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How to tell if a vacation rental is really kid friendly

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It's not that hot yet, but as any New Yorker knows, it's going to get steamy, which is why so many of us try to head out of town for a least a few days each summer. Fortunately, finding a vacation rental has never been easier, even if you're trying to meet the needs of your toddler who loves to make a mess or your teenager who needs her own space.

Gone are the days of weeding through Craiglist ads. With clear photos, informative descriptions, and info on hosts, sites like VRBO, HomeAway.com, Airbnb, and others now make searching almost fun. If you're traveling as a family, in addition to looking for a comfortable place to relax, it's important—for both you and the host—to find a place where kids are welcome. Considerations include safety, activities and facilities, and the ability to absorb the inevitable rough and tumble that often comes with young children. 

Below are a few tips on how to make sure your vacation rental is family friendly. 

1. Use the filters 

In addition to being able to search for rentals that are pet friendly, good for groups, or near a certain attraction or destination, you can filter for listings that are family friendly. For example, HomeAway and VRBO, which share a parent company, include the filters "House rules: suitable for kids," which owners self-select, and "Properties good for: families with kids," which is determined by reviews and feedback submitted by renters. 

2. Read the description carefully 

Beyond built-in filters, many owners or managers will specify if a rental is kid friendly, or if they prefer exclusively adult guests. It never hurts to consider overall tone; some owners seem a little more relaxed, and others more particular. For a gut check, ask yourself if you can picture explaining how your kid got chocolate syrup on the couch. 

Have a concern or a question? Ask it! Some owners are noted for being exceptionally responsive to clients. On HomeAway, they are indicated by a "Premier Partner" badge, and it can be useful to have an accommodating host both when you have a pressing question or just can't figure out how to work the grill. If the listing doesn’t answer all your questions, reach out to the manager by clicking on the “Ask a Manager a Question” button.   

3. Lighten your load

One of the most family-friendly features a rental can offer is the gear you need but hate to tote along with you, like cribs, high chairs, strollers, bikes, pool floats, and board games. If a rental is well stocked, that's a very good sign. 

4. Location

Pay attention to, and be realistic about, where the rental is located in relation to where you'll be spending a lot of your time.

"Look closely at how far the home is from the attractions such as the beach or community pool," says HomeAway's travel expert Melanie Fish. "Walking might not be an option, and parking could be a potential headache you want to avoid."

5. Safety

Fish recommends inquiring about any possible safety issues. "Ask the property owner or manager if they have any concerns about pool safety, or if the property is in a high-traffic area, or close to any potential outdoor hazards such as high elevation or unstable terrain," she says. 

Things to consider: Is the pool gated? Are there steep stairs? Will everyone be able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night? 

6. Report issues before, not after

While this is advice for any vacation renter, it's worth noting that if you arrive at your retreat and something is not as advertised, it's crucial to contact the property manager about addressing and fixing the issue before spending any time in the rental.