vacation rental Ireland

Guide to vacation apartment rentals: Skip the hotel and rent a place

by Larissa on October 1, 2011

Part of planning a long trip is considering where to stay. For long-term travel, hotels can be too expensive or impractical while finding a vacation apartment rental by owner is often a better choice. A vacation apartment rental is usually cheaper and provides more private space than a hotel.  This is especially important if you are traveling with your partner for a year—sometimes we just need to get out of each other’s face.

We usually stay at least a week, or sometimes a month, in each location so it helps to have a place with the comforts of home. We like having the extra space, cooking some of our own meals and living on our own schedule. We enjoy the freedom of waking up in the morning and having breakfast in our pajamas without having to get dressed for a hotel dining room; plus we can provide ourselves a week’s worth of breakfasts for what it would cost for only one breakfast in a hotel.

vacation apartment rental venice

Venice vacation apartment rental in an 18th-century palazzo.

One of the major benefits of renting for people who love to cook is having a kitchen. We first thought of renting during a trip to Paris many years ago. We found ourselves meandering through the markets marveling at all the wonderful ingredients. We wished we could buy them and go cook something delicious. Besides being fun for us, cooking many of our own meals is also a cost saver. But that wasn’t possible with a hotel room.

How to find a vacation apartment rental

With the advent of many Internet sources for short-term housing it’s very easy to find lodging to suit your budget and style almost anywhere in the world. We’ve rented houses and apartments on six continents: in cities, resorts and the remote countryside. Admittedly, we’ve liked some better than others, but (so far) we’ve only had one true disaster. (More on the moldy slug-filled “cave” in Provence at another time.)

Creative websites and social networking have made locating, booking, and paying for vacation rentals easier than ever. A simple online search for rentals at your destination will bring many hits. We’ve had the most success using sites that consolidate individual owners’ properties that are available for rent.

Sites like  Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, FlipKeyOwners Direct, Only Apartments and Sabbatical Homes have done for the vacation rental market what eBay did for selling virtually everything online. Anyone who has a property can now list it for rent. For a small monthly fee they post photos, information, availability and pricing about their property. The sites offer a variety of search functions for potential renters based on location, price, amenities, etc.

TIP: Of them all, AirBnB has the easiest website to navigate. During our year around the world we started out using mostly Homeaway and VRBO but gradually migrated to AirBnB for the convenience and choice of properties. We also use Craigslist sometimes, with caution.

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During our year on the road, we used all the sites listed above so we can recommend them from experience. One of their benefits is the opportunity to interact directly with the owner. Once you’ve chosen a few properties of interest, it’s a simple matter of sending the owner an inquiry. From this point on you are no longer working with a reservation service or website, but have a direct relationship with the owner.

Shanghai vacation apartment rental vrbo

Shanghai vacation rental.

By dealing with owners directly we have gotten more reasonable prices than had we used a rental agency. Additionally, owners can be more flexible about pricing than an agent. Properties will often be cheaper by the week or month than by the night. Owners are occasionally even willing to negotiate during slow periods. We recently rented a modern apartment on the 28th floor in Shanghai for less than $100 per night through Homeaway.com. It had a great skyline view, one bedroom plus an office, living/dining room and a well-equipped modern kitchen. It was cheaper than a hotel would have been in Shanghai while offering more space.

How to pay for a vacation rental

Payment arrangements are typically convenient as well. Some folks are sophisticated enough to take credit cards directly, and almost everyone else works with PayPal. These sites provide some assurance of the landlord’s validity (check the individual sites for their fine print) along with customer reviews. We’ve never been scammed, for example, renting a place that didn’t exist, or was double-booked, etc.

The pricing structure for vacation rentals can vary by different countries, regions, and owners, so it is important to be sure you understand all the costs that are included. Many owners charge a one-time cleaning fee upon departure, and almost all require some type of security/breakage deposit. Keep these costs in mind so you can make an informed decision when you rent.

Despite the cost and convenience benefits renting may not be the only way to go. Every form of lodging works at one time or another. There are times we want to be pampered and seek the amenities of a hotel. Other times we’ll be in transit and just need an airport hotel. That cute B&B in the country may be perfect for a weekend away. But when you’re spending a week or more in a single spot, it’s really nice to be able to go “home” at the end of a long day of touring around.

vacation Apartment rental Paris vrbo

Paris rental on the Ile Saint-Louis

The house in the picture at the top of this post is one we rented in Ireland. It overlooks the bay in County Kerry and is so private that our only neighbors were a pair of goats. You can find more information about renting it at this link: Ireland vacation rental.

(Note: we finally had the opportunity to rent that “adorable little flat in Paris” recently. Located on the Ile Saint-Louis it was as much fun as we hoped it would be, including having a late breakfast in our pajamas. Here’s a photo of it.)

Please use the “Contact” tab at the top of this page to ask us any questions about vacation apartment rentals.

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Mar October 2, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Oh! I wish I could have done this when I was younger and had an accommodating companion.

Michael October 3, 2011 at 6:06 am

We wish we had done this when we were younger too. That’s why we say “Just go already!”

Lynne October 3, 2011 at 5:47 am

I’m loving your blog so much. Thank you Inky for letting me know about it. My spouse and I rented an apartment in London in March and we were pretty content with the flat (a few flaws but we know better questions to ask now) and we saved quite a bit of money by eating in. I can’t wait to keep reading more of your blog. We are hoping to do in Paris-Amsterdam trip in a few years and rent flats in each city. I’m thrilled to know about your blog now. It will help us keep our dream alive!

Michael October 3, 2011 at 6:04 am

Thanks Lynne. If you liked London you’ll love Paris. Wherever you rent there will likely be a nearby market and choice of patisseries. Okay, now you’re getting us in the mood for Paris.

Lynne October 3, 2011 at 6:23 am

We had 1 day in Paris. We took the Eurostar over. We liked London but we fell in LOVE with Paris and we vowed to return! My mother was born and raised in Amsterdam which is why that city is a must see also.

Michael October 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

Thanks for the links. We’ll check it out.

Emily October 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

Hi Michael and Larissa!

We are in the midst of planning our own European adventure, and we want to rent a flat in Paris, too… but it’s so overwhelming!! Would you recommend the one you stayed in? Which vacation rental web site did you use?

Michael October 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

We used both homeaway.com and vrbo.com. The flat on the Ile St. Louis in the photo was very comfortable but a bit pricey so we only stayed there a few days. We’d recommend the 7th arrondissement located between the Eiffel Tower and the Left Bank. We stayed there for a few weeks and it was much more affordable. It’s a convenient location with charming neighborhoods and many wonderful bakeries and food shops. Technically per French law landlords are not allowed to rent flats on a short-term basis so there have been some crackdowns in the past year. That makes it even more important to rent through a reputable company. Please let us know what you end up doing.

Michael October 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Here’s the link to the other apartment we rented in Paris. It was smaller but much more affordable. http://www.vrbo.com/223634

It was on a very quiet street a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement.

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