We love to travel as a family and we have just about outgrown a hotel room. Typically we now have to get two rooms and given how young the kids are, connecting rooms or a suite are the only option. This summer we decided to try a HomeAway vacation rental. We hesitated in the past, mainly because I was always nervous about how to go about finding a great house for kids, how to predict the location and finding a place the kids wouldn’t destroy! After trying it this summer I’ve realized it’s so much easier than I ever would have thought, thanks to HomeAway. Plus, after how relaxed and comfortable we were having our “own home” while on vacation, this is definitely the route we’ll take in the future. I put together a list of tips for renting a vacation home with kids. Hope it helps your vacation planning!
Tips for Renting a Vacation Home with Kids
1. Use HomeAway: As a super busy mom of 4, I do my vacation planning late at night when everyone is sleeping. I don’t have time to chat with a vacation rental realtor during the day nor scour different agencies. I need everything easily organized in one place and HomeAway is just that. When I started the search we were looking at about 10 different locations around the world, then I narrowed it down to 5, then specifically to Kennebunkport. So I had lists on my HomeAway account by location and when I found a rental I liked, I would “favorite” and add it to that list. Then I utilized the map feature for finding a good location and their message section to keep all my interactions with different owners organized. HomeAway is the only way for a me to do my “midnight vacation planning” and I’m glad I found a place to do just that!
2. Use the Map: Once you decide on a location, utilize the map feature. Decide how close you want to be to the beach, center of town etc and focus on that area. The map helps narrow down the listings and make it less overwhelming.We wanted to be near the center of town in hopes of walking places. We ended up RIGHT in the center of town! See this post for more on exactly where we ended up in Maine.
3. Communicate with the Owner: This was my favorite part about HomeAway – the ease of communicating with the owners. I loved everything about the listing I had found except 1 things: there were zero reviews. I take a lot of time to read the reviews, so seeing none scared me. So I messaged the owners and simply asked why they had no reviews. They emailed and offered to call me to chat about why it was their first summer on HomeAway (the house actually had a really cool history!!!). Leading up to the stay I messaged the owners questions and they were quick to answer. They even went as far as so kindly messaging me to let me know of a piece of furniture to move into the closet so one of the babies didn’t get hurt. When I saw a week of rain and messaged them for close by indoor activities, they gave me tons of ideas. I felt like we got to know the owners via messaging and it made me really comfortable with renting the home.
4. Drivable Locations Help: Yes, there are tons of incredible vacation rentals around the world but for our first rental we went with something drivable. A perk of a drivable location for a vacation house is you can bring all the extra things you might need for kids. We brought a baby gate, a mini highchair for Miles and toys to entertain them in the house. We were off on our family road trip!
5. Study the Photos: This is key when selecting a rental but then study them even more before you pack and head out on the trip. One of the reasons I picked our vacation rental was because of an awesome area called “The Garett”. I could tell there was a cool room on the third floor that would be perfect for the kids to play. Once we got there it was even cooler than we expected and by far the kids favorite part of the house. Finding a rental with a space for the kids to play was key since we had some rain. I also studied the photos to find a good outdoor space: the house I chose had a true backyard that I could tell was partially fenced in (key for wild toddlers).
6. Prepping the House: One of my biggest concerns with renting a house with kids was that we were going to damage something. My kids travel a lot, but they’re kids and at very wild and crazy ages. The amount of damage they can do in a few hours is incredible, never mind a week. So again, I studied the photos to see what might be of concern. When we arrived at the house, we walked around and took everything that looked breakable and placed it in a closet.
We made notes about what we moved and where it had been. This took maybe 10 minutes and put my mind at ease. Then to prep the house to leave, we put all the kids to bed the last night and then proceeded to pack the car, clean up and put all the nice things back in their places. We got the house totally prepped to leave before we went to bed so when we woke in the AM we popped the kids in the car in their jimmies to head home. The whole process was so much easier and more relaxing than I imagined.
7. Think About the Toys: When you are in a house for the week, the kids are going to want things to play with. Think about what you pack: you don’t want a million little pieces or markers that stain. Pack a few toys and books that will be fun and not to messy/ things you’ll leave behind. I actually packed our toys in a small toy basket. Then I just kept it in the living room like we would at home. This made the kids go to the toy basket vs the items in the home that were not for kids. The house we rented also had tons of games and art supplies for the kids to play with. That was a great surprise and so kind of the owners to provide.
8. Keep Your Routine: The thing I liked best about renting a house vs a hotel, was it was so much easier to keep our regular routine. Sometimes meltdowns happen on vacation because kids are over tired or out of sorts because their routine is totally thrown off. Renting a house made it easy to have fun but keep our routine. This made for much happier kids on vacation! What was really cool about the location of the house was that the baby brothers could keep their early bedtime (Dad stayed with them) and the big sisters and I could walk back into town for ice cream!
9. Consider the off season when choosing a vacation rental:
If you rent a house in the off season, you can often get more for your budget. This is great when traveling with kids because it might give you more space or a location closer to where you want to be in the town. It’s also great because the place you visit will be less crowded. My kids get a little overwhelmed in crowds (let’s be honest, so does mom). So renting a house in a town when the town is a lot less busy is great for us.
1o. Make Yourself at Home: One of the perks of renting a home is you can make yourself feel at home and relax more on the vacation. So unpack, use the space, unwind and feel at home. Another way you can really make yourself at home in a vacation rental with kids is to have more meals at home. Eating meals out with kids can get very stressful when you are away for a whole week.
Renting a home gives you the option of eating in. We had lunch at home almost every day. This meant much easier nap times. We also alternated between dinner at home and dinner out. Eating out less and in more made this trip a lot easier for us than when we are in hotels.
This trip to Maine was our best family vacation yet and I think a lot of it had to do with how much we all felt at home while we were there.
All photos in this post are from the HomeAway rental we chose in Kennebunkport, Maine. For more into on the trip, visit this post. Happy house rental hunting!
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. I do participate in some posts as part of being a HomeAway insider and receive some credit to use towards rentals. The rental process and the house selection was all my choosing. The owner had no idea I was working with HomeAway and I had the same process, pricing and experience that anyone else would. I wrote this post because I truly had an awesome experience and hope more families can too.