Honey, I shrunk the kids

Musing about travel websites during peak season

It was almost December and my other half finally convinced me to go to Thailand on a family vacation. Not that I didn’t want to. But you know…life, commitments. As soon as I said ‘yes’ I buckled myself in and set off to explore some of the more popular travel websites.

Culture, Comfort & Co-Sleeping

My first goal was to book a place on our favorite island, Koh Phangan.
As it’s the same sea, sun and coconuts as 10 years ago I expected it to be a walk on the beach. How wrong I was.
I planned to book a room for 2 adults and 2 children but it turns out this option is highly elusive or simply non-existent on many of the big travel sites. Sure, you can enter the date and the destination and even add a filter of ‘family friendly’ but where on earth do I indicate I have a 9 year old and a 7 year old traveling with me?  I don’t.

No family room
Is co-sleeping the only option?!

The result was endless wasted time checking hotel after hotel, all with the most magnificent rooms which all seem to cater only for couples. Even when I drilled down I only discovered that kids sleeping in parents’ bed will or will not be charged. Sometimes, there was an option for one extra bed. It may be a cultural thing but we’re not pro co-sleeping with our young ones. After a long and fruitless search I was one key away from reserving two rooms when suddenly a thought came to my mind: Where’s My Win-Win?          
We’re so used to thinking that a happy customer is a good customer, right?
Give them better experience and they will purchase more or do whatever you want them to do on your website. Win-win is the name of the game. But what happens if there’s a conflict? Say, if I can have my kids with me in the same room (which is what I want) but the site prefers that I’ll purchase two rooms because it’ll make more money? Now, if my kids were babies that would be out of the question but they’re not and I was just about to order two rooms in a lovely resort when I decided not to. If I take two rooms, I thought, I have to make sure they are joined rooms and nobody will guarantee that online. So what do I do? I ‘pick up’ my Skype and call the hotel. Surprise! I don’t need joined rooms because I can share a room with two children. Hurray!

Firm Form

Celebrating my success with south Thailand I then moved up to the north. I found the ‘best resort in Chiang Mai’ and was about to order a family unit. According to the description on the hotel’s website this unit consists of two rooms and enough beds so everything is just great until I get to the checkout and I’m forced to say if we’re a party of one or two. It’s a pick list and I’m a forms expert, so I know what a closed list of values mean. It doesn’t make sense at all but at this point I decide not to smash the laptop but simply dial in quickly and five emails later, I reserved the family room for a party of four.

Family room host 2
Family room for maximum of 2 guests ?!

Is 4 the Magic Number? I’m taking into account that having exactly two kids is a game changer. I mean, if it was one child I could easily order a room for the three of us. It I had three children or more there was no question of reserving more than one room but two seems to be a common enough scenario and even if I had more kids, I’d like to indicate their number on step one and get the options that suits me best.

New Kid on the Block

To make a change I tried the ‘new kid on the traveling block’. Here are the things I like about this site - saying how many people are traveling is mandatory, there is no chance you will ask about place A and will be presented with place B pretending to be A. Lastly, it looks very nice.
I have to be fair though, arriving in Bangkok after 5 hours on the roads to discover that the apartment for four has one bed and one unfolding sofa, wasn’t great. But refund is on its way. Other experiences with this website were seamless.

How I (almost) Shrunk the Kids…

Flights are as easy as I thought. They do not involve much fantasizing and there’s no question of denying my motherhood. Ha. So I went to one of the well-known flight websites and started checking it out. Money changed hands five times before I landed at a website, filled out data about the four of us and got a red error. Apparently, my children’s age ‘does not meet the minimum, restriction of age’. What???
Mommy, you always say I should give fake name and age if asked who I am online”, says my bright 9YO. That’s kind of true, but I feel that giving a different birth date for the flight ticket reservation isn't going to benefit us. So I decide to go directly to the website of the flight company and start the process all over again, I cross my fingers before checking out and it works.

Age restriction on the flight
Age restriction for flight ticket ?!

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Forever Young

When we were backpacking in our early twenties, getting around South East Asia was challenging but these adventures are the ones we remember and share with our kids. I think that my travel-sites-journey is the modern equivalent for a night bus from Bangkok to Krabi! It takes forever, many of the stops along the way don’t make sense. But at the end, oh boy, it’s well worth it.

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