Anyone else spend days or weeks searching for the perfect place to stay on vacation?

Me, too! Looking for lodging is one of my favorite parts of planning a trip. There are so many creative options out there these days, with the rapid growth of sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. Today, I’m going to share some tips on how to choose the right lodging for your trips when traveling with kids.

I usually start my search with Airbnb. From there, I will explore local hotel options, as well as similar lodging sites like HomeAway.

picture of house with text how to choose and airbnb when traveling with kids

Should I choose an Airbnb or a hotel?

When traveling with our kids, we almost always choose an Airbnb! There are so many benefits, such as having laundry on sight, a more comfortable/familiar atmosphere, a back yard, a kitchen, etc. Often I will find that an Airbnb is slightly more expensive than a hotel would be, but when I weigh the fact that we can cook most of our own meals and have plenty of downtime entertainment right there, the cost easily evens out.

We have stayed at hotels before, but when we do, I always choose a hotel with a two-bedroom suite and a kitchenette. Having that separate sleeping space for the kids is VITAL to everyone getting a little bit of sleep on vacation! Or at the very least, allowing mom and dad a little privacy and peace and quiet at the end of a day of adventuring! And having a place to prepare at least some of our meals saves on cost of eating while on vacation.

The benefits of a hotel include free continental breakfast in many establishments, housekeeping service, and often a pool or some outdoor space to run and play. Marriotts are our favorite chain of hotels, as they are usually comfortable, modern, and family-friendly. TownPlace Suites and Residence Inn are the Marriott brands we have found to be best when staying with kids! However, these types of hotels can get pricey, especially if you need multiple rooms. You can find great deals in some locations, but overall, I find staying in an Airbnb to be much more cost-effective!

What should I look for when booking a stay at an Airbnb?

-After several lengthy road trips with multiple small children, I’ve learned a thing or two about what to prioritize in our lodging!

  • Non-negotiables for us are that the Airbnb have a stocked kitchen (doesn’t have to be fancy, but enough pots and pans, utensils, and appliances to cook simple meals are a must!), laundry on site (because kids are MESSY. Not that I need to tell you that, if you’ve spent any time with a child, ever.), and again…a separate sleeping space for the kids! Anything beyond these three things are just happy bonuses. Happy bonuses, however, can really make a lot of difference on a trip. Read on!
  • The yard is almost as important as the house. Having that outdoor space to run off the pent-up energy from a long road trip, or to play and explore during your downtime, can be a huge relief to parents! Look for an Airbnb with a swing set, yard games, a driveway to ride bikes, space to run around, a pool, a firepit, etc. If you find one with a fenced-in backyard, you’ve really hit the jackpot! Many Airbnbs will even have bikes, kayaks, surf boards, etc. that you can borrow during your stay.
  • Pay attention to the local area. If the Airbnb listing describes local amenities such as a bike path, a neighborhood park, or an ice-cream shoppe within walking distance, I put it in the running! A grocery store close by is also helpful.
  • Since we have young, rambunctious kids — and lots of them! — I always look for a stand-alone house to rent. We have stayed in a cottage that was connected to the host’s house before, and that was fine, since the cottage had its own entrance and fenced-in portion of the yard. But in general, we like to stay in a place where we can be ourselves and not get any complaints about disturbing the peace!

How much of your traveling budget do you spend on lodging?

-How much we spend on lodging while traveling varies with each place we visit. I do shop around and really do my research to get the best prices. Honestly, with the ages of our kids right now (five, five, three, and almost three. No twins. Long story. Ha!), where we stay on trips is a big deal! When they’re all older and can handle longer days of adventuring, we won’t need to be as picky about where we stay. But right now, we usually spend the first half of the day out exploring, on the beach, at museums and parks, etc. Then by mid-afternoon, we’re back at our Airbnb for much-needed naps and downtime! Then we’ll often go out again for more fun in the late afternoon after we’re re-energized. Having a familiar, comfortable place for that mid-day rest is important!

So, yes, we are willing to devote a larger portion of our traveling budget to finding that perfect place to stay. Since traveling is such an important part of our family’s lifestyle, we have a separate savings account where we save monthly for these trips. We always travel with a specific budget, depending on how much we’ve saved up. After deciding on lodging, we’re able to see how much we have to spend on food, sight-seeing, etc.

Cost of lodging will also vary depending on your location and the time of year you’re traveling. We spent a lot more on a cottage in Maine during peak vacation season than we did on a house in Charleston in February.

Obviously, there is no perfect world!

If you find all the “happy bonuses” I talked about, plus your non-negotiables, in a great location for a great price — PLEASE, teach me your ways! Sometimes it happens, most of the time it doesn’t. There will be a give-and-take in each place you stay. Just decide what is a priority for your family, and start there!

And if, in the end, you have an extremely low budget and end up with eight people sleeping all over the floor of a room in the EconoLodge… Oh, people, embrace it. You are TRAVELING. The experience is so rich and will produce such closeness and growth in your family. The memories will last forever. It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford to stay in a palace, it matters that you’re DOING IT. You’re getting out, seeing small corners of the world, and curating experiences your children will never forget.

(Here is my all-time favorite vacation rental, in Topsham, Maine! I could have stayed there forever.

Were these tips helpful for you? What other aspects of travel would you like to read posts about? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: All opinions in this post are my own. I am not affiliated with or being sponsored by any of the companies I have mentioned. Just sharing what I hope will be helpful to you!

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