Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Renting A Vacation Apartment

In all the years Matt and I have traveled the world, we've rested our weary heads in some pretty cool places. Lately, we've taken to renting apartments for holidays instead of a hotel room. Yes, a hotel is nice since you can have fresh towels delivered and the beds made for you every day. Sometimes there's a rocking breakfast buffet as well.  

When you travel with kids, staying in a hotel is quite different. For us, it's four people sharing two beds in one room. Many nights we sat in the dark while we waited for the children to fall asleep. Not a whole lot of fun when it feels like a million years for the kids to finally stop arguing about who is making noise or hogging the covers.

Now, we prefer to stay in rental apartments for our longer holidays. Why?  The rentals can be anywhere in a city, not just on the tourist end of town in a big chain hotels. In Italy, for example, we craved a spot with a view of a lake and a pool. No hotel would give this view, or at least this view without two hundred other people around.  

Staying in an apartment allows you to experience a neighborhood in its natural state. Low numbers of tourists means the shops do business as usual (aka keep their prices at the normal level), and you benefit fully to see the locals in their natural habitat. Since the apartments never come with breakfast included, we are on the hook for a few meals. I don't mind since one of my favorite tourist activities in a new city is to visit the grocery store. The Google Translate app is a lifesaver when you are not quite sure of the ingredients of an item. We always have breakfast at the apartment, and I've been know to make a few dinners on holiday as well. This provides a substantial money savings on our trips.    

Another reason we love a holiday apartment is for the bedroom doors. We can put the kids to bed, close their doors, and continue our night on the couch with the lights on. A good night's sleep for the kids = happy touring the next day.

Not every apartment is the same, obviously; some come better equipped than others. The best apartment we rented was in Ranco, Italy. The kitchen was well stocked with several pots, pans, basic spices, oils, and dish soaps & towels. The owner of the apartment also provided us with some basic Italian provisions to get us by until we could get to the store. The bathroom had a large supply of shampoo, conditioner, body soaps, hair dryer, and towels. The washing machine even had a full bottle of detergent.

The apartment in Oslo, Norway was different. While the apartment was nice, the extra amenities were lacking. The kitchen had the standard dinnerware plus one pot, one pan, and a few knives. So when it was time to cook dinner, we had to choose our menu wisely so as to not need to purchase one off items like spices and oils that we could not take back home. I suppose that just challenged my cooking skills. The bathroom had towels, a bar of hand soap, and toilet paper.   

Rentals are pretty easy to find, but you need to be smart about which property you book.  We've used Airbnb and Booking.com in the past with good results; your results may vary. Always read the reviews left by previous renters as the owner's description does not always tell the whole story. Most of the apartment proprietors provide an email address so you can contact them directly if you are looking for a specific amenity.

If you don't choose to rent an apartment for your next holiday, at least take a gander at what's out there.

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