Traveling with a large crew places a limit on the type of hotels you can stay in. That is why vacation rentals for families like ours quickly became the new best friend once our oldest hit teenage years. Not only do they offer the comforts of home, but also daily rates that won’t break the bank.
Our first foray into booking an Airbnb was quite overwhelming as the number of homeowners and rental companies listing their properties continues to grow. This ultimately is a win-win for families as it gives you plenty to choose from at a variety of price ranges. So here are three key things to keep in mind to ensure you pick a great spot at the right price.
First, Decide on the Non-Negotiables
We aren’t looking for high end amenities. However, we do prefer a clean, modern aesthetic in safe areas. This means a checklist that looks like the following for our family:
- Minimum of 3 beds (as the kids get older we’ve been raising that to 5)
- Preferably 2 bathrooms (can deal with 1 if we are only staying for 2-3 days)
- In urban areas, apartment/condo within a 1 mile distance to major attractions or direct access to mass transit
- For non-urban locations with vehicle, we aim for locations within a 30 minute radius of major points of interest
Your preferences may be more spartan or more luxurious. The primary aim is to create a basic rubric for selection which is the first step in making the process a little less cumbersome.
Then, Use Your Non-Negotiables to Guide The Budget
After deciding on your preferences, it should be time to start searching. But wait…how much are you willing to spend?!
Airbnb for families can be the best tool for managing the biggest expense in a travel budget. However, if you don’t set a minimum/maximum per night rate, then you are liable to overspend.
As a general rule, we set our per night target rate at $250 US. This ensures a decent place in a good area with enough sleeping space for everyone. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the types of rentals we find at this rate. They’re not mansions, but sometimes nicer than our own crib!
Our very first Airbnb rental was in San Francisco on a very high end side of town. The location offered great views putting us close to a variety of fun restaurants. The amenities were a little more dated than anticipated, but clean and functional. This was more than appropriate when we were spending 10-12 hours out-and-about sightseeing.
For our two week Europe trip, we experimented with a wide variety of accommodations. London and Paris were apartments near key locations to major attractions, but very different in amenities. Brussels was a artsy paradise in the outskirts of the city. And for our last leg in the Netherlands, we chose to be a 45 minute train ride north of Amsterdam. The per night rates fluctuated but total averaged right around the $250 target. Holding rigidly to the number isn’t the goal, but having a point of reference helps you stay budget.
If you’d like some inspiration for your next European vacation, check out these posts:
- Leisure in London: 4 Charming Days of City and Countryside
- Enchanted by Paris: Take in 2 1/2 Days of Wonder & Beauty
- Braving Brussels: How to Enjoy 2 Fascinating Days of History & Culture
- Traversing the Netherlands: Discover 3 1/2 Delightful Days with the Dutch
Finally, Mind the Fine Print
After fixing your sights on the target rate, be mindful of a few factors that are travel budget landmines:
- Fees and Service Charges – Online vacation rental companies charge a guest service fee for all reservations. This fee ranges from 5% to 15% of the reservation subtotal. For our San Francisco trip, the initial rate was $250, but quickly jumped to nearly $300 in the end.
- Amenities Not Always Included – During our trip to Europe, we booked 4 different rentals in 4 different countries. Some had toilet paper to serve an army while others only enough for one pit stop each. Basic kitchen/cleaning supplies were hit and miss as well. So plan a little extra in the budget for these necessities.
- Proximity to Attractions – The main reason for travel is to see new sites be them iconic or hidden gems. Your rental’s location could mean the difference between a free 10 minute stroll to Fisherman’s Wharf or Uber draining your pocketbook multiple times a day. For trips to major cities, make a list of your top visit spots and then find a rental that allows you to leverage public transport or your family’s feet as much as possible.
No matter where your travels take you, make sure to set your standard, budget accordingly and beware the hidden costs when booking your home away from home.