I was in Girona, Spain for a travel blogging conference (TBEX EU) and as part of that trip the apartment rental site FlipKey (part of TripAdvisor) offered to put me up in an apartment for free. I love staying in apartment when I travel. Here are some things you should know before you rent an apartment.
Finding an Apartment
The traditional way that one found an apartment was contacting a local tourism board or trying to find want ads for your destination. This was all simplified with the advent of the web where you can google for apartments for rent or better yet go through an apartment booking site such as FlipKey to search easily through a series of listings. I prefer the later method as I believe there is more protection for me as a consumer because the apartment owner would not want to lose access to the apartment listing site with any sort of unethical behavior.
I stayed in the Feng Shui Apartment in Girona, Spain. Here is how I chose an apartment:
Apartments are often located in residential areas. Make sure you check the map to see where the apartment is relative to what you want to see or where you want to spend your time.
Equally important can be the location of your apartment to public transportation. A slightly smaller apartment a block from a local subway can be preferable to a larger one that is far enough from transportation such that you will need to take a cab or rent a car to get there. Include the approximate cost of getting to the apartment as you compare prices. The apartment where I stayed was in the city center about a 15 minute walk from the train station. While there were also some lovely apartments available in nearby towns, I would have had to rent a car to stay in those places. On the other hand, if I had a rental car I could have looked at Girona Villa Rentals.
One of the great advantages of an apartment for a group or family traveling together is that an apartment will often have more than the one large or two small beds that a hotel room would have. The apartment where I stayed, for instance, had a double bed, a bunk bed, and a couch. It also had two bathrooms which would mean less time lost in the morning. While traveling with 4-6 people we have often found that instead of 2-3 hotel rooms we could get an apartment for less money.
If you can, think about getting a place large enough so that no one has to sleep in the common areas, especially if you have some night owls and some early risers.
Apartment rental is similar to renting a hotel room but with a few differences. For instance, while the apartment where I stayed in Girona could sleep 5, there was an extra charge for each person starting with the second person. There was also a one time charge for cleaning. This is one of the factors that may make an apartment better for a longer stay such as 3 days or more.
When you rent an apartment instead of a hotel room, you can save money by getting a kitchen and not eating all of your meals out. We also find that since my family has different sleep schedules letting people get breakfast at their own time makes everyone happier. Factor in how much you might save on meals as you compare an apartment stay with a hotel stay.
When I book a hotel room online I never correspond with anyone before I do so, but an apartment is usually backed by a knowledgeable owner or broker that can answer specific questions about the destination or about your stay. When you arrive an owner will often meet you and may point out where the nearest grocery store, cafe, or laundromat are located.
When I arrived at my apartment in Girona, the owner had a folder of tourist information and a map marking some good local restaurants. At a stay in a flat in London we had tea with the owners on arrival and they told us that the rehearsal for the Queen’s birthday celebration was the next day and wear to go to see all the regiments marching in a parade (sans queen). We would not have known about this wonderful event without their advise.
Pay attention to the details that the owner sends you like whether you will need to pay in cash on arrival, or in my case with PayPal a couple of days before my arrival. Also note that the instructions on how to locate the apartment are based on all the people who have stayed there before you. I could have saved myself some time had I noticed the owner had told me that the house numbers where not on the street side of the building.
Homes and Villas and Boats
I have been using the term “apartment” but it is worth noting that vacation rentals come in all shapes and sizes including houses, duplexes, villas and even boats. For an upcoming stay in Charleston, South Carolina we are enamored with the idea of staying on a yacht. For an additional charge we can hire the captain to sail the harbor. Try and do that in a hotel.