Find a Vacation Home with Family Vacation Critic's new Vacation Rental Finder!

Many families with young children gravitate to a rental home vacation for the convenience of having a kitchen, separate bedrooms, and a little more privacy when the kids start to go wild or melt down. It also can be a more affordable way to vacation with extended family and friends. But perhaps best of all, what begins as a quest for a manageable vacation with little ones frequently becomes a yearly tradition and the rental vacation home a true "home away from home." From spectacular beaches to kid-friendly amusement parks to adventure-filled mountain retreats, below we share 10 top destinations that are particularly well suited for families interested in renting a home for their vacations.

1. Hawaii

Lush tropical rain forests, gorgeous white-sand beaches, pristine waters, and breathtaking mountain views invite families to create lifetime memories as they explore, discover, and enjoy all the Hawaiian islands have to offer. Often referred to as a "tropical wonderland," Hawaii offers almost every outdoor activity imaginable, all in a relaxed and friendly environment where it's hard to resist the influence of the "Aloha Spirit." Picture hiking to a waterfall in the rainforest, paddling into a coastal cave, kayaking in ocean waters, or dancing at a traditional Hawaiian luau -- all wrapped up taking in a spectacular sunset as you relax on the beach.

And for those looking for more than some "unplugged" R&R, the kids can take in a little "edutainment" at plenty of area attractions such as the train museum, tsunami museum, astronomy center, rainforest zoo, and USS Arizona Memorial. Since it's a long trip for most families to reach Hawaii, many choose to stay for a week or two, making rental homes a popular choice for those looking to save a few dollars on meals and spread out a bit to reduce the "squabble" factor. Don't stay for too long though -- it might be too hard to go home!

2. Florida Panhandle

The Florida Panhandle, boasting some of the whitest-sand beaches in the world and beautiful emerald green waters, stretches for what seems endlessly along the Gulf shore. Speckled along the way are everything from quaint little seaside towns like Apalachicola and Seaside to modern and lively vacation spots such as Destin and Pensacola. And although there are a number of hotels and resorts in the area, there are even more vacation rentals from which to choose, including condos with spectacular ocean views and single family homes with backyard swimming pools -- perfect for families looking to take a few weeks' vacation at the beach.

The Panhandle is a favorite place for renting a vacation home, because it's not overbuilt with lots of high-rise hotels and fancy night clubs, but offers peaceful and safe communities for a quieter family vacation where you're likely to enjoy wholesome outdoor family fun such as biking, kayaking and canoeing, and hiking on over 200 trails. The clean and uncrowded beaches sport a gentle surf, making them well suited for sand-castle building and dipping little toes into warm ocean waters. A vacation rental home can be a more convenient base for a beach family getaway, and the homes frequently come equipped with the necessary beach gear and bicycles, making it even easier to start right in on your vacation from day one.

3. Orlando/Disney

An all-time favorite family vacation destination, a trip to Orlando seems to always be in the works for many families. Although the sunny skies and warm temperatures could be enough to draw families to Orlando, it's the seven major theme parks (think Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and more) and five water playgrounds that most can't resist. In Orlando, it's not hard to come up with a plan for family adventure and entertainment that will please everyone in your family, from tots to teens. Swim with bottled-nose dolphins, ride the wild roller coasters, dine with Mickey and friends, or just chill by the likely sun-splashed pool.

Although you'll find endless family friendly hotels and resorts in Orlando, you might be surprised that it's also a prime rental vacation home destination, offering condos to single-family home rentals featuring pools, easy access to theme parks, and a bit more space for families to spread out and relax in. Since the traffic in Orlando can get busy at times, especially along Interstate 4, seek out a rental vacation home close to the theme park you'll be visiting. Regardless of where you stay, one thing you can be certain of in Orlando -- kids will be welcome!

4. Outer Banks, NC

The Outer Banks, a chain of sandy barrier islands offering some of the most undeveloped natural beaches in the country, stretches over almost 100 miles, and beckons families looking for a more relaxed and quiet beach getaway. Largely free from uncontrolled development, it offers a pristine coastal spot for families looking to avoid the crowds and chaos typically found at popular beach resorts. Kids will delight in the wide beaches and warm waters, and parents will relax as they take in the beautiful scenery.

Filled with wildlife, the Outer Banks is the perfect spot to slow down and tune into nature, but, if you prefer, there's plenty of the usual kid-friendly activities to enjoy as well. With several different towns from which to choose, you're sure to find the perfect match for your family's preferences. But the Outer Banks is one place where you won't find a plethora of family friendly hotels. With many large and still affordable rental homes available just steps from the beach but not too close to each other, most families opt to book a rental home for their vacations. Wherever families choose to stay, they usually gravitate to the endless seashore and Southern hospitality, making it likely they'll return again and again.

5. Hilton Head, SC

Most people think world-class golf courses and full-service tennis courts when they think of Hilton Head, but the more than 100 miles of bike paths, 12 miles of inviting white-sand beaches, parks and nature preserves that capture the island's beauty and wildlife, along with a quaint harbor town featuring plenty of boutique-style shops and fine restaurants, make Hilton Head a popular destination for family vacationing. From boating excursions and myriads of water sports to up-close encounters with wildlife and hiking and biking, families particularly enjoy the wonder of nature and the outdoors in Hilton Head.

Although you're unlikely to have a rainy day in Hilton Head where the sun shines on most days, there's plenty of indoor fun to be found as well; kids will enjoy visiting the Coastal Discovery Museum, where they'll learn about the history and ecology of the area, and playing at The Sandbox, an interactive children's museum. There are a few resort hotels in Hilton Head, but vacation rental homes are more plentiful. The convenience and beachside location of many rental homes makes this choice favored by most families visiting the area. You'll find everything from condos by the beach to single-family homes with swimming pools, giving you high odds you'll find the perfect spot for your family vacation.

6. Cape Cod & the Islands

Cape Cod, a summer vacation land like no other in New England, lures families with it's gentle bay-side waters and spectacular National Seashore beaches. But it's not just superior beaches that draw families to Cape Cod; they also flock for the lakes, biking trails, quaint towns and shops, band concerts on the green, drive-in movies, miniature golf galore and more that make it hard not to enjoy a family vacation. With every shape, size and style of rental home from which to choose, many families prefer to rent a vacation home on Cape Cod versus opting for a hotel. You'll find plenty of vacation homes right on the water as well as those set back from the beach, frequently featuring lawns, pools, or in-town conveniences, which is why families frequently make their Cape Cod vacations family traditions.

Just a ferry-ride away off the southeastern tip of Cape Cod are the islands Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, where the pace of life is slower and you'll feel that you're really getting away from the usual hustle and bustle. On the islands, you'll find it all, from dramatic clay cliffs to sand-dune lined beaches and surf-filled oceans to quiet marshes. A favorite pastime for families visiting the islands is to bike the miles of paved bike trails, taking in the picturesque fields and farms along with the spectacular ocean views. The quaint Disneyesque towns are hubs of activity in the evenings, when families stroll into town to dine, shop, or enjoy a late night ice cream treat. The numbered hotels and inns on the islands fill quickly and are not all appropriate for small children, so many families opt for the more affordable, spacious, and convenient vacation home rentals on the islands.

7. Lake Tahoe

Mark Twain was right on when he wrote about Lake Tahoe,"It must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords." The breathtaking beauty of Lake Tahoe is legendary, and draws vacationing families year-round for fresh air and endless outdoor adventure. Most know Tahoe for its excellent ski terrain in winter, but Tahoe is just as appealing in the summer with its gorgeous beaches, soft sand, and wide variety of water and land sports.

The biggest choice to make when visiting Tahoe is whether to stay on the north or south side of the lake. The north side is more "outdoorsy," and the south side is more appealing for those interested in entertainment and a bit of night life. In either case, although the area offers a number of luxury resorts and hotels, with thousands of vacation rental homes available in Tahoe, renting a home where you can enjoy a prime location, lots more space, and cost savings too is definitely the way many families choose to go.

8. Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge

When you think of Gaitlinburg and Pigeon Forge, you may think "hiking and outdoorsy" type of family fun in the Smokey Mountains. Although this is definitely true, this tourist-friendly region is not just a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- it also offers more dramatic family fun, including popular attractions such as The Titanic Museum, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, and Dollywood, an amusement park named after the famous hometown singer Dolly Parton, as well as plenty for thrill-seeking teens.

Although you can find a few kid-friendly resorts in the area, many families prefer to stay in the mountains, where the options for accommodations are more limited to basic hotels or camping, and thus they opt for a vacation rental home. In a rental home, families appreciate the added privacy, the conveniences of multiple rooms and a kitchen, and, if lucky, a deck or patio overlooking the scenic Smoky Mountains.

9. Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach is best known for its endless stretches of white-sand beaches lined by high-rise hotels, but although there are certainly plenty of hotel accommodations from which to choose in this favorite family vacation spot filled with southern hospitality and charm, many families prefer to opt for a vacation rental -- condo style near the beach -- or a single-family home with a swimming pool. They also find it more convenient to have a car available for getting around to the various beaches, attractions, and restaurants.

There are more family attractions than you might expect to find in addition to sand-and-surf in Myrtle Beach, such as outrageous mini-golf courses (mirroring the 100 plus world-class golf courses in the area), Ripley's Aquarium, Broadway on the Beach (the go-to spot for shopping and amusements), and the outstanding Brookgreen Gardens (a wildlife preserve featuring a zoo, sculpture garden, and learning and research center), to name just a few. Thus, Myrtle Beach continues to be a favorite destination for families looking for a beachy vacation as well as some traditional kid fun.

10. Breckenridge, CO

Showcasing a picturesque Victorian town with charming shops, cafes, and restaurants lining Main Street in the village, Breckenridge, is a long-time, year-round family favorite. In the winter, families flock to Breckenridge for world-class skiing on 155 trails of fluffy white-powder, including some of the most challenging terrain out there, along with ample choices for little ones and beginner skiers. In summer, there's no shortage of outdoor adventure either, including hiking, biking, rafting and more.

With an up-to-date infrastructure and plenty of modern conveniences and amenities, the old ski town has kept up with the needs of today's families. In Breckenridge, most shy away from the resorts, opting instead to get closer to nature by renting one of the many vacation properties in the area, from slope-side condos to five-bedroom homes nestled into the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.

For more fun family vacation ideas, check out:


Visit our Forums for discussions on Vacation Rentals.

Written by Kimberly Liu



Find Your Family Vacation
My Kids' Ages:



Popular Family Resorts:

  •  
    FREE Family Travel Newsletter
  • Family Travel Tips   (4 New)

    Family Planning and Tips

    • 10 Best Orlando Resorts for Families
      So many hotels and resorts to choose from! Which ones really are the best for families in terms of theme-park access, amenities, and accommodations? Here are our favorites in the Orlando area! 1. Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creak Maybe it is the Hilton's water park with two zero-entry pools, a 3-acre ...
    • Skip This: Do That!
      Deciding where to go for your next family vacation? Often it's the most popular destinations -- from mega theme parks to world-famous beach towns -- that come to mind first. It's tempting to pick a familiar place and just go with what you know, but do this and you could be missing out on some fantas...
    • Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise
      Join us onboard Disney Wonder's first exploration into Alaskan waters and ports as Family Vacation Critic Editor Lissa Poirot and her two tots take you on a tour. Be the first to see a sample of Disney's Alaskan Port Adventures, as well as glimpse the Disney Wonder's onboard fun, in our first-ever d...
    • Family Volunteer Vacations
      Away from the hectic pace of our everyday lives, any vacation is a chance for families to reconnect. There's no soccer game, no piano recital, no working late, so finally you have that precious day together. Yet, if you really want a meaningful break from your usual schedule, one that might change t...
  • Twitter
  • Facebook