One-Rooming-It: Bedtime with Budget Family Travelers

Seekers of marital privacy and personal space need not attempt.

We’ve slept in approximately 42 different beds in the last 8 months.  42 times we walked into a hotel room, guest house, or bungalow and had to size up the most optimal sleeping arrangement for the 5 of us.  Of course, the 5 of us don’t always agree on what the most optimal sleeping arrangement is.

“I’m not sleeping with her, she wakes up too early."
“I’m not sleeping with him, he kicks."
“I slept on the floor last time, it’s my turn for a real bed!"
“I’m not sleeping with her, she hasn’t showered in days.”
“If you put my mat by the bathroom door, I’ll get stepped on when you pee at night.”

Our Asian hosts don’t always agree to accommodate our sleeping design, which often resembles a game of Twister (only with beds instead of colored circles), nor do they understand what we’re saying for that matter, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

"No, we don't want two separate rooms."
"Yes, we know there are 5 of us, but we don't really count the little one."  
"No, we can’t all fit in this one bed."  
"Can you put an extra bed in the room?"  
"Can you put a mat on the floor?"  
"How about that cushion in the lobby...can we snag that for a few nights?"

At the very beginning of our travels we booked two rooms, thinking there was no way we could exist in one room night after night for months and months. After all, we were used to our 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house! But it didn’t take long to realize that we couldn’t afford two rooms long term, that we didn’t want to tear through our bags separating our stuff based on who was rooming with whom, and that if Tom and I were giving up our bedroom privacy, we should at least sleep in the same bed (albeit with a small child wedged between us).  So we came to terms with one-rooming-it.

And it works!  Like this:


Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are clearly not unplugged.

and this


Koh Samui, Thailand. Playing Legos in bed is fun. Sleeping on Legos, not so much.

and this



 and this


Siam Reap, Cambodia.

 and this


Fang, Thailand.

and when we’re lucky, like this


Koh Yao Yai, Thailand.

You get the picture.

Occasionally, and particularly when we’re in a city and don’t have outside space to use, we do get two hotel rooms just to give ourselves a breather. We also get more space when we rent a house for longer periods (for as cheap as $300/month), or when we splurge on a two-bedroom bungalow (spending $60/night rather than $30) .

With a few exceptions, we’ve existed with one bathroom which has been surprisingly manageable.  I rarely take a shower without a kid or two with me.  We can clean the filth off of all five of us quickly with our shower relay race: one in – one out – pass the towel – one in – one out – pass the towel!, which keeps the hot water running (if we’ve got it) and reduces the # of times we soak the entire bathroom because in most Asian budget hotel rooms the shower, toilet and sink are crammed together in one small space.

ups to one-rooming-it:

One room is cheaper than two rooms.  Duh.
We've learned that we can make it work in a small space together,
that we don't need many things because things just crowd us,
that a sleep space can also be a play space or a work space,
that being close together in a foreign country makes us feel comfortable, 
that most of the time, we manage to have fun living on top of each other, 
and that the rest of the time, we manage not to kill each other.


Sometimes the cost of an extra bed isn't much cheaper than two rooms.
Sometimes a bed looks big enough at 3pm but feels way too small at 3am.
With a preteen in the mix, figuring in her need for privacy gets tricky.
It's difficult putting the kids to bed at different times in one room.
It's difficult putting the kids to bed at the same time in one room.

 We spend an average of $30/night on one-room budget accommodations in se asia, and that usually includes breakfast for 5 of us.

I realize this is not for everyone, constantly sleeping in different rooms, sometimes not the cleanest, sweet smelling rooms, playing musical beds in a tight space with 3 kids, and having very little privacy or stuff.  ENTICING, RIGHT?


For us, it has been and still is very enticing.  I have moments when I wish I could be alone in these amazing places we’re visiting so that I can take it all in without worrying where I’m going to score the next round of snacks, but I don’t wish I could be alone in my hot-water-strong-pressure-shower-that-doesn’t-soak-the-bathroom back home.   On the road, we deal with small spaces and living in each other’s faces, because we get to see the world together, and we learn to live simply and flexibly in the process.

Have there been nights when I would have loved to put my kids to bed somewhere other than right next to me?  OF COURSE!  But we made a choice to travel SE Asia on a budget with 3 kids, and it’s a trade off I’m happy to make the most of.

it doesn’t matter what our nights looks like when our days look like this:


Koh Samui, Thailand

 and this


Siem Reap, Cambodia

 and this


Chiang Mai, Thailand

and this


Cat Ba, Vietnam

 and this


Ubud, Bali

and this


Central Bali

and especially this


Northern Thailand

Small spaces.  Big adventures.

Thanks for following Far Away Five!  I’d love to hear what you have to say about all this craziness, so comment away!


8 thoughts on “One-Rooming-It: Bedtime with Budget Family Travelers

  1. My little one is almost SIX and he is so used to sleeping in our bed that he isn’t even aware he has a room. He thinks that room is the “playroom.” I loved our 1900 ft2 apartment in Singapore. It overlooked the bay all the way to Indonesia. Who needs space when you have a view!???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That must have been some view, Lori! I’m in Indonesia and I certainly can’t see Singapore from here. It’s a good point that we can continue our sleeping flexibility even when we’re at home, to use any space we have in the future in a more versatile way. Just one of the many lessons we learn from traveling. Thanks for reading!!!


  2. LOVE this, as this is totally our story too! We have taken photos of all our ‘bed for the night’ during our 10 month trip and suspiciously, there isn’t always a bed for everyone in our family of 4! We too have bed shared, taken in turns to sleep on the mattresses on the floor (would totally recommend Prolite self-inflating mattresses, our budget travel saviour!), etc! The only thing we haven’t done (yet!) is someone sleeps in a hammock on the beach outside – but there’s still time! It’s all fun and games until one of you wakes up with food poisoning and you are having one of those everyone-sharing-a-bed nights, but it sure makes for an interesting story and we do look back on some of these situations now and laugh! 🙂 Glad you’ve had mainly positive experiences too! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. April, we haven’t tried putting someone outside to sleep yet either, but we might need to squeeze that in before we leave. Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences, too. I know you know exactly what we’re doing and why!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post so much. Not only do I identify with the whole one room living situation, but I love the photos and I LOVE your voice. I am so glad you are making time to write, because these are great! We are staying in a two bedroom apartment at the moment and I have to say I miss their little warm bodies and the feeling of the four of us being snug in our den together. But not that much! Can’t wait for the next installment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Bliss! It’s great knowing that I have new friends from this trip that know exactly what I’m living, and who can actually feel the cozy discomfort of months and months of budget travel with small, opinionated people. What I wouldn’t do for a beer with you now at a jazz bar in Chiang Mai.


  4. This made me teary-eyed. It’s so hard to believe your journey is close to ending. At the end of every “hectic” day, I try to imagine what The Church Family is up to–and I imagine a beach, and elephant, or both is involved. I’m so envious of what you have done, the lessons you have taught your children, and the experiences you have given them–which, will impact their lives so positively and likely last a lifetime. Kudos to you! Enjoy every last day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bridget, I think you need to start planning a sabbatical year that involves world travel. I’m serious! You can take your side biz with you, which is the real beauty of that kind of work. I’m always so glad to see you following our trip!


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