To book or not to book....

Im planning a 2 week visit to the UK this July with wife and 2 teenagers. We plan on spending a week exploring Northern England and Scotland, then a week in London. My wife and I did something similar years ago (pre-internet) with only a B&B book: each day we'd consult the book and call ahead (in phone booth) to book the next night's stay. Crazy, I know... ;) In this day of online reviews and reservations, we feel a bit compelled line up everything up in advance, especially with kids in tow. The London week is booked, but Im torn between reserving places before we go for our first week in York/Yorkshire and Edinburgh areas, or winging it with an ipad and European cell phone. My question is: will there be sufficient places during mid July? (My last visit was in May.) We splurged on a nice place in London, so for the adventure and experience for the kids and budget Im perfectly OK with staying in more modest accommodations. I did hostels during college in Spain. I'd also like the flexibility of not being locked into an itinerary 6 mos in advance. Thoughts appreciated.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3296 posts

I've done it in late August and was okay. You're in peak season in July, so you've got some risk. If you're willing to be open in terms of the kind of place, then you can probably find something. I understand the draw. I love the flexibility. I would highly recommend booking the first and last night and for the weekends that you're traveling check to see if there are any special events in any of the places that you want to visit. That may make things difficult. You'll want to plan around it it. Pam

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

Pete i think its way easier as a couple to do that then as a family of four. Calling a small place to see if they have a room is different then calling to see if they have two , most do not have quads, or if they do it may only be one room in place.

Posted by Heather
Seattle, WA, USA
30 posts

I agree with previous posters, this is difficult to do with kids. I did 6 weeks in Europe last summer with my preteens, and found many BnBs not receptive to more than a single child that can stay in the same room. I think small places may fear the parents retreating to one room while unsupervised kids run wild in the other. You might look for family hostels. We stayed in some, and they had more relaxed cancellation and adjustment policies, so we never felt locked in. Plus, they were set up for families, with game rooms and comfortable places for teens to hang out. I would definitely set things up in advance, yet have back-ups just in case you decide to alter plans. Bon Voyage!

Posted by Pete
Worthington, Ohio
10 posts

Good feedback. Im definitely aware of the derth of "family" rooms in Europe and am resigned to getting two rooms (dad/son, wife/daughter -- some vacation, eh?). So the question is still one of availability, which sounds a bit risky that time of year. I suppose I will continue to do my planning and book in advance. Thanks again.

Posted by Karen
Atlanta
800 posts

Pete-especially since you'll be looking for 2 rooms in more modest accommodations booking ahead is a much better option. When booking for our family of 4 I used to do all my hotels well in advance of our July trips-getting a good enough itinerary set by February. Then I left it alone for a few months and revisited after I had done more reading, etc. At that time I would make a few changes if we had decided on a different route or I found a better place to stay. I wasn't locked in early in the year (booking rooms with no cancellation fees), but at the same time, if I was unable to make a change-no rooms left, other itinerary issues- I at least had something that I would be happy with. The kids didn't mind at all the more set in stone travel-they can always go back (and have done so) on their own later. And BTW-with teens you should be able to book at least some of the time so that you and your wife can sleep together. Book the kids rooms as Twin (2 single beds) and your room as a double (1 bed for two). Once they were old enough safety wise, we all definitely preferred that arrangement!