Sometimes a summer vacation needs a little more elbowroom than a hotel room. Vacation properties give you room to unpack, unwind and live like a local. Increasingly property owners are opening up their doors for vacationers, which gives travelers surprisingly budget-friendly options.
According to an informal USA Today travel survey, one-third of people who choose vacation rentals do so for extra space (29%), followed by making your own meals (20%), living like a local (2%) and another 12% like the value (19% still prefer hotels).
A five-star hotel property might not fit into your budget, but an apartment, house or villa with as many or more amenities than a hotel can actually save you money. Though finding the right property can be daunting, especially when looking for houses and apartments outside the country.
What should you look for when shopping for a vacation rental? As someone who often works while traveling (I call them workations), it can be difficult to find a place that meets frequent-traveler expectations. I prefer to look for agencies that monitor and inspect properties, as compared to self-letting websites because they can’t always guarantee the amenities I hold dear.
But even apartment rentals vary in the scope of services and regions. For instance, World Escape offers vacation properties in 29 cities, plus hotels, around the world (some are their own others are partnerships). Parker Villas is exclusively about Italy. While, Farnum & Christ is mostly about London (with one Costwolds property).
Regardless of which agency you choose, I recommend looking for some essentials. Most of all, I need (not want), a wifi that works (all the time), a new mattress, two good pillows per person and nice bedding that I would find at luxury hotel. I also want a great location, a well-equipped kitchen and bath and ample living space. And since there is no desk clerk or concierge on duty 24/7, it’s always helpful to have information about the local area, as well as check-in and check-out protocol that is easy and with no added fees, such as international money transfer fees.
Here is my checklist of what to look for in a vacation property:
- Does the agency personally guarantee the quality of the property based in the web listing? Can you speak with a previous renter?
- Reliable internet
- New mattress, pillows and bedding
- Good location and a safe neighborhood
- Modern kitchen and bathroom
- Washing machine and dryer
- Air conditioning and central heat
- Comfortable living space
- Instructions (in English) for appliances
- Add-on amenities like private tours and cooking classes.
- Well-researched information on local attractions.
- Customer service availability 24/7 if problems or questions arise.
To get you started, I’ve combed through some properties in World Escape, Parker Villas and Farnum & Christ that meet my expectations, and hopefully yours as well (see the slideshow for property photos).
Paris, Versailles Eiffel, 16th District
This 4th floor apartment (with an elevator) is completely renovated and designed by French fashion designer, Stella Cadente. It’s cream and white interior is modern and elegant. The furnishings are contemporary, the kitchen is inspiring and the bedroom is calming and well-furnished. And the midweek price is 180 Euros per night, unheard of in Paris.
Where to find it: World Escape
What they offer: World Escape offers vacation rentals and hotels, which allows for an easy compare and contrast when shopping online.
Profumo di Mare, Positano, Amalfi Coast
If you long for turquoise seas, warm Mediterranean breezes and a memorable vacation on the Amalfi Coast, check out this two-bedroom apartment. No matter where you are in Positano, a small village balanced on the edge of the Italian coast, the view will take your breath away. And this apartment with white washed walls, vaulted ceilings and multi-level terraces facing the Li Galli islands is the perfect spot to take it all in. The price varies by season, $2250 – $3380 per week (US dollars).
Where to find it: Parker Villas
What they offer: Parker Villas offers high-quality Italian properties, as well as personalized services, such as local wine, artisan and food tours, as well as cooking classes.
Sloane Gardens 2, Sloane Square/Chelsea
This lovely ground floor flat from Farnum & Christ allows you to live like royalty while in London. The two-bedroom flat is friendly, warm and luxurious. The living area is a comfortable place to read up on London’s sites and rest your weary feet from a day of sightseeing. The kitchen is modern and nicely equipped to make morning tea and a nice breakfast. The price varies by season and number of occupants, £1400-1800 per week.
Where to find it: Farnum & Christ
What they offer: Farnum & Christ properties are in high-end luxurious neighborhoods, just like what you would want to live in as a local resident. The owners are former travel agents who know what travelers want, such as a one-stop shop for airline tickets, private tours and Britrail packages.