If you are planning a vacation with a home rental, there are a few essential tips for booking vacation rentals you should know. Since last year, vacation rentals for families seem to be a preferred accommodation when traveling.  Knowing how much our family travels, it seems to be the question I keep hearing from friends, “Are you renting a vacation house?”

For many families around the world,  including us, travel plans have been upended in the last year.  And in this ever-changing climate, there is so much uncertainty about WHERE we can travel, IF you can travel, and HOW you can travel safely. 

But for those needing a getaway, vacation rentals for families seem to be the preferred choice for a socially distanced summer vacation.

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Travel trends at the moment – and probably for the foreseeable future – are indicating that many people are opting for vacation rentals for their families as the choice for a socially distanced  vacation.  Many families are feeling more comfortable with a rental cabin in the woods or a beachfront rental where they can avoid strangers, high touch areas, and large gatherings in hotel lobbies.

Whether it is beachfront rentals or cabin rentals in the woods, or if you are planning ahead for a ski-house rental for the winter, vacation rentals for families seem to be a way to get the much-needed change of scenery coupled with distance.


How To Book Vacation Rentals For Families

Our family has booked a vacation rental a few times, including this summer.  The first vacation rental for our family we tried a few years ago was a flat in London.  We booked it through Airbnb which, along with VRBO, are the two most common places families find vacation rentals.

For beachfront rentals, many times you can rent homes through a vacation rental company in the location where you are visiting.  On this most recent trip this summer, we went direct to the owner.

Of course, whenever you are booking a vacation rental for your family, safety, security, comfort, and protecting your money is top of mind.  No matter if you book using an online service like Airbnb or VRBO, or if you go through a rental agency or direct from the owner, keep these essential booking tips for vacation rentals for families in mind.

Photo credit: @ Elenarts/

Essential Tips For Booking Vacation Rentals For Families

Vacation Rental Home Tips At A Glance
-Be specific when searching
-Research the location
-Read the reviews carefully
-Review the booking process
-Communicate with the host before and after booking
-Bring cleaning products
-Make sure everything is there on arrival
-Be a good guest
-Review and follow check out instructions
-Read the fine print and cancellation policy
-Ask for recommendations
-Leave a review

When we booked our first Airbnb in London,  we had specific criteria as a traveling party of five.  We know from experience that finding accommodations anywhere in Europe – or the United Kingdom – for a family of our size is not always easy.

Additionally, we wanted a kitchen so we didn’t need to eat out breakfast and ideally a washer and dryer so we could limit packing.  Creating a specific search helped save time, providing us only options with our criteria available for our dates.

Don’t worry about being too specific. You can always take out less important criteria if nothing comes of your search, but why not try to get what you want? Also, be sure to include your budget, so you can be assured of something you can afford.

Be sure you put in only scenarios you would consider and read everything.

2.  Research The Location

Having lived in London before, we knew the neighborhood we wanted to be in. But we also knew there were streets we wanted to avoid, due to being heavy with traffic.

Being near public transportation and in a safe/family neighborhood was important to us, as was being near a grocery store. The safety of the rental itself is also extremely important, so if you can, choose a rental with a doorbell camera and a good security system to ensure some much-needed peace of mind. 

If you have a rental car, knowing if there is parking will be important also.

If the area is new to you, be sure and research the location, look at it on a map, and even do a Google street view if you can. This will help you get a picture of where you will be staying and ensure it is safe for your family.

Backpacks that are great for work trips or short journeys.

3.  Read The Reviews Carefully

I recommend making sure there are a good number of reviews for the vacation rental and read those carefully, both the good and the bad.

It is important to know:

  • How was the host?
  • How well did the host communicate?
  • If there were any issues, how were they handled?
  • Was the vacation rental clean?
  • Was is ready on time?
  • Are there comments about the neighborhood (if it is a condo, was their loud music, the smell of cigarettes, etc.?)

4.  Review The Booking Process For The Vacation Rental

When using Airbnb or VRBO, in some cases you can book right away.  In other cases, you have to communicate with the owner or wait 24 hours before your booking is confirmed.

Before we booked our vacation rental in London, we communicated with the owner.  We wanted to confirm that the property was family-friendly.

We also wanted to request that we could book a day early.  Because we were flying in on an overnight flight, we wanted to be able to get access to the flat the morning of our arrival so we could settle in and take a nap.

The owner was very accommodating, and we communicated our ETA on our way from the airport. He was waiting on the front steps to greet us.


5.  Communicate With The Vacation Rental Owner/Host

If you book through Airbnb or VRBO, you can use the website to communicate to the host.  If the host uses a property company to manage or if they manage it themselves,  you will get that information after confirmation of booking.

It is very important to communicate with your host, for your comfort and for theirs. This will also be a way for you to find out what you may need to bring (towels, soap, toiletries, etc.) You should also know what the check-in/check-out procedure will be, and confirm things like how you will get/leave keys, etc.

If your flight is late or arrival is delayed, this is not like a hotel when you can check in whenever. The host may be moving their day around to meet you. Be respectful and on time to the extent you can control.

Photo credit: @ robertcrum/


6.  Bring and Keep Handy Cleaning Products For You To Use Immediately

Though our rental was thoroughly cleaned, for my own peace of mind, I used sanitizing wipes to clean door handles, light switches, counters, remote controls, and any high-touch areas before we settled in.  Keeping this handy allowed me to wipe down before we settled in.

Airbnb notes that they provide their hosts with a specific cleaning protocol they expect them to use.  

Check out my post VRBO VS AirBnB: Which Is Better For Your Family

7.  Double Check Everything You Need Is There Upon Arrival

First, double-check that anything that was said to be included in the vacation rental is there, such as sheets, towels, brooms, irons, hairdryers, etc.  Also, be sure everything working properly. In fact, some people take pictures of the rental when they first arrive in case something breaks after they leave.

If something is missing or breaks, it is best to alert the host right away.  It is also important to notify them if something is not cleaned, so they can take care of it.

8.  Be A Good Guest

Treat the property in the way you would want yours to be treated. Remember, it is as much of a gamble for the host as it is for you to rent from them.

Make sure you don’t leave a big mess for the host to clean up. If you break something, notify the owner right away.  If something breaks, mid-stay, be sure and notify the owner.

On our recent rental, the air conditioner broke in the middle of summer. We notified them immediately, and they came and took care of it.

Upon our departure, we cleaned everything per the instructions, and then some.  We left the house as clean as we would want ours to be.


9.  Read The Instructions And Follow The Rules

Our recent beachfront rental had a rule that we had to shower the sand off before entering the house. They also asked us to put out trash cans and had rules for checking out.

This was in a sheet waiting for us on arrival.  We followed the rules to the letter because it was a great rental and we would like to come back!

Photo credit: @ sframe/

10.  Read The Fine Print and Check The Cancellation Policy

Different properties have different cancellation policies. Know by when you need to cancel in case you need to. You would hate to be out a large sum of money.

Also, look over the listing very carefully and make sure you are comfortable. If not, ask questions (lots of questions) to make sure you are very clear. If you ask through the messaging system or through email, be sure and keep records of those details.

11. Ask For Recommendations

The host or property manager obviously knows the area.  In our experience, they offer great suggestions for the best restaurants, activities, rentals, and give you the inside scoop.

12.  Leave A Review

Airbnb and VRBO both allow 14 days for you to write a review. Your tips and information will help other travelers.  However, with VRBO, the host can respond to your review. 

Away: Luggage Built for Modern Travel

Final Thought For Booking Vacation Rentals For Families

In this time of uncertainty, and for the foreseeable future, vacation rentals will be the most comfortable option for many families to getaway.  But booking vacation rentals is not the same as booking hotels.  These essential tips will help you navigate the vacation rental booking process, and hopefully, help you find a great vacation rental for your next family trip.

vacation-rentals-for-families-beachhouse and beach chairs

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  1. We’re also booking vacation rentals right now, it’s great to have your own kitchen and sanitary right now. We’ve also booked some bed and breakfast’s for the Summer vacation, but again with our own kitchen and sanitary. Great tips.

  2. I’ve done a bunch of VRBO and one airbnb in my day and these are great tips! Ask questions, read reviews, look at pics, so important. I have heard the horror stories, but most folks have a great experience. Always click thru to find the final price, because the “nightly rate” plus all the fees (sometimes there are alot of fees) doesnt always add up!

  3. LOVE this article! Vacation Rentals are such a huge trend right now and this answers all of the questions that we all have with trying to research and book them! Thanks for sharing your research!

  4. Vacation rentals seems to be the way to go amid this pandemic era. Thank you for sharing such great insights!

  5. Thanks for mentioning reading the reviews of a vacation rental and the communication of the host. My wife and I want to take the kids to a beach vacation condo in California next month to enjoy the beach. We’ll be sure to do our research and find a place that is close to the beach.

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