Dear AirBnB host... what "child-friendly" means to us
Are you thinking of renting out your home to complete strangers – ones who may even have small kids? (Gasp.) Read here.
Many parents are keen to experience a holiday home away from home, with all the independence that brings. These homes are generally cosier and more private than hikers’ chalets and self-catering resorts – and they would be: someone else opened their home, their space, to share it with you.
Naturally, it's a privilege and you want to make sure that you and your kids treat the host's home and neighbourhood with respect. (Hosts, send us your stories of families misbehaving in your home.)
We've had some super holidays in others' houses. But if you have really small kids, booking through AirBnB can also be tricky.
When scouting for places to stay, I first check to see if "child friendly" is among the list of amenities. And it’s here that I’ve encountered some inconsistencies. Your home may be perfect for 10-year-olds, but not so suited to a 2-year-old.
So if you say your home is child-friendly, perhaps these points are helpful:
Stairs and balconies
Kids love sleeping in a loft or mezzanine room. Adventure! But toddlers equally love ascending steep stairs, at great peril. Please make it clear if your apartment/cottage/cabin has ladders or staircases or high balconies through which a small body may escape, because they will try. And that just means no holiday for the parents.
It’s time-consuming having to trawl through 52 beautiful photos of kitchens and sunsets, trying to get a glimpse of the pool you’ve listed under amenities. Tell us: Is it a communal pool, fenced in and accessed only via a certain security door? Or is it a splash pool right outside the kitchen door – without safety net? That includes fishponds and a farm dam. Even if it’s winter, we need that pool to be well out of reach and out of mind if our kids are anything under 5 or 6 years.
You know what makes a family feel really welcome? A colouring-in book and crayons, some old car toys and a handful of children’s books (especially for pre-schoolers). Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. Just something to keep them busy, because other people's toys are infinitely more interesting than their own.
Info file and map
Now this comes in really handy. A photocopied map of the area, highlighting parks with playgrounds and child-friendly restaurants if you’re in the city. Or how to get to the farm dam or access the beautiful waterfall you mentioned would make the perfect day trip. We don’t always have reception on our phones and we have spent more than a few hours driving around, trying to child-friendly spaces on bad weather days.
Dogs and cats
It’s awesome that you let us share your space… especially if you also live on the property. But may we ask that you make it clear if you have big dogs that may poke their heads around our door? Some families would adore that, but we may want to keep our toddling toddlers out of the way. Or not – we’ll decide, if only you’d be clear about this one. Also, cat hair. Again, cool with cats. But if there’s a possibility of fur and dander on the couches, do be upfront about it please.
Loose cables and cords
It’s up to us moms and dads to fine-comb a space when we check in: cover the electric sockets if we have crawling babies, put away glassware and such. But it does make our lives a lot easier if you tidy up electric cables and have small hooks on which we can tie the blind cords. Sounds obvious, but not all folk think like parents.
Breakables and expensive upholstery
These make me nervous. Our kids aren’t hooligans – we hope. A general sense of order reigns and they know to behave, especially in other people’s homes. But we’ll have to put away your precious selection of glass ornaments while we’re there, and I’m afraid I might put it all back in the wrong order when we leaven again. Forgive me. As to a spot on your couch or luxury carpet, heavens forbid! If it's something I can easily remove, we're both happy.
In exchange, we promise to let the kids eat chocolate outside and to wipe the walls from grubby children’s paw smudges.
What has your experience been when booking an AirBnB home for your family holiday? Or have you let out your home to a family and regret it? Send your stories to email@example.com and we may publish them.