When we set out to travel as a family, we hope to learn the most we can about a place and its people. We read the books, study the customs, and imagine what daily life must be like for the people who live there. And yet, once we get to our destination, it’s easy to find ourselves surrounded by other tourists, just like us, in cookie-cutter hotels that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. (Do you ever wake up in a hotel, look at the four walls your kids are bouncing off of and forget what city you are in?) This is one reason we love booking private rental properties. Here are eight reasons you should too.
#1 – Meet real live locals
When you ask kids what they loved most about a trip and they say “the people” – well, that’s when you feel like you have done a great job showing them the world. While plenty of private rentals have little to no interaction with the caretaker, some hosts go out of their way to make your stay memorable. It’s one of the reasons we loved Casa Espana on our trip to Havana, Cuba. Close to the Malecon, Havana’s long seaside esplanade, the authentic sights and sounds of Cuban life are mere footsteps away. If little legs need a lift, taxis are available at the nearby Hotel Nacional, or, in our case, were offered by the caretaker’s cab-driving son. After one of our kids developed the respiratory flu, the caretaker’s wife even cooked up a batch of homemade Cuban soup for us. How’s that for a personal touch?
#2 – Those thoughtful little extras (and we‘re not talking about guest soap)
It’s great when a rental property captures the essence of a region, but it’s genuinely memorable when it captures the essence of its visitor too. We found this to be the case with our stay at a property labeled “Bunkmates in the Bluegrass State” on Airbnb. After a day spent exploring Louisville, Kentucky, including our trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum (highly recommended) we were delighted to find a dedicated LEGO area in this spacious and stylish apartment. Decked out with games and things to do, it made our downtime all the more enjoyable. The kids loved it.
#3 – It’s where downtime can be quality time
Sometimes the downtime is when our most cherished family memories happen; planning the day, making meals, playing games, telling stories by the fire. A rental property sets the scene for that kind of magic. Another one we like is Heavenly Hideaway in Lake Tahoe, NV – a beautiful modern cabin that’s as spacious as it is cozy. Plenty of room to spread out, indoors and out, with everything a large family would need. Family-friendly touches like an old school arcade table make for memorable laughs and can even allow you to pass on your mad Ms. Pacman skills to the younger generation.
#4 – The more, the merrier
Speaking of having enough room to spread out, we love how a residential rental property can allow more space for your extended family to get in on the fun. Properties like Amarelo Sol house in Captiva, Florida can help bring a larger group together for communal activities, still allowing for some degree of privacy. This sunny yellow home delivers on its name, offering a wonderful roomy stay just steps from the beach. Dolphin sightings are not uncommon and make for an excellent activity for all ages. Great for big families, this property includes a guest house perfect for grandma and grandpa.
#5 – Ever walk through a hotel in a wet swimsuit?
Swimming can be one of the best ways for kids to burn off energy on vacation, but the distance between bedside and poolside can be fraught with many reasons not to go. Afterwards, there’s a bathroom full of wet swimsuits, and you still have to find something to do for the rest of the day. That’s why we are big fans of seaside rental properties like the swim-friendly “Life’s Better at the (Private) Beach” Townhome in Key Biscayne, Florida. With bunk beds, a pool and a private beach nearby, this property fulfilled our short list of must-haves for an effortless summer stay. Clean and cozy, it’s a quick walk to the grocery store, restaurants and a Walgreen’s.
#6 – A home base outside of the hotel district
There are vacations where you want to kick back and stare out to sea, and then there are those where you want to drop your bags off and take in everything the city has to offer. Heading out to explore is how it was for us on a recent visit to Minneapolis. Located between Minneapolis and the airport (and close to St. Paul too), we found this very affordable One Level Living property a great home base for all things Twin Cities. Close to the light rail and with easy parking, this single level home saved our team a lot of time and money during our stay. It’s an immaculate, no-frills home featuring a beautiful yard for the kids to play in.
#7 – Fewer meltdowns at sundown
You know that feeling on vacation when everyone is happily exhausted, wishing the day would never end, but you have to pack everything up and drive back to a hotel? For anyone with a toddler, the struggle is real, but it also has an impact on the quality time of the whole family. Private rentals give you a fully immersive experience that doesn’t end when the sun goes down. We loved Yachats Sunset house in Yachats, Oregon for just this reason. If the sound of waves crashing lulls you to sleep, you will love this property. Kids will enjoy watching for whales, beachcombing at low tide and a warm fireplace at night. It’s just off Pacific Coast Highway 101 and dog-friendly too.
#8 – Access to the out of reach
Thankfully, there are laws preventing hotels from being built at some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and we think that’s an excellent thing. It’s also a very good thing that the homes in these same areas are sometimes available as vacation rentals. Finistere means “end of the earth,” and that’s the way we felt in this Sea-front Villa in Bretagne, France. With sea views from nearly every window, a property like this makes for an awe-inspiring, private family retreat, unmatched by a hotel or resort.
Tip: Plan a vacation around a dramatic vista like this to add symbolism to significant life events or contemplate milestones. The world is at your feet.
True, we are fans of some pretty fabulous hotels and resorts as well, but a family vacation at a rental property can offer an authentic experience a hotel cannot. Instead of paying for a room to sleep in near a place you want to visit, why not make the lodgings your destination and watch the memories start happening before your eyes. You’ll live more like the locals, immerse your children in a unique experience, gain a greater appreciation of the region, and most importantly, pack in more family time for your dollar.