Something I continually like to have a moan about are the challenges we face as a travelling family of 5; not a size I consider to be a large number but when it comes to booking a hotel, you may as well go looking for a summer camp dormitory if you dare suggest there are more than 4 in your party; or be prepared to fork out double the cash – after you’ve already forked out for the airline tickets, two taxi’s or a minibus…
Similarly frustrated by the lack of affordable accommodation options in hotels across Europe for ‘larger’ families, long-time friends Sandy Nielsen & Holly Jacobsen decided to tackle the problem head-on. The result was the creation of sleeps5.com, a website dedicated to helping families of 5+ find their perfect hotel solution, without the expense of needing to book two hotel rooms.
I caught up with Sandy & Holly to understand more about this fabulous website and how it helps family travellers.
BG: What inspired you to start the website sleeps 5?
Sleeps5: We created Sleeps5 together in 2006, after we each experienced difficulty finding hotels in Europe to sleep the whole family, with young kids, in one room. We did not want to book two rooms because of the extra expense, and because we’d have to split the adults in caring for children in each room.
We each have 3 children and spent hours and hours searching online, reading travel books, and contacting hotels directly. We found very few hotels that had a family room for 5 – the great number of family-friendly hotels suggested by travel books was narrowed to just a couple, as most family rooms meant 1 or 2 kids, not 3. We decided to help other families by placing what we had learned online, and created Sleeps5.
BG: Which locations do you cover?
Sleeps5: Most of the locations listed on Sleeps5 are large metropolitan areas, since large hotel rooms are generally more scarce there than in rural areas or suburbs. We focus on popular tourist destinations, or smaller cities with big attractions such as Legoland, in order to help the most families.
We began with cities in England and have since expanded to other European countries, the U.S.A and Canada, and recently have included cities in Asia and Australia. We expand city by city each year.
BG: How do you collect information on hotels and keep this up to date?
Sleeps5: We gather information constantly, from online or print resources, and friends and family. Readers and hotel owners do occasionally notify us about options through our email form, found on our Contact page. (We always love to hear from readers and hoteliers and we always reply to everyone!)
We mainly limit the listings on Sleeps5 to hotels that offer 24/7 assistance, though we do list a few apartments if a staff person is readily available most of the time.
When adding a new city to Sleeps5, we scour all resources to gather any possibilities. We try to identify options for all budgets, from economy to luxury. If a hotel has a room for 3 or 4, we contact the manager to inquire if that room can possibly accommodate five, such as with a baby cot (crib), or extra bed.
New hotel listings for an existing Sleeps5 city page are added frequently. Other hotels we learn about that have family rooms in cities we don’t yet list are kept on file, to be added at a later date when we do add that city to the website. Or, sometimes we list a few hotels in the blog section of our website – you can refer to the tag cloud for city names that are included in the blog.
It takes a lot of time to keep the information up to date, so we are grateful when readers or hotel owners notify us about hotel policy or room configuration changes or broken links. We do set aside time to methodically go through and check the information for each hotel in each city of Sleeps5, and we track our progress.
Sleeps5: Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or readers can enter comments or suggestions in the comment box of our Contact page, or message us on through our Facebook or Twitter pages. If a new hotel is suggested, it is helpful to know if any special accommodations were arranged and how those were communicated (such as an extra bed was requested by phone or via email), and what hours there is a staff person on-hand to assist with anything.
BG: Can you share with us any other travel frustrations you have suffered as a family of 5?
Holly: When children were young, it was worrisome that an airplane might have a seat reconfiguration and or missed flight situation where your family ends up sitting all over the plane. Overall, I have to say that whether it’s been San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua or Chester, England people have been overwhelmingly helpful and accommodating to our family.
Sandy: Planning taxi rides is difficult. We try to find detailed information on exactly how to get the large taxi or van service from an airport or within a city. For pickups to the airport, oftentimes a hotel staff person knows exactly which taxi service to call for a family of 5+.
Public transportation is always a bit unnerving, trying to keep track of 3 or more children through turnstiles or while boarding a train or subway. Our methods are described in this blog post. The good news – now our kids are teens or young adults and they love to travel and can handle any turnstile, decipher any subway map, and help us all stick together in the boarding process, along with us!
I was truly grateful to find Sleeps5 and I’m sure as our kids grow and we can no longer get away with throwing them all in the one big bed with us when need be we will be relying on this site a lot more more our family bookings. Thanks to Sandy & Holly for taking the time to talk with Our Globetrotters, and sharing some of their larger travel family wisdom with us.
Do you have any great hotels to suggest for sleeps5? Are their any other travel tricks you’ve learnt with your larger family?