Lorraine and I started this journey nine months ago, back in October 2014. Since then, we have resided in 11 apartments (including the present one in Edinburgh). "How have you decided which apartment to rent?" is a question we have been asked a number of times. While the process of choosing an apartment has not been particularly complicated, it has involved several steps:
Choosing the destination (i.e. What city to visit) and when one wants to be there is usually the first step.
Tied in with that decision is the rental price range one is willing to accept.
At this point, the actual apartment search can begin. While we have had the best luck with VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner), we have also explored HOME AWAY and AIRBNB. Simply Googling "VRBO(and the name of the city) for instance, will result in a listing of rentals (one caveat; we found that in Bankok, most apartments are actually located within hotels. You can get hotel services at apartment prices). As you explore the listings, deciding on the size of the apartment needed (i.e. One bedroom, two bedrooms, etc) is of prime importance. We have restricted our searches to either studio or one bedroom apartments. In addition, we wanted apartments that were close to main attractions and which had grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, public transportation etc. nearby.
Once our perameters were set, then we began exploring the listings. At this point, the first thing we looked at was the apartment's calander to see if it was available. There is no sense in wasting time looking into the details of a particular apartment if it was not available when we needed it.
Next, we looked at the rates charged for the rental to see if it fit our established price range (again, no sense in exploring a particular rental if the price range is way outside your budget). This can be a little tricky if the listing shows a nightly rent rate and you need it for a month. We tried to extrapolate nightly rates out to 30 days to see if it met our criteria (a little more on this later).
Because of the way we are traveling, having WiFi and a clothes washer are a must. If the apartments have those two items, then we will look at other amenities available in order to compare apartments.
At this point, we then look at reviews of the apartments from previous travelers for what were their overall impressions (a four or five star rating was preferable to us); what problems, if any, were encountered in the apartment (e.g. Street noise, appliances not functioning properly, etc) and how they were resolved. An apartment that had "No reviews" was usually dismissed by us. We needed to know that the apartment actually existed and what to expect from it ( in one instance, after we had decided on an apartment, the landlord suddenly told us it had already been booked by another traveler but he could offer us another property he owned that was NOT listed on VRBO. This "bait and switch" tactic was not acceptable as we had no way to explore this new option to see if it met our needs. This particular issue had put us in a bind because the process of this negotiation brought us too close to our travel time for us to find an alternative. As a result, we ended up in a hotel for two weeks). Apartment photos from the computer site were then checked to see if it appeared neat and clean.
If all of the above criteria met our needs, then we would email the landlord to say that we were interested. In that email, we asked for his/her "...best monthly rate..." and if it was all inclusive (e.g. We don't want to be surprised at the end of our stay by the owner saying there are previously unknown fees, such as utility or WiFi usage, to be paid. We want to know all of that up front).
Once the owner has answered these questions to our satisfaction, then we will confirm our desire to rent the property. A deposit to secure the rental is usually requested at this point. We prefer to pay the deposit (and the final balance) through PayPal as this is secure and we are not providing personal information, such as credit card numbers, to anyone. While we have had landlords who have requested the full rental balance prior to our arrival, we have resisted this request because we wanted to see the apartment first, to make sure it actually existed, and is as advertised, before handing over our money.
For this trip, we have tried to finalize all of these steps at least two months before our planned arrival. That way, we can then explore travel plans and/or deal with any unexpected details. This process has worked well for us as it has resulted in our obtaining fantastic apartments. Consistently, we have found ourselves living within walking distance of major attractions of a particular city. How often do you get to live within the walls of a medieval town (our Dubrovnik apartment was in a 700 year old building)?
A couple of final cautions about traveling. Keep your valuables safe. Pickpockets are everywhere. We learned from fellow travelers to pin the pockets holding your valuables with safety pins. This makes it harder for pickpockets to get at them. Be unobtrusive. Don't make yourself a target by wearing lots of jewelry or high-priced clothing. Make those who target tourists look elsewhere for easier pickings. Finally, protect your credit cards and passports from electronic hackers by surrounding them with metal (luggage companies sell RFI protected wallets for your credit cards and passports - or wrapping them in aluminum foil will work). We learned this the hard way. Our credit card had to be replaced twice within the past nine months because someone tried to make unauthorized use of it by means of electronic scanners.
We hope all of this advice has been helpful. Traveling has been a great adventure for us and, while it has involved some planning and work, we have found it to be enjoyable. Our plans include continued travel as long as our health allows us.