Travel

My #1 Trick for Choosing a Vacation Rental

Shelter Island Airbnb

When we’re planning a trip, and I’m searching for a rental home for our family, there’s one thing I always look for…

A pool? No. A microwave? Don’t care. TV? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

TOYS. If all things are equal, we always and forever pick the place with toys.

airbnb with toys

When we were in California this winter, our rental apartment had a children’s bedroom with games, dinosaurs and Hot Wheels, and the boys played in there for HOURS. Because a long-standing truth of childhood is: Nothing is more fun than other kids’ toys.

airbnb with toys

Meanwhile, Alex and I unpacked, opened a bottle of wine, read our books and chatted. I might have even taken a nap. We felt like we were on a true vacation because our children were so happily occupied. No one needed anything from us! Not even a snack! Not even a glass of water!

airbnb with toys

The toys don’t have to be fancy or novel. At one rental, even this lone Jenga set was a total thrill (and doubled as a dollhouse). Now, as we’re looking ahead to the summer, I’m happy to stay anywhere anytime, as long as there are toys. Any toys. The end.

What about you? What are your tips for traveling as a family?

P.S. 10 tips for traveling with a baby, and 16 ways to travel as a family (and really enjoy it).

(Top photo of an Airbnb.)

  1. Kathryn Healy says...

    We travel frequently with our four children, but have never specifically looked for a rental with toys. If anything, they are a negative because my children will break them (by accident when my boys rough house), and I don’t need the stress of worrying the homeowner will get angry, the cost to replace them, or keeping a constant sharp eye on every object the kids touch. I also used to work at a private preschool and saw how difficult it was to keep group toys clean in order to prevent the spread of illness. Anyone have any suggestions to remedy either of these issues so we can start enjoying a rental with toys to the same degree it seems you other posters are?

    • KG says...

      I think the trick would be to find a rental with the right toys. As an elementary school art teacher and mom, I had the exact same thoughts when I was choosing toys for our condo that we rent out in Costa Rica. I bought toys that are easy to clean and hard to break. Certainly no stuffed animals since they cannot really be cleaned. We have building toys like plastic straws and connectors and connectagons, games like Twister, preschool toys like Mr. Potato Head, some cars, animals, and then books, puzzles and games for all ages. We expect that things are going to be broken and missing so we always bring new things to restock every time we visit. We bought our condo specifically hoping that it would be a way to help our guests really have great quality time with their families and friends while enjoying the amazing environment in Costa Rica. So far we’ve gotten great reviews and our guests seem to really appreciate those extras.

  2. My kid is a teenager now and my teen travel tip is to not get an international plan for their phone (or very minimal, just for emergencies). That way when my daughter is out and about she is engaged. And when she gets back to the hotel at night she has wi-fi and checks her snapchat and instagram and post photos.

    I like the comment about keeping a bin of toys for visiting kids. We don’t have toys at my house anymore and I’ve had a few kids visit and they were destructive with nothing to do. There is a new start-up here in LA called JoyMode that allows you to rent all sorts of things. We had a party last year and invited families with kids ages 7 – 13 – all boys. We rented a ping pong table, cornhole and Nintendo Super Mario Cart. Best decision ever.

  3. Oh yes on toys at the vacation rental home. You are right: “Nothing is more fun than other kids’ toys.” I see this in my son too. Whenever we stayed at airbnb places with toys, it was so night and day difference in relaxation my husband and I could have. If we are staying at airbnb, I browse pictures to see if any toys are in the house and make sure if it has yard or some sort of outdoor space for son to play. Also, I check there are coffee shops, restaurants, and supermarket within the walking distance. Who enjoy asking children to hop on the car many times of the day, right? If we are staying at the hotel, we try to find the hotel wit a separate bedroom. Then, after son goes to bed, my husband and I can have our own time over adult drinks and movie. Last but not least, I often take two or three compact games/toys with us when we are on vacation. My go-to are playing cards, Uno, and origami papers. One more! I look up any local toy stores located close by. Some of the local toy stores are so awesome. Almost all have the sections where kids can play too. Visiting the local toy store always gives me a nice break time for me. The local toy store called Explore Play Create Toys in Taos, NM was amazing.

  4. We have the same experience with airbnb rentals. We’re happy to swap homes some time Joanna! Our boys are 5 and 7 and our house is filled with Lego, Kapla, Schleich and Playmobil. We live in a medieval city in The Netherlands where everyone is riding a bike. Obviously bikes are provided too. Let me know if you are interested!

  5. Lauren says...

    Yes we have been seeking a home for our sabbatical year in Brooklyn that has toys. Fingers crossed we find something for July!!

  6. Anna Cohen says...

    Totally agree. However basic toys are: they are SOMEONE ELSE’s TOYS and THUS a novelty. Our favourite airbnbs have all been involving toys – esp when you stay in another kid’s bedroom in Germany with a climbing wool for eg. or a grandparents house in Italy with old school toys or a beach shack in Australia with leftover beach toys. So, so true. We also have a holiday tradition to go to charity stores and purchase some old/new toys and books for the holiday to either donate again, leave for the next guests or squeeze in our luggage to take home :)

  7. Martha Patterson says...

    We stayed at a rental on Vancouver Island several years back when out kids were young. Each kid got their own room, which was awesome, given the cottage wasn’t big by any means. The rental had a huge selection of children’s books…our son methodically read all of them while we were there! He’d come out form his room, grab a few books, return awhile later, put the books he read back, and get a new set. I think that trip might have been where our kids watched Star Wars the first time too…the house had a great video selection too!

  8. Oh I couldn’t love this more! We own and rent out 5 vacation homes in Michigan. Our newest addition, Dahlia, has a huge room dedicated to the kiddos with books, toys, legos, train set, dress up clothes, etc.

    Our guests are loving it!

    Thank you for sharing this! Now I’m going to update all our Dwell Vacation homes with more toys! 🙌🏻

  9. Emily R Hylden says...

    ALL TRUE!

  10. anneliese says...

    Wow, I am a knitter and find these straightforward sweaters to be so inspiring. As much as I’d love to get something for myself, I would have to go with jumper no23 plum for my daughter to romp around in.

  11. Chrissie says...

    Washer and dryer!!

    When I travel with my kids its a non-negotiable. I will never check luggage again as long as I live so I need all our clothes to fit into carry ons ( I only pack about 3-4 outfits and then wash them at the rental and have them wear them again if needed). Also, i LOVE washing clothes on my last day of traveling, packing them in my suitcase and then when I get home transferring the clean closes directly back into the dresser at home. THE BEST.

    • Holly says...

      You are correct! Who needs toys when you can go home with – suitcase full of clean clothes!!

    • Heather says...

      Amen, sister!

  12. Robin says...

    I always look for the magic words, “This place was even better than it looks in the pictures!”

  13. Tessa says...

    I just sent a comment last week to AirBnB to add a “toys” filter for families! It would make finding a place so easy!

  14. location, location, location. plus cute decor, coffee and a bedroom for each person.

  15. Danielle says...

    Yes! We stayed in a cabin over Thanksgiving and found a cabinet full of games like poker and chinese checkers and scrabble, etc. We had no idea but that was such a lifesaver! My 6 year old loved learning to play poker, and the new checkers game and we had a lot of family fun. I will always look for that kind of thing (and toys) from now on!

  16. KG says...

    I completely agree with toys being a huge bonus in a vacation rental!!! Last summer we bought a great condo near the beach in Costa Rica to rent out and as soon as I could fly down there I brought a huge suitcase filled with toys, games, and puzzles! Many of our reviewers have mentioned our toys just as much as the monkeys, pool, beach and parrots, ha! And the toys I brought were ones that my own kids had tired of so I’m waiting to see if they have a new found interest in them when we visit Costa Rica this summer:)

  17. Such great tips!

    Xo Noor

  18. Colleen Clark says...

    My kids are young, 1yr and 5yrs, but we’re staying at a couple farm stays this summer, and I can’t wait! Living in the city, it’s nice for the kids to get some space, hang around animals, and explore some trails. I’ll definitely need to check in their toy situation!

  19. Lisa says...

    So agree! Last February we did airbnb in Cape Town (with my in laws as well) and the owner of the flat had a toddler, and lent us a ton of toys. My son was in heaven.
    This time around, the flat we rented was fantastic and beautiful but no toys. Our kids did very well out of the toys that they brought (and digging the pot plants – sorry!) but new toys would have made a huge difference. I would also bring the in laws again. I love my children more than anything in the world but 24 hours a day for ten days … it was intense. Even just a couple of hours to be alone with my husband would have been fantastic, or one trip to the beach where we weren’t trying to keep people under the umbrella and not eating sand

  20. Alexandra says...

    We NEED a bedroom for each child and one for ourselves for any trip to feel even remotely like a vacation! My oldest son (3 years old) just cannot go to sleep if anyone else is in his room. I tried to fight this for awhile, feeling excessive for not wanting to stay in a hotel (even with adjoining rooms!) while traveling. However, I have now just accepted that this is who he is and that I want to sleep on vacation! I’ll travel less to make the travel that we choose more enjoyable for us all.

  21. This is fantastic and obviously what we are doing from now on.

  22. Nancy S. says...

    We stayed in an AMAZING rental in Seattle which we picked because of the great selection of toys, books, easel, magnetic blocks, not to mention a swing chair in the living room. All this and the house was gorgeously remodeled and the open kitchen meant we could keep tabs on the kids. It was ONE block from the park and TWO blocks from cupcakes/espresso/cutest little main st, and five mins from all the sights of downtown. They had an Uppa-baby stroller, and two pack-n-plays, booster seats, child-sized utensils, and dinnerware. Owner was lovely and lived next door. Here is the link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2318?guests=1&adults=1 The kids actually kissed the walls of the house goodbye when we left.

  23. Kate says...

    Not sure if this is allowed… but would love for you to post a bunch of the actual houses you have rented and websites where they can be found and booked. It’s nice to have an exact house you know has worked for someone you trust :)

    • Kirby Tanner Kurtz says...

      Love this idea!

    • Kate says...

      I’m not sure if I can post a link here, but we just began renting out a lovely condo in Costa Rica which we chose because the condo and location is such a perfect family spot with the beautiful calm ocean perfect for snorkeling right on the beach, tide pools full of interesting critters, pool, monkeys, parrots, and loads of toys and snorkeling equipment included!

      https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/28720080?adults=1&toddlers=0&check_in=2019-07-15&check_out=2019-07-19&guests=1&s=Zyo_t63R

  24. Mags says...

    Last summer, we stayed at an airbnb midway through our Midwest-East coast roadtrip, and didn’t explain well to our nearly-3-year-old where we were. He was thrilled to be free from the carseat and tore through the house, returning with furrowed brows and two questions: Where are the friends here (we often stay with friends when traveling), and why don’t they have any toys at all? Glad for the tip!

  25. Karen w says...

    Brilliant! Will keep this in mind for future travels!

  26. Sarah says...

    We are avid roadtrippers and have from day one let the kids pack activity and snack bags for the back seat…it is fun to go out and buy new stickers, notebooks, markers and treats for the trip. Screens in the car have always been a no, instead we listen to audiobooks, podcasts, music or play made up games and of course eye spy. We are at our best, on the road. We are heading overseas for the first time this summer and my girls (10&7) can’t wait to fly!! Of course, we have a road trip planned (Scottish Highlands) once we land! 😄 Any Scotland and London area tips appreciated!!

    • Iz says...

      In Scotland Glencoe, the Isle of Skye and Lock Ness are all stunning

    • Rachel (MozartsGirl) says...

      London is incredible with kids, there is SO much to do. Worth remembering that all the major museums are free entry (although there will be a charge for special exhibitions) – we are so spoilt this way. The Natural History and Science museums especially recommended for children, loads to see and do and interact with…but even simple things like a walk in Trafalgar Square or one of the big central London parks (Hyde, Regent’s…) will yield great things. Fond memories of the Western Highlands too. Some of the beaches on Harris & Lewis are equal to the Caribbean, so unexpected! Fine white sand, turquoise sea, porpoises, seals – Horgabost and Luskentyre immediately spring to mind. And the QUIET! Have a wonderful trip xx

  27. Elise says...

    This is a great tip! My husband and I have a requirement that the place we stay in must have a nice couch. We don’t want to lounge on the bed like we’re in a hotel – that’s why we’re renting a house/apartment! But now that we’re expecting our first child, I expect that our requirements will change.

  28. Mara says...

    One other option if you can’t find a place with toys – rent toys! Several times when we have done group trips with friends we have rented pack n plays or cots for kids – there are a bunch of places that rent kids stuff in vacation areas. You can add on a box of toys, water table, kids eating table, kids pool for the yard, etc. When splitting with a couple other families it has totally been worth it.

  29. Cynthia says...

    We rented a huge house right on the beach once. There were no toys but there was an entire closet of costumes and dress-up clothes. Oh my goodness was it fun to see a little tiger scamper by or find the children in a whole created world inspired by how they suited up. If they weren’t doing this, they were outside playing in the sand and frolicking in the surf.

  30. April says...

    Great post! But the Airbnb link goes to a Tahoe listing? I was so interested in the toy-filled abode you all rented! (my kids are similar ages to T & A…)

  31. Emily says...

    Speaking of toys, I have 3 kids under 6 and a small, open concept house with no playroom. The LEGO/action figure/hot wheels situation is out of control. Bins everywhere, Would love to see a post on storing gazillions of small toys while keeping them sorted and accessible to kids… without making your house look like a colourful-bin-crazy daycare.

    • Megan says...

      We have a low wooden bookshelf with different, neutral colored baskets to hold/group small toys. It really helps keep things organized and the kids know what toys go in what basket, which helps with clean up. There are some really affordable wicker and rope baskets out there to help keep living spaces feeling more like a home, less like a daycare. Also, I rotate toys every so often. This helps to keep our kids interested in the toys that are out and makes clean up faster! Since you mentioned an open living space, you could also use the bookcases to section off a specific play are if you’d like.

    • Maggie says...

      We have a large three door (wooden, not glass, so you can’t see into it) sideboard in the dining area of our open concept downstairs. It looks like a piece that should store linens and extra silverware and candlesticks, but in our house it is where I store (hide?) the kids’ art supplies, toys, etc. By putting it in the dining area, it is accessible to the table where they often play and do crafts but out of sight when everything is put away.

    • Ana says...

      Lego has the cutest storage stack-up boxes that look like giant LEGO pieces. They come in different sizes and colours, so you can make it a monochrome or colourful space. It is completely up to you. I keep everything, from wooden railroads and hot wheels cars, to pokemon memorabilia and cards in those boxes.

      https://shop.lego.com/en-US/category/storage

  32. Kate says...

    My dad always insisted that we have a ball ona road trip and would look for any kind of open space so we could just stop and run around- lots of fun in random places and it really breaks up a trip where you are stuck in the backseat with sibs! The type of ball can vary we had a big inflatable beach ballon one trip that meant there were all kinds of possibilities! Dad also insisted that bathing suits and towels be easily accessible – we swam whenever he could find a place! We still talk about one FREEZING place inCanada!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great tip!

  33. Jenny says...

    Funny, I just booked a rental in Nashville and chose it for charm and a ping pong table. I’m looking forward to playing with my only child who is a tween and hope it will create some fun while at “home”.

  34. jen says...

    we operate a VRBO/Airbnb and always pull out the bin of toys and books for kids if we know they are going to be staying with us. it’s worth letting your host know in advance that you’ll be traveling with young kids and see if they have any equipment you can use. I once had a couple with two young kids traveling to the US from Hong Kong and trying to minimize what they had to bring. I was able to provide them a pack&play, a high chair, a car seat, child-sized plates/cups & utensils, toys, books and access to a washer/dryer. It never hurts to ask!!

    for our own travels, we primarily utilize home exchange and it’s a total game changer.

  35. Kate says...

    We’ve rented a lot of different houses and totally agree that when traveling with kids, access to toys is awesome! I’ve also found I can learn a lot about a property from reading the reviews. Often the owners won’t think to advertise certain things, but someone might comment on it in their review. I’ve found out about the presence of toys and other little amenities (or at least things I consider to be amenities!) that way. I like VRBO too.

  36. Laura says...

    Washer and dryer. Have to have if im anywhere more than 3 days with my toddler since we like to pack light and he WILL spill on everyone on day one.

  37. Clare says...

    headed to San Fran soon and looking for centrally-located AirBnB’s. I’ve never been, so not even sure where I’m looking to stay. Any help?!

    • elinor says...

      I live farther down the Peninsula, but I love the Outer Richmond (near Ocean Beach, the zoo) and Presido (near Golden Gate bridge) areas of SF! I also like Potrero Hill – it’s a bit removed from downtown, etc, but you get amazing city views (and it’s a bit quieter). I’d start by making a list of must-sees and find a place that’s close-ish to all of those:)

    • Sarah Behr says...

      Hi Clare,
      Pacific Heights or Hayes Valley are quaint neighborhoods but also centrally located so you can easily get downtown, the Mission, the Presidio, etc. The Richmond and the Sunset are convenient to Golden Gate Park but can be a long drive from the sites of Union Sq, Chinatown, North Beach.

    • Clare says...

      Thank you Elinor and Sarah! Can either one of you tell me the name of the cliff overlooking the Bridge? I see so many IG pictures of it (what a view!) but am not sure what it’s called. Is it part of the park?

    • B says...

      When figuring out neighborhoods in a new city I start by tracing the route for the local hop on hop off tour. They have already figured out the “must sees” and the best route between them. It works as a good starting point for me!

    • Anya says...

      Clare – i think you’re referring to the Marin Headlands? (someone from SF please confirm!) I love visit SF – it’s definitely worth checking out the non-touristy areas and just wandering around the city. Bike rentals are another fun way of exploring too. Have fun!

  38. Anna says...

    This is an awesome to tip! Where do you find plases with toys?? We always use Air B&B and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten lucky with a place with toys. Are there other rental sites you would recommend?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i just looking through the airbnb photos because many homes will end up having a kid’s bedroom. i also like one fine stay (really well curated, all gorgeous), and kid & coe (family-friendly, but not all with toys). xoxo

  39. Mouse says...

    Yay libraries! Come to our tiny little one in Brownfield Maine and check out the seed library. Many kids’ books too. Storytime and tea. Great librarian. Wifi for the adults. And Stone Mountain Arts Center up the road and the White Mountains a bit farther……

    • gracemarie says...

      My husband and I love to visit libraries whenever we are traveling. Free wifi or computer access, a free bathroom (score!), and there’s always something fun to read if I just need a mental break. Plus the architecture! Seattle Public Library and Portland’s downtown library are two that stand out for me.

  40. Gina says...

    My husband and I are the only couple in our friend group who don’t have kids, but we keep our house stocked with toys and children’s books so that our friends’ kids are still excited to come over. Legos seem to be a thrill for everyone (even some of the parents).

    • Sarah says...

      This is such a lovely and thoughtful thing to do. Being at someone’s house for a meal when they don’t have anything kid-related (and I always forget to think ahead and bring stuff) can be SO HARD and can really impair everyone’s enjoyment. Good on you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so thoughtful, gina!

  41. Alice says...

    that is such an impressive set of animals

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it was amazing!!! he played with them foreeeeever and had whole family dramas and battles and even a love story between a pterodactyl and a swan!

  42. Kelli says...

    I love this. Does anyone have any great vacation ideas for a family with two teenagers. My 18 year old twins are graduating and I’m stumped for a great vacation location we would all enjoy.

    • A cruise or all inclusive resort might be nice because there will be activities for them to do on their own, and you can all come together for dinner and other fun family things. A good mix of space and togetherness.

      P.S. Congrats on getting your kids to this point in their lives!

    • Caroline says...

      Depending on where you’re from, a road trip through some of the national parks out west would be fun. You can fly into Vegas, see a show, then do Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, etc

    • Jeanne says...

      Depends what they like–cities? Nature?
      My family of four (including two teenagers) all likes pretty different things, with a bit of overlap. Two winners for us were:
      Yosemite and San Francisco: AWESOMEST nature and a real city with restaurants, shopping, quirky things.
      Portland Oregon: same thing–incredible hikes with waterfalls, Mt St Helens day trip, Mt Hood, the coast AND Portland is a quirky city !

    • Susan says...

      National Parks! We did Yosemite with my teenagers and stayed at Evergreen Lodge which had tons of activities for teenagers… and s’mores every night! Highly recommend it!

    • Liz says...

      When I graduated from college two years ago, my family and I took a trip to see Grand Canyon National Park. Even if you’ve been there, visiting any of that national parks (I also recommend Yellowstone or Yosemite) could be a cool trip!

    • Michaela says...

      Try letting them choose and plan the trip with a set budget. I would have loved this as a teenager! You might be surprised where you all end up.

    • Bonnie says...

      If they’re into sports, maybe a road trip to see a few stadiums/teams could be fun … as I was a big baseball fan, my folks took me on a long road trip years ago to see the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians before swinging around to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, then back to Florida. Granted, tickets were A LOT cheaper then than they are now.

    • Colleen says...

      Michaela, yes!

    • Laura says...

      Love the national parks idea! If your budget (and taste for adventure) allows, river rafting would also be an amazing trip for this age. We did it for a hs graduation in my family and everyone loved it.

    • lk says...

      we just went to hong kong because the tickets were so cheap- we stayed at a lovely hotel in kowloon- and it was easy to navigate the city via their awesome and very cheap subway system- our 15 year old daughter was very much in charge of planning the days- we saw ancient stuff, hot new instagram spots, ate amazing food, and did some local things like get a manicure and a haircut….. we took the star ferry and saw the free light show at night- we just looked at google flights to see what was cheap and went from there- a real adventure.

  43. Nicole says...

    I look for a king size bed. Airbnb is so hit or miss when it comes to bed comfort and we do so much better sleeping in a king (both of us struggle w insomnia). Oh how I wish that you could filter homes for at least one king sized bed!!

  44. Claire says...

    yes, good idea! I think the most important questions to ask when planning a trip, for travelers of are “what is there to do?” and “how will we spend our time?”

  45. Monica says...

    You read my mind, Joanna! After renting an Airbnb with one, I can’t imagine going without! Our last rental out in Maine also had a porch and huge backyard, but the weather didn’t afford us a chance to really take advantage of it. With a squirmy toddler, we find that a nice sweet spot is a location within an hour drive to either (preferably both) nature and food/culture activities. Surprisingly, that criteria is a pretty good filter for us and what we can do now as a family without losing our mind :)

  46. JO says...

    Amen!

  47. A great website to find great family rentals is Kid and Coe. Definitely check it out!

  48. Katie says...

    My husbands side of the family has a cabin a couple hours away and it was pretty toy free. One day I had a brilliant epiphany. My MIL, bless her, keeps buying our sons the exact same toys that were loud and cluttering our tiny home. So we boxed them all up, took them to the cabin and left them there. Now our kids excitedly await the reunion with the “cabin toys” and play for hours while my husband and I sit in hammocks on the deck. Bliss!

  49. Catherine says...

    Yes to other kids’ toys! And for grown-ups, books!! I love to explore and borrow from someone’s library! ;)

  50. So true. Last winter, when my youngest was 2, we rented a mountain house that had a huge basket filled with Brio trains (we didn’t know…we just got lucky). This year we went back to the same mountain house and my now 3-year-old immediately recognized the photo before we left as the one “with all the trains!” Apparently it made an impression…he was so excited that he didn’t even care his older brother was gone skiing all day. (And I even got to read a little.) He now keeps asking to go back to that house and I’m sure it’s all because of the trains. (Well, that and the bunk beds.) If only all our needs were so simple!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the sweetest <3

  51. Holly says...

    So agree. As I clicked to open this post I was thinking “I hope she says TOYS because that is THE ANSWER”!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha

  52. Maria says...

    Good tip. My son still talks about the Mouse Trap game at our rented cottage last summer!
    We need to find one in Toronto for this summer and I’ve been stumped. This helps me get on track.

  53. Only somewhat related, when my sister and I were still pretty young our parents got us a domino rally set (it had dominos and different bridges and things you could set up too), so it became the tradition that whenever our younger cousins would come over, all of us kids would set up a domino rally which kept us VERY OCCUPIED, especially including us accidentally knocking it down too early (or when the youngest cousin would knock it down INTENTIONALLY). Then before dinner we would always all get up on the stairs overlooking our work and set it off! So much fun, highly recommend!

  54. Soooo true. The other thing we consider a requirement in a vacation rental is a KITCHEN! Not being able to so much as cut up fruit is a deal breaker.

  55. We have an AirBNB and I love to keep the kids room stocked with toys and even rotate from our house which benefits my kids too.

  56. jime says...

    With a son still in the toddler years I look for balcony doors that can’t be easily opened (And I still mover furniture around if that’s possible!) And I algo look for places with some backyard or nearby playground. I haven’t used the service (yet) but I do follow Kid&coe which is a family friendly version of air bnb.

  57. Mac says...

    Yes! The few toys available on travels are always treasured, and played and played with in so many creative ways by my girls. It makes me want to get rid of 90% of our toys every time we get home 😬 Someday I’ll actually do it!

  58. Wow, what a great tip! And so timely, as my husband and I are actively trying to book some summer vacations.

    I have sworn I will NEVER stay in a hotel room with my children again. It is too hard for everyone to want to do the same thing at the same time – the parents sleep on a different sleep schedule, someone doesn’t want TV or wants TV, there’s nowhere for the kids to burn off energy by running. So our vacation place has to have either separate sleeping quarters or a place to run/play. I’m an introvert who needs some space from my people sometimes, and a hotel room is the opposite of this!!

    • Abesha1 says...

      Yes… but my husband refuses to do rentals. He finds it weird and somehow unlcean… even if it’s clean… hotels are so hard with kids.
      Once I shared a house rental with a friend and her kids/my kids (without my husband) and it was bliss!

    • Liz says...

      On more than one vacation, I have packed a bottle of wine and wedged the hotel armchair into the bathroom in order to be able to read while kids and husband sleeps! Not my favorite but I do laugh at myself everytime it happens. Will never understand how my husband can just go to bed when the kids do…

  59. We stayed in a carriage house when our boys were 1 and 3 that shared a yard with a swing set and slide! It was way better than convincing them that the 2 books and 3 toy cars we’d brought were exciting. 😆

  60. Amy says...

    Yes to toys! We rented an Airbnb once with two other families (a total of five kids under five). The house had an Ikea tunnel and some other random toys. Those and the piano was what kept the kids busy while the adults cooked and chatted :)

  61. We definitely look for a washer & dryer AND space to play. We stayed in a place with stairs and we have toddlers. No thanks. Never again.

    We will definitely be looking for toys, too.

    Lindsey

    • Heather says...

      Emphatic yes to a washer and dryer when traveling with toddlers!

  62. zoe says...

    Reading this post reminded me that my parents always used to let us get those packs with 8 tiny sugary cereal boxes, which felt like winning the lottery at the time. I need to start this with my daughter if they still even sell them.

    • Wendy says...

      They do!!! Also one of my favorite childhood vacation memories. :)

    • Emily says...

      Yes! I have the same memory. They do still sell those packs.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg i LOVED those.

    • Erika says...

      A major, fond summer memory during cousin visits!

    • Alyssa says...

      Ahh! That’s what we would take to the beach every September. Such a happy memory.

    • Sara says...

      It’s like an unwritten parenting rule for some — sugary cereals, with no questions asked, for vacation only. My daughter actually asked for “vacation cereal” on her birthday one year.

    • Eve says...

      It is funny – I have terrible memories of those packs, though I doubt my mom bought the version y’all seem to remember. All I wanted were the Corn Pops and inevitably I ended up with the Raisin Brain.

  63. Kiersten says...

    Love this, what a great tip! Our other “must” is a washer/dryer. We are still in the toddlerhood stages and the unpredictable accident just happens (even on vacation).

  64. Tracy says...

    My must have is a washing machine! And then walking distance to a park/playground/fun!

  65. Meg says...

    I miss toys.

    My 12!& 10 year-olds just want WiFi if their inside :(

    • Alexandra says...

      Oh, I hear you. Trying to take them to Rome over Thanksgiving (flights are amazingly cheap then), there should be enough diversion to make the WiFi superfluous … but who knows!

  66. Nicola Schnurr says...

    Traveling with teenagers?
    Wi-fi

  67. Lorraine says...

    Agreed! We rented an airbnb in LA last summer and when we got home I asked my son what his favorite thing about our vacation was… ALL THE TOYS!

    what about the beach, the beautiful backyard, the sunshine??? nope. TOYZ!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahaha same!!! what about the tacos? the beloved relatives? the museums? NO THE TOYS.

  68. KL says...

    Washer and dryer (or at least the washer) is HUGE when you have a baby that poops as often as ours does. TMI?

  69. Hope says...

    Growing up my parents did house exchanges for our vacations. They always tried to swap homes with a family who had children about the same age as our family. We got toys and bikes to use that were usually a good fit for our family.

    • Lisa says...

      Genius and I aspire to the same. How did they know/meet the families you swapped with?

    • Hope says...

      My parents swapped through an agency- Intervac. Back in those days you had to look through a paper catalogue and call the people who you wanted to swap with. It’s all online now. Through our decades of house swaps we hardly had any problems.

    • Jóhanna Kristín Jóhannesdóttir says...

      My family of five does that to. We pick families with kids who are the same approximate age as ours (6, 10 and 12) and have had some very happy holidays around Europe. We call it “trying out other peoples lives.”
      So if anyone is interested in home exchange in Reykjavik, Iceland this summer we are game :)

    • t says...

      We do home exchanges all the time through the site homeexchange.com

    • jen says...

      we do home exchange and love exchanging with folks that have kids for this very reason! we have done 12 home exchanges so far thru homeexchange.com and we will never travel another way. it makes vacations so affordable. most places we exchange have bikes and a car to use as well. it’s an amazing way to travel.

  70. Becky says...

    Tv isnt necessary, we always get by with wifi, books, a nap! The one thing we want is a good neighborhood to walk the dog. We love bringing our dog but if the immediate area isn’t safe to walk the dog its a no go.

  71. Meghan says...

    My mum has kept a big box of my brother’s old legos (and random Ninja Turtle parts) for years. It’s in the same place in the TV room, and any time a kid comes over, they head straight for the them. It doesn’t matter how old they are. My favourite part is that you’ll invariably find adults “helping” the kids with them.

  72. Paula says...

    yes, that! toys are a game changer. same goes for international trips! we went to Iceland and a lot of our favorite books were at the house, but in Icelandic! We had such good laugh trying to remember the texts in English.
    As the kids get older, the priorities will change as well. Now we look for bikes! It’s a rarity to find a rental with FOUR bikes, but sometimes one or even two kids bikes is a blessing and then you don’t have to drive with/rent as many bikes.
    Another tip: find out about outdoor parades/events/holidays for both your country and abroad during your trip. When we visited Spain during spring break (spring break is a thing for school age kids so that opens up all these possibilities to travel in the off season, especially off season in Europe, not so much in Florida :) it happened to be some big holiday at the local town – the parade, the costumes, it was nuts and so much fun to watch. Similarly, the small New Jersey ocean side place we visit has an outdoor Friday concert all summer-it’s so fun to just take a stroll with the kids and see the random music.
    I always find that card games are an easy and cheap way to keep kids of many ages occupied.
    XO

  73. Jenny says...

    Yes! We went to Barcelona recently and the Airbnb had no toys, which was a bummer since it was listed as family-friendly- I always hope for at least one toy! But my 3-year-old was very resourceful and set up an elaborate scene with a citrus juicer, plastic tray and some cloth napkins she found around the apartment. She’s only 3 so we were, of course, required to be patrons at her cafe/tea party/juice stand, but at least she wasn’t breaking the wine glasses and coloring on the walls! We’ve also found that it’s important to build in a bit of quiet play time at the apartment/hotel when on vacation. It allows the kids to feel more relaxed, like they’re at home, rather than running from place to place.

  74. Liz says...

    I really thought you were going to say a hot tub! (that’s my number one haha)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha that would be alex’s number one :)

  75. Paige says...

    It’s incredible how the way kids play stays true through the ages. For example, I used to spend HOURS building dollhouses out of VHS tapes. They looked eerily similar to Anton’s jenga house!

  76. Jenna says...

    How do you search for a home with toys?? Or do you just look and look and look until you find one?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i WISH airbnb had a filter for toys. instead, i’ll just look through the photos to see if they have toys or a child’s bedroom or a basement playroom or whatever. it takes longer, but is so worth it for us!

    • Madie says...

      I thought this was going to be a Sponsored Post for Kid and Coe, which is a family-focused vacation rental company… I’ve never used them so I’m definitely not making a recommendation, but their whole thing is that it’s rental properties that are set up for kids with kid rooms, toys, etc. I got the impression the homes may be more expensive as compared to the average AirBNB or VRBO, but maybe not, and worth a look!

  77. Wow! So true! Thanks for the tip!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!!!!

  78. Beth says...

    Such a good idea!!!

    We have always made sure that whatever was right outside was interesting. Either amazing land in the backyard or a fun area down the street to walk to with a cafe, or even a hotel pool. That way if someone needs to nap, we are not all left tiptoeing around. Plus, getting outdoors in a casual, unstructured way is what most of our vacations are about!

  79. agnes says...

    My one tip would be to make life an adventure. Sometimes things turn out totally wrong: you’re stuck in your tent while it’s pouring, no food; the rental has no hot water; the keys were left inside the rental, on the 25th of december, at 7pm,; no electricity at 8pm (all true stories). Imagination and love always win: we’re shipwrecked, then we have “to swim” under the rain to get to a spaceshift (the car), let’s have a cold shower just like grandpa during the war (yes, we did), let’s pretend we’re burglars and open the door with a credit card (didn’t work but we still remember that story); dinner with candles!

    I loved the effort it took from our brain and imagination, I was almost happy all these bad events happened.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, love this :) cold showers haha!

  80. Fran says...

    Haha, brilliant! For us it’s books and/or proximity to a local library (where they often have toys too)!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a great tip, fran — when we were in maine last summer, we went to the local library and they had “discovery packs,” which were big bags full of books and toys on various topics. anton got one about the rainforest, and toby got one about airports. we were able to check them out for a week!

    • margaux says...

      i second the library! it makes for a great rainy day activity. also, a nearby playground!

    • Maryann says...

      Third the library!

      Plus I think in general you can learn so much about a place from their local library.

    • Katherine says...

      I loveeeeee libraries, they are my happy place, and I hope they’ll similarly spark joy for my daughter (she’s 4 months), but how can you check things out at a library if you don’t have a library card/aren’t local/a resident??? That’s awesome that the Maine library had those packs but I’m curious how you were able to borrow them since I assume you didn’t have a library card…

    • JO says...

      Little hidden gem libraries are the best! CoJ, maybe library tours like the home tours?! This adorable one in Beach Haven, NJ was our saving grace one hot, humid summer when my daughter was little :).

      https://livinglbi.com/beach-haven-library/

    • Do you just hang out at the library, then?? I haven’t been able to check stuff out from a library where I’m not a resident.

    • Fran says...

      Sometimes libraries will let you have a visitor card for a small fee, and if you are renting via airbnb, sometimes the owners will have a library card you can use. I will say that we are not above hanging out at the library–we went to Florida in January and I had to force my kids to go to the beach because they both found books in series that our own local library doesn’t have. Don’t forget to check for passes to local attractions too–that’s my favorite!

  81. celeste says...

    Look at the gorgeous gap! Love seeing them grow.