The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:
Our GoWithOh apartment in Florence, which was located right in the heart of the city.
[My accommodations in Venice, Florence, and Rome were complimentary courtesy of GoWithOh but the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. I’d recommend GoWithOh to anyone, even my own mother (in fact, I have)!]
When I travel, I’m a snob.
Not a “I want to have only the most expensive rooms and meals” type snob.
But a “I want to have as authentic and unique an experience as possible” type snob.
I want my trip to be different.
To have special touches.
To have magic.
And while traveling has a way of doing that on it’s own, I also think that the type of places you decide to stay can play a big part in what type of experience you have.
Which is why I usually eschew chain hotels for something more local.
Something with more personality.
Something that can give me a sneak peak in to the culture of an area, and provide me with a unique and interesting experience.
And one of the best ways to do that is renting apartments for a short period of time, a trend that is taking off in recent years.
Here are a few of my favorite benefits of staying in apartments.
The Benefits of Staying in an Apartment
The bedroom of our GoWithOh apartment in Florence.
Apartments provide many conveniences hotels don’t
Almost all apartments will come with a fully equipped kitchen, a huge plus, especially if you’re staying in a place for a few days.
Also, it may have a washer and dryer, which means you can easily do laundry if need be.
Apartments are bigger than hotel rooms
One of my favorite things about staying in apartments is having some room to stretch out. I hate walking in to a hotel and having my bag and all my stuff right next to me.
In an apartment, you don’t feel like you’re right on top of everything.
Apartments can be found in unique areas of a city
Most of the bigger hotels are found clustered in one spot of a city, usually the most touristed area.
Oftentimes, you can find apartments there if you’d like, but you can also find apartments in some quieter, more local, and more authentic spots of a city.
Apartment owners are a great resource for local tips
I always pick the brain of the apartment owner when we first arrive, asking them their favorite restaurants and activities.
It’s like having a built in local guide, and it’s helped us enjoy some really amazing places we would never find in a mass produced guidebook.
You can’t beat the human element, which is what traveling is all about.
Every apartment has it’s own quirks
What may be a turn off to some is a huge plus for me. You can never quite be sure what an apartment will be like until you get there, which is part of the fun.
In almost every instance, we’ve been pleasantly surprised, and the quirkiness of a place has helped make the experience more memorable.
Apartments come in all shapes and sizes
Renting an apartment really can be for anyone. Couples can easily find studios and 1 bedrooms to fit their needs.
For bigger groups, like families, apartments are an excellent choice because they allow you to all be together under one roof and are typically much cheaper than getting a couple of hotel rooms.
Sold on renting an apartment for your next trip?
Great, here is my favorite resource for renting apartments in Europe!
GoWithOh- Where I “Go” For Apartments in Europe
Our GoWithOh apartment in Rome, which was right next to the Roman Forum.
During our trip to Italy, Heather and I stayed at apartments in Venice, Florence, and Rome that we had found through GoWithOh.
GoWithOh is a European accommodation site that has over 2,800 apartments in 17 of the major cities across Europe, including London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and Barcelona, among others.
It was our first time using GoWithOh and we couldn’t have had a better experience.
Here are a few of the things I particularly enjoy about GoWithOh.
The Array of Choices
As mentioned, GoWithOh has over 2,800 apartments, which means there is something for everyone.
If you want a smaller, more affordable apartment for 2 people, they’ve got that.
If you’re looking for an apartment that can fit a whole family, they’ve got that.
Or if you want a super-chic upscale place to really spoil yourself, they’ve got that as well.
The Attention to Customer Service
What really sets GoWithOh apart is that they take special care in making sure everything goes so smoothly.
While you interact directly with the apartment owner to get the keys and check-in, there are also GoWithOh staff members (who speak a total of 13 languages) constantly ready to help.
They aren’t simply a site that has you book a place through them and then puts you out on your own.
They’ll be there every step of the way, if need be.
A High Standard of Quality
GoWithOh doesn’t allow just anyone to list their apartment.
Instead, each apartment has to go through a vetting process and meet a certain standard before it can be listed.
After this, if an apartment doesn’t receive a high enough feedback rating from people who have stayed there, it will also be pulled.
This helps ensure that you’re always getting an apartment that meets a high standard of quality.
An Easy to Use Website
I love to do a ton of research before booking a place, and so using GoWithOh is like heaven.
You can set all types of filters, from number of bedrooms to price, to narrow down your search.
You can also search by map view, my favorite function, so you know exactly what area you’ll be in.
To top it off, each apartment has TONS of pictures as well as reviews of past guests.
Next time you’re traveling, I would highly recommend taking a look at renting an apartment if you’re staying in an area for a couple of days.
Apartments make very comfortable, easy, and enjoyable home bases for exploring cities and provide a unique travel experience that can’t be matched.
If you are traveling through Europe, I can’t speak highly enough about GoWithOh.
They’ve got an amazing variety of choices, and every single GoWithOh apartment I’ve stayed in, from a 2 bedroom in northwest Venice to a 1,000 year old apartment in the heart of Florence, has been phenomenal.
The personal attention and customer service they provide is incredible, and you’ll be in good hands should you choose to use them.
Have you ever stayed in an apartment before? If so, where, and how was your experience?
To read more about traveling cheap in Italy, check out these posts: