Homestay or Hotel – The Answer

We have travelled a fair bit throughout Asia with our two young children, but one consideration we have when booking trips is, should we stay in a hotel or a homestay?

For those of you who don’t know what a homestay is, it’s exactly what the name suggests, you stay in someone’s home. More often than not they have carried out internal alterations to their existing building in order to incorporate one, or more, bedrooms for tourists to stay in. The owners live there too and there is often a communal living room and/or kitchen. The ‘hosts’ are there if you need them.

I don’t think I need to describe what a hotel is….

The idea of staying in someone else’s home may not be appealing to a lot of people, I get that, however when you’re travelling with children, here are the reasons why, where possible, I would choose a homestay over a hotel, every time

1- The communal area gives the kids somewhere else to go.

Unless you’re staying in a high-end, all singing all dancing hotel, chances are the hotel room you will be staying in will be just ‘ok’. Having stayed in a lot of budget-mid range hotels in Asia, we’ve found the rooms are generally quite small, the TV’s don’t always work and when they do, you’ll be lucky to find something worth watching. Prior to having kids, we saw a hotel as a place to sleep and have breakfast, that’s all. We would leave in the morning, go off and explore and be back just before bed.

Our thinking was ‘why would you go to a new country to sit and watch TV? you can do that at home’.

Then the children came along and we quickly found out that being out all day, doesn’t always sit well with them, they need time to relax and recharge, forcing them to be on the move all day is not a good idea. So what do you do, you go back to your hotel room, sit on the bed, turn on the TV…and…(if it works at all) there is nothing for them to watch, there may be one children’s channel and the chances of it being Paw Patrol and in English are always going to be slim.

So what happens now, they turn to you to entertain them. I thought this was rest time was it not? I don’t have has much energy as I did before they were born!

However, if you’re in a homestay, the chances are that there is a communal area, another room to go to! and based on our experiences, more often than not, the host family often have children! which means? a new friend to play with along with their associated toys! What entertains a child more than another child’s toys? not a lot! (Even if you have the EXACT same toy in your own house).

The communal area and potential for other children to play with can be a lifesaver when the kids need a break from exploring and the hotel TV hasn’t come up with the goods.

2- The food is homecooked, cheap and better than a restaurant

The communal area mentioned above is the main reason I prefer a homestay over a hotel, but the food comes a very close second. Whilst I’m sure this won’t apply to absolutely every homestay in the world, it certainly has applied to all the ones we’ve stayed in. The host will cook you a meal!

Yeah, a lot of the time you want to be out trying out the cafes and the street food vendors, I’m all over that but for those times when you’re either short on time, money or just can’t decide which restaurant to eat, ask the host to make you something. Of course, they will charge you and rightly so but it will be a fraction of what you pay in a restaurant. Plus its all good quality stuff, chances are they are eating the same thing, it’s not something which has been shoved in the back of a freezer and defrosted in the microwave.

They will be proud to cook you their local speciality. Some of the best food we have had on our travels has been homecooked by our host family.

3 – The hosts care about you

This principle applies the world over. The persons whose business it is will care more about that business than an employee. When you go to a hotel, you’re going to be greeted by an, undoubtedly very friendly, person but chances are they won’t own the hotel. Sure they will help you out if you need anything but will they really go the extra mile to make sure your stay is the best it can be?

Yes, there will be a lot of hotel workers who will, but in the main, they’re only there to pick up their paycheck at the end of the month, as probably 90% of all employees in any sector are. Are they really fussed if you rate the hotel as 9/10 rather than 10/10 on TripAdvisor? of course they’re not.

A host family, however, absolutely are. It is their business, their livelihood. it is very important to them that you have a brilliant stay. I’m not saying that they will be following you around making sure you’re smiling all the time but having stayed in a lot of both hotels and homestays, there is a noticeable difference in the quality of service given by a host family.

4 – The hosts have the best local knowledge

So you turn up in someplace new with your kids, you want to drop your stuff off and get out to explore, you’re not ready for a day trip today, you just want to entertain the kids for a couple of hours, you’re looking for a park, or a restaurant or a wooded area.

You wander over to the hotel desk and there is a high chance that you’ll be greeted by someone who has spent some amount of time getting from their bed in the morning to the desk where you see them now. They had to travel there, there is absolutely no guarantee that that person knows anything about the ‘immediate area’ and where are the best places to let the kids run around.

In my experience what you’ll be handed is a generic tourist map of the area with the local night market, cathedral and pharmacy pre-ringed in pen in addition to a number of shiny day trip leaflets promoting the real reason you’re in that area.

Ask your homestay host however and you’re talking to someone who lives in the local neighbourhood and may well have even grown up around there.

You want a bit of grass? they will know because they took their kids there for the same reason you want to.

You want a good restaurant that’s not recently bumped its prices up because it had a good review on TripAdvisor? They will know where to go and what dishes are best.

They know every nook and cranny of that town, this info is much better than anything you’ll find on a shiny map!

5 – A Homestay is usually better located than a hotel

Admittedly this isn’t always the case but building a hotel slap bang in the centre of anywhere isn’t easy, planning is a problem, the logistics of the building process is a problem and of course, it’s more expensive to do.

Most budget/mid-range hotels are not right where you want to be, they’re on the outskirts as the developers balance the cost of the land to build on, with the return they get through not being able to charge the highest fee for the rooms.

A homestay, however, is usually already built and someone is living there. From our experience, the host didn’t buy that property to run it as a homestay, it was a family home which happened to be in an area where, for whatever reason, tourism strongly developed and they have capitalised on this by converting their residence to offer tourism accommodation. Yeah they probably had to get some planning permission and re-jig a couple of rooms but then there you have it, ready-made accommodation which can be, and often is, slap bang right in the middle of the action.

So for me, when travelling with young children, when deciding on a homestay or a hotel, a homestay wins every day of the week, there are so many positives over a hotel.

Saying all this though, would we be tempted by a 5* hotel with all the trimmings if we were travelling as a couple and had a bottomless pit of money?

Yes of course…but we’re not…and we don’t!

What do you prefer?

I am a stay at home Dad, from England, living in Malaysia. Talking about how we survive the heat, the cultural differences, the lifestyle changes, the travel and lots more challenges that being a stay at home Dad in a foreign country brings.

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