Tips When Using Airbnb for Family Travel

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Once you have more than one kid or so, lodging space becomes a big issue when traveling with a family.  In the United States, as long as you aren’t traveling in cities like New York you probably won’t have too many space issues in terms of maximum occupancy limits for hotel rooms until you have more than two kids, but still, families clearly don’t fit in standard hotel rooms as well as one or two adults usually will.  I like traveling with hotel points and elite status perks whenever possible, so we are still finding ways to fit into chain hotel rooms much of the time, but an alternative that will sometimes make more sense for families is Airbnb.

As you may know, with Airbnb you can rent a couch, a room, or even an entire house or apartment for your journey.  My Airbnb stereotype has largely been for the 20-something backpacker who just needs a couch or futon to crash on for the lowest possible price.  Clearly I don’t fit in that demographic, but in reality Airbnb is for more than the 20-something year old with a backpack.  Or at least that’s what I hear, I still haven’t used it…though I have enjoyed renting houses via other sites for our family vacations.  However, I know enough to know I need to pay more attention to Airbnb because there will come a time when it makes more sense than a traditional hotel room for certain trips.

I will never be interested in renting someone’s couch for the night, but renting an entire apartment in a space constrained city like New York, London, etc. may be of use at some point.  While I don’t have any first-hand Airbnb experiences traveling with my family quite yet, I have recently exchanged emails with someone who does have first-hand experience, and I wanted to share their tips.

Cameron has two children, a 7 year old and a 4 year old and recently went from his home in California to Chicago for a short getaway thanks to $120 round trip fares that popped up on United.  His wife and older daughter were unable to make this trip due to school and work commitments, but he decided to take his four year old son on the adventure.

Since hotel prices on their travel dates were higher than he wanted to pay, he turned to Airbnb to see what he could find by going that route.  He shared a detailed write-up of his experience here, but I got him to share some tips for families who are considering using Airbnb to secure lodging for their family.

Tips for Using Airbnb for Family Travel:

  1.  Use the “Kid/Family Friendly” search tool under “amenities” to help narrow down properties.  Obviously you want to do your own assessment on if the accommodations look like they will meet the needs of your family, but at least this will hopefully weed out any properties that clearly do not wish to play host to children or families
  2. Engage in a dialog with the host.  Get a sense of how aware they are of the needs of kids and families.  Check to see if there are stairs?  Are there bunk beds?  Are there breakable or fragile items displayed within reach of little fingers.
  3. Look at photos of the listings very carefully to be on the lookout for items that will help or hinder your family’s stay.  If there are rooms or areas missing from the photos, as the host to send you picture of those areas or provide additional details.
  4. Do your research on the neighborhood.  Find out where the closest parks and family friendly spaces are.  Check to see if they are located on a busy road or intersection.  Find out if there are family friendly places to eat nearby.  Identify how far you are from public transportation, if applicable.

Airbnb Family Friendly

Have you ever used Airbnb to find lodging for your family?  What was your experience?  Do you have any additional tips to add?

Comments

  1. I’ve considered Airbnb before, but they charge 12% booking fees. I usually go with HomeAway or VRBO since they are free to use and sometimes FlipKey. I’ve also found the homes and apartments are better on HomeAway and VRBO. Airbnb has a lot of studios and one bedroom apartments which might work for singles, but not as ell for families.

    • Eric, I’ve also used HomeAway and VRBO but not Airbnb…interesting to note your experiences searching, too. Thanks!

      • Yes, Airbnb has a service charge but they also give you greater protection and have saved my butt on several occasions.

        Example #A: We had a VRBO rental on Vieques, PR but the property management rep never showed up with the keys, nor was he reachable with the cell phone we had been given. We sat out his office in the blazing sun for several hours until he magically appears (sans apology). Never again.

        Example #B: We had an Airbnb apartment rental in Jerusalem where the owner made us wait until midnight (in the rain) to gain access because he was busy tiling the bathroom. When we filed a tentative complaint with Airbnb, which has a 24-hour requirement, he entered the apartment and locked our personal items in a storage closet. Airbnb reacted quickly, finding us a new place and refunding all fees and giving us a $250 voucher on top of it. They saved our vacation.

  2. We just did our first Airbnb stay last weekend. It was great and very easy! I will admit I was worried a little. What if the host does not meet us with the key, what if this is not how it looks, lots of what ifs! But hotel prices were much more than I was willing to pay and it was a last minute trip! I went with someone who had great reviews even if it was just 2 reviews. Something is better than nothing I figured, and he had stayed with several people before as a renter himself. It was the perfect stay! We had plenty of room, a fridge, microwave, etc even though we mostly ate out. It was nice to have a separate bed room and large sectional in the living room. The location was top notch and I cannot wait to use Airbnb again when I cannot use hotel points.

  3. We are HomeAway hosts renting a two-bedroom apartment (garden floor of our house) in NYC with a focus on families. We probably get about 40% or so guests who are traveling with children (other parties are usually two or more couples — we also have a pull-out sofa so the apartment can sleep 6) or other friends or family groups.

    We’ve also rented apartments on occasion during our travels.

    Definitely a superior way to travel for families, anyone with a budget or long-term travel plans, or anyone interested in accessing local food markets (can’t imagine, for instance, visiting Barcelona without someplace to cook that amazing seafood from La Boqueria!) I know it seems far away for you, but there definitely comes a time — sooner than you think! — when the notion of sleeping the whole family in one room gets very, very old.

    Families that stay in our apartment are met with a set of age-appropriate toys, a separate room for the kid(s), information on local playgrounds, a stroller, a pack-and-play, books and games, and so on. Now that our own kids are teenagers we even offer babysitting. Not to mention that the cost is a third or less of what they’d pay for a couple of tiny hotel rooms downtown.

    BTW, I’ve definitely found HomeAway to be a bit “tonier” than AirBnB. Among other things they don’t list shares, just whole-unit rentals and I think there are fewer management companies listing properties on HomeAway. On the other hand, HomeAway is just a listing service (we pay them a flat fee to have a listing on their site) whereas AirBnb is a party to all transactions (you have to pay through them) and it’s possible you might have slightly more protection in the event something goes badly wrong with the rental.

    As always, use the on-line reviews of the property to aid in your decision but, more importantly, make sure your correspondence with the hosts provides you confidence before booking.

  4. Every frequent traveller seems to have heard of Airbnb, but few have ever used them. That includes me.

    I think there’s way too much hype associated with this company — every time I’ve looked for apartment/cottage rentals I’ve found better prices and selection elsewhere. I think they’re planning a Wall Street IPO, which I guess explains the hype. It seems like they might fill a niche for “non-traditional” lodging, but they also seem to have many competitors for that niche.

  5. I used airbnb twice in Paris this past summer- at beginning and end if our trip for 3 nights each time. Both were 2-bedroom apartments and both were great!! The host met us both times promptly (I was late because of travel delays and language barriers). It was nice to shop fir little items like snacks, juice and yogurt, and have a place to put it in.

    The only negative is that the affordable apts tend to be on edge of city limits but for an extra 20mins to save $140 per night and get more space, I’m willing to travel. Pics for both places I rented were very accurate. One place had a slightly dirty microwave and crumbs underneath but if you remember that it’s a family that lives there w their toddler, and think back to how clean is your microwave, you’ll be fine. The owners have more problems w guests breaking things and not following rules than guests will have.

    I am sold on airbnb!!

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