Vet Your Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals on sites like HomeAway and Airbnb may accept renters with young kids, but how family friendly are they?
It’s easy to see why vacation rentals are increasingly popular among families. Properties on sites like HomeAway and Airbnb often provide kid-friendly amenities such as cribs, kitchens, and washer/dryers—not to mention more square footage for your buck.
Still, not all rentals are created equal, and the sites’ family designations can be confusing. I’ve often browsed through “kid friendly” options and wondered, how long will it take my two-year-old to beeline to that Baccarat bowl on the coffee table? And did the owners intend for their collection of Native American arrowheads, artfully displayed on those mid-century walnut bookshelves, to double as teethers?
I tapped top vacation rental companies to get the low-down on how to best search for family friendly properties on their sites. Here are the nuts, bolts, and , as well as a list of 12 family travel questions to ask property owners before you arrive.
It’s the mama bear of vacation rentals these days, but Airbnb initially had a slower following among families due to its original spare-bedroom model. Today, there are thousands of private-to-you properties—many of which have available amenities such as cribs and changing tables—that cater to families.
Search Tips Once on Airbnb.com, click “Trip Type” and select “For Families.” Here, you’ll see homes that have:
· A 4.75+ (out of 5) average rating from guests
· 5-star reviews from at least two families
· Family-friendly amenities (minimum: smoke detector, kitchen, wifi or internet, and a TV)
· Airbnb House Rules that state the house is suitable for infants and children
What “For Families” actually means To qualify for this trip type, properties must meet certain criteria based on data inputted by hosts (and, in some cases, guests). Hosts must certify that they have amenities such as fully fitted kitchens, smoke detectors, TVs, and Airbnb’s universal list of essentials (toilet paper, soap, linens/sheets, and at least one towel and pillow per booked guest). Properties are also required to receive at least two five-star reviews from other family guests.
Note The Family Trip Type filter isn’t yet available in all destinations. In the meantime, you can manually select filters to find homes that offer some of the amenities listed above, but I suggest serious one-on-one vetting with the rental owner. (For a list of suggested questions, click here.)
Now owned by Expedia, HomeAway bought and combined dozens of international and regional vacation rental sites—the biggest was VRBO—many of which had been go-to resources for traveling families for decades. Unlike Airbnb, none of HomeAway's listings are shared homes.
Search Tips After entering initial data (location, dates, and number of guests) on HomeAway’s home page, your list of rental options will appear, as well as filter options. Under “More Filters,” click “Recommended For Families.”
What “Recommended for Families” actually means These properties have received positive reviews from previous family guests. “Children Welcome,” another filter option, simply means that property owners allow renters with young children.
Note While helpful in narrowing down your search, neither of these filters require the owners to have a basic list of amenities, so it’s essential that you read the listing closely and confirm that any kid-friendly amenities you require (cribs, high chairs) are available. That being said, HomeAway’s inventory is primarily made up of second homes that are outfitted to welcome guests, so things like a full kitchen are highly likely.
This London and New York-based company specializes in family-friendly accommodations in particular, and most properties are personally vetted by a Kid & Coe representative.
Search Tips Every property is family friendly, so the question becomes, which property is best for your family? You can filter properties by the age of your kids, such as “Best for Babies and Toddlers,” and “Best for Older Kids.” Is safety a concern of yours? Under amenities, you can select key criteria such as pool gates and outlet plugs.
What “family friendly” actually means While all property owners understand that they are marketing to people with children on Kid & Coe, the company acknowledges that families come in different shapes and sizes—and so do their properties. Their baseline criteria? “Properties need beautiful décor, enough space and facilities for a family, and need to be in a desirable location,” says director of communications Laura Hall. Kid & Coe’s competitive advantage lies in its clearly outlined information: Amenities are clearly listed with tired mom-proof icons, and well-edited descriptions outline the property’s “Perks for the Parents,” and “Why Kids Love It.”
Note Home owners have to apply to Kid & Coe, giving it more quality control than its behemoth competitors, and properties marked “Kid & Coe Select” have been visited by a K&C representative and/or photographer.
In the U.S., K&C works with Babierge and Key Concierge to provide supplementary baby care equipment and custom itineraries in many of their destinations. And in certain locations, they also work with Babyccino Kids to offer family travel guides.
A newer player on the home rental scene, Vacasa personally reviews, photographs, cleans and manages every property in its portfolio, so there’s hands-on quality control. You deal with the company, not the owner, directly, when you have questions or concerns.
Search Tips Vacasa currently doesn’t have a specific family friendly search feature, though they are working on one. At this point families can vet homes based on basic search data (location, date, price, home size, and occupancy) as well as amenity criteria such as pools and Ping-Pong tables.
What “family friendly” actually means There is no “family friendly” designation per se, but once on a property’s individual site, a short list of kid-focused amenities (Pack-N-Play, Baby Gates, Crib, High Chair) are listed, as well as a long list of family friendly activities ranging from board games to kayaks.
Note While Vacasa is still building out its family friendly search options, it does have one of my favorite search features—strangely lacking on other sites—and that's a flexible date search option. Select the number of rental nights you’re interested in and the general timeframe in which you can travel, and all of the potential rental options come up. Vacasa also has 24/7 customer service and local teams on the ground, so if anything does go wrong (say, an oven breaks), a representative will be there to fix the issue.
No matter what site you're using, it's worth asking the company or homeowner additional questions about their property. Click here for suggested questions.
Did I miss your favorite vacation rental site? Tell me which one below, and I'll get in touch for the family friendly intel.
Airport scavenger hunt!
There is a lot you can see, do, and learn at the airport. Grab a pencil and see how many of these 10 fun things you can do while you wait to board your plane!
1. Get a high five from a ticketing agent or flight attendant. [ ]
2. Count how many pieces of luggage your family packed for your trip. [ ]
3. Find the boarding time on your airplane ticket. [ ]
4. Find your boarding gate number on the flight information display system. [ ]
Gate number: _________________
5. Take a picture of an airplane. [ ]
6. Find a coffee cup inside of a coffee shop. [ ]
7. Fill up your water bottle at the water fountain. [ ]
8. Find a store that sells books and magazines. [ ]
9. Find a piece of artwork and make a sketch of it. [ ]
10. Answer to this question: What is an aircraft fueler? [ ]
BONUS POINT! Find a dog or other pet at the airport. What is its name?