Before we left for our trip I arranged for a car to take us to our vacation apartment rental, after traveling for about twenty hours straight I was worried about being coherent enough to get a taxi, however having a car service wasn’t much less confusing. When we landed we couldn’t find our driver. We first switched out the SIM chips in our phones so that we wouldn’t get slammed with international charges by our cell-phone carrier, after we did that we had no luck getting the number we had for the car service to go through.
Here’s a BIG warning for trying to make calls in England, it’s very confusing. I think we were suppose to use the country code but not the area code? If anyone can clarify please leave if in the comment section. Thankfully someone at a kiosk helped us get the call to go through and we discovered that our driver was at the terminal looking for us. Next up was getting the key to the apartment which was another fun little adventure but eventually we got the key.
We weren’t thrilled will the way the person with the key handled the transaction, he wrote down our credit card and told us he would give us a receipt later. This was a big red flag for us, with all the technology for card readers out there we weren’t comfortable with this person writing down our credit card number. The only thing that made us feel a little better was that because of a Home Depot hack our credit card had to be replaced with a new number anyway. At the end of our trip we had to fight to get a receipt to show that we did indeed pay the remaining amount. It wasn’t a great first experience with staying at a vacation apartment. If you’re more concerned with convenience then saving money, I would recommend going the traditional route and stay at a hotel. We however thought that the extra effort was totally worth it, especially because hotel rooms in Europe are very small.
I love that phrase “letting an apartment”, it always reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, in American English it translates to renting an apartment.
Why rent an apartment on vacation?
Why NOT? When I first started researching hotels in both Paris and London, the few hotels in our price range were a bit old and wilted in my opinion, especially London with it’s leftover olympic village feel hotel dorms. I figured why not save the money and stay in a hostel, they seemed to be of the same quality, but hubby refused. Stupid horror movies giving hostels a bad name.
Then I stumbled across a website called homeaway.com and a few others offering all sorts of options with nice, clean, homey feeling places to stay. Yes, some are just a room where you are staying with your host family but there are also plenty of apartments that are completely yours for however long you stay, complete with your own bathroom, kitchen facilities and sometimes even a washer. Hubby was still a little leery of giving quite a bit of money to some random person and then traveling to a foreign country just to discover the place didn’t even exist, so I did a lot of checking and found only good things about such reputable sites as Homeaway.com or Flipkey.com (Which is run by trip advisor) I would be a lot more hesitant to risk my vacation with craigslist or other less monitored sites, they seem to have more of a horror story potential.
I booked both our Paris and London apartments through homeaway.com. Their website was very helpful with tips and suggestions for people trying vacation renting for the first time. I have been in contact with the apartment’s owners and feel pretty confident about our upcoming stay. Both required half of the money upfront, one went through paypal and the owners of the second apartments is more of a rental company and only took credit card which was fine. Obviously NEVER give out your bank account information or send a money order if you’re going to book an apartment.
I’m really hoping all goes according to plan because another benefit of staying in an apartment is you get to live like a local, which is one of my goals in traveling, I don’t want to be a tourist! I want to blend in I want to soak up the culture and the surroundings. How about you, do you have an experience with staying in a vacation rental or do you prefer a traditional hotel stay?