Ever hear of the show, When Vacations Attack? It’s on the Travel channel.
I have seen it exactly once in my life. It was the day after The Kukookunuko Bus in Aruba. That was appropriate timing.
Last week, I hinted that we came back from a vacation where almost everything seemed to go wrong. The exception was the weather. Even that rose had its thorn as everyone commented when we got back, “You picked the right time for a vacation. What perfect weather!” The only response you can give is, “Yeah it was great!”
So here’s the real story and the lesson we learned.
Every year we go to Block Island for a few days. It’s the area with the fewest people (~1000) in the smallest state. The island has one grocery store, one bank, and one gas station… and at least 15 beaches. For me it’s about taking a step back from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just recognizing nature. The sacred labyrinth is a great place for that.
A few weeks before we were leaving, my wife noticed there was a cheaper hotel available. It was $120 a night vs. the $240 a night that we had booked. The location was a lot better, too. Since we would be spending most of our time outside the hotel, why not save some money, right?
On the surface, it seemed like an easy win-win.
In reality, it was a mess!
(Warning: This is going to be a rant. I’m going to be placing a lot of fault on the hotel, but at the end of the day, it was really our own fault which I will explain.)
The hotel was a historic landmark, which meant that it didn’t need to be accessible for disabled people. We aren’t disabled, but it meant a couple of flights of stairs with no elevator. That’s not a huge deal-breaker most of the time, but we had to bring a lot of beach stuff up and down to the car multiple times. As a family of four the beach stuff seems to get big quickly. Some stuff can stay in the car, but the cooler for cold drinks became an issue.
The room didn’t have a fridge, so keeping the kids’ juice cold (refrigerate after opening!) meant trips to the ice machine in the lobby. The ice bucket was designed for a bottle of wine, not half-gallons of orange and cranberry juice. We could have been smarter by bringing juice boxes or bringing a smaller, more portable cooler, but we didn’t.
There was also no microwave to reheat any restaurant leftovers. That was unfortunate as a lot of food simply went to waste and we paid for meals that wouldn’t have had to otherwise.
The biggest sin of the hotel: The wifi that’s based in the lobby didn’t reach our room. I know I said that I was there to connect with nature, but I do like to take an hour at night when the kids are asleep to catch up on news/email.
The room itself was pretty bad. I estimate it was about 10×14 feet with 2 full beds. That doesn’t work well for four people even if two of those are 3 and 4 years old. My wife and I had to each sleep with a kid because we didn’t fit comfortably in a bed together. Instead, the kids rolled and and kicked us all night. We didn’t get good sleep which slowed us down in getting started the next day.
The air conditioning was a big unit on the floor that took up a few precious square feet. The shower was literally a square, about the size of a phone booth. I’m not sure a larger person than myself could get into the toilet area… and I’m not that big at around 180 pounds.
It came with no parking so we had to move our car every two hours (this we knew in advance, but it would still be nice to not worry about it). The television got about 20 channels. We weren’t there to watch television, but sometimes it helps entertain the kids if there’s a cartoon on. I would have liked to have watched a Red Sox game at night. There was no DVD player or anything like that.
Your initial reaction to this might be, “Well what did you expect from a budget hotel?” I actually like Motel 6 most of the time. Budget hotels are great!
The biggest problem was that our needs didn’t match up well with the hotel’s limitations. In the past, we’ve been able to stay almost anywhere. Now that the kids are bigger and active, we need different things.
We’ve learned that is worth spending some extra money for the basic amenities that we need for a family. It doesn’t mean we are going to spend top dollar for every hotel, but we are going to be more mindful about our choice.
The good news is that we were able to tour a perfect hotel for our next stay. It’s around $240, but it is a couple of rooms. It also has what I’d call a “plus kitchenette” as it has a stove. Finally, it is dog-friendly, so we’ll save some money by not having to pay dog sitters.