Navigating the sea of rental properties on vrbo.com, Airbnb.com, homeaway.com, and flipkey.com can be a daunting task for many travelers, yet the rewards you’ll get from renting locally are well worth the effort. As a family of five traveling the world for a year, we knew that we could save money by avoiding hotels and we also could get a deeper cultural understanding of the locale.
We developed five core criteria to help us choose short-term rentals. Simply put, these are: cost, comfort, location, amenities and a communicative and friendly host or hostess.
Cost: if you are considering staying anywhere for more than 3 nights, renting an apartment or home can save you hundreds of dollars, particularly if you are a family. Before we took off on this RTW journey, we established a budget to help us stay on target regarding lodging expenses. We adjusted our projections based on location, knowing that housing would be cheaper in South America and more expensive in Northern Europe. We have spent up to $245/night (Copenhagen) and as low as $75/night (Chile). Research properties available at your destination to avoid surprises. To be considered for our top 5, homes had to cost less than US $155 per night.
Comfort: real beds, well-equipped kitchens, spacious common areas, and outdoor space (in the case of houses) are some of the things we look for in a property. We didn’t want to skimp on good sleep, and being able to cook in our own home was another way we planned to keep to our budget. For us, appropriate space for the kids to work on school assignments was also quite important.
Location: with just a few exceptions (Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Ireland and Greece), we chose properties where we could avoid renting a car. We look for proximity to markets, shopping, restaurants, and public transportation, but we really prefer to walk as much as possible.
Amenities: a reliable internet connection was crucial for the kids to complete their school assignments and for us to manage our blog and video content during the trip. Other amenities we looked for: washer (laundry), stove and oven, a kitchen with enough pots, pans, utensils and appliances so we could avoid eating out as much as possible. In super-hot locations like Brazil, Turkey and Spain air-con was well-appreciated (thank goodness we had it during the worst heat-wave Madrid has seen in 50 years!). You really need to comb through the details of each listing, and other visitors’ reviews to ensure the home has everything you’re going to need. Attention to detail pays off, people!
Host: lastly, we read reviews carefully to find property owners who are friendly, responsive and accommodating. We really appreciated flexibility on check in or check out procedures, transfers, and payment policies. Happily, some hosts and hostesses became good friends during our stay! There is nothing more annoying than a flaky or unprofessional host. With so many great options out there, why settle for less than a sincere smile and goodwill-natured host?
The properties listed below met or exceeded all our expectations and deserve to be highlighted – The top 5 out of the 40+ properties we stayed at during our RTW trip!
Garden House, Selcuk, Turkey
2 bedrooms/1 bath
stayed 16 nights
Garden House was our number one favorite in the whole RTW trip. Hostess Alison was perfect in every aspect – providing us with tons of tips and information about the region, and arranging side trips to major sites (like the Travertines and Hierapolis) with a private driver at an unbeatable price. The house was fully stocked for cooking (dishwasher included) and relaxing, loaded with amenities, such as air conditioning, outdoor fireplace, a swimming pool, and a wonderful rain shower in the bathroom. It had a gorgeous garden laden with pristine roses and tons of space to lounge and celebrate life. This property is ideal for slow travelers like us, who like to go places and explore them without rushing. We love mingling with locals and trying to blend in, it is the best and least intrusive way to get to learn about a culture and understand its unique ways. We couldn’t recommend it more.
Deerpark Cottage, Kilkenny, Ireland
3 bedrooms/2 baths
stayed 3 nights
Hosts Pat and Una told us that they are relatively new to property renting, but their beautiful and extremely well appointed, newly remodeled cottage speaks of owners far more seasoned at the art of hosting. The house is quiet and spacious, with a well- appointed kitchen, confortable beds and a marvelous view of the green fields of their large property. The hosts were chatty and friendly, and we actually spent a nice evening sipping beer and exchanging travel stories at their house next door. Definitely a gem if you are visiting that area.
Recoleta Apartment, Buenos Aires, Argentina
3 bedrooms/2 baths
stayed 8 nights
The location of this lovely and well-decorated apartment is absolutely phenomenal, at the heart of the highly desirable Recoleta neighborhood in charming Buenos Aires. We were able to walk to bakeries, parks, museums, malls, and the famous Recoleta Cemetery. Despite being located at a major busy avenue, noise was not a problem at all. Alejandra, our host, was well informed and offered lots of tips about the city and its main attractions. Taxis are relatively inexpensive in Buenos Aires, and we could catch a ride anytime of the day or night by simply crossing the street.
Calle Zapateria Apartment, Pamplona, Spain
2 bedrooms/1 bath
stayed 10 nights
Quaint Pamplona is the home of the (in)famous San Fermin Festival, where hundreds of tourists gather every year to participate in the Encierro (Running of the Bulls.) This newly renovated apartment has all of its old charm like original hardwood floors and antique doors, while featuring brand new appliances, a really well stocked kitchen and comfortable beds. Steph is lively, energetic, a truly great hostess who knows all the right people in Pamplona – she was able to book us a VIP balcony at a prime spot to watch the Encierro just one week before the event at a discounted price! A combination of convenience and excellent price makes this apartment a real find. * If it wasn’t for the fact that we stayed two nights during San Fermin Festival, the price for this beautiful place would have been even lower.
Casa de Verano, Las Cruces, Chile
3 bedrooms/1 bath
stayed 15 nights
It is true that a rental car is definitely needed to reach the coast of Chile, but we knew we wanted to find a quiet and spacious place to park and be able to take side trips to the vineyards in the Casablanca Valley. Owned by a Canadian couple, Casa de Verano was the perfect place, located at a small village within driving distance to Isla Negra and Valparaiso. The house itself was a wooden cabin, on a fully fenced lot, complete with a deck and pool, and a well-equipped (albeit small) kitchen. The housekeeper, Juanito, took care of the garden, the pool and even brought us freshly caught fish and homemade empanadas one afternoon. Absolutely unbeatable charm and location at a ridiculous price.
There were other excellent properties as strong contenders - in Dublin, Istanbul, Madrid, Athens, Amsterdam and Copenhagen - but ultimately one or more of our criteria wasn't met. Overall, we noticed that property owners in South America have lots to learn in regards to understanding what hosting means when catering to a global crowd - basic things like having enough towels or chairs available to the total number of guests; read our article about what we think makes a perfect rental property for slow travelers like us.