Tips for choosing the right family-friendly accommodations to suit your vacation needs

Matt Villano  – April 25, 2018 | Updated May 24, 2018

Where you stay can make or break a family vacation. The big question: Vacation rental or all-inclusive resort? The former choice generally offers extra space, but the latter offers additional perks. What’s more, vacation rentals can drop you into a residential vibe, while hotels typically are located in touristy areas. It of course depends on what you want out of your family vacation, but here’s a look at some of the most important aspects of the trip, and how each of the options addresses them.

Food

Families love resorts for the convenience with which they make meals and snacks available; most have on-site restaurants and offer room service. Vacation rentals, on the other hand, boast nothing but kitchens in which you must prepare your own stuff—items you have to bring or buy. At the end of the day, it’s usually cheaper to make your own food but more relaxing to lean on someone else. On the other hand, if you’re gearing up for a day of sightseeing beyond your digs, a vacation rental offers the right balance between preparing your own (affordable) breakfast in a kitchen and then eating out other meals throughout the day.

Childcare

Regular guests of big resorts swear by kids’ clubs as convenient (though not always affordable) options to entertain the children and give parents much-needed rest. Vacation rentals do not offer this luxury. Instead, guests of these properties can hire childminders by the hour on websites such as Care.com and Urbansitter.com. Another option: Traveling with grandparents, who can watch kids on demand.

Concierge

Most big resorts—and even some mid-sized ones—have full-time concierge staff who can help families book off-site activities, make dinner reservations, and generally figure out how to spend their time. Guests of vacation rentals must take these sorts of matters into their own hands, relying on travel guides, apps, and even social media to provide trusted suggestions for fun.

Amenities

Unless you’ve uncovered a true gem (or you’re spending a fortune), you likely won’t find fancy swimming pools, fitness centers, rec rooms and spas at many vacation rentals. You will, however, find them at big resorts. If having these amenities on-site is important to you, choose accordingly. If not, fire up that mobile phone and ask Google or Siri to take the wheel.