This translates to travelling with family in local jargon!
Deciding in which hotel to stay when you’re on holiday can be troublesome enough: you need to look at costs (including VAT), check if it’s in proximity to city centres or public transport systems, and inquire if breakfast is included in the rate. But, if you’re Sri Lankan and travelling with family…well that opens up a whole other mess of its own. Amir Abdulhussein, Head of Business Development at Pan Lanka Travels & Tours (Pvt.) Ltd. gives you insider tips on how to make sharing a hotel room with your parents, siblings and multifarious pieces of luggage NBD.
A couple of years ago, my family and I went on vacation. Due to conflicting schedules, prior travel plans, exams etc., we hadn’t managed to pack off together for a decently long stretch of time…which meant we’d forgotten that, instead of the standard two-parents-two-children-one-hotel-room combo, we were reckoning with four adults and twelve pieces of luggage (two per person plus a cabin bag each because weight allowances can’t be wasted; that would be atrocious). In our questionable state of mind, we booked one room at a trendy downtown city hotel…and broke two cardinal rules of Sri Lankan family travel.
The first is that sharing is not necessarily caring. Family holidays are great occasions for bonding, but there’s a limit. Piling too many people and bags into one room almost always guarantees the bickering begins before you’ve properly settled in. From shower schedules to lost socks, you’ll probably leave the room late and in a fight every morning, ruining the so-hoped-for quality time, and leading to scowling photographs you’ll want to hide ASAP.
Getting two rooms ensures that everybody has their own space and are much more inclined to interact when they meet for breakfast. “Just remember to ask for rooms together if you don’t want to be trekking up and down the hotel to see each other,” informs Amir. Or, you know, casually forget to mention it to Reception—we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to be at the other side of the world to avoid your dad’s 6AM wake-up call to ensure you’re up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn.
THE CASE FOR ROLLAWAY BEDS
Sharing a room can’t be so bad, especially if you have your own bed, right? So what if it’s temporary? Well, rollaway beds will definitely give you a duvet to yourself, but they are likely to take up precious space in an already cramped room. “And rollaway beds almost never match up to the quality of the rest of the room,” says Amir. So, there’s little point in spending precious dough for a squeaky sleeping spot!
In addition, some top notch hotels don’t permit rollaway beds at all, which means not only are you sharing the room, you find yourself involved in a mini battle of the pillows as you struggle to hunker down, two per bed (no easy task). “Even if it means going down a notch in the level of hotel to stick to your budget, getting separate rooms makes much more sense,” recommends Amir.
Our second mistake involved the trendy, downtown hotel. If I was travelling with friends, it would have been perfection – the bar in the middle of the lobby, the disco lights in the elevators, the ‘ntz ntz’ music on repeat – but in this situation, the hotel choice was ill-advised. Trust me, nobody wants to walk into a mini rave after returning from dinner, so when selecting a hotel, it’s essential to check its vibe.
“Picking a property meant for twenty-somethings might not set the right tone for your family holiday,” confirms Amir. “Even if it’s an international chain, the style and feel will change depending on the city and neighbourhood in which it’s located.” After a couple of days seeing my mother wince at the music every time she entered the hotel and feeling dizzy with disco lights at all hours of the day, I’d have happily hooked it to anywhere else. So, as you’re planning your vacay, make sure to find out if the hotel on top of your wish-list is family friendly or if you should think up another spot—TripAdvisor, Agoda and Booking.com have tons of information, but don’t be afraid to contact the property or your travel agent with your questions. Picking a hotel which works for all members of your family is key to ensuring that the holidays starts off on the best foot possible…which does not entail guests doing afternoon shots in the lobby.
The other pitfall about trendy properties, is that they’re – more often than not – impractical. Our room was stunning, but unfortunately, the shower contained a minimally frosted wall, that overlooked the bedroom. Perfect for a romantic getaway? Yas. For a parental holiday? A disaster, which saw us having to tape black, industrial garbage bags over it…promptly ruining the beauty of the room. “Most bathrooms with peek-a-boo features come with tats that you can let down to cover the glass,” says Amir. “But each property has its own aesthetics and design, so make sure you check beforehand.”
Of course, we can now agree that having multiple rooms is likely to minimize family drama and issues around personal space. But say your family – like mine – is adamant that you absolutely have to share a room because sleepovers are soooo much fun, there are still tactics that will ensure you don’t return from your family holiday completely harassed!
Check the hotel room size. Sharing a room with your family and their luggage is not too bad if the room is big enough—and a big room does not necessarily have to be a suite. “The dimensions of rooms change from hotel to hotel,” says Amir. “Words like ‘standard’ and ‘deluxe’ definitely don’t indicate room size, so it never hurts to check the square footage online.” In this case, size definitely matters—especially if you don’t want to be hopping over clothes and knocking around make-up in your effort to JUST.FIND.THE.KEY.CARD.
“Make sure the double bed is a real one, and not two twin beds pushed together with a thin covering sheet that attempts to hide the dent in between,” tips Amir. You’re going on holiday to relax and rejuvenate. Waking up with back aches due to lack of mattress support, or worse, falling through the crack onto the floor (it’s happened), does not make for an ideal vacation.
Bathrooms are typically notorious problem causers on family holidays. In the name of design, bathrooms may not occupy a definite section of the room but rather, may exist in different nooks—a sink in the corner, a bath-tub at the foot of the bed, a toilet area that only has half-walls, all of which may look romantic in a travel magazine, but IRL? Let’s just say no one enjoys listening to the noise of gargling throats while watching TV.
“In some hotels, the bathroom doors don’t lock,” says Amir. “Which can be a problem, especially if you have very young, playful siblings or overeager parents!” If the door can’t be locked against intrusions as you go about your business, consider blocking it on the inside with an item that prevents the door from being opened (chairs are specifically helpful), or sticking a note outside the door that indicates it’s occupied. You can never take too many precautions!
Also remember to take along an extension chord or (two). While hotel rooms have plenty of plug points, they’re often only enough for one or two people—not four! To avoid squabbles over who uses the phone charger at any given time of the day, taking along extendable, movable outlets guarantees that video cameras, back up batteries, tablets and electronic toothbrushes can be charged simultaneously. “Plug points are often not placed at the most convenient locations either,” explains Amir. “So if you can’t sleep without your phone next to your bed, extension chords can be lifesavers. But make sure to keep adapters on hand, too!”
Putting in the extra legwork when booking a hotel guarantees more peace and conviviality on a family holiday. Pick a property that has exactly what you are looking for—that way, when you start exploring your holiday city, you’ll want to do it together, and not as far away from each other as possible!
This article was originally published as ‘What You Need To Know When Picking A Hotel Room…If You’re Sri Lankan* *Travelling With Family’ in the July 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more life advice and tips, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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