All great holidays begin and end with a great place to rest your head.
If you’re like Peter and myself, you’re probably longing to feel like you’re living in the city you’re holidaying in. You’ll be aching for the perfect holiday apartment, but how unearth do you go about finding one?
To be honest, it can be quiet daunting!
The first time Peter and I started looking for our first holiday apartment, which happened to be in Paris, I was particularly nervous – wondering if we’d be robbed of our money, would the place actually be as good as it looked, would we be able to get in, would we ever see our deposit again? But you soon come to realise that it’s a business for these people. As long as the place has good reviews, lots of good photos and the owner responds to you, you’re going to be absolutely fine.
Where to Start
Once you’ve made up your mind as to where you intend on visiting, be it Paris, Vienna, New York etc. you’ll then want to try and get an idea as to where might be a good area to stay within the place. For example, in Paris, you might narrow your search down by only looking at a few arrondissements. If that’s proving a little tricky, then try and get a rough idea as to what you’re interested in seeing and how you’re going to get there. If you’re travelling by rail, you might want to have an apartment close to the train station, or maybe you want to be within 10 minutes walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.
Keep your preferred area, site or transport hub in mind – this will really help to narrow your search down when you come to start looking.
There are a few different places that you can search for holiday rentals, the top names being Trip Advisor, Air BnB, Villas.com and of course, Googling. Peter and I have only used Trip Advisor, and so that’s what this post will focus on, although I’m fairly sure the same principles will apply for sites like Air BnB.
Narrowing Your Search
When you first press ‘go’ on your Trip Advisor search, it’ll come up with a fair few search results, hopefully all within your preferred city and set dates. But how will you trawl through all of those?! Don’t worry, you don’t have to.
Peter and I always set a few filters or rules which you can apply to the search results in Trip Advisor. These help to whittle out the not so good apartments and in turn make the list a little more manageable. Here are a few of our most commonly used filters:
- Selecting ‘Book Online’ and keeping an eye for apartments which have signed up to Trip Advisor’s Payment Protection;
- Set and stick to your budget range;
- Selecting ‘Parking’ (when looking for apartments in UK); and
- Selecting ‘Apartment’ under property type.
After applying your preferred filters, it’s best to sort your search results by number of reviews or traveller rating. Ideally, you want to find an apartment which has a decent (and recent) number of reviews, in the double figures is best. Have a read through a few reviews to get an idea as to what people are saying about the place. Do the photos reflect the comments? If you’ve selected traveller rating, aim for those which are ‘good’, ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.
Trip Advisor also allows you to sort your search results by neighbourhood as well, so if you do have an idea as to the area within your city which you want to stay in, that would be a good way to reduce the number of results. If not, have a look at the search results on the map view to see where the apartments are located and what they’re near. You’ll find that those within the centre of the city will generally be a fair bit more expensive.
Another couple of things to keep in mind when searching:
- Are there any additional costs? Some apartments have a late check-in / check-out fee, cleaning fees, deposits and occasionally tourist tax. Check that these costs are competitive.
- What’s the owner response rate / time? You ideally want a response rate of 85% or above and a response time of within one day or quicker.
Apartment Sorted, Now What?
Once you’ve found the one or a couple of apartments which you like the look of, and which meet your criteria and preferred dates, you’ll want to contact the owners. You do this by hitting the ‘Request to Book’ button on the right hand side. This will take you to another screen where you’re asked to fill out a form confirming your contact details. Here, you also get a chance to write a little message to the owner, where you can confirm your travel dates and the number of nights you’d like to stay. This form will also ask for your payment details – but don’t worry, your money won’t be taken until confirmation has been given that the apartment is available.
If you know that you might struggle to meet the apartment’s preferred check-in / check-out times prior to requesting to book, it’s worth mentioning this in your initial email to the owner so that they’re aware of it and can advise you if there may be additional charges.
You’re all booked!
Yipee! You’ve received a positive response from the apartment’s owner, who has confirmed your dates and fees. Ideally, they will also confirm the following:
- The payment requirements and any additional charges (tourist tax?);
- Directions to the apartment from nearest train station / airport etc.;
- Instructions in relation to how you enter the apartment (and main building) on first arrival;
- Instructions on how and when you check-out; and
- Request for additional traveller information – copies of passport / driving licence.
If these points aren’t confirmed in the initial response by the owner (usually they’ll send you a pack of information if organised), then I’d really recommend that you ask before your trip.
A couple of weeks prior to leaving for our holiday, we usually drop our apartment owner an email via Trip Advisor, just to say hi and to let them know that we’re looking forward to our stay. This sends a little reminder to the owner and a prompt just in case they have any more information to share with you.
Before you leave, make sure you’ve got the owner’s mobile number and the international code so that you can call / text them if you’ve got any problems finding the place or are running late.
Congratulations! You’ve earned your holiday and are now (fingers crossed) in your dream apartment. Here are a few house rules that Peter and I have picked up from our experience:
- Let your owner know if you’re running late for meeting them on first arrival (delays can happen!);
- If you do meet your owner (some places you might not, but these are rare), let them know what time you wish to vacate the apartment and confirm with them if they want to see you before you check-out;
- Take your rubbish out and make sure you pop it in the correct bins;
- Go to the local shop to get your groceries to then take full advantage of your holiday kitchen! Cooking in small spaces is fun;
- Respect your locals.
Don’t forget to leave an honest review of your apartment and to thank the owner on Trip Advisor. Finger crossed it’ll be a 5 star positive review! Where you do have some criticism of the apartment, make sure you voice it politely and perhaps suggest a solution.
Here are a few reviews that Peter and I have left:
I really hope this is helpful – I’d love to hear your thoughts and also your experiences of Trip Advisor / holiday rentals. Pop it below!