05
Feb

How, Why, and Where To Rent Apartments When Traveling

Posted By Heather

bedroomThe benefits of staying in an apartment when traveling are innumerable – including lots of space, local insider knowledge, and the ability to stay in less touristy, more authentic neighborhoods.

However, finding a good apartment can feel overwhelming.

There are a lot of variables to consider… price, location, cleanliness, convenience.

This is where we come in.

We’ve rented apartments in Paris, Berlin, NYC, Tuscany, Venice, Rome, Florence, Split, and throughout Thailand.

So, if you are wondering how we managed to find great apartments and amazing experiences in all of these places, then read on for all of our insider secrets!

Where to Find Apartment Rentals

We use a few fantastic resources.  Our two favorites are Airbnb and GoWithOh (only in Europe).

But there are a few other websites you can use.

1. Airbnb
2. GowithOh
3. Homeaway
4. VRBO
5. 9Flats
6. Craigslist

Strategies for Finding the Best Apartments

Now that you know where to look, the next step is weeding through the listings. Some of these sites allow you to narrow your search to what you specifically want.

While this is a great option, here are a few other things to consider…

1. Look Early.

The best apartments tend to be swept up first. The earlier you look the more options you have.

2. Check the Pictures. I mean REALLY check the pictures.

Make sure you can see good angles on the bedroom, bathroom and layout in general. A lot of beautiful apartments can be deceiving.

I.e. a bed that is actually a pullout couch. One picture shows a bed. The next picture it is a couch. So you think there is a bedroom and a living room but when you show up it is one and the same.

3. Read the Reviews.

We find that these websites are not inundated with reviews that are mixed and varied, but rather sincere and useful. This is important when making sure you have a good host.

4. Read the Description Carefully.

For two reasons – To see if the owner has good language skills, and to check any specific requirements from the owner.

5. Check the Map.

Research the geography of a city (Airbnb and most other apartment rental sites show the apartment location on a map.)

This will ensure that you stay in a great location which can greatly enhance your stay.

How to Get a Good Deal

Check the Calendar.

If the apartment is available for a long length of time this can give you some leeway when you negotiate a price.

Negotiate.

Our motto is that it never hurts to ask.

If an apartment is not booked for a while and you are staying for an extended length of time (1-2 weeks instead of a few days), it is completely acceptable to ask for some type of discounted rate.

We usually start the negotiation at 50% of the asking price and go from there.  There have been plenty of times when they’ve even accepted our first offer, meaning we’ve scored a place for half price with very little hassle.

Contact More Than One Owner.

The more options, the better.

Airbnb will save your sent messages so you can refer back to the properties you have contacted, which makes it very easy to negotiate with a few places and see which one will give you the best deal.

Offer Something.

Do you have something to offer?

Maybe a review or social media shout out?

Word of mouth is important in a new market, so offering to recommend the property to your other traveling friends can go a long way.

Apartment rental is becoming popular but there are still a lot of people who haven’t heard of it or are reluctant to try.

Things to Consider When Renting an Apartment

You Get What you Pay For

Renting an apartment is almost always cheaper than a hotel and there are many cheap options. However, it is important to take into account the city you are staying in.

For example, we stayed in a NYC AirBnB with two other friends and rented a really small, really cheap apartment.

It was perfect for what we needed, but we didn’t have any great expectations that it would be an amazing stay. It served a purpose.

Another time we decided to “splurge” when we were staying in Berlin with another couple. We spent about $100/couple to stay in a large, beautiful apartment in the best neighborhood.

While this is still a fairly reasonable price, it is more than we usually prefer to pay per night. It was well worth it because it made our experience so much more enjoyable.

Be Very Clear about Check In and Check Out

One downside to an renting an apartment can be meeting the host to get into the property.

It’s not as easy as rolling up to a hotel or hostel where there is a 24hour reception desk.

A frustrating arrival can be avoided with a simple email or text message with your travel plans and arrival time. Most hosts will meet at your convenience.

Be Respectful of the Property

An apartment is not a hotel and there is not an account for incidentals. Make sure you are taking care of the property and respecting the owners’ possessions.

Know the Rules or Situation

If you are sharing a space with other people, make sure you know the requirements of comings and goings. Also, be aware of other “rules” such as trash or recylcling, electricity or hot water, etc. Most properties will have these itemized in the listing of their apartment rental

Always Take Advantage of the Host’s Knowledge.

This is one of the best reason’s to rent an apartment – firsthand, local knowledge of an area.

Most hosts want to ensure that you enjoy your time in an area (this is how they sell their property, after all).

We have found that all the hosts we have come in contact with have given us the best recommendations for an area, including my favorite pizza in the whole world, recommended to us by our lovely hosts in Rome.

Final Word(s)

We absolutely love renting apartments when we travel, and it is easily one of our favorite ways to book accommodations (housesitting is another great option).

It provides a more authentic and memorable experience than a regular hotel would, and oftentimes, it’s much cheaper.

And remember, if you are going to rent an apartment, you can usually negotiate a better price, especially if you are going in the off-season or staying for 3+ days.

Have you rented an apartments before?  If so, where did you rent, and how was your experience?  Let us know in the comments below.

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

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22 comments

  1. Dito says:

    I have rented through AirBnB for rental apartments in Split, Munich, Rome, Florence, Venice, and Dubrovnik. I have had an awesome experience in every single one of them. Very good prices when staying with others and able to get into great neighborhoods and often with amazing views. My favorite was overlooking the main walking street in historic Dubrovnik on a second floor apartment for less than $40/day per person!

    1. Trav says:

      @Dito- Wow, Dubrovnik for $40…that’s a steal. We had a similar place, I think it was about that price too. Can’t beat that!

  2. Marc Mancuso says:

    Do not forget home swaps like HomeExchange where you can trade your dwelling with someone looking to stay in your hometown.

    Also, when renting an apartment or vacation rental, always get it in writing. What I mean by that is good hosts/property owners/managers will have rental agreements which spell out the rules and expectations for staying on the property, along with information about security deposits.

    Lastly, always be cautious of fraudsters. Never pay for apartments using untraceable services like Western Union. Usually a good idea to talk to the person you are renting from ahead of time. If it doesn’t feel right,you might want to look elsewhere.

    1. Trav says:

      @Marc Mancuso- Great points. Home swaps are fantastic if you have your own place, and can be an awesome experience. Also, I completely agree that you should never send money Western Union or any other type of way. One of the benefits of going through an apartment rental website (AirBnB, GowithOh, etc.) is that you know your payment will be safe.

  3. Jake says:

    Hey Trav!

    Great post! We have been booking quite a few air bnb spots for our upcoming RTW and found t to (for a couple anyway) a better value than most hostels. Many people include breakfast and many have given us a discount. For our shorter stays we have been just asking for a discount and offering photography of their apartment as a thank you. We have gotten great responses from Ireland and Provence, decent response from Brussels, and so far minimal positive response to discounts in Rome, which makes sense.

    The biggest thing we learned so far is to cast a wide net, try to tell a great story about why you are traveling so that they like you and are more inclined to help, and to be patient if you can be. We are staying in Dublin for St Paddys and were nervous about getting a place so we took one of the first offers we sent only to find a bunch of people responded with better deals after.

    Hope this helps someone out! Keep up the great work and enjoy Istanbul!

    1. Trav says:

      @Jake- Totally agree. Casting a wide net, and doing it as early as possible, are two of the main keys to getting a great deal. And like you, I always tell my story. One, I love hearing other people’s travel stories, so I always tell mine, and two, it helps with setting people at ease and also getting yourself a deal.

      Glad to hear you’ve had such great success finding cool apartments all over the world. Dublin for St. Patty’s day…that should be a blast!

  4. Trav's mom says:

    In the summer of 2013 five of us had a great stay in a (former gypsy) cave house on a hill overlooking Alhambra in Granada, Spain. After that we had a third floor, two bedroom apartment with two small balconies over looking “eating alley” in Lisbon, Portugal. Our last place was a large two bedroom apartment on the outskirts of old city Santiago de Compostela,Spain. We booked them all on airbnb and all of them had great hosts, locations, more room and were cheaper than hotels.

    1. Trav says:

      @Trav’s mom- Whenever I tell people how easy it is to rent apartments, I always reference you. I say “Hey, if my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle can figure it out and have wonderful experiences, so can you!” That’s a compliment, right?

  5. Ben says:

    We rented a lovely apartment in Florence through Windows on Italy and had a wonderful two week stay. They were very professional and helpful throughout the whole process. A friend went through halidis.com, their parent company, for a Paris apartment and had an excellent experience with them as well.

    We used homeaway for a trip to Paris in 2012 with good results, but with them, as well as airbnb, vrbo, and others of that sort, they are really just a clearinghouse to put you in touch with the property owner, and you typically have to wire funds, check feedback, and hope for the best. Windows on Italy and halidis act as rental agents and accept credit cards, which gives you some additional protection. I’m surprised you don’t mention them.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ben- I’ve never used Windows on Italy or halldis.com, but seem really neat. Thanks for mentioning them. You are right, there are companies that act as a rental agency (like the ones you mentioned) and ones that act as the clearinghouse. Both have their perks-clearinghouses usually cheaper, but less oversight and vice versa for other kind.

      Thanks again for mentioning them though, I’ll check them out. The more options, the better!

  6. Ben says:

    Correction – the site is halldis.com, not halidis.

  7. Marianne says:

    We rented an apartment for the first time in 2014. It was in Florence, Italy and the company run by two brothers was called Florence Holiday Homes. They own several. It was an excellent experience. Very clean and in a real neighborhood. We had such a positive experience we are going to try another apartment rental in Paris in 2015 and we just booked an apartment for Rome through Airbnb for 2016. It does pay to look early if you are very specific about your needs. Hope these work out as well.
    Love your website!

    1. Trav says:

      @Marianne- Couldn’t agree more. It’s such a fantastic way to travel. And thanks for the compliment, glad you love EPoP.

  8. LarryInNYC says:

    We’ve rented apartments and houses a few times on our travels. The biggest advantages for us have been getting extra bedrooms and space for the kids (we’re a family of four) versus trying to cram people into one or two rooms in a hotel; and the ability to do our own cooking — especially valuable in locations like Barcelona, Tuscany, and Paris where there are fantastic raw materials in beautiful markets while restaurant meals can be quite expensive.

    We also rent out an apartment in our house in New York via HomeAway. I would reiterate your comment about looking at pictures and making sure you know what you’re getting. We’re quite clear in our listing (we rent a two-bedroom with an additional fold out sofa in the living room), but recently — despite the clarity of our listing — someone seems to have determined that it’s a three-bedroom apartment.

    You certainly don’t need to “sell” yourself to the host (maybe that’s different when you’re renting a shared room in someone’s apartment as opposed to an entire unit) but, honestly, we’re not particularly impressed by people who start off looking for a discount on our (already very reasonable) prices. We’re certainly open to discussing a discount for longer stays in the off-season (for instance, we had one family book for all of January which is very slow in New York, and they paid a little over half the regular weekly rate), but leading with that topic can give the impression of being a difficult guest.

    I should also add that HomeAway has always struck me as being a bit tonier than AirBnB. It focuses on whole-unit rentals, not shares, and the people who list there pay a set annual listing fee so the price you see listed is not marked up with additional fees.

    1. Trav says:

      @LarryinNYC- Great recommendations and I think you’re right, you don’t want to lead off asking for a discount. However, if you know you’re only going to pay a certain amount, I do think being up front with it in the beginning can save both people time.

      I also think Homeaway has a little bit different of a vibe as well. Tonier is good word for it. I like as many options as possible, so I’m always cross-checking a few different websites before booking.

  9. Colin says:

    @Trav, great blog here and my first time visiting. Subscribing now!

    I also wanted to suggest that you might add Tripping.com to your list of rental sites to use. We are the largest aggregator of vacation and short term rentals worldwide. Would be great to have you check us out!

    1. Trav says:

      @Colin- Will definitely check out Tripping.com. The more options, the better!

      1. Colin says:

        Awesome! Hope it helps you in your travels.

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