Kid-friendly vacation rentals

May 30, 2011 at 9:52 a.m. ET

With summer fast approaching, families everywhere are lining up vacation rentals and debating on which locations are best with kids in tow. Traveling with kids always makes the trip more difficult, but finding the perfect location doesn't have to be.


Kelly Hayes-Raitt owns several vacation properties, often rents to families and is an avid renter herself. Her first-hand experience will help parents streamline the rental process and create an ideal vacation experience for the whole family.

1Size matters

While it may be tempting to rent a small property in order to save money, that plan may backfire once you arrive. "Please don't try to smash yourself, your spouse and your child into a studio that has only one bed," says Hayes-Raitt. "If the owner says the maximum is two people, believe her! It's not worth saving a few bucks on accommodations if your family is going to be uncomfortable." You don't need separate wings for adults and kids, but everyone will be happier with a little leg room.

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2Set priorities

Before you set out on your journey to find a perfect vacation rental, take some time to establish your priorities. If you absolutely need a place without stairs or a balcony, don't look at three-story rentals with a walkout balcony in every bedroom.

"If you need a rental that is toddler-proofed or access to kids' shows on cable, ask for them," says Hayes-Raitt. "Keep in mind, if your 'must-have' list includes more than two or three items, a vacation rental may not be best for you." Remember, a hotel is always an option.

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3Pack properly

If you want everything prepared for your kids before you arrive, be clear about your expectations and plan to pay a bit more.

On the other hand, if you're planning on taking specific items with you to create a kid-friendly environment, such as baby gates or a portable crib, make a list and pack accordingly -- while also considering that it might be easier and cheaper to buy some items at your destination (and to leave them at the vacation rental when you're done, to avoid having to schlep them home, and to help other parents).

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Also think about what will make your children comfortable. "If your daughter absolutely cannot sleep unless it's pitch black, consider bringing along a black-out curtain," says Hayes-Raitt. "Conversely, pack a night light if that's what comforts your child."

Practical tips

Hayes-Raitt provides the following tips for parents looking for a kid-friendly vacation rental:

  • Study the photos carefully. Are there a lot of breakable knickknacks around? Does the furniture look kid-friendly? Is there a place to keep your child occupied while you fix breakfast? Take note.
  • Expect to pay an extra guest fee for your child, no matter how young. Children use bedding and towels and contribute to "wear and tear."
  • Ask about proximity to Laundromats, grocery stores and parks.
  • Find out about parking, especially if you are carrying a baby. Ask how busy the street is if your kids will be playing outside.

More family vacation tips

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