


Also, here are Part One in RomePart Two in Florence of our Italian vacation!


 

Edinburgh, Scotland

IMG_6227We went to Edinburgh, Scotland for a weekend in November and absolutely loved it.  We actually took the kids out of school and left on Thanksgiving Day — Matt is on a US holiday schedule even here, so he had a long weekend and we wanted to make the most of it.  The kids’ school was great about us taking them out for a day.

Even though Edinburgh is only a few hours drive from us, we found really, really inexpensive plane tickets (under $250 total for six people!), so we flew there.  The flight was just over an hour long — so quick and easy!  Since there are six of us, we usually can’t fit into one hotel room, which can make hotel accommodations expensive.  In general, we now skip hotels entirely and just use AirBnB — WE LOVE IT!

edinburgh aribnbThe place we rented for our weekend in Edinburgh was absolutely perfect–close enough that we could walk to the main downtown area near Edinburgh Castle and the Christmas Market, with plenty of space for all six of us.  Plus we had a kitchen and living room so we could really relax during our downtime.  This picture above is the view from the kitchen window our first morning — definitely a wonderful start to our Edinburgh vacation. Below you can see the kids having breakfast before we headed out for the second day.  I highly recommend this property if you’re going to Edinburgh, and the host was really helpful and lovely!

20151127_081750We set out our first morning in search of something to eat before heading to Edinburgh Castle.  Matt got the “Scottish Breakfast” which included haggis.  We all tried a bite.  Not my favorite, honestly, but it was better than I anticipated it being and I’m glad I at least tried it.  When in Scotland, after all!  

20151127_102808From breakfast, we headed to Edinburgh Castle, stopping first in the Prince Street Gardens to play on the playground.  We really do seek them out everywhere we travel; it’s a good way for the kids to burn energy, have fun, and stay engaged and excited about where we are and what we’re doing.  Thirty minutes on a playground buys Matt and I a few hours of happy kids, so it’s well worth it.

IMG_6226Edinburgh Castle is really, really cool.  It overlooks the city from it’s perch atop an extinct volcanic hill.  It looks like it just grew sort of organically out of the rocky hilltop.  We walked up the paths along the steep hill to get there, which was really cool — it just kept getting bigger and bigger the closer we got, and the views from the hillside and atop the castle were amazing. 

IMG_6241 G and DadThe castle, obviously, was really big and there was lots to explore — we did part of a guided tour, but then broke away to check it out on our own. 

IMG_6254The weather turned pretty nasty part way through the day, though, so then we mainly stuck to the indoor exhibits rather than get blown off our feet by the wind and rain.  No one minded because there was plenty to do inside, and we’re hoping to go back to Edinburgh in warmer weather and explore the exterior of the castle a bit more.

We walked the Royal Mile, checked out some really cool shops, bought tartan scarves for all the kids, and then headed to the Christmas Market.  I already wrote all about it, but I’ll just say it again: Edinburgh Christmas Market is a fairy tale and if you can EVER, EVER go to it, you should. 

Coincidentally, one of my good friends from college, Leah, and her husband were also in Edinburgh that weekend!  They are living in London for a year, and we hadn’t had a chance to get together yet, but we met up at the Edinburgh Christmas Market!  So fun. 

IMG_6243The next day was windy, rainy, and cold again, so we planned some indoor fun.  We went to a really amazingly cool museum called Camera Obscura.  It’s the white tower on the upper left hand side of the picture above, and it was AWESOME.  Located on the Royal Mile just outside the Edinburgh Castle grounds, it was basically 5 stories of optical illusions, brain teasers, and puzzles. 

20151128_130954We spent hours there and everyone loved it.  It was really cool and I highly recommend it as an indoor option if you’re visiting Edinburgh with kids.

fam photo camera obscura camera obscuraWhen we left Camera Obscura, we were all ready for lunch, but the nasty weather had sent a lot of people indoors and we couldn’t find any restaurants with seating for 6 people and less than an hour wait.  So we went to Pret a Manger, got sandwiches to go, and took a cab back to our apartment.  This is why Airbnb is so great — we were able to hang out there for a while and watch a movie (we were all cold and ready to take a break), we could enjoy our lunch without stress, and then we got cleaned up and headed back out a bit later when the weather cleared up.

We were only in Edinburgh for 2.5 days, but we really loved it — even though the weather was cold and rainy, no one complained even once and we had a great time.  We’re really looking forward to going to back to Scotland again!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...