[P]arents know that a family vacation, from which you load up the “family truckster” and drive across country, can sometimes turn out to be as much fun as the Griswolds’ Vacation. When I talk to most parents about family vacations, they usually end their discussion by saying, they need “a vacation from their vacation.”

So this Spring Break I was determined to take a road trip that didn’t break the bank, nor leave me wishing I had left the kids behind. Did I say that out loud?

The Main Problem is Always the Sleeping Arrangements

The core of the road trip folly, especially when you are a family of five or six, is cramming into a hotel room with two beds and a make shifting couch for your five-year old. I firmly believe being sardined day-after-day adds to the vacation irritation and lack of sleep stress. Furthermore, booking and pre-planning two connecting hotel rooms is not only cost prohibited, it rarely goes smooth and is to hard to achieve. “Sorry Mr. Campos, we have two rooms for you but they are not connected.”

Fred Campos rented a house off of AirBnB.comSo this year I wanted to try something new. I booked and rented a couple of houses on AirBnB.com. AirBnB is a website connector that let’s anybody rent or lease a room, an apartment, a house or a vacation property practically anywhere. Some of these listing are like a traditional bed and breakfasts, from which you stay in the host’s home as a guest with the host. In other listings the host meets you at the door and grants you the keys. You basically have the place to yourself. Either way, AirBnB allows you to rent much bigger and nicer spaces, for half the cost of a traditional hotel (and without taxes–for now).

How to Be a Cool Dad? Consider AirBnB.com!

Our first host rented us a three-story home in downtown Little Rock. Since I knew there would be extra room, I allowed my teenage daughter to invite a friend. It turned out the teenagers had a floor all to themselves, decorated nicely in music motif. My cool factor immediately went up by a factor of 10. I found it extremely nice and somewhat relaxing after a full day of activities and museum hopping to return to a full kitchen with a dining room table instead of dining in a crammed restaurant booth or noisy table.

Roasting Marshmallows with the KidsAfter a few days, we then drove to Hot Springs and rented a lakeside home complete with a dock and their own boat. In this location we stayed with our host on a different floor. They rolled out the red carpet, started us a lake side fire and even provided us marshmallow kits to boot. While it is slightly different sharing a house with your host, it is a great and positive experience for the kids–and they really enjoyed our host.

[tweet “To be a cool dad on vacation, focus on the experience, not the destination.”]

In closing we saved a ton of money over traditional hotels. We got to experience different environments we would not otherwise get to enjoy. In addition to the plan activities we did by day, we came home each night to fun and roomy environment. Not to mention the parents got to sleep in a room with a door (and without kids). I became a cool dad and avoided the Clark W. Griswold experience.

What road trip places have you found that are great for kids? What other resources do you use in planning family vacations?

Images my own of our family trip in March 2015.