By Deenaz Raisinghani
How many times have you travelled to a new destination and thought how nice it would be to actually live there? How many times have you glanced at the locals strolling around in the evening and playing with their kids in pretty neighbourhood parks or just stared at the stunning houses thinking what if you lived in one of these cosy homes yourself?
Well, I got to do exactly that when I discovered Airbnb! It all started when we booked our first Bed and Breakfast (BnB) while travelling through Canada eight years ago, and discovered the beauty of living like a local. I was introduced to some of the most beautiful properties on Airbnb and a couple of similar sites for BnB’s across the world, all in a matter of few clicks and that is when this entire world of rental homes opened up to me and I fell in love with the concept. We also explored it after our child was born and have stayed at BnBs with our daughter in multiple countries. Now, I can safely recommend this option to parents who share similar views and want to experience living like a local. Here is exactly why I feel BnB’s work when travelling with kids:
Booking your BnB while planning a holiday with family
A BnB (short for bed and breakfast) is a rental property that you can book online anywhere in the world. Just like hotels, there are ranges and types of BnB’s you can choose on websites dedicated to these, picking from modestly done up single rooms to artistic luxury homes, depending on your budget, family size and interiors preferences. You can set filters for the kind of accommodation you are looking for, the number of kids rooms you will need and the site will bring up a host of listings for you to choose from. In India, the concept is fast catching up with homestays and BnBs springing up around the country in little hill-stations, to ones inside huge plantations. These cater to families and large groups and are open to any customisations that the guest wants in advance. For my upcoming trip, I am excited that we will be living in a local homestay in India and will get to experience it better. More details on it in the upcoming posts in my column.
You actually get to live like a local
The best part about staying in a BnB is the fact that you get to live in a local home, sometimes with the family living in the same house. We have stayed with some lovely families that hosted us warmly and made us feel very comfortable throughout our stay. Some of the families went out of the way to make gourmet meals for us and cater to our individual tastes. We have sat around with them enjoying their company, talking about each other’s cultures, discussing politics and sports.
We have walked around their farms, cooked in their kitchens and enjoyed the experience. Some families we have stayed with had kids themselves so we have often made breakfast for our kids together while the little ones played among themselves. Arianna met a cute little Danish girl named Siri, who was exactly her age when we stayed at a BnB in Copenhagen and their playdate gave us time to sit with the hosts in the evening and chitchat. Sometimes, we prefer a private, intimate holiday and we book the entire home to ourselves (this is not as expensive as booking a luxury hotel room) with the host living elsewhere, and we have enjoyed the luxury and comfort that comes with it.
Solving the food problem while travelling with kids
While travelling with family, we have always been more comfortable in places that come with a kitchen space. In a BnB, you get access to this with supplies (stove, oven, cutlery, utensils and dishwasher) and everything basic you would need to feed your kids. You even get access to laundry machines, which has worked wonders for us when we needed clean clothes on the go while road tripping through New Zealand. Some families that rent out their homes often have breakfast items in their pantry that include cereal, eggs, bread, fruit, cheese, juices and milk. The host leaves a set of instructions that specify where everything is kept (including the wifi password) and you just have to follow instructions. You are free to make your own breakfast just the way your kids like it so they don’t miss the comfort of mom or dad’s cooking while on holiday. You obviously have to show respect for the hosts’ graciousness and maybe not wipe out the entire pantry before you leave!
Local recommendations and family friendly advice
Mostly all BnBs across the world want to bring in as many tourists as they can to their homes, so they try to make the property very tourist-friendly. This includes leaving guide books of local attractions and things to do, coupons for activities, bike and car rental service information, outdoor gear such as raincoats (if it is in an area that usually has rainy weather), beach towels, slippers, hats, etc. Besides all of these touristy frills that hotels come with, the best part about staying with a local is getting first-hand advice about the city. Subway routes, neighbourhood eateries, live events, child-friendly places and the culture of the place can be discussed in detail with your host who is often happy to help. We discovered some great local markets through these recommendations and have chanced upon some really cool last-minute stuff to explore that we did not come across in the guide books.
Sit, sip and enjoy your home with your kids
You will find all kinds of rental homes listed on BnB sites. These include luxury villas, artist homes, single rooms, tree houses, boathouses and what not. You can choose the one you like from its pictures and reviews, and check into your home away from home. My personal favourites have been a farmhouse stay at Mission Creek Inn in Kelowna, where we lived with a Canadian couple in their arty home, with an eclectic display of cultural artifacts. Their lifestyle in the countryside was so enviable that I did not want to leave. I slept in a room with a beautiful handmade rug made of sheepskin, and we cooked fresh salmon for dinner. I remember waking up to the gorgeous sunshine that the countryside is known for, and explored the farm with its apple and pear trees and pet sheep. Another BnB that we as a family absolutely enjoyed staying in was a home in Greymouth New Zealand, where we had the entire home to ourselves. Our daughter enjoyed the experience with beautifully decorated rooms, each in a different theme. She even had a set of games to play with and a kiddie corner full of children’s books. We cooked, watched a great movie and enjoyed the little town in the evening and this was definitely better than checking into a hotel for us. Over the years, we have come across some stunning properties in different countries, and met some lovely hosts who made us feel very welcome. India now offers some stunning bed and breakfast properties, also called homestays where you will have similar experiences and get to live in a local home and enjoy it.
If these reasons make you want to explore a family-friendly BnB as your next option, by all means do it and enjoy the beauty of living like a local even while travelling.
(The writer blogs at Backpacking Mama.)