In April of this year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Los Angeles, California for business and leisure, along with my wife and two kids. We stayed there for about two months.
And while we were there, we moved from one place to another within the Greater Los Angeles area. Among others, we visited places like Pico Rivera, El Monte, La Habra and Pasadena.
In my opinion, out of the places I mentioned, the most convenient one - yet still unforgettable - is Pasadena, where I hope we can move someday. :)
These experiences could not have happened if not for an online service like Airbnb.
Airbnb is an online service that allows you to search for and book an affordable place to stay, but also one that give a whole new, unique experience unlike one you would get from a hotel.
When I was using the service for the first time, finding a proper place was a trial and error process. But after some time, I developed my own process of searching - one that will help find a better place, especially in terms of location, type of a unit, and budget that is suitable for your family. Here's a list of tips that can help you do the same.
A quick disclaimer: these tips are purely from my own experience. Some of them may not apply to you, but in general should give you a pretty good overview on what to focus on when booking a place via AirBnB for the first time, especially for a stay with your family.
Setting up your budget
Before you start searching for a place, try to decide on a budget - the amount you want to spend per night. For an area like Los Angeles, 100$ may at first seem to be not a lot, but once you start looking, you will realize there is actually quite a nice number of very cool places available for this kind of budget.
Decide on which location exactly you want to stay
If you are going to visit a large area, such as Los Angeles, make sure to do your research about it first. Try to avoid districts that might not be suitable for families with children.
If you know someone who lives in a place you are going to visit, always reach out to them. You'll often learn something only a local person may know!
Check the amenities
Once you have entered your budget and location, you may want to apply some additional filters in order to make sure your future host provides all the amenities you consider necessary for your stay. When it comes to myself, here is a list of things I consider a must have:
- Internet connection - if you can't live without Internet, like me. :)
- Essentials - For me, it’s a mandatory item on the list! It’s also a general indication that the host has gone an extra mile to make you feel comfortable. Essentials would include things like: towels, bed sheets, soap, toilet paper, etc.
- Kitchen - when travelling with a family, it's often crucial to have a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals; you will also save some of your budget by not going out to eat.
- Air conditioning - a must, especially in hot areas, with a climate much different to what you are used to.
- Washing machine - if you are staying for a longer period of time, or simply do not have enough clothes for your entire stay, having a washing machine on site is a welcome convenience.
- Family/kid friendly - some places are marked as family friendly, which usually means that the place itself and its surroundings are safe for the youngest. If you have small children - strongly consider choosing this option in your filters.
Things like Cable TV are nice to have, but in the case of my family - not necessary. I prefer my kids to play at the nearest playground than staring at a screen. And if they want to watch something really bad, I can always just hand them over my tablet or smartphone.
If you work on your laptop as I do, you may also want to make sure the place has a laptop friendly workspace. In my case, though, just a reliable Internet connection is enough - the work space can be anything: a bench, terrace outside, or even a bed. :)
Check the star ratings and reviews
Always make sure to check the number or stars your listings have. Obviously, the more, the better. But from my experience - do not go for less than four.
Try to focus on reading only the latest reviews, especially if a place has a lot, as going through them all would consume quite a bit of your precious time. Moreover, double check if the place you’re going to rent has more positive reviews than negative (glancing just at the newest opinions may trick you into not checking it).
Send message to host
After we've done all of the above, it's time to ask the host any questions that we might have by sending them a private message.
Make sure to introduce yourself properly: tell the host which country you're coming from, the purpose of your stay, how many members of the family you're going to bring with you - and mention their age, especially when it comes to children. Particularly when you are taking a very young kid with you, it's good etiquette to make the host aware of it.
In my experience, some hosts may tell you that the place isn't actually adapted for such young personas - even if they listed their apartment as kid friendly. It’s much better to find this out ahead of time and save everyone the headache.
Last but not least
If you are not going to rent a car or are not coming by your own, also make sure to check how public transportation works in the area you plan to visit.
I hope you will find all of these tips useful next time you're traveling somewhere with your family! Bon voyage!
(Let me know in the comments if there is anything else you'd recommend when travelling abroad with a family!)
*This article had been posted in medium as well.