Family Friendly Strategies

When families go on vacation, they are looking for a low stress, comfortable time without being continually worried their children are not going to be safe, or might break something that may be charged to their damage deposit.  They don’t want to be concerned about how their infants will sleep at night or whether there are hazards that will keep them constantly wary rather than relaxing and spending quality time with their children.  A vacation rental owner has a responsibility to consider these things if they want to appeal to the family market, because it’s not a matter of just labeling the property ‘child-friendly’;  making sure it meets the promise of the text is vital to avoid guest disappointment or complaint.

Get feedback from friends or relatives with small children
If you can, let a family use the place at a discounted rate, or even as a freebie, as long as they give you thorough feedback on what the experience was like for them.  You could supply a checklist of things you want them to report back on, to make it easier.   Ask them to imagine what it would be like if the weather didn’t play nice and they had to spend more time inside.
Of course you can just do a room- by-room walkthrough and consider everything a vacationing family might be concerned about.  These suggestions might help:

What will mom’s experience if they are trying to cook and there’s a toddler underfoot?  Can they easily access cupboards and drawers?  What could they get into?  Make sure there are a couple of cupboards empty for storing baby and toddler foods, bottles and utensils.
  • Supply a selection of child-proof door catches
  • Move all cleaning materials out of reach
  • Provide a couple of cook books focused on cooking with children –these would be welcomed by a frazzled mom when stuck indoors on a rainy day.  Make sure there are plenty of cooking materials such as cookie trays, cupcake papers, etc.
Living Areas
Durable furnishings really come into their own when there’s a high turnover of families with small children.  Kids jump on furniture;  they eat popcorn, chips and drink pop while sitting on your couch, and will sprawl on the chairs when covered with sunscreen or bug repellent.  Using washable slipcovers allows regular laundering to keep the place looking fresh and clean.
  • Provide covers for electrical outlets – this is just a nice safety feature that moms will appreciate.
  • Keep ornaments to a minimum and do not put on windowsills.  While on that topic of keeping things out of reach of tiny hands, check the height of any entertainment feature. It’s not as easy to post coins and other foreign objects into modern devices as it was when we had video recorders and cassette players, but it’s worth considering what could be inserted into DVD players.
  • Supply a box of toys and children’s’ books.  When families are flying in to a location they have limited space for them, so these will be popular.
  • Buy a storage container with several drawers and load with colored drawing paper, crayons, and other craft materials.  This will be welcomed for rainy days.
Parents travelling with kids will have concerns over how their children will join them at a dining table or be fed safely, particularly with babies and toddlers.
  • Provide a high chair or at least a booster seat.  Toys’R’Us do a great one that has a blow up insert to allow the height to be adjusted – just do a search for ‘booster seat’ and there’s lot’s of choice.
  • Supply child-proof plates – those with suction cups on the bottom make it better for Mom and for your cleaners.
  • A good blender is essential – there are specialized blenders for liquidizing baby meals which could come in handy for your very young guests.
Being on vacation means relaxing and having a great night’s sleep.  Parents who use baby monitors will usually bring their own because they are light and easy to pack, so that’s probably not an expense you need to make if preparing for small guests.  However giving thought to how parents will cope in your house with young children can be helpful to them.  Just installing louvred blinds at windows so the sun doesn’t stream in and wake a sleeping child, can make a huge difference to how a holiday is enjoyed.
  • Provide a  Pack’n’Play crib
  • Install plugin motion sensor night lights so children can find their way to the bathroom
  • If there is no air conditioning, make sure a fan is available for guests to use on hot nights.
Are your bathrooms safe for baby or child use?  If you don’t have a bathtub, make sure there is a non-slip mat to use on a shower floor. 

Outside play and safety
If you have a swimming pool, there may be state or provincial regulations on safety so it is important you are aware of them. 
Outside safety can be a big issue and this is one area where it would help to have parents give you some feedback if you don’t have young children yourself.  It is so easy to miss a potential safety hazard so getting a parent perspective is helpful. 
Outside toys are usually of a size that make them prohibitive to pack if guests are travelling by air.   They are mostly inexpensive to buy and will be appreciated.  These include:
  • Water toys – noodles, blow up rings etc
  • Wading pool along with a hosepipe for filling it
  • Fishing rods and tackle for older children
  • Buckets and spades for younger ones – if you have sand.
Once you have completed your audit and have a list of your child-friendly features, create a PDF you can send to people when they enquire about your property, or when they have booked.  Your attention to detail on this can promote more interest.
Creating a child-friendly environment is important in the low season when more families are travelling with babies and toddlers so it’s worth the time and investment to make your place attractive and appealing to this market.