Let's start by saying there are no wrong answers here when it comes to planning your next family vacation.
Sometimes a hotel is the best fit. Other times a vacation home rental will offer a better solutuion. it's a matter of aligning your vacation needs, style and budget with your vacation expectations.
Perhaps if Goldilocks had a travel agent she could have saved herself a ton of time finding a place that was "just right".
When is a Hotel the right choice?
This is a REAL Vacation!...by this I mean you have a vacation full of amenities. There are dining options, a housekeeping staff to tidy up after you - even room service. If you need extra towels, an electrician or help connecting to WiFi, there is staff at the ready to help.
Staying at a hotel is great for newbie travelers who need and appreciate a bit more support. Have a question about something?...the concierge is ready to help answer your questions, get you sorted, make suggestions and if they are REALLY great, fulfill the most impossible requests for last minute theater tickets to a sold out show.
Besides a full service staff, hotels offer other amenities that can make your stay easier....pools, gyms, spas, restaurants, business services. Some resorts will offer local activities, meal plans, kids camps, baby-sitting, car service, classes and entertainment. Many of these options are determined by price point.
Location, location, location is another big factor. It's just like a game of monopoly when you put a hotel on boardwalk - hotels and resorts are generally found on prime pieces of real estate close to all the action. This can translate into easier transportation options, being closer to sightseeing or beach access.
Whether you're staying at a Ritz Carlton, Marriott or Motel 6, every hotel brand has their own brand standard. It's the job of hotel management to insure these standards of quality, cleanliness and guest safety meet, or better yet, exceed customer's satisfaction.
Hotels can get a bit tricky if you have a larger family or plan to travel as part of a multi-generational or larger group. Hotels have strict rules about room occupancy and surprisingly many do not offer as many connecting rooms as you might think. Unless you upgrade to larger multi-room suites, it may be difficult to stay connected. Connecting rooms can be "requested" but fulfilling your wish will be determined by occupancy and availability at the time of your arrival.
Last but not least, hotels give you the flexibility to come and go as you please. You can check in and check out any day of the week and stay for as long as you please.
When is a Vacation Rental the right choice?
Call it a vacation home, villa, condo, cottage or short term apartment stay....basically you are renting someone's home for your vacation. To make these type of reservations, our Vacationkids travel agents work with property management companies, some vacation tour companies, Travel wholesale companies and even owner direct thru companies like Airbnb.
Togetherness, affordability and space are generally the keywords when it comes to renting a vacation home. This option is perfect for larger families, extended families wanting to vacation together and families who are looking for a bit more privacy from one another.
Renting an entire home or apartment usually means your accommodations come complete with cooking facilities, a washer/dryer and some may even be pet friendly. Generally speaking if you need or want multiple bedrooms where everyone can be together then a vacation home rental is usually a bit more affordable compared to booking hotel rooms. Of course, you would need to honestly match specific "apples to apples" when comparing vacation home luxury, amenities, location and services to that of a hotel.
Besides the actual cost of accommodations, having a kitchen means a family can purchase food and also save on restaurants and tips. The flip side to this equation then means "somebody" needs to cook. If you're unit does not come with housekeeping services then dishes need to be done. You'll also be using your vacation time to grocery shop. Some vacation rentals do offer support staff like chefs, housekeeping and concierge shopping for a fee. It's a matter of balancing vacation experience expectations with budget and space.
Many families simply enjoy shopping, cooking and "living like locals". It's an exciting part of their vacation experience. The location and culture shock of a specific destination may also be a consideration. Living local may be great fun for a trip to New Orleans or even Dublin. It may be a bit overwhelming in Italy or Bangkok if you don't speak the language.
Vacation home rentals may not be as flexible with your travel dates. There might rental minimums. If you only want to stay four nights and there is a 7 night minimum this may not work for you. Your vacation might start on a Friday but the home you want only rents Sunday-Sunday.
Finally there is the questions of quality and management. There are many vacation home rental and apartment stay companies that do offer quality standards and management services. Newer "hybrid" companies like Vacatia that offer condo style, multiple bedroom units within resort complexes giving guests the best of both worlds. Remember owner direct rentals like with Airbnb can be a bit riskier. For as many great hosts out there you'll find just as many rentals that may not meet your expectations. Social reviews help to avoid these risks. Still it's something we alert our clients about whenever they need or request us to create an itinerary using any owner direct vacation home rental.
So...as we said in the beginning, there are NO wrong answers, just millions of choices. An experienced travel agent can easily help you compare, contrast and book the right style of accommodations that will fit your vacation style. Contact your agent 12-9 months prior to your vacation departure date to help insure you get top pick of the best places to sleep.