Upgrade for Gold Coast’s Paradise Resort

When Melbourne mum, Sharon, stayed at Paradise Resort in October last year, in her review for Family Friendly Accommodation, she said she loved the resort, but commented that her room could do with an update.

Well, the resort owners knew this as well and plans were already underway. And this month, a $2 million refurbishment of 100 rooms has been unveiled.

According to Paradise Resort, a high demand for accommodating larger families, combined with the chance to further the holiday experience at the Resort, was behind the upgrade.

Resort General Manager, David Brook, said the refurbishment was only stage one of the Resort’s upgrade.

“The 100 rooms are made up of 78 Superior Resort Rooms, 9 Superior Junior Bunkhouse Rooms and 12 Superior Family Rooms, and 1 Family Spa Suite” said Mr Brook.

The refurbished family suite at Paradise Resort

The refurbished family suite at Paradise Resort

“Our Family Rooms and King Bunkhouses traditionally sleep five people, so for families of six or more, the only option has been to purchase two resort rooms.  We have now added bunk beds to our Superior Family Rooms allowing the room to sleep up to six people.”

Resort owner Robert Zagame, who has a background in design with his own fashion label Robb & Lulu, was instrumental in making sure the rooms are modern and vibrant, but family-friendly and practical.

“We have a firm ‘kids first‘ philosophy at the Resort, catering for babies and toddlers right through to 12 year olds. By focusing our attention on keeping kids happy and entertained, we ensure that our parents’ stay is that much more enjoyable,” Mr Brook said.

In addition to design enhancements the stage one refurbishment includes the installation of microwaves to all of the Superior Resort Rooms for added convenience and all rooms will be fitted with HDMI and USB ports for direct plug in access.

“All rooms have received a total refit including all furnishings and a total bathroom fit out and guests can upgrade to one of these newly renovated rooms for only $30 more than their original version,” he said, adding that the remaining rooms were planned to be renovated next year.

Learn more about staying at Paradise Resort. And if you stay in one of the newly refurbished rooms, why not write a review to let others know about them.

Travelling like a snail – with your home on your back

When I was 11 years old, my parents took me on the holiday of a lifetime. It was holiday that has helped shaped me and my travel likes and dislikes.Don’t ask me how they did it, but they bundled up their four children (me being the oldest at 11, and the youngest aged just 5) and took us to Europe for a 5 month holiday in a motor-home.

Yes, you read right. For 5 months, a family of 6 travelled throughout Europe together, living in a few cubic metres of space. There must have been tense times, but as we all do, I remember the good times – and these came back ten-fold after I had my own children.

So, a few years ago, with my oldest due to start school, I decided I wanted to have one last ‘big’ holiday before I became tied to taking my holidays at times dictated by school terms.

Originally my husband was totally against the idea of a motor home – totally against, in a “no way” sort of way. The thought of two kids under 5 in a confined space was enough to freak him out. But I got my own way (of course) and it ended up being one of the best holidays we have experienced as a family.

Miss 3 behind the wheel of our ‘home on wheels’

We chose Perth and Western Australia for our motorhome experience. It is a perfect destination with little traffic compared to the East Coast and vast stretches of open and straight roads. We rented a 6 berth motorhome. My thinking in this was that it meant we had two tables – so one table could remain made up as a bed if needs be, with little inconvenience.

Apart from the fact that we saw some amazing things and experienced amazing places, such as Monkey Mia and Ningaloo Reef, the experience of being in a motorhome was fantastic for so many reasons:

• Unlike when I travelled as an 11-year-old, the seats in the cabin had seat-belts. My two-year-old also had a proper baby seat she was able to use

Miss 3 sleeps safely and soundly while we travel to our next destination.

• Meal-times were a breeze – we usually drove until the 2-year-old woke up, then we were able to pull up wherever we wanted or were able to, with lunch at our fingertips

• I could prepare lunch, while hubby played with the children outside (much better than trying to keep them happy in a cafe). We could then eat and hit the road again with little fuss

Our own personal cafe – whenever you want, wherever you want.

• There was no mad rush or panic checking out of accommodation.  Just disconnect the power, make sure everything is secure and take off

• You can stop in the most beautiful and amazing locations – relax on the bed with a book or have a cup of coffee. And if you are active and want to swim or go for a walk, arriving back to the van, with a cold drink at hand or dry clothes on hand is wonderful.

The beautiful waters of Ningaloo Reef.

You can also choose to stay in caravan parks or in a more wilderness setting. We stayed two nights in Cape Range National Park, which was mind-blowing in its beauty and tranquillity.

So, if you are considering something different for your next family holiday, consider a motorhome. With wheels and accommodation rolled into one, it is convenient, but I can guarantee you will also have great fun.

P.S If your husband, like mine, is adamant that no-one is going to use the toilet, just ignore him and use it. Especially if he leaves to go fishing at 6am. Eventually, the lure of the private little room will prove too much for him too even for him when weighed up against public toilets.

Two night minimum – variation on a theme

Back in April, I wrote about my frustration over two night minimums and how I believe they are detrimental to families.

Although I still believe this, I have found a holiday park offering a variation on the theme that makes it much more palatable.

Marysville Caravan & Holiday Park is located in the picturesque Victorian mountain township of Marysville, which was tragically almost completed destroyed in Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

The park’s owners, Ken & Christine Adams, who had run a motel in the town and lost their own home in the devastating fire, bought the caravan park, determined to re-build it and encourage visitors back to the town.

The new Marysville tourist information centre

When looking at the park’s website recently, I noticed something interesting. Although cabins have a two night minimum, if you can’t make it there for the first time, it can be available for you from 8am the next morning (conditions apply).

So, if you have Friday night sport or other commitments, you can pack the car and make an early start, and have all day Saturday in the cabin. In addition, again depending on availability, you will have an extended check-out to 6pm on Sunday.

And for those who are able to stay the two nights, the extended 6pm check-out is available offered for an extra $45.

I asked Christine about the two night minimums and her variation on the theme.

Why do you have a two night minimum? Our superior cabins are a 2 night minimum. To fill these every night would mean higher costs, which would then not make the cabin a practical choice cost-wise. Outside of the snow season and holidays, we do offer one night minimum in our budget cabins. These are very popular with families.

What made you decide to have the cabins available from 8am for those who cannot make it up the night before? As the normal time to check in is 2pm, offering this package means that, with a young family, you can get an early start and get settled into your cabin to meet the day ahead. It also allows for those afternoon sleeps needed for the littlies (or for mum!!)
The package is 8am check-in Saturday and 6pm check out Sunday. This makes up for not being here over-night on the Friday night.

What has the feedback been in response to this? This often suits families who can’t get up here on Friday night, but can get an early start on the Saturday. We find it is used more in the warmer months.  It’s often more difficult for us to deliver during snow season due to other bookings on the Sunday.

Lovely cabins are cosy for the whole family, while there is plenty to explore in the local area.

Same goes for the $45 Sunday extension to 6pm – what made you decide to do this and how popular has it been? This is often taken up if people want to enjoy an extended break or are here with a group of people. They get to relax a little longer and not do the 10am rush to get out. If people ask for an 11am checkout, where possible, we will meet this.

Do you think tweaking the two night minimum as you have to better suit families in particular, is giving you an advantage? We try to be family friendly and aware of the needs of families and of course it is good for business to try and look at alternatives that will encourage people to visit us and Marysville.
I am not sure it is giving us an advantage, but what I can say is that through the last holidays, and every weekend until the end of August, we have been booked out on a 2 night minimum. So people are prepared to do it if they want to come to a destination for a particular reason.

Anything else you would like to add about these initiatives? We are always trying to find new and interesting ways to encourage people to come and stay, enjoy a break, see our wonderful area and enjoy the Park.
We would love to hear if there are other things that people would be interested in to encourage them to come and stay.

Thanks so much Christine and best wishes in helping this beautiful Victorian holiday destination to thrive again.

You can check out the park on their website and if you are interested in staying there for the 2013 Easter holidays, get in quick, with bookings opening on 1 September.

The key to finding the best accommodation at the best price

In trying to find holiday accommodation, are you sometimes confused by exactly what ‘family friendly’ features are on offer?
I developed familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au to try and remove some of that confusion. But I will not tell you to just rely on my website – you should use the wide range of tools that are available to help make an informed decision.
Here are some tips to help you find the right accommodation and get the best deal:

  • Use familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au as a starting point to research accommodation. Each listing has a link to the property’s own website. Have a look to find out more about what they offer.

  • Ring and speak directly to the property you are interested in for more information on what they have on offer. Sometimes booking websites will put a family in a more expensive 2-bedroom offer when a cheaper quad room might be available.
  • If you are looking at more mainstream accommodation, such as a well-known hotel chain or resort, use hotelscombined. This website compares a range of accommodation booking websites so you can find the best current offers.
  • Use the popular review website, tripadvisor to check out reviews on the property you are looking at. Remember to look for a general theme, rather than not stay somewhere based on one or two bad comments.
  • If you are looking for properties for larger families, privately owned holiday homes and apartments might be a better option. For properties in Australia, try Stayz or Ownersdirect for the UK and Europe. Another great website for online independent rentals is  roomorama.

We used Owners Direct to book this beautiful Tuscan villa.

  • If you are using a travel agent, consider using one that caters exclusively for families, such as byokids or pluskids travel.
  • If you are travelling in Australia, ring the local tourist information centre. They will be able to provide invaluable local information. Contact details can be found on state-based tourism websites.
  • If your holiday involves flying, shop around. Don’t forget airlines own websites, which may have special deals going. Another great website is flightfox.com, where registered flight experts compete to find you the cheapest flights.

In 2011, we saved more than $1000 on airfares by shopping around, flying Singapore Airlines to Europe & return.

Remember by putting in a bit of time and cross-referencing your choices, chances are you will save money and end up having a fantastic holiday.

Do you have tips you to share?

Two night minimum detrimental to families?

I am currently trying to book accommodation for a weekend away with hubby to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

The kids are being looked after on Saturday night and we want to go to a popular Victorian bayside town, where we have booked into a local attraction. The problem is trying to find accommodation for one night. It seems the whole town has a two night minimum – even local B&Bs.

I could understand if it was a long weekend or the school holidays – but this is the uneventful month of May.

It got me thinking about how two night minimums imposed by accommodation operators might be doing them more harm than good.

Although this is not a family weekend away, it is being organised around a family. And as we all know, it can be hard to organise babysitters for one night, let alone two. And if you are organising a weekend away with the kids, try getting two nights away amongst the various weekend sport and activity commitments!

I can understand accommodation operators wanting to get two nights booked instead of one, but I wonder if more families would book weekends away – and therefore help stimulate the tourism industry – if more flexible options were available for them.

What do you think?

We have a winner

With a handful of reviews coming in since I launched Family Friendly Accommodation in late December, I drew the first winner of our ‘write a review’ promotion. All accommodation reviewers go into the draw to win a quarterly $100 gift voucher.

The first winner is David Dougherty of Melbourne, who reviewed the Moorings at Metung on the beautiful Gippsland lakes.

If you want to review family friendly accommodation to others, simply click on the ‘submit a review’ tab on the website. The next $100 gift voucher draw will take place at the end of June.