For me, half the fun of going on a vacation is planning it. But for the vast majority of humankind, planning a vacation is time-consuming, stressful and confusing. Where do you get the best deals? How do you find the lowest airfare? When is the best time to go? The questions are insurmountable. Now, in our day and age, we have a brand new dilemma. Before, the decision was just which hotel to choose. However, with the inception of websites like Air BNB, VRBO and Home Away, it now has to be determined whether to get a hotel room or rent your very own apartment, condo or house in the destination of your choice. Seems like a great idea, right? You can save a little money, especially if you’re traveling as a group and can get accommodation enough with space for everyone. More than that, you get to stay in an actual neighborhood. For a few days, a week, a month, you can get immersed in local culture, actually be a Parisian, South African, Bostonian, whatever you choose! Sounds great! So that’s the way to go, right? Welllll…..yes and no! Before you jump on the bandwagon, there’s some pros and cons that would be worthy of weighing. had to give it a go so that I could formulate my own opinions. Here’s what I found:
- Research is key: When I wanted to go to Belfast, I had this idea that I wanted to live among the natives, really get the feel for Northern Irish life. I went online to VRBO and found a cute little place that they referred to as a Terrace House for much cheaper than a hotel. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, full kitchen, satellite tv, looked like a quiet street. What more could one want?Wellll…..my first mistake was I didn’t pay attention to what wasn’t offered. Namely, wifi. In a foreign country, staying in a private home, with no concierge, wifi was a necessity. Sure, the owner was very sweet when she greeted us and said that she would be available for anything, but still, a woman who lives a few blocks over is not Google. You can’t really call her up at midnight and get directions for your day trip the next day. So don’t do what I did! Read, re-read and re-re-read before finalizing your plans! Also, research the neighborhood itself. I’m sure we were fine, but once we realized that there is still a bit of very obvious religious tension and separation in Northern Ireland, it would have been nice to at least know which side of the fence we had landed on.
- And then there was the matter of the appliances: Especially when renting a private home abroad, this is something to think about that I had not considered. If the owner has not left instructions, how to use some of the appliances can turn out to be a rather frustrating mystery.
We struggled with the washer/dryer combo in Belfast. Then there was the mishap with the washer in Paris. For that one there had been instructions, but, duh, they were in French. Some places offer heating and cooling. I have found that other people’s definition of heating, at least, are relative. What kind of heat do they mean? Central. Great! What’s their definition of central? That there is electric or gas forced air heating being released throughout the house? Or do they mean that there is a space heater or radiator in every room? Ask for specifics or you might freeze!!! This is especially true if you are in a country or state that tends to be damp and drafty anyways. The people there have probably adapted and feel way more different about temperature than this native Floridian does! 😉
Moral of the story is if you are going to depend on in-home washer/dryer, oven, stove, furnace or even coffee maker, just be prepared. Perhaps ask the owner for instructions in advance or to be shown exactly how things work when they first greet you. Never assume you know how their things work. The ones you have at home ARE different!
3. The wrong decor can ruin your stay: At least this is true for me. Some people may not care, but it just takes one weird statue or picture to give me the creeps. Remember, pictures online may not be the most current or they may not show every room. What you see is not always what you get. There’s a reason why hotels feel so impersonal. It’s because they are! Give me a plain, white wall any day over bad or strange taste!! After one bad experience with a VRBO condo in Scottsdale, where one bedroom inexplicably had one of the walls covered with little black crosses made out of duct tape, I am definitely gun shy.
4. Yes, it’s somebody’s home, but still not your home!!: So the ad said a fully equipped kitchen, but there’s no can opener. Maybe it’s missing a corkscrew. There’s no front desk to call to ask if they have one. Suppose you forgot a razor or a toothbrush. No one is going to bring it to you. Want fresh sheets? You’ll have to wash and change them yourself. Fresh towels? Same thing. These are all perks of staying in a hotel. Ask yourself, do you really want to be at home while you’re on vacation? Isn’t part of the fun of being away from home, not having to cook or clean? I know it is for me!
For me, convenience is everything! After it’s all said and done, I think that I’m a hotel girl. It makes life on the lam so easy and for the most part, worry free! 🙂 What’s been your experience? Comment and let me know what works better for you! Whichever you prefer, hotel or vacation rental, do what you have to to make your journey a great one!