5 Family-friendly accommodation options to consider before your next vacation

Lodging options vary greatly depending on what amenities you are looking for and where you will be traveling. Whether you are traveling solo, as a couple or as a family will also effect where you want to stay. There are five basic lodging options that work for any type of traveler. Just make sure you do your research before you book.

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Big island sunset


Hotels are the easy option when looking for lodging. You know there will be a staff there waiting for you. If you choose wisely, these will be people who can help you navigate the city from their front desk or even with a touch of a button from your room.

If you go with a chain hotel you will know what to expect when you arrive. The rooms will (hopefully) be like the photos you saw online when booking and you will be guaranteed a certain level of service. However, service does come with a price. If you want a larger room you will pay more. If you want a kitchen and/or a suite, you may have to pay a premium depending on the hotel.

Hotels are easy, accessible and the perfect way to see a new city, whether you are a first time traveler, a bit nervous about a new place, like some of life luxuries, or just don’t want to have to think too much.

Grand Hyatt Kauai

Vacation Rental

There are plenty of vacation rental sites out there tempting you with studio apartments, 1-bedrooms, cottages, houses, and yes, even castles. Finding the perfect place for you may take some digging, but the efforts will be worth it. Family traveler Brad from World Wanderlusting believes that “the more people you’re booking lodging for, the better off you are to consider searching out a vacation rental home.”

Rentals generally give you more space for your money, a kitchen, and possibly a washing machine, which is essential if you are traveling for more than a few days with kids. Staying in an apartment in the city or a country manor also lets you live like the locals. You will be in the middle of the action, not in the bubble of hotel life.

Before you book make sure you read the reviews to see what others thought of the property. Do they give specifics about the beds? Is the owner responsive if there is a problem? Is the rental located near things you want to see? Ask questions and make sure you read the cancellation policy. Many are very restrictive if your plans change.

Kauai vacation rentals

Home exchange

Bethany from Flashpacker Family has done her fair share of house swapping; including a 10-day stint in Brooklyn.

House swapping is a great alternative to renting a vacation home or apartment. You get all the comforts of home but with ZERO accommodation costs. You can often organize to swap cars along with homes, which can cut down on travel costs even more. It takes a little work to tee something up with another party who wants to travel on the same dates as you but when it does work – it’s great.

It’s a lot easier to find swaps in big cities or popular tourist spots like London, Paris and New York. People who own vacation homes in ski towns or beach resorts will often go for non-simultaneous swaps which is great if you travel often and want to use their place during peak periods. Getting to live in another person’s space for a few days or weeks is also a great introduction to the local way of life.

Increased space and comforts are what woo Colleen from TravelMamas.com when it comes to house swaps.

There are many reasons to choose a home exchange for your next family vacation. You get lots of room to spread out, potentially separate bedrooms for each family member for better sleep and privacy, and the conveniences of home like a fully equipped kitchen. The best part? You get all of this for no money or almost no money.  Plus, if you exchange with a family with children, your kids will probably be treated to a slew of toys to play with during your stay. 

You can swap homes with family members and friends or sign up to exchange abodes with a service like HomeExchange.com or HomeLink.org.  You can even swap pets and cars for further savings.  Be sure to use a contract to spell out expectations and obligations, and what either party will do if a household item is damaged.

House Sitting

Taking over someone’s home, watching their pets, and making sure the house looks lived in gives not only peace of mind to a homeowner, but can also spell free lodging for you.  Talon from 1dad1kid.com is a big fan of housesitting as he and his son wander the globe together.

For starters, housesitting is free accommodation. Hard to beat free! However, the things I love most about it is that you usually end up in a local’s area. You get to see and participate in daily local life instead of just the tourist perspective. It allows you to really witness and absorb the culture of a place. It can also provide you the opportunity to stay in an area you might not otherwise.For instance, we did a house sit on an oasis in Morocco. Not everyone will have the opportunity to live on an oasis in rural Morocco!

In Thailand, we lived in a bungalow right on the beach while taking care of cats. This is another thing we love about housesitting. Since we’re nomadic, we don’t have pets and really miss them. Most housesits involve caring for pets, so we get to have temporary pets for a while which is really great. 

Seasoned housesitters Dalene and Pete Heck from Hecktic Travels agree that the local aspect is a huge draw of this type of accommodation.

Not only is house-sitting a fabulous way to save on the cost of accommodation, but it provides for an entirely different experience while living amongst the locals. Shop at the local markets, befriend the neighbors, and generally get a feel for what it would be like to live in that corner of the world.” Grab their housesitting eBook for even more inspiration and tips.

Australia Hostel
Hostel in Australia (Photo credit: Flashpacker Family)


The idea of staying in a hostel with a child may sound moronic, but it is possible. Every hostel is a little different and they aren’t just for college-age party kids anymore. Bethany from Flashpacker Family recently tackled hostels with her toddler son while in Australia.

Lots of hostels have private rooms or family rooms with two or three beds but if you’re a large family you can just book out an entire dorm room. Having a common area with kitchen is really handing for preparing breakfast and meals on the go. Plus most hostels have laundry rooms which is priceless when travelling with grubby little ones!

Farrah, who writes for Travel Mamas.com, stayed in hostels in Germany with her family while traveling in early 2013.

My family of five had our first hostel experience this past spring and loved it. It wasn’t at all as I expected- they were family friendly, full servicing (with a cafeteria and snack shop) and welcoming. Sometimes it’s intimidating to travel with small children, you worry about making noise or bothering others and here were felt very comfortable to relax and enjoy ourselves. Financially my husband and I liked the fact that we didn’t have to pay for what we didn’t need. Now when we plan a trip in Europe, looking at the hostels in the area is always our first thought.

Bonus experience: Stay with friends!

One of the best, and cheapest, lodging options is your friends. If you are lucky you have friends across the globe, or even in a few key places around the country, you could have the time of your life while enjoying some time with friends you don’t see as often as you like. If they have space see if they are up for a visit. Just make sure you aren’t an annoying house guest. Friendships are always worth more than a few free nights stay.

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9 thoughts on “5 Family-friendly accommodation options to consider before your next vacation”

  1. MissMagpieFGS

    The older our kids get the more economical it seems to use a vacation rental rather than book 2 hotel rooms. We are loving our Homeaway experiences so far.

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy

    We have only stayed in hotels and vacation rentals – might be time to branch out a bit!

  3. We’re thinking about trying vacation rentals again. We had one bad experience that made us a little wary but I shouldn’t have discounted the other fabulous experiences we had. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a home exchange, but it sounds kind of neat:)

  4. This weekend we are off to our first non-hotel family getaway. We have booked a chalet in a caravan park – I haven’t stayed in caravan park for nearly 20 years.

    However I am hoping it will show my partner what we can do closer to home, at a cheaper price for a short little getaways.

  5. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family

    Great post! Thanks for including me. 🙂

    We’ve booked vacation rentals in the past through VRBO but are trying out our first Airbnb stay tonight here in Bangkok.

  6. wanderingeducators

    great tips – and definitely worth exploring for the adventure of them!

  7. Mellisa Turner

    I always prefer vacation rentals which includes cottages, the best part to enjoy vacations from my point of view.

  8. Allison

    Great ideas! We usually stay in hotels, but they are not always the best option for families – especially large families. We have recently tried camping with our children and that can be a fun and economical way to travel too. You don’t even need your own tent or trailer, since tipis or yurts are available at many camp sites.

  9. Janelle

    I like apartment style vacation, it creates that home away from home

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