I hate hotels.
To elaborate, I really hate taking our family of five on vacation and staying in a hotel. We end up crammed into one tiny room, with a tiny bathroom, with two queen beds and maybe a sofa for all five of us to “relax.”
Newsflash: None of us are relaxed when stuffed into a double queen room.
In the early days of our family, we considered the hotel experience to supply the basics: a place to sleep, shower, and be close to the things we wanted to do. Bonus was free breakfast and WiFi. We were all for a place as affordable as we could possibly manage, while still being somewhere safe and clean.
This bare-bones approach was great when the kids were small and could all cozily fit together on one mattress. They are big kid through preteen-sized now, and that does not fly anymore.
This spring, when we had the urge to go camping but didn’t really want to “camp” (been there, done that, have the tents to prove it), I broke down and started looking at cabin rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. Let me tell you, after our experience there, I will NEVER go back to a hotel with kids if I can help it.
Why Rent a House?
Space is the number one reason we rent a house instead of staying in a hotel. The first cabin we rented had only one bathroom, so not really an improvement on a hotel, per se, but there were multiple bedrooms, couches, and other places for adults and kids to spread out to actually relax and enjoy our time away.
And not just indoor space! Depending on where you go, and where you rent, you might also have access to yard space, wooded property, and even waterfront access; that’s a whole lot more private than a hotel can offer! Any parent of multiple children can tell you, kids get along a whole lot better when they can be apart a little bit.
You will be pleasantly surprised at how affordable staying at a house can be, compared to a hotel stay. I’m currently comparing prices for an upcoming trip with my daughter to New Orleans, and every single hotel is more expensive per night than many of the houses and apartments available for rent in the French Quarter. No brainer!
With access to a full kitchen, you can choose to cook a meal or two at your rental. If you choose a rental with outdoor living space, you may find you do not need to try to find as many activities to do away from your stay, as your family can be entertained and relax right where you are.
Things to Keep in Mind
The devil is in the details
While the price per night is often comparable or less than nearby hotels, the cleaning fees vary widely from host to host. I have seen cleaning fees that are very reasonable $25 all the way to the astronomical $200. (Which, what do I know, may be reasonable if cleaning after a long stay of people who absolutely trashed the place). Also, watch for minimum stay requirements; many hosts prefer two or more nights per rental.
Being a good guest
Remember that your rental house is NOT a hotel. Often this is a family vacation home that is rented out. The hosts usually have a bullet list of things that need to be done prior to your leaving, like stripping the beds or putting all the dishes in the dishwasher. The hosts that require a little bit more on the guests’ behalf often have more reasonable cleaning fees, but that is a trade-off that I’m willing to make. It also helps teach our kids responsibility and respect for others.
Your host can be a great resource
Better than any hotel concierge, your host often knows the best places to eat, when to get there, and other things to do in the area that might not occur to you if you are new to the area. One host had a whole binder of local places, brochures, and menus.
I do not miss staying in a hotel one bit! On our recent trip to Myrtle Beach, we rented an apartment, mostly due to cost, with the trade-off that we were not oceanfront. Next time, I’ll plan better to get one that is ocean or waterfront so we can have the best of both worlds.