Feeling at home when we travel is important to me and Andy. We love the change of scenery travel brings, but at the end of the day we want to be comfortable, and where we sleep at night has a big impact on that. Whenever possible we like to rent apartments when we travel since it gives us more space, access to a kitchen, usually access to a washing machine, and a small look at life outside of the touristy areas. But it’s not as simple as just picking an apartment instead of a hotel.
What we look for in an apartment rental
Everyone has different priorities, so you have to think about what’s important to you. Aside from more obvious things like price and availability, we also check the location. We like to be walking distance to a grocery store, hopefully a few restaurants, and easy access to public transportation.
We also look for a washer if we’re going to be traveling longer than a week or so, that way we can do laundry. It isn’t always a deal breaker though as long as there is a laundromat nearby. A quick email to the owner will answer this question for you.
Sometimes we see apartments listed that are run by a holiday rental company, or the apartment owner lives somewhere else and just rents the one we’re looking at as another income stream. That might be fine for some people, but we have found these to be less cozy and lacking in a lot of the kitchen supplies we might want.
After spending three months in Berlin in an apartment the sun couldn’t reach, lots of windows and sunlight is very important to us. This means we might be more hesitant to rent an apartment if the pictures are all taken at night, giving us no real sense of how much natural light comes in.
There are many more things we look for, but Andy has written more about our apartment checklist for slow travelers because it helps to have a physical list to reference when we search. Make your own list and adjust it as you go. Doing a little legwork ahead of time will go a long way in making sure you’re comfortable in the apartment you choose.
How to be more comfortable once you’re there
Sometimes, despite all your checklists and thorough research, the apartment can still end up being not so great. Maybe the chairs aren’t comfortable or the kitchen isn’t as well stocked as you had hoped. If you’re only in the apartment for a few days, it isn’t worth much effort to make adjustments. But if you’re there for awhile, decide what would make you feel more at home in the apartment rental.
In our apartment in Berlin, there were only three forks. Every time we opened another drawer or cabinet we found more spoons, but only three forks. There was a euro store (like the dollar stores in the US) on the corner, so we bought three more. The knives were incredibly dull and cutting vegetables took me twice as long as it should. So we bought a set of two decent chef’s knives that we were willing to bring home with us. We also bought a new pan, some tuperware, and a pillow for Andy (I brought mine from home).
Spending more money wasn’t ideal, but for a three month stay, it was well worth it. For a week, we would’ve just worked around the discomforts. But in our situation making these little adjustments made the apartment more tolerable. Next time we rent an apartment, we’ll probably consider bringing more kitchen things with us so we don’t have to keep buying stuff.
How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental
If you want more space, more flexibility and more options, renting an apartment is the way to go. Booking a hotel room is pretty standard, but renting an apartment when you travel, especially for the first time, can be confusing and overwhelming. My friend Gillian just wrote a book called How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental explaining the process.
Her book describes how and where to find vacation rentals, what to look for, the advantages and disadvantages, questions to ask, and everything else you need to know. I think it’s a great resource for anyone who has never tried apartment rentals before. Gillian makes the process much more manageable and less overwhelming.
We still occasionally book a room in a hotel or guesthouse, but overall apartment rentals are our preferred way to travel now. Eating out every meal gets tedious and expensive, so having a kitchen means we can eat breakfast at home and cook a few other meals. Staying in an apartment means we don’t have to sit on the bed when we’re working, we can sit on the couch or at the table. Just a few of the reasons why we love apartment rentals, and I think you’ll love them too if you give it a try.
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