Vacation rental homes offer an easy way to get away while communing with family in a common space. But if you have a baby, you’ll have some considerations to take into account – and babyproofing to do – while staying in a VRBO.
Renting a vacation home. Count it among the many things that used to be fairly quick and painless before we had a baby. Each year my husband and I get together at a TBD destination away from home with his multigenerational family clan. It was our year to book the location—but this time, with a 6-month-old baby, there were so many more factors to consider.
We knew we wanted a home instead of a hotel because we wanted to have a common space to relax, play, and cook and eat our meals. In the past we’ve used VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) to book vacation rental homes, so we started there. (We could’ve used HomeAway or Airbnb too. This article does a good job of explaining the differences.) So we started searching through the listings, exploring the usual considerations of location, price, availability, and negative reviews. Ultimately we settled on a four-bedroom, multi-level house in Galena, Illinois.
Here’s what we learned—and what you should be careful of—when selecting a VRBO for your family and baby.
Look Around Your Own House—What Do You Need?
Chances are, if you need something at your house for baby, you’ll probably need it or something like it on vacation. That’s why we all end up with so much crap in our trunks. Carrier and stroller? Check, I won’t know until I get there which one works best. Baby Tylenol and Orajel? How the heck do I know if she’s going to sprout a tooth or have a fever while we’re there? Pack it!
The same is true when looking at a vacation rental. If you need two outlets for your cell phones and one for your white noise machine so baby can sleep, ask the homeowner if there are three accessible plugs in the bedroom (or pack a power strip just in case). If you see a picture of a bedroom but can’t tell if it can fit a Pack ‘n Play, email the homeowner and ask that too. If you are in full-on bottle mode and have loads of tiny parts, a dishwasher or good counter space could take the stress out of cleaning and drying bottles on vacation, so pay close attention to the kitchen photos. And if your baby is eating food already, check the dining room table setup.
Next, take a close look at photos for anything potentially hazardous. In our case, there were multiple stairwells, a balcony inside and outside of the house, and a window looking out from one of the bedrooms to the living room. We planned ahead and brought a portable gate for the main floor stairwell and just avoided the upper floor with the balcony and window. But these are things you don’t want to find out when you get there, especially if you have a super active, into-everything baby.
Also think about who else will be in the house. In our case we had a couple of older kids and teenagers with us who loved the idea of a pool table in the basement. So it was important to us that there was also a bedroom in the basement—contain the noise, keep baby asleep upstairs. And yes, pets should factor in. You don’t have to tell the homeowner about the baby but you do need to warn them about a pet, as they may not allow one or may charge a fee.
Question Location—Is That Description Accurate?
The outside is just as important of a consideration as the inside. That beach they say is walkable might be a doable walk for a strolling couple in love. But for a screaming baby who needs to quickly get back to the house because she filled her diaper and the front of your shirt, it better seriously be a fast walk. Call around to a nearby business and ask if the address really is close to the things you want to walk or drive to.
While proximity to a beach or downtown is nice, nearby amenities could be just as enticing. Our rental was about a 20-minute drive from the restaurants, boutiques, and all-around charm of downtown, which was nice for a special evening out. But there was plenty to do closer to home base. The rental included complimentary passes to the Owner’s Club, a private facility for area homeowners and their guests. That club included a fitness center, game room, gymnasium, snack bar, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools—and even a baby pool. We were able to take baby in for her very first dip while the older kids played basketball or romped around the deeper pool. Pretty great for costing us zero additional dollars.
You’re There—but Are You Really Done Prepping?
Once you’ve chosen your house, packed up all baby’s gear, traveled to the location, and keyed in, you still need to think a bit about the setup of the house. Baby proof right away. Upon entering and walking around, we noticed way that there were some heavy pokers and other iron accessories within baby’s reach on the fireplace surround. My eyes also looked longingly on a set of magazines that would be lovely to read and relax—if baby didn’t get to them first and tear them to smithereens. I quickly gathered the fireplace tools and magazines and set them out of her way. And that gate we packed came in handy on the basement stairwell, as baby was itching to get down and crawl right when we got there.
It’s not all heeding and hazards though. Look at your vacation home for all the fun experiences it can bring. Our home backed up to a woods, which turned our early mornings into peaceful escapes with the birds and squirrels. The picture windows gave baby a chance to see out in a way she can’t at home. And once we moved the sharp-edged coffee table, the living room became a wide open space to chew on her new book or chase the dog.
A quick and painless rental process? It took a little longer than in the past. But by carefully selecting and planning ahead, we ended up with a lovely space to get away.
Jackie Gibson is a nonprofit marketing director and freelance writer. She is also Mommy to an energetic (gorgeous genius) baby and is loving her chaotic but sappy sweet life.