Is Your Vacation Rental Home Family Friendly?

totstotravel This is a question we hear occasionally although it's not one of the most common ones our rental agency receives.  When I ask the potential renter what they mean by ‘family friendly', there's often a vague response asking about the waterfront and if it has shallow entry.  We rarely get questions about safety issues or what baby/child items are included in the rental which surprises me, given the potential risks in rentals in our area of Canada where all the properties are on water.  So it was interesting to talk to Wendy Shand, founder  of the UK-based vacation rental company, Tots To Travel, and find out what guests in UK and Europe are looking for when  vacationing with their children in a holiday rental. 

Wendy is a mom of three children under 7 whose experiences of renting vacation homes included a near-disaster when one of them fell into an unenclosed pool.  This was the catalyst for starting up Tots To Travel and the avoidance of  issues such as this are at the forefront of the company's search for ‘family friendly' holiday homes. On the website she says:

“I – and other mums and dads like me – need a holiday home that truly caters for their family, from the basics that we take granted at home such as stairgates and electric socket covers, to having a really safe swimming pool.? So I set about sourcing child-friendly properties and personally vetting them, asking the all important question, "is this place nice enough for me to come and stay with my family?"

When I spoke with her, my focus was on what owners should consider before they begin using the words  ‘child friendly' on a listing, and how they could look at their property from the perspective of a parent searching for a suitable place for a family vacation.  What do parents look for?


The last thing a tired mom and dad want to do on vacation is to be constantly monitoring for hidden dangers.  Although they will undoubtedly be on alert in a new place, if safety features are provided, and the risk of accidents lessened, holiday time will be so much more relaxing for them.  Indoors, stairgates,  socket guards, non-slip bath mats and night lights are a few of the ‘must have' items.

Safety outdoors is to a large extent, a parent-responsibility. When I look at some of the waterfront cottages we represent, there is no way of enclosing 200ft of waterfront, or putting railings around a dock so we do rely on parental control to minimise the potential for accident. However, providing information on those aspects of the terrain or location that may cause risk is an owner-responsibility so parents can make a decision on renting based on the detail provided.  I particularly liked the ‘Parent Points' shown on each listing on the Tots to Travel web site that identifies areas of potential risk.  Here's an example:

Parent Points:

  • The garden in The Manor house is mainly enclosed but there is an access point that parents need to be aware of.
  • There is a stream beyond the garden in The Manor which is gated off with a lock on the gate.
  • The swimming pool is enclosed but parents need to be aware that there is no shallow end.

In many countries there are regulations for swimming pool and hot tub safety; building codes for decking and stairs and other location-specific safety rules. For example, in Ontario, boating safety regulations require children to wear life jackets or personal flotation devices and these must be fitted correctly. A good ‘Parent Point' would be to include details of the size of any children's life jackets provided along with a link to the Boating Safety web site.

If in doubt about the safety features of your vacation home, seek advice, as no waiver of liability will help you out if you've willfully ignored laws and regulations.


When I looked at some of the listings on Tots to Travel  I was in awe at the amount of equipment some owners were supplying. Here's a list from one property:

  • Childrens` Videos
  • Childrens` Toys (age 1-5)
  • High Chair
  • Booster Seat
  • Bed Guard
  • 2 Cots with sheets and blankets
  • Matress protectors
  • Baby bath
  • Bath toys
  • 3 potties
  • Cupboard safety locks
  • Bottle steriliser
  • 2 hand held blenders
  • lots of plastic crockery
  • Changing mat
  • Stairgates
  • Baby monitor
  • Night lights
  • Bouncy Chair
  • Garden shade
  • Childrens` swimming towels
  • Childrens` swings and slide
  • Fenced pool

(I laughed at the 2 hand held blenders!  Is this for the real multi-tasking mom?)

Having seen a few of these lists I've added some items to my own property because we want to attract guests coming from the UK and Europe who could not bring them all when travelling by air, and I will be including an inventory on my listing. What you provide for families is up to you, and is dependent on the age groups you are targeting, but it seems that filling up low season weeks could be easier if you can accommodate small families with babies and toddlers who are more likely to vacation out of the school holiday season.

This post is getting lengthy and the more I write the more I think of to include. The information Wendy provided has spawned a lot of ideas for future posts, so watch out for those under the new Family Friendly category.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcomed, so if you have ideas or are a fully-featured-family-friendly property, just add them here.

My thanks to Wendy Shand for her time and a great conversation!  We'll be talking some more soon, I'm sure.

Margaret Leach

I think a lot of families with young children want to know most of all that children are welcome. That the owner will not be worrying about dirty finger marks or noisy games all the time. That the answer to the vague question about child friendliness is not ‘Yes, if……’

It is also worth bearing in mind that child safety measures required vary enormously between countries and even between families. We have most of the gear on that long list available to borrow but we don’t provide covers for electric sockets nor have we ever been asked to. Nor guards around hot plates. Nor are most of our gardens childproof.

Yet we have increasing numbers of families with babies and very young children renting our apartments each year, including many from the UK. In continental Europe, we find that parents take a more responsible attitude to keeping and eye on their children than Brits do and do not expect their children to be insulated from every possible danger.

Heather Bayer

Margaret – thanks for your comments. Your point about differing attitudes is interesting. We experience this in our neck of the woods where all our properties are waterfront. Our owners wouldn’t dream of creating fenced areas to prevent children from venturing into the water – it’s a natural environment – yet we had a complaint last year about ‘the dangers to my child of a boat dock being unfenced – she could have fallen in the water at any time’. It caused a great deal of amusement in the office at the time but also highlighted a creeping attitude from a, thankfully small, element of the rental population that responsibility for any actions of their children rests with the vacation rental owner. Reminds me of the possibly apocryphal tale of the mother who sued a furniture store owner because she fell over a small child who was running around the store, and broke her ankle. This was made even more ridiculous when it was revealed the child was her own.

Safety first baby monitor

Awesome. I think monitoring your own child will be much better than relying on the machine or someone else. BTW, this is my personal opinion.

Safety first baby monitor’s last blog post..Drawing as an Expressive Media of the Child

BABYBJORN BabySitter Balance

Wow! Never thought some places had so many equipments ready. This would surely help lessen the burden we have to carry when travelling with Kristine and Kyle. Bouncy chair is one thing we wish we could always have when travelling.

adam@Potty Training Girls

The most unfriendly family vacation rental properties are the ones that have those marble coffee tables with the sharp corners right in the middle of the living room!

Note to anyone renting to families: Do not buy anything with sharp corners, or you could have a lawsuit on your hands!

Just my two cents – thanks for the post!

adam@Potty Training Girls’s last blog post..Baby Potty Training Tips

Lake of the Ozarks Real Estate

I’ve got 4 kids with the youngest being 10 months. More than anything in the rental unit, I always find what’s outside to be the most daunting. Sometimes it will be a small creek at the bottom of the hill, or a steep drop-off in the backyard. I feel like I can handle the inside – it’s the outside that scares me.

Condos for Sale Florida

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Condos for Sale Florida

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Family friendly is so important. Plenty of things / games for the kids. A separate area for them to watch TV. A cover on the hot tub. Safety and fun are the key components.

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