Family Travel and Vacation Rentals

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 9 June 2016

“Vacation rentals are exploding because family travel is exploding,” says Caroline Shin, CEO of Vacatia. Gail Mandel, CEO of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, agrees: “For decades, the American traveler was conditioned by hotel standards, but now that companies have brought quality standards to the vacation rental space, it’s enticing a whole new set of travelers.” Apparently, adjoining hotel rooms, a rollaway bed, minibar and a coffee pot in the hotel bathroom “are not really exciting family amenities,” concludes Shin.

This comes as no surprise to anyone helping the new generation of traveling families meet their adventure desires. Gone are the days of more limited vacation accommodation choice. Instead, the brave new world of short-term holiday homes that look like — and sometimes even are — homes away from home is decidedly upon us, something of enormous interest and value to family groups.

For family travel and vacation rentals, this Ranch View Lodge sits atop East Gros Ventre Butte, between downtown Jackson and Teton Village, Wyoming

The Clear Creek Group’s vacation rental property Ranch View Lodge sits atop East Gros Ventre Butte, between downtown Jackson and Teton Village, Wyoming. The home’s lower level contains a media room that the whole family will enjoy.

A Broad Range of Opportunity

The types of properties and the structures that underpin them are increasingly diverse. Most people think first of vacation rentals as private homes (or parts of homes), but these days there are also residences in timeshares and premier independent resorts, the latter promising all the space and freedom of home rentals with the advantages of hotel-like services.

Similarly, the management and marketing agents looking after the needs of such a broad mix of properties is just as diverse, from HomeAway, the world’s leading online marketplace for vacation rentals, and The Clear Creek Group, which offers luxury rental homes primarily in and around Jackson, Wyoming, to Vacatia, a resort marketplace, and Wyndham Vacation Rentals, the world’s largest serviced vacation rentals business.

What motivates families to turn to the vacation rentals managed by all four of these brands is quite similar; however the differences between them point to the breadth of opportunity available to travelers.

“Renting a whole home is a no-brainer, especially for groups and families,” says Maddi Bourgerie, a PR specialist for HomeAway, Inc. “Staying in a home, even if it’s yours only temporarily, helps create better memories – which I think is why 84 percent of people who use HomeAway say they’ll use a vacation rental again the next time they travel.”

For some people, however, the emphasis placed on “hotel-like services such as front desk check-in, housekeeping and security… is one of the reasons Vacatia is finding early success making families aware of resort residence rentals, which offer the best of both worlds – the space of a home plus the services of a hotel,” observes Shin of Vacatia.

Similarly, Morgan Bruemmer, Partner / Associate Broker of The Clear Creek Group, LLC, reports that “As the years have passed, our guests seem to have become more knowledgeable and sophisticated, and they demand many of the amenities one would expect from a luxury hotel. Some examples include package receipt and delivery, personal greetings at check-in and full concierge service, which could involve booking outdoor activities, dinner reservations, catering, rental cars, private aviation or even photo shoots! The list is endless.”

Vacatia vacation rental in Honua Kai, Maui, Hawaii

Vacatia vacation rental in Honua Kai, Maui, Hawaii. A nice family-owned resort great for both adults and kids.

The Appeal of Vacation Rentals

Although the reasons why families pursue vacation rentals are as mixed as there are different kinds of families, the four experts of the companies contacted agreed on four core categories: comfort, cost, time and authenticity.

Here is some of what they had to say about each category:


“The extra space, privacy and home-like amenities that vacation rentals offer is why this lodging style is so popular among families. These are all very practical reasons that travelers everywhere gravitate toward when planning a vacation.”
– Gail Mandel of Wyndham Vacation Rentals

“Vacatia’s guests tell us the primary benefit of a rental is that it offers similar utility (perhaps better) versus their home, which they especially value if they are going to vacation for a week or more. Vacation rentals often do offer the space of a house: a family room, a kitchen, one or more bedrooms and bathrooms, and a washer/dryer.”
– Caroline Shin of Vacatia

“HomeAway travelers find it enjoyable to find the perfect rental for their group. Whether it’s near a beach or in town, small enough for just you or with enough bedrooms to take a big group, a romantic getaway or a house that comes with baby equipment and bicycles. Travelers are learning they can customize their experiences based on unique amenities, location and the home they choose.”
– Maddi Bourgerie of HomeAway


“In our experience, cost effectiveness is, in fact, secondary to the value families place on their time together. Of course, a private gathering space is the primary reason families choose a villa over a hotel room, but as much as anything, having complete autonomy and being able to vacation with as little or as much structure as they choose, is also paramount.”
– Morgan Bruemmer of The Clear Creek Group

“Families routinely see examples where the cost of a vacation rental is less than staying in comparable local hotel room(s). This is something Vacatia actually tracks quite closely and we find that nearly half of the time, resort residences cost up to 20%, 50% or 50%+ less versus hotels. Families also routinely share with us how they save on cooking some meals versus going out, as well as saving on baggage fees since a washer/dryer allows them to bring fewer clothes.”
– Caroline Shin of Vacatia


“We find families tell us they want both the space to share time together (quite often before or after dinner), as well as the space to be apart (for privacy or just quiet time).”
– Caroline Shin of Vacatia

“Time! Time is precious, and in today’s fast-paced world, special moments with family seem more elusive and valuable than ever. Villa rentals allow our guests to maximize their time together. At a high level, they ensure the little things are taken care of, so families can focus almost entirely on the real purpose of the vacation – quality time together.”
– Morgan Bruemmer of The Clear Creek Group


“There has been an ever-growing trend that travelers are looking for experiences while traveling. Fewer and fewer people are seeking out the breakfast buffet and crowded resort pools. And, that’s the beauty of renting a whole home to stay in. You don’t have that. Every home is different, so every HomeAway experience will be unique. The trip then becomes as much about where you stay as it is where you are going.”
– Maddi Bourgerie of HomeAway

“A lesser mentioned reason, however, is the authenticity a vacation rental brings to the experience. For example, the kitchen is more than just a convenience and money-saving amenity. A kitchen moves us to shop the local farmers’ markets, talk to the locals and learn alongside our children as we prepare our food.”
– Gail Mandel of Wyndham Vacation Rentals

HomeAway vacation rental in Nags Head, Outer Banks, North Carolina

HomeAway vacation rental in Nags Head, Outer Banks, North Carolina. Located close to the beach and with a private pool, it’s endless summer fun for families of all ages.

Finding the Right Rental

While vacation rental is hardly rocket science, time and focus are critical to ensuring that a commitment is being made for the right reasons. Once again, our experts weighed in with a variety of steps that traveling families should take to lock in an experience and a property that makes the most sense for them, four key priorities emerged: ask questions about meeting needs, read the bold and fine print (consult ratings and review; read the contract) and stick with a reputable company.

Once again, here is what our pros had to say:

Meeting Needs

“When planning a family vacation, our guests make it clear they want no surprises, so [they] get as much information as possible. We’ve invested in providing floor plans, photography, description of amenities such as on-site activities, and identifying extras such as free transportation shuttles, and proximity to shopping and other essentials.”
– Caroline Shin of Vacatia

“The home must suit the composition of the family. Despite the design and no matter how dramatic the views, if the 16 year-old grandson is forced to sleep with a toddler and his grandmother in a bunk room, it’s likely someone is going to be unhappy. First, choose a home that allows you and your family to function unimpeded, giving everyone the space they need to enjoy their experience. It sets the stage for everything else.”
– Morgan Bruemmer of The Clear Creek Group

“Owners are the best resource. You can ask them particular questions that pertain to your party – do you have a highchair available? Are there beach chairs we can use? Is your bathroom wheelchair accessible? – Plenty of owners are also willing to do special requests to make sure your stay is the best it possibly can be. Don’t be afraid to ask for amenities that aren’t listed.”
– Maddi Bourgerie of HomeAway

Read, Read, Read

“Only travelers that have stayed in the rental can review the property. They are the best insight into what the rental is truly like. The reviews will usually tell you about the owner, the cleanliness of the rental, the location and other concerns or questions that may be left out of the owner’s description.”
– Maddi Bourgerie of HomeAway

“The rental contract is between both parties displaying the rules of the house, check-in/check-out times and other important information. It will ensure that the traveler and the owner are both getting what they want and expect. If there is something in the rental agreement you’re not comfortable with or that you just don’t understand, talk it through with the owner.”
– Maddi Bourgerie of HomeAway

Go Reputable

“A traveler’s first step should be deciding what type of vacation rental experience suits their travel needs. Consumers can choose to book a vacation from a professional hospitality company or directly with an individual owner. Rent-by-owner vacation homes are typically found on listing sites that act similar to a classified ad, with customer service and accountability standards being determined by each individual homeowner. You’re not really booking with the website you’re booking through the website. And should something go wrong, you are generally left on your own to resolve the matter directly with that individual homeowner.”
– Gail Mandel of Wyndham Vacation Rentals

“Though many owners elect to self-perform, we have found that in many instances, they and the guests are underserved. Most owners live elsewhere and they have developed an informal relationship with someone that ‘looks in’ on their property and/or acts as a ‘greeter’ or ‘local host.’ It seldom works well, as that person, more often than not, does it as a favor and has a fulltime job, and despite their best intentions, we have found they usually do not possess a hospitality mentality. Many times, the homes are usually inadequately maintained, the cleaning standards are sub-standard, and the guests seldom have a professional, reliable team they can rely on. At The Clear Creek Group, it is our goal to provide caretaking services to the homeowners we represent for villa rental. This ensures the home is cared for at a very high level, and it allows us to provide a continuum of care for our villa rental guests.”
– Morgan Bruemmer of The Clear Creek Group

Wyndham Vacation Rentals property in Landal Miggelenberg, Netherlands

Wyndham Vacation Rentals property in Landal Miggelenberg, Netherlands. This wooden four-person “treehouse” opens out onto a large terrace and allows children to slide down to the ground.

Some Great Examples

There are so many compelling reasons for locking in some down time with your family (and sometimes friends too) in a vacation rental: shared time, memory creation, spontaneous get-togethers, and multigenerational or extended family vacations in lodgings suited to the mix of ages are just a few of them. Whether the choice of accommodation is a family home (with or without hotel-like services) or a timeshare property in a resort with built in benefits like housekeeping, a concierge and shuttles, there is something out there perfectly suited to any traveling family.

How do we know? We’ve looked at a bunch of them. And here are just a few especially family-friendly one to whet your appetite, presented by our participating experts (in alphabetical order).


* Nags Head, Outer Banks, North Carolina
* Austin, Texas
* Anaheim, California

Visit here for more vacation rentals with HomeAway.


The Clear Creek GroupThe Clear Creek Group

* The Cabin
* Catamount
* Ranch View Lodge

Visit here for more vacation rentals with The Clear Creek Group.



* Honua Kai, Maui, Hawaii
* North Beach Plantation, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
* Reunion Resorts, Orlando, Florida

Visit here for more vacation rentals with Vacatia.


Wyndham Vacation RentalWyndham Vacation Rentals

* Majestic Overlook, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
* High Pointe Beach Resort, South Walton, Florida
* Treehouse, Miggelenberg, Netherlands

Visit here for more vacation rentals with Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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Europe, family travel, local knowledge, North America, whl.travel,

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