Determining accommodations before you leave can offer great advantages. The price is often better, and availability is not a concern. Typically people never look past hotels when booking their accommodations, but other options may be a better choice. My preference is to rent an apartment when I’m staying for a few days. Vacation rentals are a great way to live amongst the locals, and they can be a great value. With the advice below, your sleeping arrangements can become more than just a place to stay, but a place to provide experiences.
Set a Budget
Having a budget in mind before you begin can help with avoiding splurges. Make sure you consider elements such as the deposit and possible fees like insurance. Once you know your limitations, you can start moving forward.
Create a Must-Have List
It is best to go in searching for what you need. Just like renting a normal apartment, sometimes we have to compromise. It is best to consider what is the most essential. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:
1. How many rooms are needed?
2. Is an elevator or lower level apartment important?
3. Will parking be available (if it applies)?
4. Will I use a kitchen? (This can be a great way to save money by cooking for some meals instead of going out!)
5. How many bathrooms are needed?
6. Is air conditioning crucial?
7. What are some amenities that are preferred, but not dealbreakers (washer, wifi, cable, pool, etc.)?
Select a Neighborhood
After you know what you are looking for in an apartment, then it is time to decide where you want to stay. I prefer to stay in less touristy neighborhoods. I’d rather find pedestrian streets instead. It is also very important to be near public transportation if you plan on using it. This is the part that needs a little research. Investigate by reading guidebooks, following forums like Trip Advisor, or asking friends that have traveled.
In Paris I know that I like Montmartre, Rue Cler, and Ile St. Louis, but I wanted to try something new. I wanted to be close to fromageries, boulangeries, etc., so I opted for an apartment near a market street. I begin with my preferences and narrow down the possibilities until I find the right match.
Use Google Earth
Once I have a few apartments in mind, I begin to search for them on Google Earth. I take a virtual stroll through the neighborhood to see if it looks appealing. If I see a lot of graffiti, I look somewhere else. If I see stores and parks, I consider it as an option. This allows me to check out possible issues before committing.
Read the Reviews
Whenever I’m buying something, I read the reviews to get the inside scoop. Don’t let the reviews make or break your decision, but definitely read them. If everyone writes about the bugs in the apartment, there will probably be bugs. My most recent apartment I rented had 45 reviews and they were all positive. Reviews provide some insight from other perspectives.
Interested in renting an apartment? Here are some sites to get you started:
If you are feeling extra adventurous, www.couchsurfing.org.
To find more local renters try searching (city name) vacation rentals.