The Kids Stay in the Picture
A long weekend away with toddlers in tow? Thanks to vacation-rental site Kid & Coe, family trips no longer have to compromise on comfort—or style
For the nonbillionaires among us—those who don’t travel by private jet with nannies in tow—there’s no such thing as a vacation from parenthood. Here’s a story that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s ever stayed in a hotel with young children: Your little one requires lights-out by 7:30 p.m., so you sit in the bathroom, killing time on Twitter. Then he’s awake by 5 a.m., demanding breakfast before room service is even an option. Throw another kid into the mix and that pretty much sums up what trips with my two young boys (ages four and 21 months) were like.
My husband, David, and I have learned from experience that a vacation home is infinitely preferable to a 300-square-foot hotel room. Forget for a moment the obvious difference in size—once you taste the freedom of staying in your own space, it’s hard to go back to the reception desk. So earlier this summer we booked a pretty brick house in a rural town in upstate New York via the vacation-rental site Kid & Coe, which offers a carefully culled list of residences across the globe that cater specifically to families. As with all the company’s properties, ours was well equipped: tons of toys, kid-size beds, a playpen for the little one, a couple of unbreakable cups and bowls, a high chair in the kitchen, a step stool at the bathroom sink, and so on.
We timed our arrival to coincide with afternoon naps, and, happily, both of our boys quickly fell into a comfortable sleep. A hotel room is designed so that you never consider its previous or future guests; it has a quality of anonymity, of evanescence. Our Kid & Coe home, by contrast, had a personality informed by its inhabitants. I think the boys slept soundly because they were in a room designed for children and full of beloved toys and books. They felt at home immediately.
The rental included a dossier from the homeowners—parents themselves—of things to do in the surrounding towns; armed with that we set out for a nearby restaurant. We were the first diners to arrive (with two kids, we’re always the early birds) and so we were back at the house well before bedtime. The rainy, muddy day meant a good soak was in order, and the roomy tub in the master bath was a godsend. The kids were asleep half an hour later.
The next morning, our older son tromped into our bedroom at 5:30 to report (city boy that he is) that the birds were “too noisy.” Another great thing about a house versus a hotel: I sent the boys out to play an hour later and didn’t shush them once. Our kids are young enough that the simplest things can divert them for a while; we spent half an hour collecting sticks in the yard, for example. We planned modest outings—the farm down the road to buy a half-dozen fresh eggs, the nearby antiques stores, and then, to atone for how horribly boring that was, an ice-cream parlor. But most of our time was spent at the house, which was so comfortable that it really did feel like a home, albeit a temporary one.
The house was also a welcome reminder that it’s possible to create child-friendly interiors without sacrificing style. I loved the beautifully smooth plank floors, the largely unadorned white walls, and the serene master suite, which was sparse and unfussy. While my own dreams of a second home are still a Powerball ticket away, I spent the long weekend playing pretend: making pancakes, watching the kids wander around the sprawling, fenced-in yard, drinking whiskey in a hot bath like the heroine in a romantic comedy. On our second night I cooked dinner in the impressively stocked kitchen (proper knives, good sea salt, excellent pots and pans). Looking out the window at the kids pushing a toy wheelbarrow around the garden made even doing the dishes seem enjoyable.
You go on vacation to get away, but I had hoped, somewhat selfishly, that the trip would turn into a true childhood memory. Returning to the house on that first rainy, quiet evening, we spotted five or six deer grazing in the field across the street. I was thrilled; I’d been promising the boys that we would spot some, and at their age, the natural world is so magical. We watched for a while before the deer got spooked and moved along. This happened weeks ago, but the baby is still talking about it.
Whitfield Road Residence, Accord, New York; 3 bedrooms, 3 baths. Entire home from $495 per night, including booking and cleaning fees.