Staying in hotels with kids is no joke.
Memories of hotel visits with my kids play like a movie highlight reel in my mind … nursing a newborn in the hallway at 3AM, splashing in a frigid, over-chlorinated pool with fifty shrieking kids, the entire family going to bed at seven because the overtired toddler is screaming her fool head off, waking at 5AM because the baby was delighted to discover me in the same room, watching Disney channel ad nauseam in an attempt to entertain kids in 400 square feet of space, and letting the kids eat on my bed only to cuddle up with all of their crumbs later that night.
I harbor little hope that my family will get any semblance of sleep in a hotel room. But that never stopped me from trying. I have set up pack-n-plays in closets and bathrooms. I’ve slept kids (and husbands) in bathtubs. I’ve rigged up screens from sheets and even sprung for second rooms in desperate attempts to get kids to sleep. But my children have always had major FOMO and patently refused to snooze if they could so much as smell that any other kids were staying awake.
As for any chance of time with my hubby while traveling with kids? Forget about it. There is no such thing as couple time whilst staying in a hotel. If we don’t want to go to sleep at the same time as our children, we have limited options. We can sit outside the door together or … well … that is about it.
And aside from all of that joy and convenience, large families like ours are usually required to choose the more expensive family suite or book two rooms. So we pay extra for the pleasure.
As my husband and I planned our summer vacation, we were adamant that we didn’t want to stay in a hotel. And while I know camping is inexpensive, cramming together as a family of six inside a tent in a campground with a hundred of my closest friends and their noise is not my idea of fun. I know some families love it. Me? I’d rather sleep on the street.
We knew a vacation rental would be our best option both in terms of cost and comfort.
Here’s why families might consider a rental over a hotel room for vacations:
Separate Bedrooms: Nothing can ruin family fun like an overtired child. Even one bedroom separated from the living space means you can easily nap the wee ones and maintain decent bedtimes. Separate bedrooms also ensure that bedtime for the smalls doesn’t mean bedtime for everyone else.
Mealtime Savings: Lets face it, vacation restaurants are notorious for offering over-priced, mediocre food. And I don’t know what I enjoy less … corralling my maxed out, vacation-weary kids in a restaurant or paying big bucks for the standard kid-fare of nuggets, burgers or plastic mac & cheese that my kids won’t even touch. We can save a bundle on snacks and meals by buying groceries. Plus this means our kids will eat relatively healthy food for the majority of the vacation.
Unlimited Options: Families can rent anything from studio apartments to condos to cabins or houses. Sites let you search by number of bedrooms, amenities like pools, and other criteria. Most vacation rentals have a full kitchen stocked with dishes and pans, laundry facilities, free parking, WIFI, and often little extras like board games, DVDs and books.
Cost Savings: Prices vary widely depending on size, amenities and distance to area attractions but often a vacation rental offers much more dollar for dollar than nearby hotels. You might not need a five bedroom luxury home with a pool, but even a one bedroom basic condo will likely be nicer, more spacious and cheaper than a 400-square foot hotel room.
For our vacation, we wound up booking a fantastic four-bedroom cabin in the Black Hills. It had a fully stocked kitchen, balconies off every bedroom, a huge dining table and three bathrooms – all for the same price as a mid-range hotel.
Here are some tips if you decide to stay in a rental for your next family trip:
- Choose a reputable site like HomeAway.com or vrbo.com to search for your rental. Often these sites have some sort of protection for the renter built into the agreement.
- Take your time to read all of the reviews and view the guest pictures for a given property – good and bad. Sometimes negative reviews have nothing to do with the property and other times they help you avoid a National Lampoons experience. Plus other travelers might offer tips for the location as far as great nearby attractions and the best local restaurants.
- Be sure to book well in advance for the best selection. We learned the hard way that popular destinations can sometimes sell out as soon as a year in advance. Most vacation rentals have minimum stay requirements as well, which can make shorter trips tricky to find.
- After your stay, leave a review of the property. Your feedback is helpful for future guests as well as the property owners who rely on reviews to attract renters.
Our family absolutely loved our cabin rental in the Black Hills. And between being able to put younger kids to bed early, only eating out twice, being able to spread out in our cabin during the almost daily thunderstorms, and having one child suffer nauseating migraines during our stay, we were so glad we went this route. We are already searching for next summer’s adventure and know a rental is the only way we want to go.