Family Vacation and the Relatively Low Price of Sanity

September 21, 2016

It started with a vision: instead of spending another vacation hanging out around the house in a Denver Metro suburb, I could be watching my kids play in the ocean for the first time. It seemed simple enough. People travel with their kids all the time, right? We just needed to book a flight and a hotel and head out with a few suitcases. And some toys so the kids don’t get bored on the plane. And a double stroller. And a Pack ‘n Play. With sheets. Plus back-up sheets. A car seat too. Make that two car seats.

My son’s suggestion to just move the entire house to the coast was starting to feel like an easier solution.

That’s when a travel aficionado who specializes in finding the best deal on getting to Disney resorts from Colorado reminded me of another alternative—rent all of that equipment at my destination. Admittedly, spending money to borrow things I already own goes against every thrifty instinct I have. Especially since major airlines will allow you to gate check your strollers and car seats for free. But just the thought of lugging all of that stuff through the airport while trying to corral my kids was enough to make me consider all my alternatives.

Getting Around
A bit of research revealed that at my beach location, I could rent a convertible car seat for between $7 and $11 a day (with a discounted weekly rate). The car seats and any other equipment I borrowed would be delivered to me at the car rental counter. (Don’t forget to ask about a delivery charge or if you can pick up your equipment yourself for free.)

A common alternative is to use car seats from the car rental agency for $10-$15 a day. (AAA membership can afford you a free seat.) But the rental car agencies may not guarantee that they’ll even have a car seat for you when you arrive. Or that it will be accident-free and not expired. I didn’t have any of those worries with the baby equipment rental. They even went the extra step of promising a clean car seat and sending me a link to the manual in advance so I was ready for installation.

Getting to Sleep
You could also experience complications when trying to secure a free crib or Pack ‘n Play through a hotel. Many will not guarantee in advance that a crib will be available during your stay and it could be in a condition that is unsafe or otherwise unacceptable. Small hotels may charge a daily rental fee that could be higher than you would see with a separate service.

Would I rent my baby equipment again? Absolutely! To me it was well worth the money to share in the adventure of the airport with my kids, rather than shuffling all their essentials and worrying about them getting lost or damaged along the way. And in the end it was definitely cheaper and less stressful than loading up my house and driving it down the Pacific Coast Highway.

What travel items are you willing to splurge on to make your vacation easier? Leave them in the comments!

This post was written by Lisa Fedak, a Creative Services Manager at Colorado PERA.