While the hotel stay remains the go-to family vacation choice, coming on strong is that sharing-economy darling: the vacation rental, which is sometimes referred to an “alternative” accommodation. However, one of the biggest secrets in family travel is that there is more than one alternative. Enter the resort residence, which combines the best of both worlds.
Families are certainly becoming more comfortable booking vacation rentals, as the growth of Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and similar websites attest. Recent travel industry research reports that one in three leisure travelers have stayed in a private accommodation. However, the same research also suggests the desire for hotel-like services is the key reason why vacation rentals are not chosen by more people.
Historically, the only way for families to gain access to a resort residence was to buy one — or part of one — or have family or friends who own one. Resort residences are often known as a fractionals, timeshares or wholly-owned condos or villas in a professionally managed resort.
As the resort industry has evolved, renting a resort residence has now become an option. This is good news for family travelers, as resort residence rentals may indeed be the best accommodation choice for family vacations. Here are several reasons why.
Like most vacation rentals, resort residences are literally residences. They have family rooms, kitchens and up to four or more bedrooms. Family and friends vacationing together in a resort residence can comfortably spend time together enjoying activities, meals or evening quality time. Family and friends also can easily spend relaxation time apart in a resort residence — reading, walking or sleeping.
Many families find this setup more desirable than vacationing in (even adjoining) hotel rooms, where a rollaway bed, minibar, ice bucket and coffee pot in the bathroom are often the extent of family travel amenities. It's not uncommon to hear stories of parents having a glass of wine on the hotel balcony or in the bathroom after putting the kids to bed.
Since resorts are professionally managed, resort residences are 100% instantly bookable, like booking on a hotel or an online-travel website. No waiting for contracts or 24-hour response times. In contrast, according to recent industry news reports, only half of the vacation rentals on either Airbnb or HomeAway are instantly bookable.
Resort residences also offer front desk check-in. No more juggling the kids while looking for the keys under the flower pot. Services one would associate with a hotel stay, such as housekeeping, maintenance and on-site security are all available with a resort residence. Vacation-home rentals have given families a stunning number of new accommodation options, however understanding the varying quality and surroundings can sometimes be challenging. Resort residences have star (quality) ratings and TripAdvisor reviews, not unlike hotels, making comparisons very straightforward.
Resort residences can include numerous amenities such as pools, water parks or lazy rivers, children’s activities, food options and features such as spas, sports courts and free shuttles. Some resorts cater more to adults, others to families with children. Some are near the beach, golf course, ski slope or theme parks. Resorts tend to be in the middle of the action rather than in local neighborhoods, which is particularly convenient when trying to juggle the desired daily schedules of vacationing family and friends.
While offering both space and services, renting a resort residence often represents a good family travel value. It is not uncommon to find resort residences offered at nightly rates less than comparable local hotel rooms. For example, a two-bedroom resort residence, although it includes a family room and kitchen which should merit a premium, is often priced lower than two adjoining hotel rooms at a nearby hotel with the same star rating.
Since resort residences have a kitchen, many families use it to save money (and time), rather than using restaurants, room service, snack machines or local food delivery. Not everyone likes to cook on vacation, but even a quick stop by the grocery for produce, breakfast cereal, drinks or snacks can provide significant savings.
Many resort residences include a washer/dryer, allowing family and friends to bring fewer clothes, which translates to lower airline bag fees. Also, don’t forget to check for free resort shuttles, which sometimes means no need for a rental car.
Perhaps you are a “Chief Vacation Officer,” with the responsibility of organizing a fun and relaxing vacation for your family or friends. If so, resort residences are a new accommodation option to consider.
To learn more about resort residences, visit Vacatia.
By Caroline Shin, CEO and co-founder of Vacatia, the resort marketplace for vacationing family and friends. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Resort Development Association. Caroline was the technology architect behind the launch of Hotwire, she led CRM at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and was a SVP at Sentient Jet.