What are your best tips for renting a vacation house or Airbnb with kids, ladies? Whether you’re doing Airbnb, VRBO, or another sort of rental, planning and executing the trip can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
I shared a vacation horror story a week or so ago on Corporette — we rented a small house near a beach in Florida with my inlaws for a week. It turned into a horror story when I injured my knee on day 3 and was stuck on crutches for the remainder of the vacation; in separate incidents my FIL also wound up going to the emergency room, my husband walked into the ocean with his iPhone, and then lost his driver’s license a day before we flew back.*)
It got me thinking, though — what are your best tips for renting a house when you have kids? What do you need to think about, above and beyond, if you’re not staying at a hotel or a friend’s house?
Three Things to Consider when Doing Airbnb With Kids
1) Babyproofing. My MIL chose our Florida house because it looked really safe online — no stairs, an alarm system on the pool, and more — but we still made sure to pack corner bumpers, outlet plugs, a few cabinet ties, as well as some night lights so we could all avoid bumping anything in the middle of the night. (We didn’t use the adhesive on the corner bumpers — better than nothing, I figured.)
I was lucky to find this article before I went about Airbnb and the liability issues that arise because the “hotels” aren’t regulated. It’s a pretty graphic article, but it was good to reset my thinking from “city inspectors have checked this place out!” to “this is someone’s home.”
2) Food. If you think you’re saving money, don’t forget that you’re going to have to make a massive, massive run to the grocery store your first day there. My bill came to $420, and that barely took us through 3 meals. Your house may or may not be stocked with basic things like ketchup, mustard, butter, olive oil, spices, and more (and even if they are there, you may not want to use them!).
We brought two Thermos bottles (one for each kiddo), two Zolis for H, and two Take n Toss cups for J; that was probably the bare minimum if we hadn’t wanted to be washing dishes every two seconds. The next time we do a trip like this, I’m going to do a bit of research ahead of time to see where the closest Costco or the like is, or maybe even travel with some frozen, high-cost food in my packed luggage (depending on trip duration, of course) –maybe I’m crazy but 3 frozen pounds of chicken or ground beef, packed in an insulated bag with ice packs wouldn’t be a bad way to save money, assuming I can get them for a good price ahead of time.
3) Toys. Oi. I was hoping that between Grandma and the beach, my eldest would be entertained, but I brought a few bath toys and made a DIY Lego kit before we left.
Oh, and here’s an awesome trick for traveling with stuffed animals: Get a large ziplock bag, put the stuffed animal inside, and get rid of all the air when you close it — you can get rid of 50-75% of the bulk without doing any damage to the stuffed animal.
We Kindle’d some of the boys’ favorite books; I also brought a handful of our thinnest books that both boys like. (We were really lucky and there was already a bunch of kids’ books down there — we also didn’t have to worry about bringing our Pack n Play, towels, beach toys, or more.)
Ladies, what are your best tips for renting a vacation house with kids? Any tips on traveling with grace (amidst a million clunky bags, strollers, etc.), or general tips on vacationing with kids?
* There was mostly a happy ending, though — by a huge stroke of luck we connected with the person who found the driver’s license, my FIL is fine, and as for me I’m lucky nothing was broken or torn, I’m off crutches and the cane, and I can limp around semi-normally now. As for the iPhone, well, he needed a new one anyway, and iCloud miraculously had the beach photos he hadn’t yet uploaded to Dropbox.
We’ve done AirBnB style vacations with our little one a couple of times–I wanted to throw out this recommendation: BABY RENTALS. We have vacationed in Phoenix and Orange County, CA and both times were able to find a company that let us rent high chairs, cribs, and a big box of baby toys. I swear my son’s favorite part of both trips was the box of toys he’d never played with before. I think most large cities have at least one company that lets you rent baby items. They are a life saver.
we airbnbd in berlin and paris this summer, and the “baby friendliness” of the apartments was really a function of how nice the host was, which was something we could assess from the reviews. everyone said our host in paris was supernice. after i booked i messaged him and asked him if he could coordinate a crib delivery, and he offered to buy a crib for the apartment and asked me which kind he should get. our host in berlin was not so well-reviewed (the apartment was amazing, just not the host) and she was really nonresponsive and difficult about it.
That portable lego kit is AMAZING.
The article about Air BnB liability was horrifying.
I have heard of a service called Kid and Coe that is supposed to be family-friendly apartment and home rentals, but I have no personal experience.
In House Lobbyist says
We use VRBO for over 5 years with kids and just try to make do the best we can. For example, we may move the furniture around a little, remove breakable items from the little ones’ reach and put an ottoman over the staircase. I would never have thought to bring outlet covers. I figure we generally have a better adult to kid ratio with grandparents along so there always seem to be someone actively watching the kids. About the only question I ask is whether I need to bring a pack n play. And I did an Amazon delivery of essentials and had it delivered to the house the day we arrived.
We have used Airbnb 3 times in less than a year, and my main recommendation is simple: read the reviews. When traveling with kids, avoid properties that have no reviews and contact the host upfront to inquire about cribs, safety features, nearby supermarkets etc. If the property has positive reviews and the host is responsive, you will most likely have a good experience. I also prefer hosts that manage their Airbnb homes as a business (i.e. nobody lives there permanently) in opposition to those who just rent out the property when they are out of town, because the formers tend to be more professional and willing to please the guests. At least in my experience, you get exactly what is described online. If something is not clear, ask instead of assuming.
I am late but I will comment anyway. We have used VRBO extensively on many places (US-only) and have never had an issue. Definitely read the reviews! In one place, we bought a cheap pack n play to use when they didn’t have a crib. High chairs are hit and miss so we make do without if needed. But we really love having a home/apartment. Everyone gets more sleep and it is much more affordable than two rooms in a hotel. And let me tell you how happy I was to have in-unit laundry the time I was pregnant and my older daughter was throwing up all night.
We have used AirBnB several times now that we have a child, and it makes much more sense than a hotel – when your kid goes to bed at 8 or 9, having a place besides the bathroom for the adults to stay up with the lights on is great! In cities like NYC or San Fran where a hotel suite is pricy, renting a 1 bedroom apartment through AirBnb makes way more sense. We don’t worry much about babyproofing or baby amenities since we spend most of the day out and about and we can watch him carefully for the hour or so he’s awake in the apartment. Just bring a pack and play and we’re set!
Our family of six has used VRBO/AirBNB/other home/apartment rental services internationally and domestically (US) for nearly 15 years. We have had only good experiences. Our group size ranges from 6 to 10, depending on how many grandparents (in the old days) or girlfriends/boyfriends (now) we have along. We (my spouse, mostly) spend incredible amounts of time doing research, especially internationally. We reach out personally to owners where possible, and have had particularly good experiences where owners directly manage properties rather than going through a rental agency. It is often cheaper than two rooms would be, and even if it’s not cheaper you get waaay more space and amenities for the same amount. You can find fabulous locations and we love to cook dinners most nights. My personal criteria is bathrooms–two at a minimum, three is better!
Thanks for posting this – I never would have considered AirBNB with a little one, but after returning from traveling for a few weeks, I think I need to look at airbnb for our next trip.
If you don’t want to pack childproofing supplies, bring a roll of painter’s tape. We used it to cover outlets and to tape drawers/doors shut. We could have used it to hang up makeshift blackout curtains, i.e., garbage bags, to the windows, too.
We live in an area of the country where medical care is not great, and extremely expensive, so we travel for medical care quite a bit. Our daughter has needed surgery and finding a local Air B&B is so wonderful when a member of the family isn’t feeling their best.