How to Book Accommodations on HomeAway or Airbnb for Families

Introduction

Step-by-step guide on how to search for accommodations on HomeAway or Airbnb, for families. What to look for and how to filter out non-family friendly homes.

Prior to having a child, I had never used Airbnb or HomeAway. But all that changed after our son was born. After the birth of our son, I realized pretty quickly that we needed an alternative to traditional hotel rooms.  The problem with traditional hotel rooms and small children is that once the kid goes to sleep at night, your evening is pretty much over.  You can solve this problem by getting a hotel suite with a bedroom but those can get pricey. A great alternative is to book on Homeaway or Airbnb; however, there is a specific way to search for a place on HomeAway or Airbnb, for families.

Some accommodations on HomeAway and Airbnb are not family friendly so you want to try and filter those places out and luckily both sites have good filter features that will allow you to find a place that’s suitable for your family!  

Airbnb

This is literally how I book an Airbnb accommodation.

  1. Pick your destination.
  2. Once you select your destination you can select from Homes, Experiences, or Restaurants. Select ‘Homes.’
  3. Choose your dates.
  4. Enter the number of guests (adults, children, infants).
  5. Select home type: Options are an entire place, private room, hotel room, or shared room.  I would recommend selecting ‘entire place.’
  6. Choose your price range.
  7. Hosts & Booking:
    • Superhost: Superhosts are owners who meet certain benchmarks of excellence. If you select to stay with a Superhost then you will only see properties from people who meet the following criteria:
      • They have a 4.8+ overall star rating on at least 50% of reviews over the past year.
      • The owner has at least 10 stays in the past year.
      • The host has canceled reservations 0 times in the past year (not including extenuating circumstances). 
      • Superhosts must respond to 90% of new messages within 24 hours.
    • Instant book: Some of the accommodations require that you request to book and that the owner pre-approves you for booking.  This can take anywhere from 1 to 24 hours.  Typically they will approve the rental pretty quickly.  If you don’t want to wait for this process you can select ‘Instant Book’ and the system will only show you rentals that you can book instantly (without preapproval).
Airbnb Superhost requirements screenshot
  1. Rooms & Beds:
    • For me, this is the entire point of getting a homeshare and why Homeaway and Airbnb for families can be better than hotel rooms. I select 2+ bedrooms.  With 2 bedrooms I can put the baby to sleep and leave. I can go watch TV, cook dinner, chat with my husband, whatever. 
    • Another option is to select 1+ rooms and get a one bedroom.  You could make this work if you all sleep in the same room or if you sleep the baby in the living room (but then you are confined to your room for the night).  Alternatively, you could get a one bedroom with a pull-out couch and sleep the baby in the bedroom and you sleep on the pull-out couch.  If you do get a 1 bedroom you can create a little more space if you select a place with a balcony, patio or yard.  
  2. Trip Type:
    • Under ‘trip type’ there is an option to select ‘For Families.’  If you toggle this then the system will show you homes that meet the following criteria:
      • Are classified as an entire home (as opposed to 1 room or a shared home);
      • Must have a kitchen, Wi-Fi, a TV and other essentials. (click here to see what Airbnb deems ‘essentials.’)
      • Maintain a +4.8 overall rating over the past year with at least two 5 star reviews from families;
      • Have house rules that indicate that the listing is suitable for children and infants.
    • Click here to read more about what an owner has to do to meet the ‘for families’ requirements.
Airbnb-how do I search for a place to stay when I travel with family-screenshot
  1. Other ‘Amenities’ to think about.’
    • The next set of filters are other ‘Amenities.’ In this section, you can select things that are important to you.
    • Surprisingly having heat and air conditioning are not essentials, so if those are important to you then choose those.
    • I’d also select a kitchen, Wi-Fi, and TV, even though those should be covered under the ‘for family’ requirements.  I check them for good measure.
    • Also, if you’d like a washer/dryer select that here.
    • And if you’d like a crib or a highchair this is the place to select those. 
  2. The other filters that you can select are facilities, property type, unique homes, house rules (e.g. pets), host languages spoken, and then you can narrow it down by neighborhood.
  3. Go to Map View: I typically stop after I select any amenities that I’d like and then I move to the map view.  If you have a specific neighborhood that you’d like to stay in then begin browsing homes in that neighborhood, and you can move outward from there.  If you can’t find anything that is suitable for your family you can adjust one of the filters (price, bedrooms, etc…).

Homeaway

The other major home sharing site is Homeaway.com.  Homeaway is very similar to Airbnb; the most notable difference is that Homeaway only has entire homes in its inventory.

  1. On Homeaway.com, the first set of information that you will input will be the location of your trip, your dates, and the number and demographics of your guests (adult, child). At this stage, you can also indicate whether or not you are bringing a pet.
  2. Next chose your price range.
  3. Rooms & Beds:
    • Then you will select the number of bedrooms.  Again, I would recommend selecting 2+; however, you could probably get away with 1+.
  4. Instant Confirmation: HomeAway also has an option to select properties with ‘instant confirmation’ so that you do not have to wait for approval from the host, to book.
  5. Properties good for Families: You can indicate that you’d only like to see properties that are good for families. 
  6. House Rules: You can also select properties where the host has indicated that children are welcome.
HomeAway-filters-house rules-children welcome-properties good for families-screenshot
  1. Features and Amenities:
    • Next, I would turn to the features and amenities section and select what you’d like.  First I would select the basics: oven, heating, air conditioning, internet/Wi-Fi.  You can also select laundry machines and a balcony here. If you need a high chair or a crib this is where you’d indicate that. 
  2. Other filters that you can select are property type, location type (beachfront, downtown, etc…), nearby activities, property reviews, and safety & accessibility.

Tips and Other Considerations When Booking on Homeaway or Airbnb for families:

  • Check both sites:  I’ve frequently found the same home on both sites but one site is cheaper (it can vary as to which site is cheaper).
  • Communicate with the owner:
    • I always confirm that they have a Pack n’ Play (PnP) or a crib, even if the listing states that it does. And then I bring the appropriate sheet. Most of the time they don’t provide a sheet and even if they do, I’d rather bring my own.
    • If a highchair is important to you then I’d confirm that too.  You can always bring a portable highchair; this is the one that we use (it essentially straps the child to any chair).
    • I also contact the owner if I really like a place and it doesn’t indicate that they have a PnP or a highchair.  My rationale is that if enough of us ask for it then maybe more owners will provide them.
  • Toddler Cutlery: I usually bring a toddler fork, at a minimum, sometimes a bowl. My toddler will be 3 in a few months and uses a plastic fork, plate and bowl.  We just recently started letting him use regular plates and bowls, on occasion, and under supervision.  I don’t want my toddler jabbing himself in the eye with an adult fork or smashing someone else’s dishes, especially on vacation.    
  • Check out the listing pictures for kid-friendly equipment:  Many times you can tell if a house is going to work for your family simply by looking at the pictures.  Some houses have lots of stairs (which may not work for toddlers); some homes have a swing set in the back yard and/or a nice yard.  All of these little details may be overlooked by many but as a mom, I am always on the lookout for things that may make my vacation go a little more smoothly.   
  • Check out the neighborhood:  Prior to booking, you won’t be given the exact address; however, you can tell the neighborhood and many times the actual street.  Give the neighborhood a quick Google search to make sure you aren’t booking in a dodgy part of town.  We stayed in a townhome in Phoenix and although the property was nice the neighborhood turned out to be a bit dodgier than I’d like.  You can also check to see if the home is near any parks or other kid-friendly activities.
  • Write a Review.  The last piece of advice is to write a review of the place and of the owner.  That’s really how these sites work- old school word of mouth.  If the place was great for children then leave a review stating that for all of the families who come after you; and conversely, if it was horrible then let us know too!

Have you used Airbnb or HomeAway for a family vacation?  If so are there any other tips that you’d add to the list?  I’d love to hear your experiences and expertise on booking accommodations on Homeaway or Airbnb for families!    

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