1.07.2013

rome again: the rental experience.



I'm home from Rome, and I returned a happy girl. Once again it was beautiful, delicious and fantastic. But, since I was repeatedly asked the question "Where are you staying?!" when I shared photos during our trip...I'll leave the strolling through Rome photos for the next post, and share our accommodation info ASAP!

For the first time, Gabe and I made the somewhat scary decision to rent an apartment in Europe. Usually, we're very much hotel people. We like nice sheets. We like that we can ask the concierge where things are, or call someone to deliver coffee in the AM, especially in Europe where there isn't a quickie Starbucks stop on every corner. But, if you travel frequently, you know that all those nice little services really add up.

You've got to tip everyone. And in Europe the rooms are teeny.

Because we were staying over the holidays and booking late in the game, my favorite hotel in Rome was already full. Our remaining hotel options seemed wildly priced, poorly reviewed, less-than-ideally located or generally "meh". Although Gabe was skeptical, I excitedly took this as a kick in the butt to try something new...and dove into the search for a well-located, cute apartment in Rome.

note: I tore around our apartment about 10 minutes before leaving, trying to remake the bed and tidy things up for a few photos. Unfortunately, in my rush to take some photos...I didn't realize my ISO was turned way up from the previous night. Whoops. Let's just pretend the grainy look is vintage and charming. Er...something like that. ;)

After hours of searching and inquiring about rentals, we stumbled across this property on Via Margutta, through RomeLoft. The location couldn't have been better...it's the tiny, quiet street where Gregory Peck's character lived in the classic Roman Holiday. It's also where famous painters like Picasso once worked + lived...and now largely houses antique stores and art galleries.

Be still my heart. 

The reviews seemed legitimate ("It was great!", "It was pretty good, minus XYZ!", etc), and I was able to find a few others confirming a pleasant stay via Google. The photos made the place look dreamy. So, I inquired and within an hour had all the information I could have needed, plus some additional answers to questions I asked.

We slept on it, but booked the next day.



I was a teensy bit nervous. Good photo cropping can hide a myriad of sins, so I truly had to bank on reviews + my gut with this one. And I'm glad I did. Because, girls, I don't know if I can return to hotels. It was amazing. 

The experience of having a little apartment in a foreign city is absolutely unreal. Obviously there are pros and cons, but I'd say the pros won out on this trip. It was romantic, it was relaxing. We had a fridge that held at least ten bottles of wine + champagne + groceries. You know I drank them all and ate buffalo mozzarella like it was going out of style. Having a rental was a bit like getting to live elsewhere for a week. And I'm so, so glad we did it! Even Gabe was won over, and agreed that it's the best option...especially if you're visiting a city for the second time.

In the end, it was a small amount more work and research than booking a hotel...but worth every second. Here are some pros, cons and tips for those who are looking to make the leap from hotel to vacation rental!



:::::pros:::::


So much space. At least 10 times the average European hotel room! On rainy days, we spent more time at home, just relaxing.

A full kitchen...it saved  hundreds of euros by making breakfast + some lunches at home. And making real meals together in a foreign country is a bit romantic. :)

You're virtually undisturbed. No maid will be knocking on your door while you're prancing about in a towel, and there aren't loud neighbors to keep you awake.

Your neighbors are the real deal...not just other guests on holiday. They're great resources (if you speak their language, or they speak English), and in Rome they're happy to help.

No awkward tipping moments. (Do I tip the valet who just touched my bag? The maid? The room service guy? Do I tip the concierge who told me where the nearest train stop is?) You tip no one except the driver that picks you up, if you book one. Therefore, at least 100 euros saved.

It can be equal to or cheaper than a hotel. Ours was! Honestly. It worked out to about $350 USD/night. That's high for some folks, I know, and it's higher than usual because we stayed during the holidays. But given the rates I was seeing for nice hotels ($350-$700/night!), it was totally reasonable. Especially due to the size and location.

courtyard outside our door

:::::cons:::::

There's no friendly concierge to ask for directions, or to hail you a taxi.

There will always be quirks: A sink leaks. A drain is slow. You can't figure out the dishwasher. And there isn't staff downstairs to pop up to your room to fix it.

Having a kitchen is great, but finding a market or grocery in some European cities isn't as easy as a Google maps search. You might find yourself walking a mile with bags of groceries.

If you lock yourself out of your apartment, there's no front desk! It's going to be a bit of a wait.

Often you'll have to pay for a portion of your stay upon booking. (For us, it was about 30%.)

And most apartments do require a security deposit upon arrival. (This can vary anywhere from 200 euros to 500 euros. It's returned upon your departure, but it does tie up some cash for the duration of your stay.)

Because you have space, you may find yourself lingering at home...doing less sight-seeing, and staying in to relax. Just be forewarned! :)


::::tips:::::

Know the area. Because I'd visited Rome a few months prior, I knew exactly where this place was...in a sweet spot and very walk-friendly. But, I saw so many rental properties online that I'd never, ever book because of their location. If you're unsure of the area, throw out a question on a forum like Frommers or TripAdvisor to see if others can advise!

Book early, and set aside a few hours to research your options. The good ones go fast! Give yourself plenty of time, and don't get too attached to any one property. There are TONS of options if you start early. You'll find one! :)

Don't feel the need to overspend on a rental, and then nickel and dime the rest of your experience. You can find apartments for almost any budget (unless we're talking hostel budget). I spotted some as low as  $90/night, all the way up into the $1,000/night range.

Ask questions or request more photos before booking! It's YOUR cash. It's YOUR vacation.

Look for reviews! If you're booking through a site like VRBO or searching on TripAdvisor (my holy travel grail), you'll often be able to read reviews right there. If you're booking direct through a company's website, do a few Google searches to see what others have to say, and ensure that the reviews on their site aren't phony.

Go with your gut. If an owner is very slow to respond to your request, or something just feels off...don't invest your vacation cash with them! Unlike a hotel, you have virtually no rapport with this person and they very well could take your booking deposit and run.

Make sure you read all the fine print. Will you have to pay a security deposit? Is there a cleaning fee? Is there wireless available? Is the kitchen stocked with pots, pans, etc?

Use PayPal to transfer your booking deposit if at all possible. This way you're covered if you get scammed (from my research).

Do some research on grocery and tabacchi (if you smoke or want postcard stamps!) locations in advance. If you know where to look once you arrive, you'll save yourself lots of time searching for these sometimes hard-to-spot places! Also be aware that these places don't keep 24/7 US hours. If you're out looking for groceries at 10:30pm or on a holiday...you might be out of luck. Plan in advance! :)


21 comments:

  1. Beautiful!! I have always wanted to rent an apartment when we travel abroad and you've totally confirmed that it's not as scary or complicated as I thought! Looks like such romantic apartment to share with your hubby! Glad you enjoyed it!

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  2. OUT.OF.CONTROL.

    next time: girls trip. count me in.

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  3. Great tips Bethany!! The apartment looks amazing! I have a dream to go back to Rome...can't wait to see your pictures and hear more about your vacation!

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  4. This is so dreamy. If we ever go to Italy or any European vacation for that matter, I'm going to be all over this :)

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  5. So so so lovely!
    We just booked our first vacation rental as well! We'll be in Barcelona for 5 days at the end of the month and with three kiddos, it seemed like a better option than cramming us all into a hotel room.
    I'm looking forward to it!

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  6. What a great idea! And it looks sooooo amazing! I wish I'd gone somewhere classy, classic and swish for the holidays, instead of the Australian outback!

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  7. This is such a wonderful review!! Thank you for breaking everything down! I'm glad you had such a great experience!

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  8. We just fell head over heels for holiday apartments in Europe. We let one in Krakow just based off TripAdvisor, but we used AirBnB several times as well. They were all fantastic, and so much cheaper than hotels. I'm so glad holiday apartments are becoming more available worldwide!
    This one is GORGEOUS! I'm going to have to remember this for when we finally get to Rome.

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  9. Great post, great reviews, and beautiful pictures. Would you like to follow each other?

    Much Love,
    http://amyklundt.blogspot.com/

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  10. That is heaven on earth! Gorgeous place and a perfect get-away for you and your husband!

    MJ
    Papersidewalks.blogspot.com

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  11. These are great tips!!! I would love to be able to do this with my husband someday. So amazing.

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  12. Also, how long did y'all stay there? :)

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  13. We did this for part of our honeymoon in Iceland and it is awesome! I would recommend it to most anyone ESPECIALLY people travelling with family or in a group of couples. We hope to continue to do it when we have a family. You outlined so many amazing tips for people and I completely agree you feel more like you are "living" in some place for a week and it also saves money. We have used AirBnB for our rentals and will be using it again for a trip this year. Great post!!

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  14. thanks so much for this post. b and i are planning a big europe trip next year and hoping to rent rather then hotels as it should save us a bit of moolah. looking forward to seeing your trip photos.

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  15. This place is amazing! It's incredible! So glad you had a great time.

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  16. Siiiiigh!! You're one step away from living the dream of 'The Holiday' (who doesn't want to meet Jude Law in a toasty cabin in the snow?)! I'm very new to the blogging world (sophboat.blogspot.com.au) and delighted to have discovered your blog...am pretty sure I could stay here for hours! xx

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  17. this looks [& sounds!] like it was just the most gorgeous place to stay. i absolutely love that red door!

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  18. This is awesome advice! I've done a fair amount of traveling and have never thought about renting a place (or even heard of being able to do it, really.) Sounds like a great option if you do some homework ahead of time. I know you do a lot of traveling in Europe, but do you know if this kind of thing is possible in other places like South/Central America? Thanks for the tips!

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  19. Gorgeous! Just gorgeous! As usual your Rome posts do not disappoint. The apartment idea is brilliant and your photographs are so lovely. I'm glad you both enjoyed your second honeymoon. <3

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  20. Ummmmm so I need to stay at this place! It looks adorable!

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