Vacationing as a family isn’t always a vacation when you think about squeezing a whole family (in our case five) into a single hotel room where everyone has to go to bed at the same time and you have to buy meals three times a day… plus snacks. However, the thought of vacation and making memories as a family is exactly what I want. And even though I want special time with my kids,I also want to carve out time with my spouse, which is pretty challenging if you’re sharing a hotel room. So how do you balance the desire to get away and find some luxury while accommodating young children who nap and go to bed early? The answer for our family has been found in whole home vacation rentals.
There are now a whole host of websites dedicated to renting homes, including but probably not limited to VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and AirBnB. The beauty of renting a whole home is that you can pick your vacation destination without sacrificing the creature comforts of home, which I think makes vacationing with young children a vastly more enjoyable experience. There’s nothing worse than trying to go somewhere fun but not being able to enjoy it because your kids are so fried due to lack of good sleep that their heads are spinning around on their shoulders like a scene straight out of the Exorcist; and if I’m being honest I myself might sprout a hockey mask and turn the vacation into a Friday the 13th movie when I’m tired.
The beauty of a vacation home is picking your destination and setting up camp like you never left home. The baby can go to bed early while you and the older kids watch a movie or swim in the pool. Or put all the kids to bed and cook a nice dinner for you and the hubs, something without a packaged cheese sauce or chicken nuggets, or even better, order takeout for just the adults! What’s even better is the variety of places to choose from. You can pretty much find a house to fit any price range. If you search in an area’s low-season you’ll find amazing deals. Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons of why it’s an area’s off season. For instance, we just rented a home in Arizona in June, which is the off season because it’s very hot. However, we rented a home with a gigantic pool and covered patio and it was blissful. The temperature didn’t really come into play because we were constantly in the pool or in the shade. It actually worked to our advantage because the temperature of the water was more comfortable for the kids. Score one for the off season!
The other thing I completely love about vacation home rentals is sharing a home rental with another family or two with kids of the same age. The kids have friends to play with and keep each other entertained and the adults get to hang out and chat about things other than what snack is up next on the menu. Another advantage of sharing a house is sharing the cost. You’d be surprised to realize the type of house you can afford when you split the cost two or three ways and, bonus, you’re hanging out with your friends for more than an hour or two! You’ll also get to share in the cost of food and the task of cooking meals. It’s also really fun to spend time in the kitchen preparing meals and eating together- we’re talking serious bonding time.
There are a couple of downsides to renting a home though. If you are doing it to save money, then you’ll want to cook at least most of your own meals which is not exactly a break from reality- but in my opinion, it’s well worth it. If you’re cooking, you’ll also have to do dishes. Boo to that, but again, worth the pay off to be able to sleep well at night. There’s also the laundry. You don’t have to do laundry, but it’s there staring you in the face, which could be a plus or a minus. Definite plus when you might have an unpleasant diaper explosion situation or don’t want to pack many clothes, but definite negative if you feel pressure to do laundry that you otherwise wouldn’t think about.
Before you make a decision, be sure to read reviews of the home. People seem to be very honest and you’ll get a good feel for if it’s the right place for you or not. I am also a big believer in renting a home with a responsive owner. The more responsive the owner, the more invested they are in their property. Which usually means it’s well maintained and loved. It’s not a perfect world, scams do happen- so be sure to follow the protocol for payment as well. Websites like VRBO will give you tips for making sure your money is secure, so make sure to read and be careful.
Happy summering to all the mama’s out there!