Trying to plan a trip with your little ones? After you’ve decided where to go, you need to choose where to stay with a toddler. Somehow, after you decide where to base yourself, the rest of the trip just falls into place.
That brings up the question though of stay in a hotel or rent a condo/apartment/house. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Whatever you choose, you will have a great time. Trust that you know your family and your needs the best, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I love hotels. Budget, luxury, all-suites, no-suites, I just love hotels. Have you ever watched the Samantha Brown series Great Hotels? If you haven’t, check it out now. You’ll thank me later. Even my daughter seems to have inherited my fondness, as she will say every few weeks, “I want to go to hotel.”
Why are hotels so great for traveling with toddlers?
- Convenience. So many hotels now have everything all in one place. Restaurants, knowledgeable people who want to help you find what you need, toothpaste or shampoo if you’ve forgotten yours.
- Housekeeping. What’s the point of a vacation if you need to clean up all the time?
- Services. Every hotel I have stayed in has offered a small fridge and a Pack and Play for no additional cost. The less you have to check and haul around, the better. A simple call ahead of time can ensure you have these crucial amenities.
- Pools. Every other kid but mine seems to love a good pool. Mine just seems to love bathtubs.
- Possibility for a parent date. A lot of hotels have a restaurant downstairs. After you put your little one to bed, why not use a baby monitor app and enjoy a little time with your spouse or other family members who do not need to go to bed at 7?
- Safety: With tripadvisor, social media, and reliable travel guides it can feel very secure to stay at a well-reviewed, well-maintained hotel. Especially with the proliferation of different hotel brands, usually you know what you’re going to get. At the least, the doors usually lock. There is at least (hopefully) a front-desk person to offer some security. *Quick sidebar: I realize I am more than a little pre-occupied with safety. I blame The Walking Dead.
As much as I love hotels, I can’t ignore some of the inconveniences of them when traveling with an infant or toddler.
- Cost. Especially for longer than a few days, hotel room costs can add up very quickly. Parking and resort fees are not always included in the initial price.
- Space. Unless you have the money to spend for a suite, hotel rooms can easily feel cramped. Especially at 8 pm when you just want to watch a movie or read, and your little bundle of joy is fast asleep with all the lights off.
- Food. I always bring extra snacks and drinks when we stay in hotels, because room service can cost practically the same as the nightly room rate and can take 30+minutes. Take advantage of the refrigerator you requested.
Vacation Rental Pros
In all honesty, I have never used Airbnb. I have used HomeAway and VRBO, which apparently are the same company. I have also used Tripadvisor’s vacation rental search. All have been great.
- Space. For less per night than a hotel, usually you can rent a one or two bedroom property.
- Cost. Especially for longer stays, vacation rentals really save on cost.
- Feel more like a local. There’s nothing like going grocery shopping in a new town or country, cooking a local dish with local ingredients.
- Ease. All the comforts of home. If you and your toddler are jet lagged and want apples and cheese for a midnight snack, no hassle.
- Bathtubs. So many hotels are renovating away their bathtubs. I get that. But my daughter is oddly terrified of the shower.
Vacation Rental Cons
- Supplies. Unlike in a hotel, pack and plays or cribs are not always available. You can definitely ask, and many will try to provide one. I have also found local baby-supply rental companies in certain very-touristy destinations where you can rent one. Many airlines will also check your baby supplies like the car seat and pack and play for free. You also need to provide your own food. All that is part of the adventure, though, right?
- Pictures can lie. You never quite know what to expect until you get to a place. Ask lots of questions.
- Safety. Check the maps around the rental. Whereas hotels will guide you to safer areas and zones, with a rental you may be on your own. I always check with the owner or rental agency if I have any concerns. If they are not very responsive about email inquiries, I tend not to book with them.
- Ethics. We live in Los Angeles, a highly competitive real estate market with few affordable housing options. Airbnb here is rampant, and several organizations have raised concerns about how the short-term rental market has worsened the availability of affordable housing. This seems to be occurring in other cities as well: San Francisco, Venice, Austin, Texas, and more.
When to Choose a Hotel
- You are traveling on your own or in a new country with your little one(s) and want some security.
- You only have 1 child and don’t mind a little inconvenience related to early bedtime or naps.
- You want to plan a date night with your partner after the little one(s) go to sleep, and don’t travel with a babysitter *Quick sidebar: seriously, portable baby monitors are genius. You can even leave one phone in the room on silent, then call that phone and leave the line open.
- You don’t mind paying occasionally for the yogurt cup the little one “desperately needed” at 5 AM one day.
- You are staying only a short period of time. It can be difficult to adjust to an apartment-like setting and then leave, and make sure everything is tidy and in order.
When to Choose a Vacation Rental
- You are traveling with more than two people, and would like some space without having to pay for a suite or two rooms.
- You are traveling somewhere that is somewhat familiar, or where you know people.
- You are traveling with extended family or friends. This way, people can be together without being on top of one another.
- No matter how many suitcases full of kid-clothes you bring, you still need to do laundry.
- You like cooking or want to shop “like a local.”
- You cannot find a hotel with a bathtub.
- You are staying for a week or longer. This way it really can start to become a home away from home.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay
Planning a trip can be stressful. Whatever you choose, just know that nothing beats travel for spending time together. Travel fails become fantastic stories at holiday meals 15 years from now.
So enjoy. Choose a hotel or vacation rental (let me know how you like Airbnb). Yurt. Airstream camp. Camper van. All will be wonderful.
I just don’t know about sleeping in a treehouse with a mobile, curious toddler. Maybe when they’re older.
Leave a comment below with the best tips you have for where to stay with a toddler. I look forward to hearing from you!