October Update

Wow! I can’t believe it is already nearly November – and more than three months since I last dropped by to say hello. I hope everyone with school aged children were able to get away for at least a night or two over the school holidays – and that property owners welcomed lots of families to stay.

My own family made our way to Queensland in an old-fashioned driving holiday up the Newell Highway. I have lot of stories bubbling away waiting to be told. There were many highlights, including when a whale appeared about 200 metres behind where my two children were learning surfing at Rainbow Beach. Goosebumps.

And a missed highlight was not seeing Justin Timberlake, who was at Australia Zoo at the same time as us! We’d seen a VIP group being taken around, but could not work out who it was.

New Premium Partners

We’ve welcomed some great new Premium Partners on-board over the past few months, so please check them out and support them if you are planning a holiday in their area.

They are:

Wittacork Cottages – this lovely farm stay is located near Maleny. Here the mix of a working farm combined with rainforest to explore offers exciting outdoor opportunities for a family holiday.

Truemans Cottages – Located between Rosebud and Rye on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, these are true family friendly holiday homes – bring your dog and stay for a very reasonable price in an area that can be quite expensive.

Solitary Islands Marine Park Resort – Located in the beautiful NSW coastal hamlet of Wooli, this holiday park offers a laid-back, comfortable beachside holiday. Kids are well catered for, but with activities to bring the family together too.

Banjos Bushland Retreat – perfect for large families or a group getaway, featuring lovely accommodation in a secluded bushland environment where families can spend quality time together enjoying the many facilities on offer – and all just a couple of hours from Sydney.

Pemberton Farm Chalets – is a peaceful country farm stay in South-West Western Australia and is a great base to explore the local area, but with heaps of outdoor facilities to keep your kids active and entertained on site as well.

Melbourne Family Apartments – Owned by a family, these two self-contained holiday apartments in Melbourne’s Southbank walk the talk when it comes to family friendly. With heaps of extras that will make parents sigh with relief and truly enjoy their family holiday.

Novotel Karon Beach Resort and Spa – this latest offering by Novotel in the popular holiday island of Phuket, only opened its doors this month. It is is managed by a dad and has been set up with families in mind.

 

How it works

For some of you, this will be the first newsletter, so I thought I’d explain a bit about how Family Friendly Accommodation works and why there are different sorts of listings.

I set up the website in early 2012 as a one-stop-shop for families to find true family friendly holiday accommodation on offer. I do this by offering properties the opportunity to showcase their family friendly credentials to you. You then make your own choice. I do not act as a third party booking website.

Premium Listings – these are paid for by the accommodation owner or manager, with comprehensive information and images of the property inside and out.

Standard Listings – these listings are paid for and are highlighted on the listings pages. The listing links direct to the property website.

Basic listings – these listings are not paid for. They have basic information and most of them will link to the Hotels Combined website page, part of an affiliate program through which I get a small commission if a booking is made.

What all listings have in common is that they provide something special – or have a proven track record – as being loved by families. And at the end of the day, my aim is to help parents plan their holidays. I hope we are helping you and ask that you help me too, by letting accommodations owners and managers saw them on our website.

July Update

Family fun in Queensland and Tasmania

Two of my recent blog posts give families information on what to do in two destinations at opposite ends of Australia.

Its many beautiful beaches are just the tip of the iceberg on the Sunshine Coast – there are so many reasons to have a family holiday here. Check out my round-up on what to do (and please feel free to add any advice you have in the Post comments).

There are so many beaches on the Sunshine Coast that you will be sure to find one to suit your family perfectly.

There are so many beaches on the Sunshine Coast that you will be sure to find one to suit your family perfectly.

And for families planning a Tassie holiday, I have written about an area that is often considered a poor cousin amongst the wealth of natural and man-made features attracting people to the Island State. I am talking about the North-West Coast.

Looking across the beach at Fossil Bluff towards Table Cape.

Looking across the beach at Fossil Bluff towards Table Cape.

I am also excited to let you know that Cedar Creek Lodges at Thunderbird Park is remaining on as a Premium Partner. This place is all about family adventure and is a perfect addition to a Gold Coast beachside holiday.

Fossicking for gemstone-filled thundereggs

Fossick for thundereggs when you stay at Cedar Creek Lodges at Thunderbird Park – just one of the many family friendly activities available.

A family staycation

I was lucky enough to be invited by the Novotel Hotel group to experience a city ‘staycation’ at the Novotel St Kilda. Amongst the other families there was Jo, who runs Little Melbourne, a great website covering all things Melbourne for families with young children.

A ‘staycation’ is a term used to describe having a holiday in your own home town or locale. It is perfect for a weekend or quick get-away and is a great option for families with limited time or budget.

St Kilda beach in winter - too cold to swim, but still beautiful and great for a walk with the kids.

St Kilda beach in winter – too cold to swim, but still beautiful and great for a walk with the kids.

I am a big advocate of a weekend away – which generally does mean not travelling far. Why not check out family friendly accommodation for places to stay close to you for a night or two away. It is great for re-charging the batteries – especially for those of us down south experiencing a very cold winter.

Free on-line workshops for small business

Although this sounds like an ad, it is not. Bear with me as I explain.

As a small business owner, I am always looking for innovative – and cheap – ways to increase my knowledge. And as most of us would know, when it comes to the on-line space, the cost of that knowledge can be expensive.

Which is why I want to let you know about some Government-funded workshops you can attend for FREE. I recently stumbled across information about a workshop being held in my local area focussing on how to optimise your website for search engines.

Federal Govt's Digital Enterprise Program - free workshops for business owners.

Federal Government’s Digital Enterprise Program – free workshops for business owners.

Turns out similar workshops are being held around Australia to help small-medium business and not-for-profit organisations, part of the Federal Government’s digital enterprise program to improve the way businesses do business online and participate in the digital economy. That means they are free for you to attend.

There are a range of topics available, others including digital strategy, protecting your brand online, social media (topics vary by provider). See here if there are any in your area.

 

 

June update

This is my first update since January. So much has been happening since then and I have focussed most of time making a number of changes to improve your experience of using Family Friendly Accommodation.

Website enhancements

All basic listings now show maximum room or property capacity, as well as some basic information, to help you determine if you want to click through to learn more.

Many basic listings now click through to Hotels Combined, rather than the property’s own website. I have introduced this measure as part of an affiliate marketing program, as I do not receive any income from basic listings.

However, my Premium Partners do pay an annual fee for their listing and I can assure you, all of them are great family friendly properties. Improvements to these listings include a new Bookings button and Specials tab. I do not take commission for Premium Partner bookings, so if you do book a property, please tell them you found them via Family Friendly Accommodation.

Our current premium partners can be found on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Tropical North, South-West WA, Perth, South Coast NSWVictorian Goldfields and Phuket.

New premium partner

We were excited to welcome our latest Premium Property on-board – Siesta Park Holiday Resort, located between Busselton and Dunsborough on the beautiful Geographe Bay.

Kids love the adventure playground at Siesta Park.

Siesta Park will take you back to those great, laid-back family holidays of the past, where children can ride their bikes & play in the adventure playground.

And if you need any incentive to visit this beautiful area, read my blog post on what families can do here on holidays. It truly is a beautiful part of the world.

Other changes

  • A new home-page banner will link you to a page with information and click-through banners to a range of holiday support information, including restaurants and take-away, travel insurance and tours. Again, this is known as ‘affiliate’ marketing and I do make a small commission on any bookings. However, I will only promote reputable companies on this page.
  • The website is now mobile friendly. This means if you use it on a tablet or smart phone, you will see a slightly different version, which I hope you find is easier to use. Please let me know if you believe there are any issues with this, as with any new technical change, there can sometimes be hiccups.
  • I have now included a page to house links to articles I have written on other websites, with topics including stress-free holidays with extended family & 10 tips for planning a cheap holiday.

School holidays

Can you believe we are nearly half way through the school year? If you have not yet booked holiday accommodation for the June/July holidays, there are still some deals available.

The lovely Endless Summer at Coolum Beach has some great deals available, including stay 3 nights (pay for 2), stay 5 nights (pay for 3) and stay 7 nights (pay for 5). You could be you staying in a 2-bedroom apartment for 5 nights for under $600 (rates vary depending on date & availability).

Tathra Beach Family Park’s Frankie J Holden is currently appearing on our screens in Channel 7’s A Place to Call Home. The park is offering Roy’s Rates until 31 July – stay 4, pay for 2. Tathra Beach is located on the NSW South Coast, close to Merimbula and not far from Bega, where you can visit the cheese factory.

My blog

I have changed the name of my blog, Family Gathering, to Family Holiday Planner as I feel this best reflects what the blog offers – for example, if you are planning to travel to Tasmania, learn about our visit to the beautiful Woolmers Estate.

Woolmers Estate - your family can discover our pastoral and convict heritage.

Finally happy travelling these holidays and please remember us if you stay somewhere you want to recommend to other families.

 

 

 

 

 

My January update

Where to start?

Combine school holidays with travelling interstate to visit relatives (check out my review of the Port Arthur family friendly ghost tour), working 3 days a week and a Melbourne heatwave – well, it’s been a bit hard to achieve much over the past month or so. I am sure many of you were in the same boat.

However, 2014 will be a year of major change for me. After working in the public sector for the past 14 years, a major restructure has offered up the chance to take a redundancy package.

So, what does this mean for you? It means I have a chance to grow Family Friendly Accommodation into a fully-fledged business.

Until now, I have been trying to build the website in between part-time work and raising two school-aged children. It has not been easy, because I have not been able to be consistent.

So, for me 2014 is a make-or-break year. I will not think about what happens if I am not successful because I will start from the mind-set that I will be successful. I remain passionate about the product and believe it deserves to be in the marketplace.

How you can help me?

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about the website?

I want the website to be a valuable resource to help you make a more informed choice in family holiday accommodation.

Please let me know, as I am happy to look at making refinements to make the website more user -friendly.

Latest listings

I would also like to welcome 2 new premium partners on board.

The Metro Hotel Perth, is the perfect hotel for small families, of up to 4 people. Spacious rooms, including one bedroom apartments with kitchenettes, make for a comfortable stay. And the location near parklands and the Perth Zoo is great.

Forte Cape View Busselton is located beside beautiful Geographe Bay, south of Perth. I can highly recommend this area to families and with a range of accommodation options and plenty of open space, Forte Cape View is the perfect family friendly place to stay.

Gold Coast Special

Paradise Resort is renowned as the best family friendly resort on the Gold Coast. It is currently offering a special deal which includes accommodation, kids club session and a 3 day World Pass for the family to visit Dreamworld and White Water World. Why not combine a coastal holiday with a few days in the mountains at Cedar Creek Lodges at Thunderbird Park. A perfect family holiday.

Guide dogs and accommodation

The Queensland Government has made amendments to the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act to support the rights of people with disability who rely on guide, hearing and assistance dogs to access residential and holiday accommodation.

The changes came into effect in December and provide a right of access to places of accommodation for people with disability who rely on a guide, hearing or assistance dogs. Learn more.

September Update

I hope everyone is enjoying the school holidays . I am not sure about you, but I feel like I am going to blink and it will be Christmas.

Let us know about great accommodation

For those who did get away, please consider writing a review if you were impressed with your accommodation and want to recommend it to other families. Everyone who submits a review goes in a quarterly draw to win a $100 gift voucher. If you are unsure what to write about, check out some of our recent reviews for guidance. Even if you don’t feel able to write a review, drop me a line & let me know so I can follow up with the property.

New premium partner

I am fully supportive of the Australian tourism industry and encourage all Australian families  to explore their own backyard, But equally important is exposing our children to other countries and cultures.

Family Friendly Accommodation is about showcasing Australian properties, as well as those in places  Aussies love to travel. That is why I am excited to welcome on board our first international Premium Partner. Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach is a brand new resort, perfectly located on the beach, but only a short distance from Patong. With a range of room options that can sleep up to 6, families are well catered for. Put them on your list if you are planning a Phuket holiday.

Flying with kids 

I must admit I was a bit saddened to read that a recent Trip Advisor survey of Australians found more than 60% of people would be happy to pay more money to be seated away from kids on a plane. Seriously? How intolerant are we becoming? I think some people need to remember they were kids once too and might have put their own parents (and strangers) through the same stresses.

Latest reviews.

My mate Michael took his family beyond Bali last year in Java and stayed at a couple of fantastic places. After some reminding, he has shared these finds with us. I also had a great weekend with the family at Angelsea Big 4 Holiday Park.  

ARTN conference  

I am excited and a bit nervous to be speaking at the Australian Regional Tourism Network (ARTN) Convention next month. This will be a wonderful opportunity to visit the Margaret River region (unfortunately without my hubby & kids). I will be speaking about social media and thinking outside the square. I am really looking forward to people from tourism associations and businesses operating in regional areas.

August Update

Feeling “blah”

A couple of weeks ago, I told my daughter (Miss 8) that I felt “blah”. I should have  known better as that has now become her favourite phrase, “Mum, I feel blah”.

But the fact is sometimes we do feel like that and 18 months after my website went live, I hit a wall. Trying to turn it into an income-earning business that will allow me to leave paid employment, as opposed to it being an extremely time-consuming hobby, is difficult.

Competition in the on-line travel field is so strong and I am just a small fish amongst a sea of giants from around the world, who have millions of dollars to promote themselves. So, I went through a couple of weeks of feeling disillusioned. I felt sorry for myself – I felt “blah”.

But the beauty of having a passion for what you do, is that you get over it. I believe in what I am doing and how it is, and will continue, to help more families discover the very best in family friendly accommodation.

So, I am re-motivating myself. This weekend, I cleaned up my desk and updated my ‘To Do’ list so I can make a fresh start.

This Thursday, I am off to see Russell Howcroft from the Gruen Transfer (amongst others) speak at the Small Business, Big Marketing event – part of Victoria’s Small Business Festival. I am really looking forward to hearing from such positive and enthusiastic people.

And soon, I aim to have some great new properties to showcase – as well as continue to promote those wonderful property owners and managers who have already come on board and supported me and my vision.

Media coverage

During my recent trip to the Sunshine Coast, I met the lovely Jennifer from Northwind Apartments at Mooloolaba. Jennifer had contacted me earlier this year after she discovered my website during a Google search.

As well as running the apartments, Jennifer is passionate about her community. So, she joined with me in pitching an article to the Sunshine Coast Daily. I was so happy when the paper decided it was a great story for their business section.

I was also asked to write an article for Yahoo about holiday activities for a range of budgets.

And just last week, my latest contribution for Mouths of Mums, planning for a holiday on a budget, was posted with some lovely feedback and comments.

On my own blog, anyone interested in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit has to read about our visit to Hobbiton earlier this year.

After a weekend away – organised by the lovely blogger, Claire Hewitt, I had a bit of fun talking about our family’s competitive table tennis obsession. If you have any family holiday quirks, leave a comment.

Coming up
I am really excited about speaking at the Australian Regional Tourism Network Convention in October. More about that next month.

And given it is almost September, don’t forget to start thinking about the Christmas school holidays. Get in early and book your flights (or in our case, Spirit of Tasmania) now as the prices will only increase. You should also start your accommodation research now, as you will find many popular places may already be booked out.

 

July Update

I have to start this month’s newsletter with a “plea” to vote for me in the Peekaboo Awards.

With your support, I made the final 5 websites in the category in the reader nominated category, Best Online Travel Guide.

I have left it all to the last minute, but if you can cast a vote today (voting closes tonight), it would be very much appreciated.

My Sunshine Coast visit

Some of you may be aware I still maintain part-time work while building up family friendly accommodation. I recently took 6 weeks’ long service leave to focus on the website, which is my true passion.

Thanks to lots of cumulated grocery shopping points, I was able to fly to the Sunshine Coast, where I met some wonderful accommodation owners.

Everyone had a real passion and pride for their properties & I am really excited to have a number of them who could see my vision and are coming on board as premium partners. Already, we have three wonderful properties who have joined us.

South Pacific Resort and Spa is a great place to families wanting to experience some tropical island ambience on their Noosa holiday, with its spacious apartments, tropical swimming pools and on-site health spa, perfect for mum.

Offshore Noosa is a boutique apartment complex in a great Noosaville location opposite the Noosa River, with its pathways and parklands. It is also a short walk to many of Gympie Terrace’s lovely eateries.

Further south from Noosa is Coolum Beach, where you will find the lovely Endless Summer Resort. With plenty to keep your children occupied, including a swimming pool with a small waterslide & cave and a playground, makes it a perfect choice for those looking at holidaying at Coolum Beach.

Having visited all three properties, I can tell you that I would be more than happy to stay at any of them.

New premium listings

We were also excited to welcome our first Premium Partner from NSW, Tathra Beach Family Park.

Tathra Beach is one of my favourites and families can stay just a stroll away from it at this great holiday park, owned and run by Frankie J Holden (currently starting in the Channel 7 series, A Place to Call Home) & his wife, Michelle.

New articles on my blog

Family Gathering is the blog I started to support family friendly accommodation. It allows me to provide information to help families enjoy great holidays, with tips, hints and tourist information.

Our latest articles include information on the refurbishment of rooms at Paradise Resort on the Gold Coast, as well as an article on thunder eggs, which you and your children can dig up when staying at Cedar Creek Lodges in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Reviews

Andrea of Brisbane was the 2nd quarter winner of the $100 gift voucher for her review of Adelaide’s Majestic Old Lion Apartments.

If you have stayed somewhere you want to let other parents know about, write a review and go into the draw to win a $100 gift voucher. Our next voucher will be drawn the first week of October.

June Update

I hope many of you are planning winter get-aways – whether it is snuggling up in the colder southern states or escaping to the warmer northern climes.

My get-away

Some of you may know I maintain a part-time job while I continue to grow www.familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au. I am currently enjoying 6 weeks’ long service leave.

Instead of sitting in my home office (surrounded by housework I keep putting off), I have decided to hit the road for a week. As well as catching up with one of my best friends in Brisbane, I will spend a week visiting accommodation owners along the Sunshine Coast.

I am really looking forward to letting people know about my website and hopefully encourage a few more family friendly properties to come on board.

Offering a cross section of properties to suit the varying holiday needs of Australian families is the key to our success.

Our latest Premium Partners

I am excited to welcome two more Premium Partners on board this month.

Paradise Resort on the Gold Coast was one of the first to really focus on the family market, offering kids clubs and other activities to keep the children (and therefore their parents) happy.

It is continuing to evolve and offer new experiences and earlier this year opened an ice-skating rink.

If your family is after a full family resort experience on the Gold Coast, you can’t go Paradise Resort.

We also welcome On the Beach Apartments at Trinity Beach. This stretch of coast is considered by many locals to be the Cairn’s northern beaches’ most beautiful.

On the Beach is actually a series of five buildings located across from the patrolled area of the beach.

Free WiFi and complementary boogie boards and beach toys are bound to keep children of all ages happy.

If you are considering a beach holiday in the Cairns area, you need to check out On the Beach Apartments.

Listings

After 18 months, I am no longer able to offer free listings on www.familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au

I have put in a considerable amount of time and money into building up a professional website. I love doing it. But it needs to be viable too.

As of 2 June, any accommodation owners wanting to list their property are now required to pay a small annual fee. In recognition of those properties who came on board at the start of my journey, I am not making this retrospective.

All basic listings created prior to 1 June 2013 will remain as is and no fee will be requested.

However, the new basic listing will feature a small introductory paragraph on the listings page. Any property owners wanting this enhanced feature will be required to pay the annual fee.

If anyone has any questions, they can email me, enquiries@familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au

Happy holidays

School holidays are coming up & even if you are not going away, there is heaps to do.

There are some great websites around that detail activities and events to keep families entertained. Here are a handful of them:

If you are after information about what to do in Queensland, check out Brisbane Kids, Gold Coast Kids, and Sunny Coast Kids.

In Victoria, Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula are covered with Little Melbourne, Peninsula Kids, and Melbourne Playgrounds. And don’t forget one of Victoria’s biggest event for kids in the lovely seaside town of Warrnambool, Fun 4 Kids.

Those in NSW can check out Ella’s List, To Do Kids and Sydney for Kids.

If you are in Tasmania, check out Hobart Kidz

Visit Play & Go Adelaide if you live in South Australia, or Out & About in Perth if you live in WA.

Nationally, find some great playgrounds at Playground Finder.

Don’t forget to check your local tourist information and council websites, many of which list local and community activities and events.

If you know of any other websites, let us know in the comments section.