Family friendly vacations: for the international jet setter, the unhotel, London anyone??
Ya, sure you were like James Bond, George Clooney, Naomi Campbell, and Penelope Cruz in your life before kids. Isn’t it funny how we all refer to our lives before kids and then after……And I think the older the kids get, the more glamorous your life before them starts to sound….weekend trips to and from London, New York and Vegas, renting homes in the south of France with all your no-doubt totally cool, incredibly attractive, super funny globe-trotting friends or maybe you were doing an every other weekend house-share in the Hamptons the Carrie Bradshaw ‘sex and city’ way or you and your now spouse stole romantic getaways to the Carolinas, Capetown, Zanzibar or off the coast of Thailand….
But something happens after you become a parent (besides the obvious fact that your manolo blahnick fund is quickly being depleted by diapers). And suddenly, 3-5-10 years later, when you think vacation, you think of keywords like ‘near’ or perhaps ‘tantrum-free’, ‘all-inclusive’ ‘beach’, ‘kids’ club’, ‘babysitter’, ‘grandparents’, ‘aunts and uncles’ – in a word, you are looking for that drama-free break with your kids in tow. If you are lucky, you can drop your kids off with your parents and have a ‘guilt-free’ weekend away…but I have found through talking with other parents, that the longer the getaway planned by you and your spouse (‘yeah, we were thinking of taking a month old trip to the Fiji islands, just the two of us to get reacquainted’), the more likely the grandparents, aunts or uncles are likely to say, “that sounds lovely, and it would also give you AND the kids a great chance to bond in a new setting’. Shucks!
So where can you go for a week, two weeks, or if you are lucky and live in Europe, three weeks (totally unheard of in the States), with your kids and still resume that jet-setting persona that you so crave?
That’s where the ‘unhotel’ comes in. All summarized in the tag line, stay in a real home with hotel style service or live like a local, www.onefinestay.com. The unhotel was started in 2009 by three business men who found a lucrative trade between the perpetually traveling businessman who was tired of living in a suitcase and the frills that come with it namely going from one hotel to the next; and the London resident (probably also a heavy traveler whose apartment remains empty for most of the year). With the unhotel, a businessman could ‘stay’ in a London residence complete with the frills that accompagny hotel-living: white cotton linens and towels, maid service, 24 hour concierge AND the authenticity of a being a local resident in someone’s home for a night or a short period.
Now imagine that you are actually fed up of doing the beach or country house thing with your family every year, and you would like to get reacquainted with your old stomping ground (if you are a british transplant visiting home) or (a globe trotter that lives outside Europe), or (an English family that moved to the country after they had a family), or (the American family looking to give their children, the European experience ) or maybe you are just a London family looking for a staycation just outside their own home! Well in the absence of the onefinestay, the very thought of traveling with your spouse and 2 , 3 , 4 or however kids, across the continent would be a nightmare. Not only do you have to endure the general joys of ‘traveling by air with your – ‘oh so wonderfully behaved but incredibly temperamental kids’ (see my previous post of travel) – now you have to deal with ‘ups and downs of being a tourist’ in London. I think tour buses, lots of time spent poring over maps (which way is the nearest playground, pub, museum, pub, train station, pub, icecream parlor, pub ) all amidst the screaming, bickering and/or overexcited children in the background and incredibly anxious parents.
With the unhotel, you can choose the type of vacation (family), location in London (depending on what you would like to see, where you would like to be situated (central, east, west, north or south London), price (and there really is a broad range) and number of bedrooms. Each home comes equipped with an iphone which details the local attractions…and how to get there (don’t you just love apple?). Plus, you can feel secure in your ‘family space’ during your stay which really complete the overall feel of a family vacation and probably makes your kids feel more comfortable about being in and adjusting to a new setting. There are also other amenities you can ask for (like a fully stocked fridge), so you don’t need to deal with room service which can be a pain to wait for with jet lagged kids and there is a 24-hour concierge on call. And get this, drumroll…your kids can play with someone else’s toys while they are there. (Just make sure that your boys won’t be walking into a princess’s bedroom or a girly girl having to immerse herself star wars, pirates and thomas, before you decide NOT to pack any toys). Sure the house exchange is not new, but how many exchanges do you know where the living standards/services (like the toweling, sheets, iphone, concierge, cleaning and etc.) are standardized by an outside party?
So, if you crave your bachelor or single days, you can still stay in Eaton Square where all the prior James Bonds have lived (Ian Flemming, Roger Moore and Sean Connery) family in hand, or if just being in London is enough, and you would like to just have that lovely English experience that is family friendly and not too close to central London in a victorian house….. Enough sell. Here are some pictures (but i am not doing it any justice, check the website) and then….go revisit your prior life, your children will get a glimpse into your past and will probably, and I say probably (not definitely) respect you for it afterwards…..