Renting an Apartment is Better than a Hotel when Traveling

Renting an apartment or house can give you more space and bang for your buck than a hotel room when traveling with your family or a small group of people.

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Many years ago I used to own a timeshare. I am not going to go into the pros and cons of owning a timeshare, or whether you should get one or not. This can be a whole other long post. What I do what to share is this: It was fantastic to able to stay in one to two bedroom apartments with a kitchen and living room for the same price, if not cheaper, than a hotel!

It was a bit after Jovie was born that we found out we were moving to England. To save money and hecticness of caring for the kids, working full-time and moving overseas,  we put traveling for leisure on hold. We figured also that a lot of fun new places to visit will be coming. Before we had Jovie, I was into boutique hotels and B&Bs. Chain hotels were only for catching early morning flights and conferences (paid for by work). I think it was the unique decors and personalized attention that I loved, and still do, from boutique hotels and B&Bs. I am also not a fan of big and crowded places. I have to mentally prepare to visit the Eiffel Tower, going into the tube, or even attending a mid-size conference. So the smaller the place for me to relax and sleep the better.

It was by accident that I learned about renting apartments or homes while searching for B&Bs in 2010, our first year in England. I was amazed at the many choices and what one can get for the price! With young children, having access to a kitchen was just what I needed to make the trip just a bit more relaxing!

Besides space and kitchen, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try out apartment renting the next time you go on holiday. You can choose the many conservative types of lodging or, go for the unique!

A houseboat in Amsterdam

boathouse_amsterdam_airbnb
A castle in England

english_castle_airbnb

treehouse in Spain

treehouse_spain

And many many more!

There are numerous websites where you can search for available apartment rentals but my two favorites are HomeAway and AirBnB.

HomeAway

HomeAway, one of the biggest vacation rental company out there. While each company listed below have their own websites and listings, HomeAway owns all of them and via HomeAway’s website, you can search for the perfect rental listed by the companies below. There is an app also for this company.

homeaway

For this post I input a random check-in and out date with the Cotswold as my destination (because I love that area so much :))

homeaway example

Clicking on “More Filters” gave me the below. I can then customize my needs a bit more. When traveling in England, we usually take the dogs. A doggy and kids friendly apartment is a must.

homeaway example

After a few clicks and applying the filter, we found a house that’s perfect for us. Ta-da!!

A thatch semi-detached home! I know, it’s not so unique as my examples above BUT, I have a story…

cotswold_thatch_house

I have a thing for thatch cottages but, if there is ever an opportunity, it’s not something the hubby will ever let me buy. They’re very pretty, so so British and quaint, but they are expensive to maintain, dark inside and if there’s ever a fire, you’re more guaranteed to lose everything.

If I could never own one to live in, rent one for the holiday!

You can see the details on this house here. It’s a 1,000 sqft (ish), two bedrooms, a cute sitting area in the garden, a decent size kitchen, a cozy living room, and also a dining room for £320/4 nights ($460 according to today’s exchange rate). That’s under £100/night! For a house!

Yes you may be able to find a hotel room for less than that (Premier Inn’s £39/special maybe) but if your budget allows it, the space and privacy will be so worth it!

When doing your research, you need to make sure that you read all the disclaimer or notes.

  • Will the owners accept dogs? If yes, how many. If yes, what can the dogs do and not do, i.e. on/off furniture.
  • Do the owners have pets of their own? Or farm animals? Some of you may be allergic to cats or would hate to be woken up by the rooster at sunrise.
  • Will the owner accept babies and/or children? Some places may have very steep stairs or a pond and the owners do not want to take on the risk. Some are adult only apartments. Important to check if you have a family! This apartment in particular only takes children seven years and over. Jovie will be seven soon and so we should be ok.
  • Is there a high chair and/or baby cot if babies are ok to stay?
  • Will they provide all the linens? Most do but you never know.
  • Will they provide soaps and shampoo?
  • Is there a washer and/or dryer? In Europe, owning a dryer is a luxury.
  • Is the apartment easily accessible by car and/or public transport?
  • Is the house wheelchair friendly?
  • Can the owner provide transport to and from the station or airport? Some do, some don’t. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Is there wi-fi? I know holidays are for getting away but I know many who are digital nomads. Wi-fi is important to work and if nothing else, to plan outings.
  • Is there a shop nearby? A pub/restaurant?
  • What is the cancellation policy? This is very important for us due to my husband’s job. A job where he can be called in at any minute or a change of shift within a blink of an eye.

When reviewing facilities and rooms, figure out where the bedrooms are located. If one bedroom is upstairs and the other downstairs, is that ok? Don’t skip one bedroom apartments when you  have little ones. We saved quite a bit of money by renting a one bedroom apartment and the girls loved watching TV before bed — something that they don’t do at home!

AirBnB

My other favorite place to find an apartment to rent. AirBnB is unique in that anybody with a spare bed can open an account and rent it out. Because of this uniqueness, you can find yourself looking at a bed in the corner to a castle that some Duke may want to rent out for the week.

Let’s go to Granada, Spain!

granada_spain_airbnb

I would like a place that for sure is family/kid friendly with a flexible/moderate cancellation policy. I’d also rather rent the entire home/flat although half the time private rooms are set up like B&Bs. But for this trip, I just want the whole house.

I’m not too particular about instant booking, I can wait for the host to get back to me if the apartment is perfect, and I can do without a superhost as long as there are plenty of great reviews. I am not familiar with the neighbourhood of Granada and I usually leave this blank anyway. I like using the interactive map when looking for lodging.

granada_spain_airbnb

I clicked apply filter and I and found this little gem that’s listed for $99. A very light and airy two bedroom apartment with a balcony. Check out that view!! This just makes me want to go on over there, make an offer on their home, and live there permanently… or at least months at a time. The many glasses of wine or cups of coffee and tea while admiring the view. I used to love star gazing and this would just make me go back to old habits. Bliss!

granada_spain_airbnb
Photo from AirBnB

AirBnb is fantastic in many way and they is something for every budget. You do though need to understand how their pricing works.

AirBnB doesn’t charge apartment owners a fee to list. AirBnB makes money by charging a per transaction service fee to the owners and the guests. That’s what the service fee is. The higher the apartment price, the higher the fee. Then there is the cleaning fee. This is set by the owners. Some apartments have them, some don’t. As polite guests, if there is a cleaning fee, you still need to leave the apartment the way you found it. Trashing it will just ruin your AirBnB reputation. Unlike other rental places, guests will also be reviewed by owners.

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The same research questions need to be ask when looking at AirBnB apartments also. Look at the “house rules” for each house. Some may say no shoes in the house. If you’re sharing a house, some may say no kitchen access.

When I am bored, during a train trip or when I can’t go to sleep, I’d go on to my AirBnB app and bookmark random cool places to stay. I have always loved looking at houses and looking through AirBnB homes, while thinking that there’s a chance I could stay there, makes me happy.

Here’s my AirBnB wish list. So many to choose from and not enough opportunities to visit!

airbnb_wishlist

What’s the difference between HomeAway and AirBnB?

Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world.  Airbnb facilitates the process of listing and booking a space by handling all financial transactions.  Thus, payments are timely and secure.  This adds extra security, since a host is not paid until 24 hours after a guest checks in.  It’s also free to list your space on Airbnb.  A small processing fee is charged only when a place is booked. HomeAway is an online classifieds where vacation rental owners pay to advertise their space.  The site puts guests in contact with owners or property managers.  However, the transaction is not facilitated and thus tenants and owners are responsible for processing their own payments. — Joe Zadeh (director of product at AirBnB, 2010)

Any one of us can rent out a spare bedroom on AirBnB but we’d have to be really serious about owning and renting our homes on HomeAway since the yearly fee is around the $300-$400 range a year. Would you trust an AirBnB lister or a HomeAway? My suggestion: Read the reviews! Just to be on the safe side, I never rent an apartment (or hotel) that has zero or bad reviews. I have a bit of a toilet phobia and I gotta have a really clean toilet.

What’s the difference between an apartment and a hotel?

The main difference is that there’s no room service when renting an apartment. Renting from HomeAway is a bit more formal, these people are running a business. But half the owners I rented from via AirBnB I didn’t meet. For those owners, I received the key from the non-English speaking mother, a very little English speaking Czech man who was cleaning the apartment and an assistant.

Rules can also be changed when renting an apartment as long as you speak to the owners beforehand.

You hear all sorts of horror stories of holiday apartment rentals, especially through AirBnB but like I mentioned about, if you only rent from places that has great reviews, you’ll be just fine!

Thank you for reading and although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own and I wouldn’t be sharing all the above if I don’t personally use the above companies and have had fantastic experiences!

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