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.

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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.

 

 

Revealing the hidden holiday gems of Tassie’s North-West and West Coasts

Based on the number of web hits I get on Family Friendly Accommodation for for family holiday accommodation in Tasmania, this state is becoming a very popular holiday destination for families.

As a Tasmanian by marriage (and having lived there for 4 years, with regular visits since), I am lucky enough to have seen much of the island state, in particular the North-West and West Coasts.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of big name attractions, such as Cradle Mountain and Strahan, many tourists tend to look at this area as the poorer cousin. But that’s just not the case. This region is beautiful and varied in its scenery. There is so much for your family to see and do. And best of all, many of these experiences will cost you little or no money at all.

Tullah

I’ve always been fascinated by this small, almost a ghost town, nestled in majestic mountain scenery. Originally a mining town, it grew in size as home to hydro-electric scheme workers in the 1970s.

A picture perfect day at Tullah, located on the shores of Lake Rosebery.

A picture perfect day at Tullah, located on the shores of Lake Rosebery.

We again visited Tullah in January, staying in a family room in the Tullah Lakeside Lodge – the buildings of which were once the base for many of these workers. The rooms are basic, but the location is not. We were lucky to experience some amazing weather, which allowed for swimming and canoeing.

Setting off in the canoe (Tullah Lakeside Chalet has a small number available for hire or free with some room packages).

Setting off in the canoe (Tullah Lakeside Chalet has a small number available for hire or free with some room packages).

If you time your visit right (which we did not), you can take a 25 minute ride on the Wee Georgie Wood Railway and experience what life was like on the West Coast before the road was opened in the early 1960s (not that long ago really).

The Henty Sand-dunes

Blink and you will miss the turn-off into this hidden wonderland located north of Strahan.

It's hard on the legs, but the scenery at the Henty Sand-dunes is worth it.

It’s hard on the legs, but the scenery at the Henty Sand-dunes is worth it.

Again, the weathers Gods were on our side and we had a picture perfect day to discover this scenic area, which sits between the main road and the rugged coastline.

Toboggans can be hired in Strahan, which will leave your kids full of sand, but loving every minute of it. Ask for details at the tourist information office at Strahan.

How much fun is this? sand tobogganing at the Henty sand-dunes.

How much fun is this? sand tobogganing at the Henty sand-dunes.

Macquarie Heads & Ocean Beach

Make your way out to Macquarie Heads for fishing or just to admire the scenery. If you have a 4WD, you can drive onto the beach (but this also means you have to be aware if you decide to go for a walk with the kids).

Looking back from Macquarie Heads towards Strahan, with Mt Lyell in the background.

Looking back from Macquarie Heads towards Strahan, with Mt Lyell in the background.

If the weather is right, why not take a picnic lunch and watch the sun set across the ocean.

Watching the sun set at Macquarie Heads, at the entrance of Macquarie Harbour.

Watching the sun set at Macquarie Heads, at the entrance of Macquarie Harbour.

Cradle Mountain

You cannot talk about the North-West and West Coast regions without mentioning Cradle Mountain. I love both the natural beauty and history of this place.

Cradle Mountain is spectacular whatever the weather, but encountering a day like this is rare and very special.

Cradle Mountain is spectacular whatever the weather, but being an alpine area with high rainfall, encountering a day like this is rare and very special. This picture was taken in late December 2009.

National park fees apply here. You can pay $24 for a car (up to 8 people) but if you plan to visit a couple of parks, the 8 week holiday pass at $60 might be a more cost-effective option (see Rocky Cape National Park below).

The Dove Lake loop walk is perfect for families with young children (our daughter was aged 5 the last time we did it). Your children will also love exploring the Waldheim Chalet – built by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer as a home and guest chalet in 1912.

The Dove Lake circuit is one that is more than suitable for families. When this photo was taken, my kids were aged 7 & 4.

The Dove Lake circuit is one that is more than suitable for families. When this photo was taken, my kids were aged 7 & 4.

And if you are lucky, you might see a pademelon (small wallaby) or two.

Fossil Bluff

This place is a hidden treasure. You will find Fossil Bluff in Wynyard – making your way through a fairly modern housing estate to a formation of sandstone cliffs that are more than 275 million years old.

Looking across the beach at Fossil Bluff towards Table Cape.

Looking across the beach at Fossil Bluff towards Table Cape.

According to the Australian Heritage Database, Fossil Bluff “contains an unusually rich combined fossil fauna and flora, including terrestrial and marine vertebrates and a wide range of molluscs, leaf impressions and a pollen flora.”

Go exploring with your children and see the amazing sights at Fossil Bluff.

Go exploring with your children and see the amazing sights at Fossil Bluff.

My children loved discovering this area and were fascinated by the shapes they saw in the rocks and by the many different shaped stone on the beach too. But please, make sure they don’t pick at fossils in the cliff-face.

Boat Harbour

Boat Harbour is a favourite destination in summer – an idyllic white sand bay surrounded by national park and farm land.

But white sand makes for damn cold water and in all my visits, I have only ventured into the water twice (not that kids mind).

Crystal clear waters at Boat Harbour Beach.

Crystal clear waters at Boat Harbour Beach.

The usually calm waters make it perfect for toddlers and in winter, it is a lovely spot for a beach stroll.

Stanley and the Nut

Yet another stand-out natural formation is The Nut at Stanley, a quaint historic town about an hour and 45 minute drive from Devonport.

While your children might not like the thought of walking up to the top of the Nut, there is a chairlift available for most of the year (it is closed from about late June to late August).

The Nut at Stanley - a lovely historic town with plenty to see and do for the whole family.

The Nut at Stanley – a lovely historic town with plenty to see and do for the whole family.

Stanley is also about history and you can stay a night or two in a charming historic building and visit the historic farming property, Highfield House.

For those interested in history and politics, visit the restored 19thC settlers cottage in which Tasmania’s only Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons was born in 1879 (and if you want to take this theme a step further, you can see his family home in Devonport, where he lived with his wife and 12 children)

Aboriginal heritage

Another hidden treasure is Rocky Cape National Park. It is an area that is rich in Aboriginal history, with middens and caves, but also an area of rugged natural beauty. There are a number of walks in the area, including short walks suitable for children.

National Park fees apply (or you can use the 8 week holiday pass (as I detailed in the Cradle Mountain information).

Paper making tour

This is one of the most expensive things to do on this list – at $40 for a family of 4). But it is also a unique one where your children can learn how paper is made using traditional methods.

They will also learn how many different sorts of fibres can be used in the process – including roo poo, which I know your children are bound to find either hilarious or horrifying!

What is great about this tour is that it is also hands-on and your children can make and keep their own sheet of paper.

The tour runs at the Makers Workshop in the Burnie Visitor Information Centre.

Little Penguins

If I had any advice for tourists wanting to see fairy penguins, it is that I believe Tasmania offers a much more exciting, close-up experience than what you can see at Victoria’s famous Phillip Island Penguin Parade (but don’t tell them I said that).

The penguins arrive back on land around dusk from September to March. At Burnie’s Little Penguin Observation Centre at West Park, the Friends of Burnie Penguins have free interpretative tours.

North-West Tasmania is one of the best places to see Little Penguins up close.

North-West Tasmania is one of the best places to see Little Penguins up close.

There is another official viewing area at Lillico Beach near Ulverstone.

But here is my top secret viewing tip. Make your way to Ocean Vista Beach on the western side of Burnie. Here the beach is close to the Bass Strait Highway. Sit quietly in the shadows, and the street lights will provide just enough light to see the penguins as they make their way out of the water.

In nesting season, you may be lucky enough to see babies come out of their burrows, impatiently waiting for their food to arrive. This is a magical experience and if you still really still, they may come quite close to you.

But please, please, please respect these beautiful, timid birds. Do not sit in front of burrows, sit quietly and still.

Stay in one place (penguin footprints in the sand at the back of the beach will give an indication of well-trod routes) and do not walk up and down the beach waiting to see one. You will only annoy people doing the right thing and delay the penguins reaching their young.

The Parks and Wildlife Service has a guide to penguin viewing.

I know I have just touched the surface with what you and your kids can enjoy while visiting Tassie’s North-West and West Coasts

Chances are you will take a Gordon River cruise cruise or hop on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. These are amazing experiences, but they do cost a bit of money.

But what these other places offer is a wide range of cheap and cheerful additions to add to your holiday itinerary that will have you experiencing so much than expected from your Tasmanian holiday.

Where to stay

More information on the West Coast

More information on the North West Coast

 

Food, fun and football – our St Kilda ‘staycation’

As any parent of school-aged children knows, sports commitments, birthday parties and play dates means getting away for the weekend is a lot harder than it once was. That is where a ‘staycation’ comes into its own – having a night away in your home town to refresh and re-charge the batteries.

It really is the ultimate holiday solution for a busy family – Dad can travel to and from work if he can’t get extra time off and family members can arrive and leave and different times, working around social and sporting commitments. It is also a great option for families who want to experience a holiday, but have a limited budget.

Novotel Hotels recently invited Family Friendly Accommodation to learn more about their Family& Novotel promise – which is a perfect option for a family staycation.

Along with 3 other families, we stayed at Novotel St Kilda. As any Melbournian knows, St Kilda is a great family friendly location, with bike paths, playgrounds and great places to eat – not to mention the beach and the iconic Luna Park.

Given it was in the depths of winter, a dip in the water was out of the question, so we all headed to Luna Park. And what a perfect time to visit. Queues were short and the kids (Master 11 & Miss 9) got to go on their favourite rides over and over.

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.

It might be a cold Melbourne winter's day at Luna Park - but that means less queues and more rides.

It might be a cold Melbourne winter’s day at Luna Park – but that means less time in the queue and more time for rides.

I still love the Scenic Railway. Operating since 1912, it still offers enough dips to be thrilling, although it was harder on the back & butt than I remember. It also offers amazing views of the local area.

Luna Park is a free entry, pay for rides amusement park, which means it is easy to pop out for lunch in nearby Ackland Street. We stopped at Zenith Bar & Restaurant, which proved a good choice for both us & the kids, with its kids menu (supplied on a colour-in sheet & pencils). We then headed across to the road was award-winning 7 Apples Gelato. What can I say but yum!

Studying the kids menu at Zenith Bar & Restaurant in St Kilda

Studying the kids menu at Zenith Bar & Restaurant in St Kilda….

 

 

...followed by ice-cream from 7 Apples Gelato. Yum!

…followed by ice-cream from 7 Apples Gelato. Yum!

But back to Novotel. How does it add to the family friendly weekend? Well, considering a child to be up to 16 years of age, as opposed to 12, is a great starting point. That means all children aged under 16 stay free when sharing a room with their parents or even their grandparents.

Plenty of room to spread out and relax in the family suite at Novotel St Kilda.

Plenty of room to spread out and relax in the family suite at Novotel St Kilda.

The family suite at the Novotel St Kilda features two separate beds & Miss 9 quickly chose hers.

The family suite at the Novotel St Kilda features two separate beds for the kids & Miss 9 quickly chose hers.

While many of Novotel’s spacious rooms can sleep 2 adults and 2 children, if you have more children or want to spread out, a second room can be booked for the children at 50% off the best unrestricted rate.

Children can also enjoy a free breakfast when eating with their parents – ours eaten amongst some NSW rugby players and Queensland netballers who had stayed prior to their Sunday games

Little kids are looked after with a welcome gift (such as an activity kit or soft toy) and some Novotel properties also have dedicated play areas for small children.

Kids receive a free toy or novelty pack when they stay as a Novotel guest.

Kids receive a free toy or novelty pack when they stay as a Novotel guest.

And to me, one of the best features is a 5pm late check out on Sundays. That means you can arrive early afternoon on Saturday and not have to leave until 5pm the next day. That means no rushing for 10am check-out.

Unfortunately for us, we had to leave by just before midday so we could get our son to his football match on time. But this again shows the benefit of the staycation – Mr 11 changed into his footy gear after we had wandered through the St Kilda Esplanade Market (right across the road from the hotel) – and just half an hour after checking out we arrived at the oval, earlier than expected.

The fact it was the wrong football ground has nothing to do with Novotel and everything to do with his mum, who is not very good with the fine details. But we got to the right oval before kick-off and his team won. A perfect end to a perfect weekend.

To book your family escape, visit this website to find your closest Novotel. For extra peace of mind, as I always recommend when travelling as a family anyway, I would also personally ring the hotel direct to confirm your family booking, including the late Sunday check-out.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Stretching your family holiday dollar further

It seems we are being informed on almost a daily basis that more & more Australians are losing their jobs as companies cut their budgets. In the meantime, costs continue to rise and families have to tighten their belts.

So, can the average Australian family still afford a holiday? I would like to think so. And in saying this, I want people to think outside the square about what they consider to be a holiday.

A holiday can be anything from free camping through to a 5-star resort experience. It can be one night away, through to weeks or months exploring Australia or experiencing life in another country.

No matter what type of holiday your budget buys, it is about spending quality time together as a family outside the home environment. Getting away from the humdrum of daily life can help us focus on each other and bond again.

So, these are my 10 money-saving tips to help you start planning a holiday or weekend away.

1.    Sign up to newsletters

By signing up to airline & other travel e-newsletters, you can get alerts about up-coming sales and last-minute deals.

Last year, I found myself organising a spur-of-the-moment New Zealand holiday after I received an email alert about cheap airfares and purchased them on the spur of the moment after I got an email alert.

Experiencing the sites (and smells) near Rotura, on New Zealand's North Island.

Experiencing the sites (and smells) near Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island.

Many airline deals are for flights months in advance, which also means you can purchase the tickets – then spend more time to save up for accommodation.

Then, last winter (off season), we had a weekend away after I saw last minute rates for accommodation in a popular Victorian seaside resort. For $174 a night, we got a 2-bedroom cabin for four of us, including a buffet breakfast.

This beachside location is booked up in summer, but not as popular in the depths of a cold Victorian winter, when less people want to stay, so deals are offered. Which leads me to my next tip.

2.    Travel off-season

Once your children are at school, you are tied into taking your holidays when everyone else does – and you will pay top price for the privilege!

You will find some really good prices outside the peak holiday seasons. Sure if might not be as warm, but it will be less crowded and you might be able to have a longer stay than if you were paying peak-rate prices.

Holiday off-season - it's cheaper and you can have the whole beach to yourself.

Holiday off-season – it’s cheaper and you can have the whole beach to yourself.

This is especially so in popular holiday destinations, which have with an abundance of accommodation for peak periods, but will offer some amazing rates as they struggle to fill rooms during the off-season.

3.    Stay close to the popular tourist town

So, you want to see all the attractions of the popular tourist town, but find all the accommodation overpriced? Can you stay in a less-popular town close-by? You might find it will save you money.

You may well find some towns cheaper than others in a region, while larger towns and cities can have varying prices depending on where they are located (eg, staying in suburbs rather than the city centre).

4.    Take a city break

If you live close to a major city or regional town, why not become a tourist for the weekend?

I live less than an hour from Melbourne’s CBD, where I have also worked for many years. But travelling in for a weekend and staying the night is a whole other experience.

Discover your home town.

Discover your home town – in this case, Melbourne.

Leave the car at home & catch public transport to save money and discover the local parks and gardens or just wander through the streets. Some cities also provide free public transport for visitors, such as the City Loop tram in Melbourne.

If possible, try to find a package including breakfast. Finding accommodation with a kitchenette can make it even cheaper.

5.    Self-cater

Self-catering is one of the best ways to save money on a holiday.

There is no doubt that eating out as a family can cost a fortune – especially if you are eating 3 meals a day. Often it is these extra costs that can really blow out the budget.

Staying in an apartment or a hotel room with a kitchenette so you do not need to go out for meals all the time will save you heaps.

Self-catering saves money - and saves you from dragging tired children into a cafe or restaurant.

Self-catering saves money – and saves you from dragging tired children into a cafe or restaurant.

To make it extra special, consider allowing for treats – for you and the children. Maybe a pack of Magnum ice-creams in the freezer. My children are allowed to eat Coco Pops when we are on holiday instead of their healthy Weetbix. I will sometimes sneak a bowl of it in too!

6.    Deal direct

In creating my website, I wanted to list properties only and leave all the bookings and negotiations to you, the customer.

That is because many booking websites charge booking fees and/or take commission for bookings made via their websites (even if these fees are hidden in the overall price). This can result in you paying more and/or the property owner receiving less.

In most instances, the days of finding cheaper accommodation on booking websites are gone and the accommodation provider’s own website will provide you with the best deals.

Have a look at what you like, then ring and talk to the owners/managers direct. Ask them what specials they have or what the best rate is they can give you.

Some apartment complexes are managed on behalf of different apartment owners. You might be able to negotiate a good rate depending on the apartment’s location in the complex & its furnishings. There is no harm in asking

7.    Stay in older-style motels & houses.

This leads me to my next point. Generally, the less modern the property, the less you will pay. So, another option is to stay in older style motels. Yes, the decor may not have the latest, ultra-modern look, but most are still comfortable and clean.

You can also try older style holiday houses or apartments through real estate agents or holiday house websites – again, older houses with more dated decor can sometimes be available at quite cheap rates.

8.    Share accommodation

If you are looking at holiday houses, have you considered sharing with friends or relatives?

This can be particularly money-saving in summer, peak-periods. In January, we stayed for a couple of nights with friends in a lovely town-house, sharing the costs for the two nights we were there.

Sharing accommodation with family & friends can get you bigger bang for your accommodation buck.

Sharing accommodation with family & friends can get you bigger bang for your accommodation buck.

In recommending this option, I also suggest you read my tips on travelling with extended family and friends as living with others, even for a short-period of time, can have its challenges.

9.    Travel auction sites

There are a proliferation of websites with daily deals. While I have never used them and am not personally recommending them, friends have successfully booked accommodation through sites, such as Scoopon.

Just be aware of the conditions so you do not get caught with cheap accommodation – but only a very expensive way of getting to it.

Another option which my parents are almost addicted to is travel auctions. Again, this will be of best value if you can travel out of peak seasons, as some have block-out dates over holidays. These properties are usually 3-star rated and you can score some cheap deals by bidding what you are prepared to pay for your stay.

10.  Camping

Many Australian families love camping. There are many state and national parks that offer free and cheap camping experiences around Australia. All you need (at the very least) is a tent. Although you can buy accessories galore to make it more comfortable.

There is also a growing trend towards glamping. This can offer a cost-effective solution for basic comfort at a great price. See these static tents at Tathra Beach Family Park are a great example.

Glamping it up at Tathra Beach Family Park in NSW.

Glamping it up at Tathra Beach Family Park in NSW.

If some of these tips have got you thinking, why not create a family holiday fund and set a holiday goal? Even if you can only get away for a couple of nights and can’t travel far, your family will appreciate it.

And in the meantime, enter every holiday competition you see. Remember, someone has to win. Maybe one day it will be you.

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.

November Update

Regional tourism

I was lucky enough to speak at and attend the Australian Regional Tourism Network (ARTN) Convention, held in Western Australia’s beautiful Margaret River region.

This is just one pic from the area, taken at beautiful Bunker Bay.

2013-10-22 14.08.58

If I came away with one resounding message from the convention – maybe more so from general conversation rather than official speakers – it is that regional tourism in Australia is hurting.

I know many people complain that it is too expensive to holiday at home – and don’t get me wrong, people should travel overseas to experience cultures different to our own – but maybe we also need to put a bit more effort into getting out and experiencing our own backyard.

The fact is Australia will never compete on price against countries in Asia and the Pacific, where the people bringing your food, cleaning your rooms and massaging your back are paid a pittance to do so.

But with pretty cheap airfares and relatively short air travel times – not to mention the fact you can eat, drink and travel in relative safety – I think Australia is a perfect place to holiday when your children are young.

I like to compare discovering new places in Australia to buying a favourite piece of clothing in a different colour. It is different enough to be exciting, but familiar enough to feel comfortable with.

So, when you are considering your next holiday, or a weekend away, if you are not set on travelling overseas, think about discovering somewhere new in Australia. You might surprise yourself at what you can experience. And don’t forget to check out our great accommodation too.

More about the ARTN conference

The ARTN is a member-based association and the national peak body representing regional tourism. The conference covered a range of topics. I spoke about social media and blogging.

As someone quite new to the ‘tourism’ industry, as well as a consumer, it provided me with an informative insight into the industry.

But as I listened and watched some promotional advertising, it also left me wondering about how well we target the family holiday market in Australia.

Maybe some more promotion like this wonderful piece from Tourism South Australia, might entice more families to consider a local holiday, rather than escape to Bali or Fiji. What do you think?

For property owners in NSW

Following the recent bushfires in NSW, the Tourism Industry Council of NSW, together with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, is running a special seminar on bushfire preparedness and tourism for senior tourism professionals and tourism operators.

It is being held this Thursday, 28 November, in Sydney. Learn more.

Latest reviews

We have received a number of new reviews this month, including accommodation in Port Stephens (NSW) Maryborough (Victoria), Launceston and Sheffield (Tasmania). Check them out.

Until next month – happy Christmas shopping and holiday planning.