Julie Schoelzel is the founder of Weekends Around, where she features vetted vacation rentals, hotels, easy itineraries, and local guides to help people make the most of their precious time away. After staying in nearly a dozen Short-Term Rental properties while looking for a home in a new state, she quickly realized that a five-star rating does not guarantee a five-star weekend. Weekends Around is like a best friend who has already done all the research for you.
It was in the eighth hour of a two-day drive home from a vacation in Canada when our oldest daughter, Emma, transformed from a chatty, bubbly two-and-a-half-year-old into the kind of person you cross the street to avoid. No longer soothed by our impromptu, half-hearted dinosaur songs, she violently thrashed about in her car seat, summoning one last rally before surrendering to what she could only have assumed was our new transient lifestyle. As we pulled into the motel we’d call home for a night, she announced our arrival with one final battle cry. “NOTHING IS NOTHING!!!! NOTHING IS NOTHIIIIING!” she screamed, summing up completely what I had struggled my whole life to articulate.
As I lay in bed that night, replaying the day’s lowlight reel, I vowed not go on vacation with my children again until they were old enough to pay for it themselves. But with some distance between me and that two-star motel on the Canadian border, the urge to hit the road returned, and through sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, I discovered that a stay at the right vacation rental property is nothing short of exhilarating, bringing our family closer together, all without any sort of a collective existential crisis.
Welcoming a family with small children (aged five or younger) to your short-term rental can be fraught with anxiety for all parties involved. Whether you’re the host or the traveling parents, the fears are the same: spills, illnesses, injuries, broken furniture/knick-knacks, and uncomfortable children can ruin the experience for everyone. However, with a little planning, there are some things a host can do to make the stay as safe and fun as possible.
Hostwell, a full service short-term rental management company based in San Francisco, has a “kid friendly” safety checklist that they rigorously apply to any listing they plan to market as Family Friendly. These include things like outlet covers, corner guards, stair/door gates, window guards or window limiters, cord/cable ties, cabinet magnet locks, as well as removing breakables and heavy objects that might be within a little one’s reach. As Keith Freedman, Hostwell’s CEO, explains, “In some cases our answer is to be very clear when we feel a listing hasn’t been child proofed so that parents are well informed about what precautions they may need to take should they choose to book anyway.”
Activities and Attractions
Including a number of family-friendly local recommendations is another opportunity to ensure your guests love their stay. Hostwell’s properties take full advantage of the Hostfully Guide by including a number of activities that are enjoyable for grown-ups and children alike. Mr. Freedman personally recommends The Exploratorium, as well as the Children’s Creativity Museum (which has a bowling alley and an ice skating rink). Other recommendations include the Walt Disney Family Museum in The Presidio (which also has a fun bowling alley), “The Art of Dr. Seuss”at the Dennis Rae Fine Art museum near Union Square, and The Marrakech Magic Theater, popular with kids of all ages, starring Jay Alexander.
Craig Reider, CEO and Founder of Profitable Holiday Homes in Australia, encourages their properties to consider both the practical and the fun touches that can make a family’s stay more relaxing. They require all properties to have both a highchair and portacot and they strongly recommend including kids’ cups, plates, bowls and cutlery. They also recommend hosts offer a selection of toys, and with their properties being near the beach, Mr. Reider notes “a few buckets and spades can help keep children amused. Parents have enough stuff to carry around without having to pack the toy cupboard too. It’s all about reducing parents’ stress whilst keeping the little ones occupied. Mum and Dad need a holiday the most!”
Also using the Hostfully Guidebook, Profitable Holiday Homes provides guests with family-friendly recommendations, making the research of trip-planning that much easier for parents. Mr. Reider’s favorite recommendation is a visit to Callala Beach, “where there are no large waves or strong currents, so parents can have peace of mind that their kids are safe whilst enjoying one of the finest beaches in the world.”
(Small) Creature Comforts
Amenities like white noise machines, blackout curtains, baby monitors, strollers, and a thoughtful guide featuring family-friendly restaurants, nearby playgrounds (indoor and outdoor), and fun activities will earn more bookings from discerning and sleep-obsessed parents. As someone who traveled with plastic baby bowls for the first eighteen months of her oldest daughter’s life, I can confirm that it is the little things that matter when you are outside your comfort zone.
When a stay at a rental property becomes a long-standing tradition for a family, it’s both meaningful and lucrative for the host. Because if there’s one thing we know about parents with small children, it’s that once they find something that makes everyone happy, they do it again, and again, and again…