Our hotel -- the Babette Guldsmeden -- is very nice and perfectly located for boarding our cruise ship tomorrow.
But in my recent travels, my favorite accommodations have been tourist apartments. My son, his partner, and I spent a week in a terrific apartment on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris last summer. I stayed in an incredible apartment in Buenos Aires this spring. I learned about the BA apartment from my friends Linda and Kurt Fernandez, who had rented an apartment in the same building when they lived in BA. The Paris apartment was also the result of a friend's recommendation.
I asked Linda to write this guest post because I'm looking for tips about finding and appraising these apartments. As you'll see, she's done a great job.
Tourist Apartments: The Hotel Alternative
- Get a map and make an activity plan. Define the sites you’d like to see and the things you’d like to do in your selected destination. Then pick two or three neighborhoods that are convenient for these activities. You don’t want to spend most of your vacation getting to and from Point B.
- Consult friends. There is nothing like a referral from a satisfied customer, especially someone you know and trust. A referral eliminates many of your search and research tasks.
- BUT, lacking a referral or just to validate a referral, Google “short-term apartment for rent + CITY or NEIGHBORHOOD” and gauge the options. Compare location, amenities, and prices, especially seasonal rates. Automatically disregard any listings that lack photos. They’re not showing for a reason!
- Carefully review the most appealing options. I pay close attention to comments from previous guests, though I do keep in mind that some folks are just born whiners. Examine the photos. An overabundance of stock photos of city sites and/or “mood” shots of filled wine glasses next to flowers on the dining table always makes me suspicious. Show me the bathroom! I’m also turned off by photos highlighting those “decorative” items; I look for less riff-raff and more bare surfaces where I can put bags and keys and guidebooks without to rearrange the furnishings.
- Contact the owner/operator for further information. Are the desired dates available? Are there any extra charges? (“Final cleaning fees” unfortunately now seem to be a fairly standard item, even though some of us think the nightly rate is the perfect place to incorporate that element.) Is early check-in or late check-out available (a plus when travelling internationally)? Is there any flexibility on the rate (something rare in the hotel world)? Then assess the response: was it prompt, to the point, and helpful? If yes, ask for the rental agreement. If not, move on.
- Review the rental agreement. Make sure everything is spelled out: arrival and departure dates and times; the amount of any deposit and the precise charges (including any taxes and those “final cleaning” fees!); cancellation policy and refunds; rules (e.g., no-smoking or pets); and final payment. Many tourist apartments now ask for cash payment on arrival to avoid those also pesky merchant fees on credit card charges.
- Act promptly once you’ve made a decision. You are probably not the only person looking for an apartment for X time period in Y city. If you’re satisfied with the price, the amenities, and the location, go for it. And start planning what you’re going to pack.
Linda Fernandez is especially sensitive to those special touches that make the difference between a short-term rental and a real vacation home. She and her husband have owned and managed their own tourist apartments in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and now in Barcelona, Spain. Details on the Barcelona apartment at http://barcelonaapartmentforrent.blogspot.com For the curious, no “final cleaning fees” are charged! :-)