I want to start by saying, before I get lots of people dissing me for moaning about this – I have 3 children by choice. Nobody forced me to have 3 children. I am blessed and lucky and totally realistic about my situation. I understand that booking flights and hotels and eating at restaurants and getting into overpriced venues around and about the place will be more expensive because, no shit Sherlock, I have 3 children. Yes, I get this.
But, and it has now grown into quite a big, towering, throbbing but – should it really be so unbelievably impossible to book a relatively good value hotel in the UK for one night without it costing THE EARTH? I really can’t stress enough that I do not expect to get something for nothing. But really people, you must agree that hotel rooms in the UK are overpriced however many people you are booking for. It’s just that it is intensely magnified and very very incredibly impossible to find anything for a group of 2 grown ups and 3 non grown ups.
So, innocently, a couple of weeks ago, we started talking about the logistics of going to visit a family member who lives in Norfolk. It’s quite a long drive back to SW London so we usually stay overnight somewhere on the way home to avoid falling asleep at the wheel and causing a massive road traffic accident. That’s all we want though, a bed, a few hours sleep. In the past we have booked places on Airbnb which were great! A whole property to ourselves, not necessarily the cheapest, but very very comfortable and welcoming and happy to let us stay for just 1 night.
We are planning to go on our little jaunt up the M11 on the August bank holiday weekend. So, after having spent one evening a couple of weeks back having a cursory look, it dawned on me that this might be a bit more tricky than originally thought. It’s bank holiday weekend in the middle of the school holidays, and this part of the world is quite popular with holiday makers. Everything on Airbnb seemed to be booked up. Never mind I thought, Airbnb is out, but surely, surely there is a little b&b, or failing that, a generic, heavily advertised motel type establishment out there. You know, the ones that always advertise a friendly welcome, affordable yet comfortable accommodation.
The other important thing to point out is this: I have come to learn that now that our youngest is almost 6, and our oldest is knocking on the door of 12, we absolutely cannot get away with 1 big room in a hotel. In years gone by I fondly (through gritted teeth and wearing very very heavily rose tinted spectacles) remember the kids topping and tailing in a variety of pushed together sofas or beds. In reality, it was hell on earth. The kids were out of control, over excited balls of energy most of the time and me and the husband had to turn lights and tv off in order to trick them into going to sleep. We would lie in a pitch black room trying not to move until the sound of their breathing indicated sleep and by then we were probably snoring too. Invariably we would wake up the next morning, in a sweltering hot room with the stench of 5 sweaty people up our nostrils! However, at least it was cheap-(er)/ish!
The watershed moment happened when we all piled off to New Zealand for a holiday of a lifetime. Half of the time we were in a great big camper van – the kids were still just about small enough to all fit in the cabin over the driver’s cab and it was very cute seeing them all snuggled up together. This was fun and manageable for about 2 weeks. For the other part of the holiday, we stayed on the road in motels and hotels and had 2 rooms or on one lucky occasion, a massive room like a dormitory with a bed each! Everyone slept much better and we didn’t take hours to recover the next morning! So, we knew that there was no going back.
Fine. That’s fine. It’s all good you know. But in the UK there seems to be some disconnect. Like I said, I have not been forced to produce 3 offspring. However, I do ask that I am not penalised or vilified because of it. Here are a few things I have learned in my quest so far today:
An allegedly swanky boutique type hotel in a nearby village to where we are going actually does not take bookings from people with children.
Several hotel and comparison websites have those little boxes for you to fill in number of adults and children, but the number of children box only goes up to 2. So what do you do if you have more than 2? Is it just not allowed? I get very excited when I see hotels have ‘family’ rooms. On closer inspection this means that there is a double bed the size of a large single bed and a sofa with a sheet on it. By my reckoning this is a great room if you are a very skinny couple with a kid. One hotel had double rooms for over £100 but with a shared bathroom!
I have spent the last 4 hours and I am not shitting you here – 4 hours, looking for 2 rooms in a guest house/hotel that will accommodate us for one night to rest our weary heads and will not fleece us so that we are spending on 6 hours sleep what we might spend on a weekend away somewhere in Europe.
I have tried every conceivable combination of rooms, I have tried most comparison websites and lists and individual listings. I have sat with my road map locating places that are alleged to be ‘near’ to the place I have typed into the search box – they are in fact an extra 40 minute’s drive and they are not available anyway. My computer has frozen. I have sworn a lot in front of the kids, in fact I have just told them to stop talking to me because I can’t be responsible for what I might say or how much I might explode.
Is it wrong to feel like there should be something out there that will work for me and my situation? Last time I looked, there were quite a lot of people in this situation. Oh, but does that mean that we (meaning adults who need somewhere to sleep with their children) shouldn’t book hotels or if we do, we should definitely not expect to get something worth the extortionate amount of money we are paying for it? Is it right to expect me to book 3 double bedrooms for 2 adults and 3 children under the age of 12 at a cost of £300 plus, or to get a room that is so small and yet stuffed so full of extra beds still at a cost of around £200 that it feels more like a punishment than a good night’s sleep?
And is it really really true that every single fucking hotel in the region we are visiting is fully booked? I mean, if that’s true, then the tourist industry in this country must be doing considerably better than I had been lead to believe. Respect is due, especially seeing as most of the reviews on these comparison sites for a lot of these places are damning to say the least and put me off wanting to book them anyway. Having spent hours poring over these reviews I find myself seriously considering whether I should choose a bathroom with damp mould all over the ceiling over a room where all the furniture is dirty and the bulbs are broken in the lamps, or where the décor is late 80’s chintz and polyester, or where the hot water doesn’t work, the shower leaks and the toilet doesn’t flush. Oh yes, but they have a large family room for £250 – quick book it!
Seriously. Hoteliers of Great Britain. Get your finger out and do something about this!
I always start these searches in good faith, with an image in my mind of breezy, bright hotel rooms with lovely squishy beds, beautiful views of countryside from the windows, welcoming smiles, fresh air and a relaxing night’s sleep, oh, and change from £100.
I have now reached the predictable yet depressing point in my search where I am ignoring the fact that the hotel looks like a maximum security prison, sits at the intersections of 3 major roads, the windows are un-openable for security reasons, and the view at best is of a carpark, at worst of bins backing onto a carpark, at the edge of a busy dual carriageway.
Just because they are children, oh b&b owners of the world does not mean that they are little shits intent on destroying your Terry and June décor. They just want to go to sleep in a bed without their faces squashed up next to their sibling’s smelly butt. They, like you, want what is referred to as a good night’s sleep in comfortable surroundings.
My only other hope, apart from a miraculous finding of a generic heavily advertised motel type place at the eleventh hour, is to go to the free public event that a man has just handed me an invitation for. Yes, in the midst of my hotel search, I opened the front door to find a man standing in the pouring rain. My heart sank as I realized he had one of those bags stuffed full of those leaflets inviting you to let Jesus into your life. I felt bad for him as he must have clearly seen my face drop (I thought it might be the M&S delivery of school socks and pants). Luckily, he made a quick judgement call, handed me the ‘invitation’ and scuttled away and I closed the door relieved that he was not going to try any preaching on me today. On reflection though, maybe I’ll pop along. Maybe I need Jesus right now, because google, booking.com and tripadvisor are not cutting the mustard. It’s at Excel in London on the weekend we are supposed to be going away. But what the heck, apparently they can answer all my questions and there’s even a movie about someone called King Hezekiah. Could be good….