Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine January/February 2003
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Apartment Rentals in Europe

Meet Local People, Eat Native Foods, Sleep Well

When our son came along our travel plans changed drastically: no more affordable, albeit tiny, hotels. Our family needed more space. Hotel suites were shockingly expensive. Two rooms at a cheap hotel were too costly. I took the advice of a European friend who said, “Rent a self-catering apartment.”

Granted, an apartment might be twice the price of a small hotel room. However, when I think of all we gained, the price has been a good value for the money. These are some of the things you can do when you rent an apartment:

Enjoy local delicacies. Ever wander the markets of Europe and think, Oh, if I only had a kitchen. If you rent an apartment you will. When we stayed a week in Colmar, France, we visited the local shops for cheeses, breads, and sausages. With a bottle of Alsatian wine (sampled and purchased from a cave) dinner cost about $15 for two people.

Splurge affordably. Read your guidebooks and locate a famous restaurant and enjoy a midday feast. Lunches in Europe are an affordable splurge. In addition, the pace is slower, the restaurants less crowded, and the waiters more talkative. And for those of us with families most restaurants are much more welcoming (and forgiving) during the day.

Shop like a local. When you shop for your dinner, you mix with the local people. Markets are the common ground of a community. You’ll come to understand a culture’s culinary priorities. In Italy, a piece of Parmesan is cheaper than a pack of M&Ms.

Hang out. Apartments tend to be in the residential areas of a city. During the day your children can play in the neighborhood playgrounds while you meet other parents. And perhaps that night you’ll see these new friends at the local pub.

Travel lighter. You can carry fewer bags by packing less and washing more. Some apartments offer laundry services, others have washers and dryers. You can hand wash all the small things and leave them to dry.

Spread out. Children must nap, play, and go to sleep in the early evening. An apartment offers you a place to relax while the kids sleep in the next room. Those without children will be happier with a bit of breathing room.

Play host. An apartment allows you to live like you do at home: you can invite people in for a visit, and you can also get out. You can hire a baby sitter (ask for recommendations from your landlord). In an apartment she can sit in the next room and do her schoolwork, just like at home.

Slow down. Most cottages and apartments have a minimum stay requirement ranging from a few days to a full Saturday-to-Saturday stay. Slow travel allows you to make friends and learn about where you are.

Share in traditions. When you live where the locals live, you serendipitously bump into neighborhood events: boules matches, rugby games, farmers markets, fetes, church socials, and free concerts.

As an example of the benefits of holiday apartments I offer my family’s most recent European vacation. We rented an apartment in the notoriously expensive Icelandic city of Reykjavik. Located in Old Town, our one-bedroom flat had harbor views, a balcony, and a hot tub. It was twice as expensive as a single room at a 2-star hotel. However, a home is worth the price:

• Many landlords offer a discount for a longer stay. In Reykjavik, the discount of 10 percent saved us $165.

• Many apartments (like ours) include CD players, TV/VCR, full kitchens, robes, spas, free locals calls, concierge services, parking, and travel suggestions.

• According to the Icelandic Tourism Board, the average prices for meals without alcohol are $8-$10 breakfast, $10-$20 lunch, and $30-$50 dinner. If you add that up and then multiply by the number of people and days, the price is shockingly high. However, if you eat in for breakfast and lunch (or dinner), you’ll soon see great savings.

In your holiday apartment you’ll meet local people, eat native foods, get along better with your travel companions, see unusual sights, and sleep well. You’ll feel like a local, even if you stay just a few days. If you truly want to see a country, its people, and its customs, rent a holiday home.

For More Info

For additional information on apartment rental companies in Europe see Transitions Abroad’s section on rentals abroad.

We found our apartments by contacting the following websites:

Iceland: www.visiticeland.com (Offfical Iceland tourist board), www.tower.is (Tower Guest House).

Ireland: www.cbel.com/ireland_westport/ (Tubber Cottages).

France: www.franceguide.com (Tourist Board), en.gites-de-france.com (furnished apartments in France), www.beausejour.fr (Hotel Beausejour).

Germany: www.germany-tourism.de (Tourist Board), www.accommodation.de (Gastgerber Net).

The fastest way to find an apartment in a particular city or region is to use a search engine. Type in the city and the type of accommodations you’re looking for, such as “Baden-Baden holiday apartments.”