Summer is almost here. In your Cheerios and macaroni stupor, you may not have realized it, but you can still take a vacation. In fact, you should take that trip. It may seem impossible to think of packing up the toys-towels-foods-diapers-pull-ups- all-the-gear you need, but a change of pace can be great for the whole family.

But, where will we stay?

Great Question.

First things first, your hotel days are over. The special creatures that are toddlers require full-on kitchens with sinks and stoves and more play space that a hotel room allows. So, what’s a toddler parent to do? With the right preparation, you can use Airbnb (or similar sites) to have a memorable family getaway. We have successfully stayed in homes or condos a few times now with toddlers and I have certainly learned some lessons. Below are my tips for a headache free vacation!

You know, I’m kidding.  You are traveling with toddlers, so there will always be a headache, but you know what I mean.

Read every single review.
This is the best advice because Airbnb guests are generally descriptive about the good and bad in their reviews. They will often tell you much more than is in the official listing. Look specifically for families with young children that have stayed in the house/apartment. They will address things that will be useful to you.

Reach out directly to the host.
In my personal experience,  good Airbnb hosts are receptive to inquiries and get back to you quickly.

Ask specific questions and you will get specific answers.
Do not send your payment without getting a real response to your detailed personal questions (not a form letter) from the host.While it varies depending on your vacation type, here are some examples of helpful things to ask: Can you describe the walkway to the beach? Would a stroller be able to make it? Are there walkable areas near this property that would be stroller accessible? Are the balconies secure for children? Are there restaurants/stores nearby that do not require driving?   Asking questions like these can help you decide between properties. A new and modern house might not be as toddler accessible as an older beach bungalow that’s close to everything.

Study, study, study the pictures listed with the rental. Use your parent eyes. I’ve got a climber and an escape artist, so I knew I would have to be aware of that. In the house we recently rented in San Salvador while on a family vacation, we realized there was a dangerous balcony on the second floor, but after studying the pictures, we were able to see how we could avoid it. Also, from studying the pictures, we noticed there was an entire extra table and chairs, so as soon as we entered, we used the extra chairs to block the stairs from little feet wandering up. Studying the pictures helped us to be as prepared as possible.

Be prepared to laugh.
Ultimately, the house we rented was beautiful and we loved it. At the end we had a hard time leaving, we loved it that much. However, the site listed it as having two King sized beds. Knowing this, we only brought one pack and play. We assumed four of us could all camp out in a huge bed. “King size” in Central America meant a little bigger than a twin, not quite a full. We had to laugh it off.

Finally, pay it forward!
Leave the home clean and orderly. Write a true and honest review to help out the next family. If you found a great restaurant nearby that was kid- friendly, make sure to throw in that kind of information. Remember that Airbnb lets the host review you as a guest, so you’ll want a good review in return. Start planning your summer trip today. Even though toddlers are a handful, taking a little trip away is helpful for everyone. Going away doesn’t have to mean a Disney vacation; it could be a local lake or beach town. A change of pace and a change of scenery could be as close as an hour away. Check out my blog for more tips about traveling with little ones. Enjoy!