Vacation Home Away from Home

Melissa Kossler Dutton

When Sharon Maerten-Moore started planning a 2014 vacation to Orlando, Fla., the Columbus mother of four wanted something other than a hotel.

"I knew a larger rental would be more optimal," she said. "We're well outside the parameters of a hotel room."

At the recommendation of a coworker, she started looking for rentals on, a website where property owners can list their vacation rentals directly to vacationers. She found a three-bedroom condominium that had a pool and was centrally located to the attractions she and husband Karhlton Moore wanted to visit.

The $900 weekly rate was comparable to local hotels, but the additional space and a full kitchen made the trip much more pleasant, Maerten-Moore said.

Renting a house or apartment when traveling with children can make vacations more enjoyable, affordable and comfortable, agreed Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, family vacations expert at Families will likely find that staying in a home will save them money and make it easier to keep kids on schedule, she said.

In addition to VRBO, families can find rentals by using and, where offerings range from an entire house to a guest suite or even a single bedroom.

The space is usually "much more generous" in a rental versus a hotel room, Kelleher said. Multiple rooms mean children can go to bed at different times, and mom and dad will have somewhere to hang out after the kids fall asleep, she said.

"You have all the creature comforts you're used to," said Kelleher, who lives in Albany, N.Y.

Parents also will likely find that everyone gets more rest in a home than in a hotel room. "When a family isn't used to sleeping in one room together, they don't sleep as well," she said.

The ability to cook meals - even if it's only breakfast and snacks - is a real money saver, Kelleher said. Families that opt to cook dinners will find that preparing meals has advantages beyond the budget. Preparing familiar meals can help kids adjust to the change in routine that comes with traveling, she said.

"It's nice to be able to cook something yourself that you know your child eats," she said. Younger children can also leave the table when they are finished without making the rest of the family feel rushed, Kelleher added.

Another plus of renting a home is they often include extras - bicycles, strollers or portable cribs - that might reduce the amount of gear you have to bring, Kelleher said.

When Sherry Coutant and her family rented a North Carolina beach house in spring 2012, they were pleasantly surprised to find a collection of beach toys and a closet full of games. Those little extras can make a big difference, said Coutant, who has used VRBO on several occasions. She also likes having access to a washer and dryer.

The Bexley resident, her husband and daughter often vacation with another family. By pooling their resources, they have rented some amazing properties, she said.

"We have had no disappointments," Coutant said. "Several have exceeded what we thought we were getting."