Hotels can be a crapshoot when traveling with kids. Is the room big enough? Is it too noisy? Have the drinking glasses been "cleaned" with the same rag used to mop the dirty floor? Okay, I can't help you with that last one, but the first two questions can be solved by renting a house instead of hotel room. If you have a large family or want to share lodging costs with your extended family or friends, a house rental is a great option. Of course, it's not like you can pop on Orbitz and rent a house-- they're a little harder to find. Unless you know where to look.
Two great sites to start with are:
- www.vrbo.com: This site claims an inventory of over 95,000 vacation rentals, both in the U.S. and worldwide. It helps to know exactly where you want to go, as you have to navigate through different towns to get to the inventory. The site does provide handy, clickable maps to further narrow your search area once you pick a particular state or region. For example, if you wanted to hobnob in the Hamptons this summer, you can click on New York, then click on the map for Long Island, then pick a particular area from a list (this part may be difficult if you don't know the differences between the particular areas, as there are no maps at this level). If you chose the Amagansett area, you'd have nine homes to pick from. Then, click on a link for any particular home and you'll get a detailed rundown on the house, it's price and features, a calendar of available dates, and usually some photos. You can then click on an e-mail link to inquire about renting. It's great for browsing. I guess the one feature I'd like to see is some type of renter feedback to make sure what you see is what you get. That said, the site does offer the "HomeAway Rent with Confidence Guarantee," which guarantees up to $5,000 of a traveler's payment in the event "the listiing is determined not to be legitimate in accordance with our policy."
- www.pickpackgo.com: This site is newer and has less inventory (66,000), but offers a more targeted search in that you can search by location, desired ameneties, and number of rooms to narrow down your choices, rather than just browse on a map. While that's better for people who know their exact dates and location, it's not as good for those who only have a rough idea of where and when they want to go. Pickpackgo also offers user reviews to help you choose properties.