For the few hostels that I have stayed in, I have been quite impressed at the cleanliness and services that were offered. There are those which are clearly geared toward the younger budget traveler, but others offer private rooms and bathrooms. When Shing Mon Chung of HostelBookers offered to write about hostels I thought this a great match and perhaps new information for the family traveler. The following post is from Shing.
Trips to museums, ice-creams, theme park rides, souvenirs; things start adding up on a family holiday. Perhaps this is why family hostels are currently on the up. Now offering private or family rooms, hostels help you save money on family accommodation and they throw in plenty of little extras too.
Aside from the price of a room, facilities like games rooms, TV lounges, Playstations or Wiis and internet kiosks mean you can keep the kids happy for a few hours without spending a penny. Besides, after a day of sightseeing, children and adults alike will fancy some ‘time out’ back at the hostel.
Hostels are totally geared up for budget travellers and are often the best places to quiz staff about family-friendly restaurants and cheap things to do in the area. They can also advise you about excursions and it is not uncommon to be offered a free city tour.
Where family hostels really come out on top is by providing self-catering facilities – unheard of in hotels. In the common kitchens you can store food, throw together some packed lunches and prepare light suppers. On top of this, breakfast is often included in your room rate so you can forget about forking out for three meals in a restaurant every day.
For a city break…
San Francisco is a dream for kids – and parents too because you’ll have no problem thinking up ways to keep the them busy! Golden Gate Park has activities enough to fill a couple of days including rowing boats, bikes for hire, a quaint Japanese tea garden and the de Young museum which was voted Best Museum by California’s own Child Magazine. The Castro Theatre is a fabulous 1920s movie palace with sing-a-long shows and don’t forget the atmospheric Alcatraz prison which calls for an exciting boat ride. The Adelaide Hostel and Hotel can handle groups up to 6 so it’s perfect for large families. Your free breakfast includes fresh bagels, scones, oatmeal and fresh fruit. There are self-catering facilities, free internet kiosks and they also offer a free city tour.
Sicily boasts some stunning stretches of coastline and also some wonderful cuisine and archaeological sites to make this an idyllic family holiday destination. In Siracusa you can find the beautifully preserved Teatro Greco which hosts spectacular events in the summer. The historic centre is the island of Ortigia with lovely piazzas, a Duomo and cobbled streets for evening walks. Pack up the car with a picnic and make day trips to the lovely sandy beaches about 8km south of the town including Avola and Fontane Bianche which has a nice shallow seabed – ideal for children. LolHostel Siracusa is a lovely new hostel with impressive architectural features including a pleasant courtyard with tables and brollies. They can offer en suite family rooms sleeping 3 to 8 people with air-conditioning, linen, towels and breakfast included. There is a TV lounge and a games room to keep the kids happy too.
As one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, Costa Rica makes for an exciting and colourful family trip. In the Cloud Forests of the Monteverde Reserve you can marvel at the resplendent quetzal or reach dizzying heights on a canopy tour. Hostel Cabinas El Pueblo can organise all sorts of activities for families including horse-riding, trips to the spectacular Arenal volcano or guided hikes through the rainforest. Mums can treat themselves to a massage or pedicure! They offer quad rooms with TVs and some boast balconies. Breakfast is included and they also have self-catering facilities, a games room and a comfy lounge area. From the airport a cheap and handy pick-up service is available.
Today’s guest post is written by Alex Genadinik. Alex has lived in San Francisco for over 15 years and is a great fan of the Bay Area outdoors. His website, Hiking San Francisco, brings together a closer San Francisco and Bay Area Hiking Community where hikers can easily find listed hikes and groups to join.
Parents, are you looking for a way to get the kids outside and include some education? The Land’s End National Recreation area, located at the north-west part of San Francisco has the best of both worlds. The park is home to plenty of hiking trails and a great art museum. The coastal trails have some of the most renowned views in California and arguably the entire United States.
The main trailhead starts at the beginning of the recreation area, next to a gorgeous neighborhood which leads into the park. Sometimes shrubbery lines the edge of the trail for the safety of hikers (there are real cliffs) but then the shrubbery subsides and incredible views open up time and time again. The first observation spot offers views of Golden Gate Bridge to the east, Marin Headlands to the north and the vast depths of the Pacific Ocean to the west as far as the eye can see. The main trail ends after about 45 minutes of light walking. To get back, hikers retrace their original steps.
A great detour on the way back is a museum called “The Legion of Honor” which houses works of art from artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet and many others. The museum is visually appealing and, as the name suggests, looks much like a palace. The entrance is quite enchanting with large statues of horseback warriors. There is a section on ancient art and a small café where, at the end of a long day, a family can sit down for a snack together and discuss the day’s impressions.
Lead Photo credit: Mark Pritchard, SFmetblogs.com
These words are spoken practically daily by my boys. We are deep in a phase (after over a year can I still call this a phase?) where everything gets labeled as “good guy” or “bad guy”. By everything I include cars that we pass along the road, certain lego pieces, you name it. This moment of play inspired an impromptu trip to San Francisco. I thought both of them might really enjoy seeing the baddest of the bad guy jails. It was time to take them to…. dun dun duuuuuuunnnn…. the Rock.
Alcatraz, one of the highest security prisons of its time, is affectionately called the Rock. It is located on a small island one and a half miles off the shores of San Francisco. The most notorious history of Alcatraz includes the 29 years it served as a federal prison beginning in 1934. Its less popular history, but equally fascinating, includes its early beginning as a jail for Civil War prisoners as far back as 1861. The prison was decommissioned in 1963 due to erosion and it’s high cost to maintain. About six years later it was occupied by a group of Native Americans who laid claim to the land. Though the occupation lasted only around nineteen months, the take-over is defined as a key movement in the Native American independence. Following a succession of demands at Alcatraz, the U.S. government returned excess, unused lands to several tribes. Graffiti from this period of history can still be easily seen around Alcatraz.
I am well-aware that this is a very popular tourist destination. I have heard warnings that getting tickets requires advanced reservations. Still, this was not on a weekend and it is not summer break anymore. I thought buying same-day tickets would still be possible. Not exactly. Tickets were sold out for the next two days. I had to come up with a plan B quickly. Judging from my youngest’s vocal “expression of disappointment”, plan B better involve a boat.
Luckily, a few piers away is the Blue and Gold Fleet which offers hour-long tours of the bay, including a cruise around Alcatraz Island. Here’s the kicker… we happened to be visiting the day before Fleet Week. During the weekend of Fleet Week military ships are open for the public to visit, and there is an air show including the Blue Angles. The day before the air show, these planes do a practice run. Luck would have it that we were riding the ferry during the hour that the blue angels were in the sky. I use the term “in the sky” lightly because they were practically skimming the water at times. It was an incredible show, and quite by accident I think we got one of the best seats in the house.
The day of our trip I was apprehensive about traveling so far without a plan and back-up plan in my hip pocket. Today I am already dreaming of our next trip to San Francisco. The kids have several days off in November, and fall is a fabulous time to head to the City. I have the Alcatraz ticket reservation number pinned to the calendar. But as for the rest of the day, I think plan A will be to embrace the art of exploring in the moment.
Today I am participating in the Mondays are for Dreaming series hosted by Mara at Mother of All Trips. Check out her site for more travel dreams.
It hasonly been about a month and a half since the boys returned to school. Already I am craving another travel adventure. This Photo Friday shot is from our summer adventure to Seattle. Though most Seattle locals are very familiar with this fountain, it came up as a total surprise for us on an impromptu walk.
As it turns out, today is a furlough day for teachers locally. The kids and I will be heading to San Francisco. I have barely a sketch of an itinerary. No self-respecting travel-addict would leave so ill prepared. But I have confidence that we will find something wonderful. After all, we had Seattle.
Today is Photo Friday. Check out inspirational photos and stories at Delicious Baby.
When the Barretts get together for our extended family vacation (four separate households) we have needs. Man do we have needs. One of my own personal needs is finding a new location at least every few years. We live in a state rich with diversity, we may as well take the opportunity to explore it. My short list of Barrett vacation home base requirements include:
This isn’t too much to ask for, right?
We have found two locations, count’em, two. This year I was ready to add one more. I must say, I think I scored big time family points with this one. Permit me a few moments to brag about the Inverness Valley Inn.
Great Location: Not only does it happen to stand less than a three hour drive from everyone, (Well, almost everyone. Sorry Aunt Jeannie.) but it lies in a stunning area of California. Inverness, near the more popular town of Point Reyes, is surrounded by water and wildlife. On the west shore of Tomales Bay and fifteen miles from the Pacific Ocean at Drake’s Bay, it is a hot spot for kayakers. The bird watchers in our group were also impressed with the array of coastal bird species they found just from the grounds of the Inn. Other wildlife that you can view around Point Reyes include elk, whales, and elephant seals. There are a vast number of hikes of all levels for the meanderer up through to the power hiker. Nice beaches are also scattered around the bay. In short, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to occupy your time.
Incidentally, this has been a getaway spot for residents of the bay area as far back as the early 1900s. Small steamboats took daytrippers down the bay to secluded beaches. They left from Brock Schreiber’s boathouse (pictured above), which is still a prominent local landmark.
Room to Play: When you turn into the driveway of the Inverness Valley Inn you are entering a fifteen acre compound. It is spacious with plenty of grassy areas surrounding each set of cottages. Though the entrance is immediately off of a highway, the trees surrounding the property insulate you from the outside world. Here within the borders you will find a swimming pool (filled with salt water), a hot tub, tennis courts, and a mini eco-farm. Toward the back of the property a trail leads to Mount Vision.
An Onsite Farm: You are likely already aware of my fondness of farms. So the fact that we were sharing the property with seven goats, six sheep, an alpaca, a llama and dozens of chicken was like icing on the cake for me. They were contained within a locked gate at night and taken to selected areas of the property to graze during the day. A noteworthy tip: sometimes their grazing area is cordoned off by a portable electric fence. Kids should be monitored when approaching the animals. When the herd is moved to their evening location, guests are permitted to help feed the animals. Owners of the Inn will sometimes divvy up extra eggs from the chickens amongst their guests as well.
Separate Rooms Close Enough to Feel Joined: Alright I’ll say it: a happy family vacation is one where we have a little room away from each other. It’s hard to appreciate the amount of energy our two wound-up boys can bring. No one else should have to. At least when they are being rowdy, I feel a little better knowing that someone isn’t trying to read in the next room. Still, I don’t want the separation to feel so great that you can’t wander over to visit without it becoming a mini trek. At Inverness Valley Inn the cottages are four-plexes. Our porch sat right beside the grandparents’. This meant that when we heard their door open in the morning, the kids would bounce over for some breakfast while we all planned out our day. As simple as it sounds, this relaxed morning gathering has become a family routine that I look forward to on our vacations.
Roomy: After the little ones are nestled in their beds, our family tradition is to gather around, shuffle up and deal. Sometimes it is poker, sometimes we’ll have a greater interest in a board game. Really, the game is just a vehicle to chide, tease and otherwise bond with each other. So having at least one room where everyone has a place at the table is non-negotiable. Here the largest bedroom was also considered the living space, so it was plenty big. The smaller bedroom (if you pick a “family suite”) was also spacious. The bathroom even included a tub, which is a nice bonus when you are staying more than a few days with kids.
Heart and Care:The owners of Inverness Valley Inn bought the property and moved from Berkeley several years ago. They had the vision of creating a sustainable environment, which now includes an organic garden and animals that provide milk, eggs, and wool. (Yes Julie, the owner, spins the wool herself!) This property is not simply a business investment, it is a passion for this family. You can see them each morning doing the chores that maintaining such a large property requires. How does this matter? For me, this stands out for several reasons:
I love that I get to be a party to someone’s passion. From our short chat I could hear the care that went into each business decision. For example, they retrofit the swimming pool so that it has salt water in order to minimize the amount of chemicals that a pool often contains.
I love that I get to share the dream that one can live in large part from what you have grown. It is clearly a lot of work. I don’t think I could do it, but I am happy to support those who work toward that end.
I love the feeling that I am visiting a home. When I plan out our vacation for next year, I will no doubt want to connect again and see what changes have happened. At least for the next few years, I think the Barretts will have a great place to vacation together.
We received a discount on our stay in exchange for writing about our experiences there.