Recently I wrote about how to choose a great apartment to stay in whilst holidaying in Europe. A more basic question to think about though, especially for less experienced travellers, is “is an apartment the right place for me to stay?” Or would you be happier in some form of hosted accommodation such as a hotel, hostel or B&B? Here are some questions to help you decide if going it alone in an apartment could be right for you:
Do you have a budget that will allow for a bond on the property?
Like any apartment rental you will need to have money up front to be paid as a bond for your stay. If you are on a tight budget make sure you budget for this. If you aren’t prepared to keep your place clean and in good repair you will also need to be prepared to pay extra cleaning costs which will be deducted from your bond.
How many of you are travelling, and are there any children in your party?
From a cost perspective apartments really make great sense if you are travelling as part of a group. Traveling alone or even as a couple they are pretty much line ball and therefore not really a financial consideration (except for the savings you can make on cooking your own meals). European hotel rooms are usually quite small, so an apartment really starts to come into its own financially if there are three or more of you traveling together. Add in the lack of quad and quint share hotel rooms (meaning you need to book multiple rooms) and even a larger apartment starts to make more financial sense than a hotel.
Do you want to prepare your own meals, or are you planning on eating out all the time?
One of the great advantages of an apartment is obviously having a kitchen where you can easily make a cup of tea or coffee, or cook a meal for yourself. If you don’t want to do that, a hotel may suit you just as well, depending on your other motivations.
Are you prepared to manage all your own restaurant and tourism bookings?
One of the things about an apartment is the lack of any concierge services. While most apartment booking agencies or owners will have a local representative they are not there to provide you with a concierge service. You need to be prepared to go it alone, or organise your plans through some other agency. Most apartments will have a guest book where other people who’ve stayed will list good restaurants and other local contacts, which can be really handy – just be prepared to do your own booking!
Are you confident enough to deal with any problems you may have?
Regular readers of my blog will know that I lost my phone in Paris earlier in the year, whilst staying in an apartment. This caused me a lot of hassle over a number of days when I wanted to be doing other things. Fortunately I speak French and had a good guidebook so I knew what to do and how to do it. If I’d been staying in a hotel the front desk people would have happily liaised with the chauffeur company where I lost the phone and arranged for it to be returned to me. Instead it was me, for days, across different time zones, in two languages…..
More importantly, are you confident you can manage if you get sick and need a doctor without hotel staff to recommend someone and make calls for you?
Are you prepared to take out the rubbish and do the dishes when you’re on holidays?
If you rent an apartment you will be expected to do this before you leave. If you don’t want to do it, either be prepared to have your bond refund reduced, or don’t stay in an apartment. For some it’s a small thing, but for others it can be a deal breaker (double check that your apartment has a dishwasher if that’s the determining factor)
Following on from the above, with most apartment rentals the cleaning service only comes once a week – which will include your change of linen. You can’t just ring down to the front desk for extra towels. In my experience, apartments can be quite generous with towels at some times and quite miserly at others – it really does depend on the owner and the agency you book through. If you like to use a lot of towels and it won’t cost you any more to book for an extra person, do what I do and add an extra person to your apartment booking to make sure you get enough towels.
Do you want/need to be able to use a washing machine?
Apartments can be great for a couple of nights on longer trips or when travelling with young children so you can use the washing machine. Sometimes they will even have a dryer. If having a washing machine is a key decider for you make sure a washing machine is included on the list of amenities. If it’s not listed, you won’t have one.
Apartments can be great – as long as you know what to expect!