When families travel for an extended amount of time at resort residences or timeshares, what you pack, who you travel with, and how you prepare can keep an extended vacation rental fun for the whole family.

The advantage of a vacation rental at a resort residence is the benefit of a larger living space that still comes with resort amenities. Sites like Vacatia that specialize in resort residence vacations offer condo options that feature full kitchens and laundry facilities, while some of their five-star options will even include room service.

Having such space means lots more time to spend relaxing in a condo. But will it be relaxing? Aren’t all family vacations “working vacations” really?

Yes, but here’s how to maximize your time away with kids at your condo with some careful advance planning.

Strategies for families using vacation rentals and condos

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Fill that extra space with love

We have rented condos for an extended vacation but invited two different groups to travel with us, one at the beginning and the other at the end of our vacation. Having both family members and friends with kids join us really helped keep the vacation fresh for my children. Everyone shared costs, giving us two different vacations for the price of one.

Attend Family Activities

Call in advance to see if your condo resort has scheduled a family activity by the pool or at a game room during your visit. We discovered that even if we don’t find the activity that appealing, going anyway allowed us to meet other families, often with children the same ages as our own. This makes the vacation so much more fun for the kids if they aren’t traveling with a big family group with other kids.

And it’s not just for the kids. I have met so many cool parents while sharing a resort activity that I still enjoy being in touch.

Plan Movie Nights

Enjoy a few classic family movie nights together after long days of activities in the sun. Find out in advance if the television comes with a DVD player. Bring new movies in addition to favorites for your family. Call a friend and ask if you can swap some of your favorites for some of theirs since your vacation might be longer than the time limit on what you can borrow from your local library. Resorts sometimes offer movie libraries, but if you’re traveling during the summer, I find that most of the best family options are always taken, so I bring solid choices from home as well as two boxes of microwave popcorn.

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Always attend any schedule family events because children will meet playmates near their own age. Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson, Luxe Recess.

 

Wi-Fi Options

Call ahead to determine your condo’s Wi-Fi availability. Also check to see if it is included or will cost a daily or weekly fee, and how many devices can connect. If you have older children and teens, alert them that streaming may not be an option and to download any songs, files, or games that don’t require the Internet.

The Best Games and Toys

Pack sensible toys and games for younger children that they won’t tire of easily. Fill a freezer bag of magna tiles, Legos, or other building toys. Purchase a special drawing pad or travel journal with new pens, markers, or paints (not our house, so paint away, kids! Just kidding.). Consider starting a ritual, like choosing chapter book to read aloud as special family time. Something like the Harry Potter or Little House series work well, and can be enjoyed by all ages. If your children are old enough, try Celebrity, a holiday tradition that only requires slips of paper, pen, and a timer from a phone. (Look up “Celebrity Game” on Wikipedia for rules.) My family is addicting to playing Celebrity!

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Sometimes it is just easier to bring the pets! Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson, Luxe Recess.

 

Pets

If you are driving to your resort, just bring your pets, like goldfish or caged critters. Ask if dogs are allowed. Sometimes it is just easier bringing them then asking someone else to feed them while you are away.

Cooking in a Vacation Rental While Still Being on Vacation

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Farmers’ Markets make any simple grill night a special feast. Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson, Luxe Recess.

 

Farmer’s Markets

In season, it’s wonderful enjoying local melon, corn, and tomatoes. Pick some up for an easy dinner to go with anything you want to grill. Visiting the local farmer’s market is also a chance for your children to see what the local farmers grow. Find out in advance what day of the week the local markets run so that you can plan your food shopping accordingly.

Kitchen Items from Home

Unless you’re staying at a five-star condo resort, one thing worth bringing from home is your favorite chef’s knife. But please put it in checked baggage! Most of the knives in fully stocked kitchens are poorly made and make cooking an even less appealing task while on vacation.

If you are driving to your resort and have the luxury of not checking bags on an airplane, I also pack a few key kitchen items, like a high-quality non-stick frying pan. There’s nothing more annoying before coffee than a poorly made nonstick pan covered in ruined egg.

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Lurking in some condo kitchens: cheap knives, bad frying pans, and weak coffee! Come prepared! Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson, Luxe Recess.

 

Bring your favorite coffee or tea

Find out in advance what type of coffee maker exists in the condo resort so that you can bring the right K-cups or ground beans. Most supplied coffee is very weak and not the strength parents need.

Make meal plans

Make a bit of a meal plan of what the kids like to eat and be sure that you have staple breakfast and lunch option on hand that satisfy them. Ask them what their favorite dinners are, including their favorite vegetables, and make them feel invested.

Sharing the work

If you’d like to see your children get more involved in chores at home, consider asking for their help and enlisting them in a way you haven’t yet tried while on vacation. We love using our time away to bring in those new chores we’d love to see our children complete. Bring the mellow, unrushed vacation feeling to the kitchen by starting dinner earlier and enlisting them as sous chefs.

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Laundry on vacation doesn’t feel like the same chore. Pack your own detergent. Photo courtesy of Robin Hutson, Luxe Recess.

Laundry

Call ahead and find out what the laundry situation is with your rented condominium. Is there a communal laundry room or do you have your own in your unit? It’s a great time to purchase detergent that comes in pods and to pack several in a large Ziploc bag. Having the freedom to do laundry daily means you can fill your suitcases with fewer clothes and more items to make your condo more comfortable— like a frying pan!