We know that many of our blog readers are getting ready to find an apartment on-line for their vacation. Some have texted us asking how to go about choosing a good place to stay. Here are the steps we always take. First, decide on the country and city of choice and when you want to be there. Then choose what sights you want to see.. As any real estate agent will tell you, the most important factor in choosing a place, is location. Try to find one near the attractions you want to see, or, at least on a public transportation (bus, subway) line, so you can easily get to them. No one wants to find a great place to stay that is miles away from the public transportation. However, sometimes, you can find an apartment right in the middle of the action. Our apartment in Dubrovnik, Croatia was within the walled city itself.
The size of the apartment is also important. How many people are in your group? How much privacy is needed? Each will need a place to sleep. If like us, your answer is two, then a studio is fine, or maybe you'll want to spread out with a bedroom, living room, and a dining room.
Price is very important. How much do you want to spend? If being in the city proper is too pricey, sometimes a lower priced apartment will be on the outskirts. When we were visiting London, we stayed in Fulham, a twenty minute subway ride to downtown London. Many times, the landlord/landlady will give you a lower price than what is advertised, depending on your length of stay. Always ask.
Does the place you're considering have the amenities you need? We MUST have wifi and a clothes washer in each location. Now it is time to read the reviews. We look at these quite carefully. Previous tenants taking the time to write about their experiences are usually honest. They'll tell what they liked about the apartment and landlord, but also what they didn't appreciate about their experiences during their stay. Was the landlord responsive to their questions and/or problems in the apartment? Was the apartment represented truthfully in the VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) ad? Did everything work and was it in good condition?
Cleanliness is another important item. Is the neighborhood quiet and safe? If there is a nearby bar that lets out at 2:00am with rowdy customers, waking you up every night, the reviews will mention that. We never rent a place that has less than five reviews, so as to get a good feel for it. We look quite carefully at only positive reviews as they can be bought on-line. We want to see a few negatives mentioned also, to ensure truthfulness.
Look at the ad pictures very carefully. Landlords naturally want to show their best. Sometimes they might leave a room out because it's not up to par. Make sure every room is photographed, especially the bathroom. This eliminates as many surprises as possible. Is there an elevator if the apartment is on the third floor or above?
Try to pay only the down payment before hand if at all possible. Remember, at this stage, these apartments exist on paper. We try to pay the balance of the rent after we have seen the place. There are many scammers out there. "Bait and Switch" tactics are common. If the landlord tells you the apartment was just booked, but he has another one just like it (but is not on VRBO) walk away. You want the reliability of VRBO to stand behind your choice. You give that VRBO peace of mind away if you rent a different apartment from the same landlord. You are doing this without guarantees, photos, and PayPal. Using PayPal is a secure method of payment.
So there you have it! We've never been dissatisfied with any of our apartments in the past 18 months of travel. All of our stays have been enjoyable and comfortable. We feel confident that yours will be also if you follow these steps. Remember, you can contact us if you have questions, by email, text, Facebook, or on the Weebly blog itself.