Imagine yourself in a tiny room, with only a bed, TV and a weird painting of a beach hanging crooked on the wall. Now add three large suitcases, 9 phone chargers, 2 laptops, an Ipad, a beach ball, 2 fluffy comforters and 6 bags of groceries. Feeling cramped yet? We’re not done. Now add in a little man, who doesn’t speak English, has anger issues, has the attention span of a goldfish, who wets the bed and has no concept of personal space, appropriate sleep times, or ability to go 6 seconds without touching something. THIS, my friends, is what it feels like to stay in a hotel with a toddler.

All parents have those friends who aren’t parents yet, who suggest a fun family vacation to Disney. They imagine taking happy, clean, well rested kids bouncing off to Disney, to wait patiently in lines and giggle with glee when they meet Mickey, and fall peacefully asleep in their stroller after the fireworks show. As parents, we want to punch these friends in the face. They. Have. No. Idea. And so when they suggest adjoining hotel rooms, your heart races a little because you know that when you have little kids, vacations aren’t vacations. They are doing what you normally do, in a different place, around different people, and without all of your stuff. Hotels and toddlers just don’t mix. And they can paint Mickey Mouse on the door of your hotel room, and call the pool “Snow White’s Sparkling Smiling Spalsh Pool” and cut their chicken nuggets into the shape of Goofy hats, but a hotel is still a one (sometimes two, if you’re lucky) roomed space to confine your toddler until you’re ready to brave another day at the parks.

And this is why parents with toddlers don’t do hotels anymore. They’ve learned that there are other options that can save the vacation experience. They stay in vacation rentals. Vacation rentals give families an entire house to spread out in, to unload all of their stuff in, to rest and relax and play in. They offer full kitchens so you can make lunch at home and not pay $9.00 for three pieces of chicken shaped like Goofy. They offer individual bedrooms so you can put cranky-pants down for a nap while you enjoy the pool, and even head back out to Disney once they wake up to catch the fireworks show. They have game rooms, movie theatres and private offices so you can work and play without feeling cramped and uncomfortable. What are we thinking? Our comfort comes secondary to our little precious ball of sunshine, which is why vacation homes offer high chairs, pack n plays, strollers, baby toys, and other kid related items to help your toddler adust to the change. It also helps a lot when airlines are charging an arm and a leg for any extra ounce of luggage you have over the weight limit. You focus on getting your kid here, the vacation home will make sure he/she is comfortable when they get here.

Most vacation homes have private pools, allowing families to enjoy the pool in privacy. Meltdowns about wanting to wear the Minnie bathing suit and not the Littler Mermaid one? No problem, no judgmental glances from strangers here! Want to swim at 2am once the kids are asleep? Done. Having your own pool, and ypur own house for that matter, allows you to be in charge of your vacation and do things on your time (or, let’s be honest, on toddler time.)

Traveling with toddlers doesn’t have to result in therapy sessions and too many Margaritas. Picking the perfect vacation home for your family will take the stress off of you and will help your young kids adjust easier to the change in scenery. It can also be the difference between sharing a small space with this little alien that only eats mac and cheese and cries if she can’t turn off the light by herself, and relaxing in the space and comfort of a fully furnished home that everyone can enjoy.

Diana Eastman