AirBNB's Updated "Family Friendly" Search Functionality: What Parents Should Know
Since posting our how-to guide on booking a baby or toddler friendly house rental, AirBNB has added search functionality to its site, aimed at families.
We took the new functionality for a spin, and here's what we found.
"Family Friendly" still doesn't mean "Baby/ Toddler Friendly"
Under Trip Type, you can now select "For Families", which will filter down results to homes that, according to AirBNB, have 5-star reviews from families and "essentials like a kitchen and TV".
Not a bad start, though "family friendly" and "baby friendly" or "toddler friendly" aren't exactly the same thing. For those of us with babies and tots, we're looking for kitchens, sure, but we're also looking for cribs or toddler beds, safety features like covered outlets and stair gates, and perhaps some toys.
Listings with a pool appear in the "For Families" listings, since, according to AirBNB, many families want a pool while on vacation. However, not all of the pools have fencing to keep little ones from wandering straight in - a safety risk for babies and toddlers.
Also troubling - the disaster property that my family stayed at while in Nova Scotia showed up in my "For Families" search, despite the fact that it had no 5 star reviews from families with kids, and, as I highlighted in my blog post, it definitely did not meet safety or comfort standards for traveling with my toddler. So, I'm taking the "For Families" filter with a large grain of salt.
Baby and Toddler Items Make the Amenities List
More useful are the additions to the Amenities list. Hosts can now indicate that their home comes equipped with several amenities that families with little ones would value - including safety gates, monitors, blackout blinds and more.
Here is the full list of family amenities that a host can select.
Frustratingly, when searching, guests can select only two "baby friendly" items under Amenities - crib and highchair. If you want a house with safety gates or a baby monitor, you'll need to visit a listing's Amenities section to see if the host provides that equipment.
And hosts may have more kid-friendly amenities than their listings indicate. When a host creates a profile, they are asked about some of the 'marquee' amenities that families desire, like kitchens and pools. However, hosts must return to their listing's profile to select from the list of baby/toddler amenities like "crib", "change table" and "baby monitor".
Unless a host knows to do this, they may not have selected all available amenities. For that reason, it's always worth asking hosts if they have a particular baby amenity that you'd require to feel comfortable on your trip.
"Crib" is a Broad Term
If you want an AirBNB rental with a standard crib (not a pack and play), take warning - selecting the "Crib" filter during your search will return listings with both standard cribs and pack and plays/ travel cribs. This may not matter to you, but if your little one is picky, you will need to look carefully in each listing's Amenities list to ensure the host is providing a standard crib.
Family reviews are now prominently flagged ... sometimes.
A grey box reading "Family Trip" appears at the top of a review written by a guest who stayed at the AirBNB rental with their family. However, some reviewers mentioned their children, but did not have the "Family Trip" box at the top of their review - hmmmm.
So although the icon can be helpful during an initial first scan of a listing, we do suggest reading all the reviews carefully before booking any home.
The Final Verdict
Although the new AirBNB search functionality aims to steer families towards suitable rentals, and to provide additional ease (and ease of mind) during the search process, young families will still need to do a considerable amount of legwork to find a suitable AirBNB rental.
Recent searches for rentals in Toronto, the Thousand Islands, Muskoka and Nova Scotia still took a lot of digging around on the AirBNB site. And more alarmingly, some of the "family friendly" search functionality can lead to a false sense of security for parents with babies and toddlers.
To improve your chances of finding a fully equipped and safe rental for your little one, skip the "For Families" search filter. Instead, try these two hacks.
#1) Start by determining whether there are any AirBNB Plus homes in your vacation city. Hosts of AirBNB Plus homes come highly rated, and these homes have been inspected in person to ensure comfort, quality and consistency. Although the in person inspection isn't specifically gauging the comfort and safety levels for little ones, you get the reassurance of knowing that these homes are generally well maintained, in working order, and provide high customer service.
The number of AirBNB Plus homes is small at the moment, and only exist in the following cities - Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, and Toronto.
2) Select "high chair" within the Amenities list.
Why? Many hosts will tuck a pack and play in their closet "just in case" a family requests it. Fewer hosts supply high chairs. From my own searches, I've discovered that the rentals with high chairs are more likely to provide covered outlets, safety gates and toys (all items that, as a guest, you can't select).
But remember, you'll still have to click into a listing to review it's full list of Amenities.
3) Continue to follow the other tips and hacks suggested in our how-to guide.