|Apartment in Paris|
Europeans have long known the secret to economic lodging and a solution to small hotel rooms – rent an apartment. That’s not a surprise since many workers on the Continent have the month of August to vacation and a hotel room would be quite small for all those many days. Americans are more familiar with buying timeshares for extended stays of a week. But with timeshares, you are limited to using them in the building where purchased or at other facilities in the network. An apartment rental is basically an “out of network” approach to lodging. The question is when and how to use this method.
I first experienced apartment letting on the Island of Sicily in Siracusa. My husband and I were traveling with a close couple friend and planned to remain in one location for several days. The island is relatively small and many day trips available – a perfect opportunity to rent a flat.
|View from Balcony at Siracusa Apartment|
It all began with a google search “weekly apartment rental in Siracusa, Italy”. What appeared were both companies that manage apartments for many owners and individual owners who want to have direct contact with their renters. Vacationsrentals.com, homeaway.com, ownersdirect.com are some of the bigger companies. The two bedroom apartment we rented advertised on several web sites. Today, that apartment rents for an average of $135 per night. Divide that by two couples and each pair pays $62.50 per night for two bedrooms, bath, kitchen, dining room, and large living area complete with balcony. That, my friends, is a deal. We were able to cook breakfast each morning and occasionally bring in picnic material from the nearby market. An added bonus was dinner with the owners who had only recently renovated our apartment. Over a meal of camponata, four kinds of scacciato (an Italian meat pie), and homemade grappa, we visited, using six languages, Sicilian, Italian, French, English, German and Spanish. No hotel can offer an experience like that.
|Front of our apartment building in Paris|
For a rather spontaneous week-long visit to Paris, France, my girlfriends and I wanted to try an apartment. The same companies used in Sicily also had options but there were more sites such as parisvacationapartments.com and vacationinparis.com. The latter is a U.S. company that even provides you with keys before you leave. They offer a range of lodging from studios for $99 per night to a floor in a mansion for $690/ night. After a lot of searching, we found a two bedroom apartment in the Marais area near the Pompidou museum and a metro stop. Fortunately, it had a (very) small elevator as we were on the top floor. The ceiling slanted on the edges so we hung out in the middle of the living area. For two evenings, we did take-out from nearby restaurants and we were able to entertain an old family friend with wine and cheese. This cost $1,000 for the week, divided by three people, divided by seven days or $47/night per person. That, my friends, is a deal.
|Inside Guanajuato Apartment|
The most recent use of this type of lodging was a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico. The first apartment we tried to rent had a great web name – bestmexicanhome.com and was an example of an owner advertising directly on the web. Unfortunately, the best Mexican home was not available. We used VRBO.com, Vacation Rentals by Owner, to snag an absolutely beautiful, recently renovated, three bedroom apartment.
|roof top terrace in Guanajuato|
Tiled floors, front balconies, roof top terrace, full kitchen, washer/dryer, and a collection of books were included. All major attractions were within walking distance and strolling troubadours serenaded us at night. The cost? Five hundred dollars divided by four people divided by seven nights – $18 per night per person. In a recent web search, I noticed this gem had gone up to $700 for a week but my friends, that’s still a deal.
I haven’t tried renting an apartment in the United States but will definitely consider it the next time we visit my sister-in-law in New York City. Nyloftvacationrental had a large one bedroom for $225 per night, nyhabitat.com offered a one bedroom for $190 per night and craigs list had a 3 bedroom for $170 per night or a one BR in Greenwich Village for only $50/ night. Homeaway.com has offerings all around the country, even including cabins and lakefront property in East Texas. Using the large companies does give protection from scams but the best prices are those with direct contact with the owner.
For an extended stay in a location, renting an apartment is easily the most comfortable and economical. For shorter stays, the benefits are somewhat diminished as there is usually a cleaning fee. But for a “real” experience of life in Paris, France, New York, or Pittsburg, Texas, an apartment wins.