After a year plus of being cooped up at home, travelers, many newly vaccinated, are popping up from the dark underground like spring flowers. Desperate for some sun and a change of scenery, many families are starting to once again feel comfortable with the idea of a vacation, and are absolutely overloading home rental sites like Airbnb!
If you’re one of the families considering a getaway, a rental home is a great option. Having amenities like a full kitchen, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and maybe even outdoor space are huge advantages for those of us traveling with children. But how do you filter through all of the listings to make sure you’re choosing the best place for your family?
Our family has almost exclusively stayed at Airbnb’s since our second child was born — six of them in this last year alone for staycations within Switzerland, where we live. We love Airbnb for the convenience, additional space, and prices, but as we know, traveling with multiple small children is a beast, and it takes a lot of legwork to identify places that are truly family-friendly. Airbnb used to have a handy “family-friendly” filter, but since it’s been removed for some time, we’ve done a lot of playing around with the site to come up with great ways to ensure we’re choosing among the best, most comfortable vacation spots for our little ones. Here’s how we do it:
The first thing that you want to do after you’ve entered your information on destination, dates, and number of people, is head to the Filters to start the first round of narrowing down the options. Airbnb has a variety of property types listed on their site, so if you’d like to ensure that you’re only searching among private homes for one family only, make sure that you are selecting “Entire Place” (we’re all set with the roommates we’ve got, right?). From there, check out “more filters”, where we get into the nitty-gritty:
- Bedrooms. Select the number of bathrooms and bedrooms that you’d prefer, but remember: rooms, not beds! Two bedrooms = two separate rooms for sleeping; two beds = potentially one bedroom with a foldout couch in the living room. Two things that sound alike but are very different!
- Verified Places. Here you have the option to look at places that have been vetted by Airbnb and maintain certain standards. One day I’d love to try some of the Plus and Luxe options (homes designated for their design qualities and luxury amenities), but for now, I stick with “Superhosts”: Airbnb hosts that are recognized for being top-rated, experienced, and trustworthy. If your pickings are slim, this of course isn’t a necessity, but I always start here as it gives me a little peace of mind knowing we’ll be staying somewhere that meets certain standards.
- Amenities. Here is my first little trick for identifying truly family-friendly places: select “crib” and “high chair”; even if you don’t need them. If they’re being offered, you’ll know that the host is expecting families with and are welcoming of small children.
So now that we’ve narrowed down our options to truly family-friendly properties, we can filter by price or location/neighborhood. Once I’ve done this, I like to open each property in a separate tab so I can keep track of what I’m looking at and eliminate options easily.
Of course, the pictures are what make the biggest impact on the properties that we’re drawn to, so go with what makes you excited, but remember to look at them critically. Look for big things like making sure you are seeing images of the right number of bedrooms, a bathtub if necessary, and any potential safety issues, to small things like “do I like the look of these linens?” Hey, it’s your vacation! Details are important. Really put yourself in these spaces to see if you can imagine feeling comfortable there.
Now that you’ve closed some of those tabs, it’s time to do the dirty work and read the reviews. Read the reviews, people! This is so important. If there is a ton to go through, luckily there is a search field: I like searching for keywords such as “kids” and “family” to find reviews from other family travelers. The reviews may be overwhelmingly positive, and that’s great, but you’re also looking for any insights that may not be in the listing. You’ll hopefully read nice things about a welcoming host, but you may also get insider tips like if the number of stairs was tough with a stroller, or that the neighborhood was a bit loud at night, or discover that the host provided great extras like toys and books, or any other family-welcoming amenities. Those particulars may not lead to a positive or negative review but could factor into your decision. If you are determined to find peace and quiet and people are mentioning the trendy club across the street, x that tab!
Yes! Ok, congratulations, you’ve narrowed your selection down to a few excellent options! Now continue scrolling down to the “Things to Know” section. Here you’ll find the fine print details that may help to set your choices apart from each other and determine your family’s winning vacation home. Lately, I pay attention to the health & safety section to make sure that the hosts are complying with social distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning processes, but there are other important factors listed here too, such as check-in/out times and cancellation policies. Forgiving cancellation policies are something I’m drawn to at the moment, given the uncertainty of rules and restrictions with travel.
The last step in the process is to communicate with the hosts. I like to send a message before booking, just to reiterate that we are a family with young (rambunctious, loud, crazy) children and confirm that they’re comfortable with that, and ask any questions that I might have about the property that isn’t clear from the listing. If you vibe a bit better with one over the other, that may be something that helps you make your choice.
Well, have you found the perfect vacation home?! I hope that these tips have helped you make your decision. An Airbnb is a great option for traveling families, but make sure that you’re not using that kitchen for every meal: it’s your vacation, too!