Sometimes you just need to book a comfortable hotel room; other times, a vacation rental is necessary. You might be traveling as a multi-generational group and want a single, spacious home base for your crew. You might also want a kitchen for cooking meals, or separate sleeping quarters for you and your little ones. Whatever the reason, be sure to do the following before you book your vacation rental:
- Compare Vacation Rental Sites: Search multiple vacation rental sites and you might encounter the same properties cross-listed on more than one site. But some properties may be unique to a certain site, so it’s always worth comparing several different vacation rental sites.
- Read the Reviews: Go beyond the pretty pictures and read the reviews to get insight from people who have actually stayed at the property and shared what they liked—and didn’t like. Reviews are where you’ll get vacationers’ honest, first-hand experiences.
- Talk to Property Owners: Don’t be afraid to ask property owners any questions you might have before you book. Reputable ones will be happy to provide you with any additional information you need. And pay close attention to cancellation policies; they vary a lot from owner to owner and are often much stricter than hotel cancellation rules.
Think a vacation rental is the right choice for your next trip? Whether you’re looking for a charming beach cottage or a mega-mansion in the mountains, we’ve rounded up the best vacation rental sites for traveling families.
Scroll down to read more in-depth summaries of each vacation rental booking option for families.
One of the best-known names in the vacation rental market, Airbnb offers more than seven million accommodations in more than 220 countries and regions. The site prides itself on authenticity and “local hosts” who help give travelers a true insider’s view of their destinations. Families can search by location, type of stay, dates, and number of travelers, or scroll through the site’s top-rated places to stay for some travel inspiration. Results can be further filtered by specific amenities, such as a pool or washer/dryer.
Best Feature for Families: A vacation rental search on Airbnb can turn up some truly unique places to stay. The site has more than 14,000 tiny houses, more than 4,900 castles, and more than 2,400 treehouses among its listings. A recent search turned up options like a tricked-out tiny house with room for five on a lake in Orlando, a windmill with space for four in Portugal, and an oh-so-cool houseboat with room for six in Seattle.
2. Tripadvisor Rentals
Tripadvisor Rentals features more than 800,000 rentals around the globe, ranging from apartments and cottages to expansive homes. Search by location and dates to get a list of properties that can be sorted by Tripadvisor rating, price, or number of reviews or photos. You’ll find information on average price per night in your destination to compare rates, and results can be filtered by amenities, property type, and even options like the view.
If you need more information or inspiration, the Tripadvisor Rentals Blog offers destination ideas and advice on everything from booking your rental to traveling with a baby. And with Tripadvisor’s Payment Protection policy, users who book a rental through its online payment platform can get a full refund of up to $10,000 if the property was misrepresented and differs substantially in real life versus what was advertised, or if they’re denied access to the rental at check-in.
Best Feature for Families: Search results can be filtered by kid-friendly rentals. That makes it easy to find properties with plenty of bedrooms and amenities like swimming pools and DVD players. You can add additional filters onto that, like opting for a standalone home over a condo if you think your kiddos need more room to roam (and potentially make noise).
Part of the Expedia Group, HomeAway lives up to its name when it comes to finding a home away from home. As you search, the site offers information about how popular your destination is and how many of its properties are left during your dates, so you’ll know if you need to book sooner rather than later. You can filter results in all the usual ways, including by properties that are good for families, as well as by more unique options like whether a property has a low-allergen environment. (You can accomplish much the same on sister site Vrbo.com.)
Best Feature for Families: Use the site’s Trip Boards feature to plan your vacation. You can save all your favorite properties in one place to compare options, and even map them all out to see if any are better located than others. And if you’re traveling with the grandparents or other extended family members, you can opt to “invite friends” to your Trip Board so that everyone can be involved in the planning process.
Head to FlipKey whether you know your travel destination or need some inspiration. The homepage for the vacation rental site lists top vacation rental destinations, trending destinations, hidden gems, and beach getaways. So if you’re looking for a new travel spot for spring break or summer vacation, you can find both an interesting destination and a vacation rental here. All the usual filters can be applied to searches, from price range to number of bedrooms.
Best Feature for Families: You can truly find what you need with some super-specific filtering options. Choices include filtering search results to list rentals well-suited for children under age 5 or to find rentals that have a high chair available.
You might think of Booking.com as just a hotel search and booking site. But you can also find vacation rentals here by filtering search results by property type, where options include vacation homes, apartments, and villas. Sort results by top picks, price, or top reviewed to help you narrow down your options. Listings include house rules, information on amenities and nearby attractions, and lots of photos. If you find something you like but aren’t totally sold, click “Show Similar Properties” for additional possibilities in the same vein.
Best Feature for Families: Like it does for hotel bookings, Booking.com will price match in some instances if you find your identical reservation cheaper on another website. So you can lock in your travel dates and feel confident that you won’t wind up overpaying for your vacation rental.
6. Luxury Retreats
Looking to take the trip of a lifetime? Head to Luxury Retreats to find vacation rentals with high-end amenities in bucket-list destinations. Think a modern pod-style home with a private pool on the Big Island of Hawaii, or a sleek mountainside chalet in Lake Tahoe with a hot tub and fire pit. Each listing goes through a 300-point inspection, and guests who make bookings through the site receive complimentary concierge services and 24/7 guest support.
Best Feature for Families: After you’ve made your booking, your “villa specialist” can assist with additional needs such as childcare, necessary family gear, or fresh groceries. You can truly escape from an everyday life filled with errands.
Are you a fan of comparison shopping? Tripping.com makes it easy to do just that when searching for a vacation rental. Put in your search terms and the site searches through more than 12 million available properties (ranging from condos to castles) in almost 200 countries from rental sites such as Tripadvisor Rentals, HomeAway, Booking.com, and Airbnb. Filter results by amenity, price, rating, or accommodation type.
Best Feature for Families: Using this site really gives you a broad overview of what’s out there in your destination to help you make your vacation rental decision. And if being near water or a city center in that locale is important, you can set filters to only find properties within a certain distance.
Founded in 1995 to pair vacation homeowners with travelers searching for rentals, longtime vacation rental site Vrbo is now part of the Expedia Group. Families can find all kinds of vacation rentals in 190 countries and can search by trending or top destinations or by a specific spot if you’ve already chosen your next vacation destination. It’s easy to search by your preferred property style, like the site’s 52,000-plus bungalows or more than 215,000 houses, or by city or town. Vrbo’s “Book with Confidence Guarantee” offers protections against fraud and assistance throughout the entire rental process.
Best Feature for Families: Vrbo has a landing page focused on family vacations with rentals that are well suited for the whole gang. You can find rentals for small families, big family groups, and everything in between, plus search for properties with specific amenities like complimentary beach chairs or an outdoor grill. The page also lists the site’s top destinations for families if you’re looking for trip ideas.
Beth Luberecki is a Florida-based freelance writer who writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications and websites. She enjoys exploring destinations close to home and farther afield with her husband and teenage daughter. Visit her website at bethluberecki.comor find her on Instagram at @bethluberecki.