Larger families have trouble booking UAE hotel stays

With the spring break over, post-holiday blues may have set in. The best remedy, however, is to book another holiday, but this is no easy task for larger families. Here are some options for big broods in the UAE.
Zoe Hedrick, 6, with her brothers Liam, 3; Jack 1 and their mother, Keri Hedrick who is a travel blogger. Delores Johnson / The National
Zoe Hedrick, 6, with her brothers Liam, 3; Jack 1 and their mother, Keri Hedrick who is a travel blogger. Delores Johnson / The National

The average family in the world today has roughly 2.4 children, so why are most hotel rooms in the UAE designed to accommodate only couples or families with just one child?

Larger families say booking a holiday in the UAE can be a frustrating experience.

“Most of the online travel companies seem to assume we are so wealthy that we can afford to pay through the nose for two separate rooms,” says American mum-of-three Maggie Louis, who lives in Abu Dhabi. “Just because we have a larger family, it doesn’t mean we earn twice as much as everybody else.”

Louis’s nerves hit boiling point when she tried to book a hotel on The Palm in Dubai online last month. “The site asked for all children from 0 to 10 years. I put in two children – as our baby will sleep in our bed – and it gave me a quote of Dh3,600 for the night. I then added in the baby and the only room they could offer on the same date came to Dh32,000. We were being charged nearly Dh28,000 for a baby for one night. Needless to say, we didn’t book.”

Mandy Overton from Ireland, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for more than a year, has found the high cost of hotels has prevented her family from being able to stay overnight anywhere in the UAE.

“We’ve yet to go anywhere with our three children because it seems most hotels only cater to one kid, some two, unless you can fork out big dirhams for a suite or reserve two rooms,” she says. “When I asked a hotel last month what people like us do when they have more than two kids, they stuttered.”

Families are also irked by some hotels’ fine print that states families can sleep in one double bed “using existing bedding” – an option that doesn’t suit everyone.

“I can never understand, why when you book a room for two adults and two children – of 11 and 8 – you arrive to one double bed,” says Abu Dhabi resident Donna Coulston, from the United Kingdom. “My 11-year-old is nearly as tall as me – and who wants four people in one double bed? I go away to relax. Some hotels then make you feel it’s a problem to bring extra beds, even though they charge for them.”

The cost of an extra hotel bed in the UAE varies from between Dh100 and Dh300. “I could buy a bed second-hand for the amount that some hotels charge to lend me one,” says Artemis Kladis, from Greece, who lives in Sharjah.

It’s a familiar story for many big families in the UAE. But having a large family shouldn’t stop you from holidaying in the Emirates, according to travel blogger Keri Hedrick, who lives in Abu Dhabi and posts tales of her holiday antics with her husband, Brad, and three kids, Zoe, 6, Liam, 3, and Jack, 21 months, on her site .

Hedrick admits that when Jack came into their world, travel took on a new dimension. “At first, travelling with three kids was hard. The first time we went on holiday, to Dubai, I hid with my baby while my husband checked in. We felt like criminals, trying to sneak into the room. We don’t do that anymore.”

Having a new arrival didn’t stop the Hedricks from exploring new places, and Hedrick has since blogged about hotel stays in Al Ain, Dubai, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

They have also discovered ways to avoid paying too hefty a price. “We found that if you put two adults and three children into the internet search engines of holiday-bookings companies, it eliminates feasible options ­because they will charge you for two rooms, which may not even be adjoining. So you always put in two children. But then, we make sure to book rooms with two twin beds, rather than a double. We check out the guest photos on ­TripAdvisor to check that the beds will be big enough. Our older two are happy to share a bed, at least for the moment. Once they refuse, we will have problems.”

Hedrick acknowledges their strategy is not without risk. “So far, when we turn up with one ­extra child, we haven’t been ­refused. But I guess hotel staff ­always have that option.” Hedrick recommends, before making the booking, always making sure you’re aware how much a hotel will charge for an extra bed in case you require one.

Although for the Hedricks, squeezing in together is feasible for one- or two-night stays, for longer holidays, the family prefers serviced apartments. “Then you also get a kitchenette, which helps with feeding the kids.”

Unfortunately, holiday options get even more limiting as children get older.

“Wait until they are all over the age of 10,” warns mum-of-three Julie Fitzgerald, a New Zealander who lives in Abu Dhabi. “The cost of going anywhere is prohibitive because hotels insist on extra rooms for children who they decide are adults. We gave up. Apartments from sites like ­Airbnb are the only way to go.”

weekend@thenational.ae

Published: April 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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