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November 2016

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The idea was conceived last October on a flight from Rome to Los Angeles.  My wife, Lisa, and I were discussing what to get our kids for the upcoming Christmas, when it suddenly occurred to us to give them the gift of travel.  Instead of giving them material gifts, we would give them the travel experience of a lifetime.

Over the next 8 months, we planned an epic tour of Italy. The trip began in Rome with additional stays in Florence, Monterosso Al Mare, Naples and Salerno.  We used these locations as a base camp for additional day trips to Venice, Vernazza, Manorolla, Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii.

As it turns out, most Italian hotel rooms are designed for a maximum of 4 occupants.  Finding rooms  for a family of 5 was quite difficult.  Our goal was to find suites or apartments that could accommodate all 5 of us.  We didn’t want to separate into 2 rooms if possible. The difficulty of our search was compounded by the fact that all 3 of our kids are teenagers.  Our 2 boys are both 6 feet tall, so the use of rollaway beds was out of the question.

With a lot of research and planning, we were finally able to find accommodations that met our goals.  Following are the 5 hotels that we visited during our tour of Italy:

  • Trevi Rome Suites, Rome: (www.TreviRomeSuite.com)

The Trevi Rome Suites are situated about 200 yards (meters) south of the world famous Trevi Fountain on Via De Luccesi.  It is centrally located within close proximity to many of Rome’s historic attractions.  It is a 10-minute walk to the Spanish steps and the Pantheon.  The Colosseum  is only about 1 mile away.  There are a few other locations, such as the  Vatican or train station that will require a taxi.  However, it is possible to walk to those locations like we did, if you are fit and adventurous.

TreviRomeSuite

The hotel sits on the third third floor in one of Rome’s many historic buildings.  We stayed in the hotel’s apartment which easily accommodated our family of 5.  The Family Apartment is basically one large room with pony walls separating the various sleeping areas.  The sleeping accommodations consisted of 1 king bed, 2 queen beds, and a sofa bed. The apartment only has 1 bathroom, but it is large and has two showers.

One of our favorite things about the hotel was the room service.  For no additional fee, they allowed each guest to order 5 things from the menu.  For our family, that consisted of a whopping 25 items.  Our breakfast table usually consisted of bacon, eggs, croissants, fruit, smoothies and cappuccino. Our boys usually ordered cheese cake as well.  Be sure to make your room service reservation early the night before.  They are only equipped to prepare one breakfast every 15 minutes, so it’s important to reserve your time early.

The Trevi Rome Suites was one of our favorite hotels of the trip.  The room was spacious and clean.  The bathroom was huge and the staff was extremely nice.   It has a wonderful courtyard that is complete with trees and sculptures.  It is a nice place to enjoy a glass of wine or proseco, which can be purchased at the front desk for about 6 euros per bottle.  The amazing pictures they provide on their website are exactly what you get.   It was the perfect option for our family of 5.

  • Tourist House Ricci, Florence: (www.TouristHouseRicci.com)

We stayed in the Tourist House Ricci Apartments, which are in a different location than the hotel.  The apartments are located about 200 yards (meters) south of Piazza Del Duomo, which is in the heart of Florence’s historic district.  Nearby landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio and Galleria dell’Academia, which are within a 10-minute walk.

TouristHouseRicci

The apartment is located on the 3rd floor of a building that also includes permanent residents.  Be prepared to use the stairs, because the elevator is only big enough to accommodate one passenger at a time.  The apartment opens up into a large living room that is complete with a dining room table and futon.  The futon converts into a small bed that sleeps 1 person.  There are also two large bedrooms.  Each of them is furnished with a queen bed, which will accommodate 4 more occupants.  If you plan on cooking, the apartment includes a small kitchen that is complete with a stove, oven and refrigerator.

On the advice of the management, we booked the apartment directly with them instead of through a third party such as Expedia or Booking.com.  They told us that it would guarantee that our room wouldn’t be overbooked and given to someone else.  They sent us pictures, which showed a luxury apartment that included a balcony.  We were excited and made plans to take a family picture on the balcony.

When we arrived, the manager took us to our apartment.  Much to our surprise, it looked nothing like the pictures that were emailed to us.  While the furnishings were adequate, they certainly were not what we had been promised.  Instead of a balcony, we had a view of an alley that was covered in graffiti.  We questioned the manager immediately about the apartments appearance and lack of balcony.  His response was “I don’t know.”  We later found out that the pictures were of Apartment 1, which was given to someone else.  We were given Apartment 2, which seemed to be the leftover apartment that was thrown together.

Unfortunately, things only got worse from there.  The next morning, we found out that there was no hot water and we were only given 4 towels for a family of 5.  We also discovered that we only had 1 roll of toilet paper.  We ended up going to the store to purchase more supplies.  Keep in mind that this was an apartment, so the rooms aren’t cleaned daily like a hotel room.

We were disappointed that we didn’t get the room we expected, especially when it was reserved 4 months in advance.  We have sent several emails to the management since we left to find out why our room was given away.  It is now 8 weeks later and we have still not received a reply.

Until this hotel makes drastic changes to their customer service, we cannot recommend staying at the Tourist House Richie Apartments.

  • Bellambra 5 Terre Apartments, Monterroso Al Mare:  (www.Bellambra5Terre.com)

The Bellambra Apartments are located about a half mile (800 meters) east of the train station in the old town section of Monterroso al Mare.  If you arrive with lots of luggage, we suggest that you take a cab.  However, the walk is not difficult. Some of the best shopping and restaurants in town are right outside your door.  It is also a short walk to the beach and the foot path Monterosso.

Bellambra5Terre

The apartment we stayed in was located on the second floor of a building that was constructed in the 15th century.  It had been completely modernized with the exception of the ceiling, which was left natural, for aesthetic purposes.  The sleeping arrangements consisted one king bed, a bunk bed and a separate room with 2 twin beds.  The living room had a sofa bed that could sleep two more guests.  The apartment easily accommodated our family of 5.  The living room was furnished with 2 large couches and a large flat screen TV. The apartment also included a large kitchen with professional fixtures for those who like to cook.

The owner, Hedda, met us when we arrived and gave us a tour of the apartment.  She sat down with us and marked the location of her favorite restaurants on a map.  She also gave us

up-to-date information about the Cinque Terre hiking trails.

Our only disappointment about the apartment was that we only got to stay for 2 nights.  Next time, we hope to stay for a week.

  • Municipio Prestige Apartments, Naples: (www.MunicipioPrestige.it)

We stayed at the Municipio Prestige Apartment for only one night.  We used this location as a starting point for a tour of the Amalfi Coast.   The apartment is adjacent to the Port of Napoli and is one block north of the Castel Nuovo (new castle).  It is very hard to find, due to the fact that the building is unmarked.  The door to the hotel is situated between a snack bar and a currency exchange and is not marked with any signage.

MunicipioPrestige

The hotel management arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at the train station and take us to their location.  Unfortunately, they didn’t give the driver the correct address and he didn’t speak any English, so we were dropped off at the wrong address.  After wandering the city for an hour and a dozen calls to the apartment manager (who spoke very little English), we finally arrived at our destination.

We stayed in the hotel’s master suite, which was quite spacious.  It was decorated with modern furniture and was very clean.  The sleeping arrangements consisted of a master bedroom with king bed and the living room included a twin sofa bed and a queen sofa bed.   It included a hot tub and sauna.  There was also a small kitchen complete with stove, refrigerator and cappuccino machine.

Municipio  Prestige was visually impressive, but there was only one problem:  No hot water!  It’s nice to stay in a luxury suite, but having to start your day with a cold shower is difficult.  The Wi-Fi is horrible, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but we were trying to confirm airline information due to a strike, so it was imperative at this time for us.

If you decide to stay at these apartments, be sure to get a guarantee from the management that hot water will be provided.  Also, make sure to get a shuttle that takes you directly to the hotel, so you don’t have to wander the City searching for it.  Naples wasn’t the most comfortably safe place to be walking around in.

  • Plaza Hotel, Salerno: (www.PlazaSalerno.it)

The Plaza Hotel is located at the east end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is the city’s main shopping area.  It is conveniently located about 100 yards south of the train station, which makes it an ideal location when travelling with lots of luggage.

PlazaSalerno

Salerno was the only city where we were unable to secure a suite or apartment.  Instead, the Plaza Hotel was able to provide 2 rooms that were connected by a common door.  We were able to get one room with a double bed and one room with 3 twin beds, which comfortably accommodated our family.  Each of the rooms had a separate bathroom with a shower which had plenty of towels and hot water.  They also had a stocked mini refrigerator with affordable drinks.  The rooms were perfectly adequate for our needs at the time.  The furniture and decorations were dated, but the room was very clean and the beds were very comfortable.

The hotel provided a continental breakfast which was available from 6am to 10am every morning.  It was stocked with fresh pastries, cereal and fruit.  American style coffee was also provided as well as a good selection of fruit juices.  It was very convenient to grab a quick bite to eat before we headed out for a day of sight-seeing.

If your main priority is a clean room with comfortable beds, then the Plaza Hotel will work for you.  It certainly isn’t a luxury hotel, but it filled our family’s needs at the time.  We would definitely stay there again.

We hope that these reviews will help you plan an Italian adventure for your family.  Keep in mind that all of the opinions in this article are our own.  Unfortunately, none of the hotels listed compensated us in any way for our reviews.

Ciao!

Author: Bob Kelsoe

Do you watch National Lampoon’s Vacation movies before having kids? You probably had some good laughs. Unfortunately, most parents don’t think the movies are as funny, because they are a stark reminder of the nightmares a poorly planned trip can become.

If you are traveling with children, you need to plan your trip carefully. You also need to make sure they have all the comforts they need, so they don’t drive you nuts.

Here are some tips to plan a wonderful, relaxing getaway with your children.

Choose the Location Carefully

Single adult and young couple in their 20s love taking trips to Las Vegas, Panama Beach, Miami and other party cities. Your priorities will change after you have children, so these destinations won’t be ideal.

 

Choose the Location Carefully

Choose the Location Carefully

There are a number of great travel destinations for families with young children. Here are some great tips to consider:

  • Atlantis Resorts in the Bahammas allows parents with strollers to skip lines.
  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida is a great destination for parents that want reliable care for their children.
  • Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, WA has plenty of trails that are designed for parents with strollers.
  • Aulani is a Hawaiian resort that is owned by Disney. They provide a lot of activities with Disney characters.

You will need to think long and hard before choosing a destination. This is the most important decision you will make. The destination should be safe and plenty of activities for children of all ages to enjoy.

Be Prepared

If you were ever in Scouts, you know the importance of being prepared. You are planning on going on an enjoyable vacation, but you never know what can go wrong. You need to be prepared for anything.

Here are some things that you should bring:

  • A tire jack in case your car gets a flat. Don’t assume the rental agency will supply one.
  • A list of emergency contacts, including each family member’s primary care provider (in case anyone is hurt and the local hospital needs your medical records).
  • A first aid kit.
  • Portable phone chargers so anyone can recharge their phone if they need to make an emergency call.
  • Umbrellas and raincoats for each family member.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen (these things are usually a lot more expensive when you reach a major tourist destination, so buy them in advance).
  • Appropriate clothing for the destination. Make sure you understand the climate before traveling, because you may be surprised by how warm, cold or wet it is. San Francisco sells a lot of sweatshirts every year, because most tourists don’t realize that the average temperature is only 57.3 degrees.
  • Plenty of things to keep everyone entertained while at home, such as a laptop and VPN to access Hulu and other geo-restricted content .
  • An adequate supply of food. Don’t plan on eating out all the time, because that can get very expensive.

Things will go much more smoothly if you pack carefully before your trip. Make sure that you double check everything before heading out.

Where to stay

Choosing a place to stay is almost as important as choosing a travel destination. Travel advisor Rick Steves wrote a great post on choosing a place to stay.  Here are some options to consider.

 

Where to stay?

Where to stay?

Stay in a Chain Hotel

Most people stay in a chain hotel when traveling, such as the Marriot. There are several reasons to consider staying there:

  • They offer great service. You don’t generally need to clean up after your trip, like you would if you were renting an apartment. Of course, you should still make sure your children don’t make a large mess, out of consideration for the cleaning staff.
  • They have good security and liability insurance, so you are generally very safe.
  • They tend to have plenty of activities and lots of amenities, such as pools and open bars.

Staying at a hotel can also be expensive, but you can find some great deals on Expedia.

Rent a House or Apartment

You can also choose to rent a small house or apartment during your trip. Since you will only be staying for a couple of days, you don’t need to worry about going through a credit check, employment and all those other hassles. As long as you prepay for your stay, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

 

Rent a House or Apartment

Rent a House or Apartment

Renting a house or apartment is generally cheaper and the rules may be less strict than a hotel’s (such as smoking or making noise). However, you also need to be more respectful of the property and clean up afterwards.

Other General Tips

You need to find a good balance between having fun and keeping everyone safe and stress-free.  Here are some other general tips to consider:

  • You don’t want to plan a trip where one person is a dictator. You need to ask your spouse for input during the trip. You should also ask for feedback from each of your children.
  • Find a reliable mode of transportation. In many communities, public transportation is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. However, it isn’t an option in more rural communities, so you may need to rent a car.
  • Research the surrounding community as much as you can beforehand. Be aware of fun activities and any dangers to avoid.
  • Don’t assume that your quieter children are fine with all the plans just because they aren’t speaking up. If the other kids are trying to dominate the discussion, feel free to pull them aside to ask what they would like to do.
  • Set clear ground rules. You don’t want your younger children getting lost in a strange town. Older children can allowed to go off on their own, but you must make sure they are going to be making wise decisions. You should also give them a reasonable curfew.
  • Try not to be too stifling or overplan. The purpose of your trip is to have fun.

Things will be much easier if you follow these tips.

Merken