Top Five Tips for Picking the Right Place to Stay
Have you ever planned a fun family vacation and spent weeks daydreaming about how great it will be to get away, relax and enjoy a total change of pace from the day-to-day craziness that seems to be engulfing you? And then you arrive at this amazing place only to find that the day-to-day craziness has followed you? Well, you’re not alone. Traveling with kids can be, how do I put this? Expensive “time off”.
But wait! It IS possible to carve out some time to relax while you’re on that long-overdue, and well-deserved vacation. As a recovering OCD planner I learned a lot about how to take my kids on vacation, one that I could actually come home from and not feel like I needed another one just to recover. Oh wait, maybe I’m thinking of Vegas. Either way, I have compiled some tips on finding a suitable option on one of my favorite "hotel" sites, Airbnb, and tips for enjoying your home away from home.
There are new designations for “family-friendly” but that can mean different things to different people. I like to take a close look at the pictures and make a decision based on a few easy-to-spot details:
- What kind of furniture do you see in the listing? Is the dining or coffee table glass? No thank you. Is the gigantic TV mounted to the wall, or sitting on a media shelf like a low hanging piece of fruit? Are the dining room chairs cloth, or will they easily wipe clean? It's easy to spot furniture that will or will not allow you to sit down while trying to relax.
- Do you see a spot for your hook-on high chair? A place to park the stroller or bikes safely? How many flights of stairs do you have to climb to lug in all your stuff? Thinking through the logistics of hauling up the stuff you need and want to use can save you a huge headache when you arrive.
- Speaking of stairs, do they have them in the room/condo/house/etc.? If you’re ok with stairs make sure they’re at least carpeted. The hip, see-through style wooden stairs may not be ideal even if your kid is fine walking up and down stairs on his own.
- When my kiddos were still in a pack-n-play finding a place that had a walk-in closet was a huge plus. It’s dark any time of day and blocks out noise pretty darn well.
- If there’s outdoor space, is it fenced in? Near a busy road? Beautiful to look at but not so great for a 3 year old to trample on? Does the patio provide an awesome view but zero escape routes for an adventurous toddler?
Once you nail down the perfect pad, a few other simple preparations can go a long way in making your trip a fun and memorable experience all around.
- Arrive with food. You just never know what sort of options are going to be nearby and open when you arrive, plus who wants to run into the grocery store the moment you arrive at the perfect place you found (see above). And as someone who gets hangry, I tend to project this need for food on everyone around me but I have found that my children ARE happier if I have something to offer at the first sign of hunger. Plus, they're much quieter when their mouths are full.
- If your child typically uses a sippy cup and plastic dishes, bring some with you. They’re small enough to fit in the food bag you already have and will make meal time much less stressful if the place you arrive at does not have them available.
- Bring a travel bin with toys and books. Better yet, “new” toys or books. We have a stash of items that we only bring on trips so when we arrive at our place the kids have an easy distraction if the super cool place we just arrived at isn’t enough.
- Bring a baby gate. Seriously. My husband moaned every time I brought our ginormous cage to the garage to load up for a two night trip. He promptly thanked me when we arrived at our condo, blocked off the kitchen and hall back to the bedroom, and sat down to enjoy a glass of hard-earned wine while our curious toddler safely explored her new surroundings.
- White noise can be a huge help in general, but especially when you’re in a new place. You never know if the neighbors will be noisy, or the birds chirp outside your window super early, or the floors are super creaky.
- Don’t forget the other essentials you rely on at home. Like a potty, Pack 'n play, favorite stuffy for bed, etc. Early on, when there was A LOT to remember and sleep deprivation left me a bit foggy, I had a note card that I kept inside our go-to suitcase with all the things I needed to bring every trip. When I arrived somewhere new and thought of something that would be great to have next time, I added it to the same list. This kept the process super streamlined each trip.
One of my (many) favorite parts of traveling with my kiddos is watching them explore our new home away from home. Walking through the door of a condo or Motel 6 room garners the same level of excitement. Every time. A recent quote from my six year old as she excitedly checked out our digs for the weekend, “Can you believe it?! They even have toilet paper!!” Phew...that was something I did not pack.