Mama Holiday: travelling with big families

Time to just say it - the travel industry is failing large families. According to the last census, there are around 395,000 three-child families, 103,000 four-child families and 22,000 five-child families in Australia.

Yet the vast majority of accommodation options are geared towards mum, dad and two kids. Memo to the tourism industry: We're not all made with the same cookie-cutter.

Then there's ticketing. Most attractions offer family passes only for 2+2. I understand the economic rationalism arguments but this doesn't mean it's fair.

"It's very frustrating," says mother-of-four Vanessa Thompson, from Brisbane. "Often, the rooms aren't large enough, so we have to book a second room, or cabin, which makes it an expensive venture," she says.

The result? The Thompson family doesn't go on holidays. Fortunately, some websites, tour companies and hotels are wising up to this huge hole in the market. One site, rovingfamilies.com.au, was set up by a family of seven. The site says finding affordable holiday attractions that are "both child friendly and can accommodate a larger group can take a lot of time and effort".

The site lists where families of five or more can stay in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Another site, byokids.com.au, recommends Sunwing Resort Kamala Beach in Phuket, which has family suites sleeping up to six, and BreakFree Diamond Beach on the Gold Coast, which has three-bedroom apartments.

Travel writer and blogger Deborah Dickson-Smith raves about the Youth Hostels Association. "My partner and I have five kids between us," she says. "The YHA in Katoomba provided a double room adjacent to a six-bed dormitory, each with private bathroom, which was a perfect fit." She also rates apartment hotels, such as Adina and Mantra.

In its Bring the Tribe section, hootholidays.com.au includes Fiji's Plantation Island, where all the rooms allow up to two adults and three children, and Radisson Blu, where the two-bedroom suites fit up to eight people.

At the top end, the new Nanuku resort boasts luxury compounds, with a bure and double-storey townhouse, which could fit up to 10. Those seeking comfortable inter-connecting rooms should check out the Embassy Suites in Hawaii and Novotel Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast.

If you're after a holiday house, you can't beat airbnb.com.au, homeaway.com.au or, if you're willing to open your house too, aussiehouseswap.com.au.

And big4.com.au is terrific for caravan and camping grounds.

Tips for those with big broods:

■ Choose self-contained apartments or cottages rather than multiple hotel rooms.

■ Call the property agent, because third-party booking sites don't have all the information. You might get a child's rollaway bed that isn't available online.

■ Book a hire car early, if you need more than five seats. Make sure there's a big enough boot.

Finally, I'd like to issue a challenge. I invite any business, catering specifically for large families, to send me a tweet @spicer tracey.

These include:

■ Hotels with (affordable) large or interconnecting rooms.

■ Attractions that count 2+3, or even 2+4, in their family ticketing.

■ Anywhere with group discounts for large families.

Are we failing large families? I look forward to being proven wrong.

GOT IT COVERED

That's not your kids screaming all night on the plane. No, they're the ones cosily bedded down with their own neck pillows and eye masks in cute-as jungle scenes or candy-pink babushka prints. The Australian-designed travel products are kid-sized and include matching passport covers and luggage, thus teaching kids that if they want to bring it, they also have to carry it. Each item is sold separately so you can build the collection as your kids' needs change. Pillow, $19.95, eye mask and passport covers, $16.95 each. Phone (07) 3018 3504, see bobbleart.com.au.

Comments