First, I want to mention that this is NOT a sponsored post, Mike and I just really, really love traveling with Air bnb! When we mention it, most people either haven’t heard of Air bnb or haven’t used it to travel, so I wanted to share our experiences and talk about what makes it so great. Also, our trip to Tybee Island last week taught me a lot about traveling with the kiddos, so I wanted to add a few tips about how to take your kids on vacation and not lose your sanity. 🙂
Air Bnb: what is it?
First of all, what Air bnb is, is awesome. We will literally never stay in a hotel again if we can help it. Air bnb is a site where people all over the globe list their space (house, apartment, condo, room, yurt, tree house, etc) for short term rent. You can virtually stay anywhere in the world, in any type of structure, for any dollar amount. We have stayed in a 100 year old plantation home, a row house and a condo in different parts of the United States, and each experience has been as unique as it has been awesome. (I’m going to try and refrain from using the word “awesome” too much in this post, but I make no promises….This topic gets me pretty excited ;-).)
Every listing is different, so you need to READ it carefully. Some places the host will be on the premises with you. Some places will have several rooms rented out to other guests. Sometimes you will share a bathroom, while other times you will have the run of the place to yourself. Some listings offer a homemade breakfast, some instruct you to bring everything you need for your stay. (I saw one listing for glam camping where you got to stay in this awe….er I mean, cool old barn in Vermont. One of the reviewers was mad because they didn’t “know” to bring their own bedding, but it was clearly stated in the post’s description. So, yeah, you’ve got to read the listing carefully! The host will tell you everything you need to know about their place.)
We’ve stayed in a listing with both the host and other guests. We never once saw the other guests because they were out and about just as much as we were. The host was amazing and offered to show us around town and when we declined, he was happy to still make dinner suggestions for us. The next morning we came downstairs and he immediately asked if we wanted breakfast (duh), so he started whipping up homemade waffles, brewing kick-butt, locally roasted coffee and telling us stories about the area. It was the perfect amount of interaction.
We’ve stayed in a listing where we had an entire floor of the row house to ourself, and only saw the host one morning as we were getting ready to leave (he was a young professional with a long commute, so he wasn’t around much). Again, we got to chat and ask him a few questions about the area without anyone feeling that the other was invading each other’s privacy.
This experience was a classic example of what happens when you don’t thoroughly read the listing, though. I didn’t notice that we would be sharing a bathroom and left my contact case on the counter one evening. The next morning, I was embarrassed to realize that our host confused our cases. No harm done, we both had extras to use, but I should have noticed that the bathroom was shared and taken my things to our room!
With our last experience, we had the condo all to ourself. I stayed in communication with our host via the Air bnb app and text. One thing I will say about ALL our hosts thus far, is that they are excellent communicators and respond to emails and texts within a matter of minutes.
What I love about air b&b
I love so many things about Air bnb. I love the variety of options and the guarantee of a unique experience. No more boring hotels with their awful art and cheesy decor. No more staying with a thousand other people that may or may not be quiet in the room next door. No more dealing with a front desk run by kids in high school who can’t give you directions, let alone make a descent dinner recommendation.
I also love the PRICE. We stayed in our condo on Tybee Island, ON THE BEACH, right next to a pool, for an entire WEEK for the same price that it would have cost us for 3 nights in a hotel. I mean, need I say more? You will find a price range to suit every budget on Air B&B. You will find places that run over $1,000, or listings for less than $60 a night. It all depends what you are looking for and what you want to spend.
Air bnb really helps you with the planning process of your trip, too. Once you’ve booked a listing, the host’s site has all the information you need for your stay: map with directions, a guidebook with area recommendations, information on parking, etc.
When you travel with Air bnb, you really get a feel for the area you are visiting because, more likely than not, your host is a far better representative of the area than a chain hotel would be. A lot of people’s first question is about safety or privacy. All of the listings are verified (including the photos) by Air bnb, but even more than that, the reviewers are BRUTALLY honest, so make sure you read them! I’ve found some listings that I was interested in but the reviews revealed either a difficult host, a shabby listing, or details that simply wouldn’t work for us. On the other hand, each host we’ve stayed with we chose because they had glowing reviews.
Also, you don’t pay your host directly, you pay Air bnb through a secure server. There are a few fees tacked on, but they are nominal and well explained.
Things to know about traveling with air bnb
If you don’t want to stay in a home with pets or smokers, than make sure you don’t book with a host who has pets or smokes (they have to list that info). The listing will tell you if they have parking, or if you have to pay to park. They listing will tell you what you need to bring, if anything. The listing will also tell you a lot about the host’s personality. Will they be around? Do they interact with guests? Basically, what I’m saying is all the information you need is RIGHT THERE, so read everything and make a wise decision based on your own personal preferences.
tips for traveling with your kids
If I haven’t frightened you with the idea of staying with total strangers on vacation, now lets talk about something truly terrifying – traveling with your kids!
We really enjoyed vacationing with our children. We knew in advance that this trip would be slightly different and that we would have to be on their schedule, but that is part of being a parent, so we were ready to roll with it. All in all, our kids did great. We did a lot of research and asked lots of advice before hitting the road and everything went fairly smoothly. Here is what we learned:
1. Stick to a nap schedule. I will never, ever, ever understand why some people don’t continue to put their kids down for naps while on vacation. Maybe other people just have more flexible children than I do, because that would be all the nails in the coffin we would need for a miserable vacation.
I knew that naps were crucial for a good trip, so I factored that into my planning when looking for a place to stay. Our place was right on the beach and the deck of our condo butted up to the deck of the pool. Each day we were able to put the boys down and continue sun bathing by the beach/pool and still only be a few yards away. As a result, our boys took a 2 hour nap each afternoon that kept them happy and recharged, and Mike and I got to have a little bit of down time together. Win, win.
2. Take a sound machine (white noise). If you don’t own one, buy it. We love our Dome from Amazon. At home, we use our sound machine each night with the boys to block out the noise from the rest of the house. However, this was crucial on our vacation where we were in tighter quarters and the boys went down several hours before us. Plus, it was a familiar sound to lull them to sleep each night.
3. Eat early. I saw so many young families waiting in lines outside of restaurant as we were on our way out. Again, maybe my children are the exception and everyone else’s kids are willing to wait patiently for over an hour to eat, but mine are not. They are so, NOT. Every night, we were at a restaurant by 5, 5:30 at the latest. We never had to wait for a table, and we were in a touristy town over the week of July 4! We enjoyed our dinner in good moods, and then our evenings were free to go back to the pool, beach, or explore downtown Savannah.
4. Don’t plan too much. I know we all know this, but we rarely do it, to the detriment of everyone’s mental and emotional health. Kids don’t want to be drug from place to place. They don’t care about museums, shopping, or heck, anything that you care about. All we did on our vacation was swim, eat and sleep. They boys were happy, we weren’t overwhelmed with trying to get them to do something they didn’t want to do, and we all were able to relax and enjoy ourselves. Which, isn’t that the point of vacation, anyways?
5. Cut your kids some slack. Have you felt a car seat lately? It can’t be comfortable to be strapped into those things for 12+ hours. I remember being in the car with boys and they were losing their minds. I was frustrated because, dang it, I was tired too and I didn’t want to be in the car any more than they did. But I knew my frustration wouldn’t fix anything. In that moment, I had sympathy for my kids and tried to understand what they needed. I got over my own discomfort and frustration and tried to alleviate theirs which, by the way, also helped alleviate mine. Because happy kids, happy momma!
***Bonus tip. If you are taking your toddlers to the beach, pack all the underwear you own for your child/children. Seriously. For a 7 day trip I took 14 pairs for Theo, and could have used 7 more…We were in and out of the water so much that he went through soooooo much underwear that week. It wasn’t the biggest hassle, but just a word to the wise, bring a lot of undies.
I hope you’ve found this post enlightening and helpful. I love talking about our experiences with Air bnb, so if you have any further questions, feel free to post a comment or shoot me an email!