When you’re traveling with kids, vacation rentals are the way to go. We’ve stayed at places in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. During a couples’ trip, we even stayed in an oceanfront Airbnb in Belize! Vacation rentals offer more space than a hotel and make it easy to cook your own meals. Our family often finds we can save money on lodging and food when we stay at a vacation rental too!
We recently rented an Airbnb in northern Iowa to get away as a family and “reset”. My boys were all feeling the stress from online school and we wanted to escape from Des Moines as safely as possible. We found a place we could travel without needing to use gas station bathrooms on the way and we could bring our dog along since boarding wasn’t possible. We found a fishing cabin on a lake and spent 48 hours eating junk food, cooking our meals, playing cards, and fishing and swimming in the lake from the cabin dock.
How to Find a Great Vacation Rental Home
There are lots of websites you can use to locate a vacation home. I personally use Airbnb but I’ve heard good things about VRBO too. Perhaps the most important part of finding a vacation home is making sure it will work for your family/group.
I always start with the filter option. Be sure there are enough beds, bedrooms, and bathrooms for your needs. You can sort your responses by price, location, and ratings. I also look to see if there are any homes near water or attractions. Some other things you may want to consider:
- Host Ratings: Make sure they have high ratings!
- Reviews: Read every review, especially bad reviews.
- Amenities like Wi-Fi, dishwashers, parking, etc.
- Are you bringing your pet? If so, be sure pets are allowed.
- Check out the house rules before booking.
- Ask about cleaning procedures in between stays, especially during COVID-19.
- Take your time in searching for the right place!
Contact the Host
Even if I don’t have any questions, I always message the host to see how quickly they respond. Since you’re staying in a private residence, there are often little things that may come up that require assistance from the host. I also love asking the hosts for their favorite restaurants, coffee shops, fishing spots, shopping areas, etc.
Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t expect a 5-star hotel experience from a vacation rental home. The ones we’ve stayed in are always extremely clean, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fancy. Some of our favorite places have been cabins with a lot of rustic charm.
Most of the places we’ve stayed in have “house rules”. This includes things like no smoking on the property, removing used bedding before checking out, and taking garbage out before checking out. Be prepared to do some light cleaning on your last day at vacation rentals.