Looking for ways to keep the cost of your travels down?
Self-catering apartments will always be cheaper than hotels – but not all rentals are created equal. Before you book a self-catering option, consider the following information about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of self catering.
At its best, self catering provides more space, the added convenience of a kitchen, and my favorite element – a residential location. Nothing makes you feel like more of a local than stepping out the front door of an apartment right into a part of town you never would have otherwise visited. Travelers looking to get beneath the surface of a destination will certainly benefit from the pros of apartment rentals. If you’ve been to Paris a few times before, for example, renting an apartment is sure to give you a new perspective on the City of Light.
At its worst, you find yourself lugging bags up six flights of stairs to find that the key doesn’t work in the door, or the water hasn’t been turned on, or there’s a kitchen – but no plates or items to cook with. There is one way to avoid this full stop – and that is by booking only with a reputable website, and preferably one that has space for comments of previous renters.
But what about places that are advertised on Craigslist, or directly by the owner? I must admit, my experiences have all been positive. I’ve never gotten to an apartment to find that there is not one single towel to be found anywhere, or entered into a room with a bare mattress and had to make the bed myself (although I know people who have encountered that specific challenge.)
These obstacles may leave you wishing for a reception to call that will take care of your problem with a promptness only experienced in great hotels. And while sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into – self catering is always an adventure, and promises the opportunity to learn a bit more about culture than could be found in a hotel room.
Sometimes, the results are worth the risk. My best memories of self-catering are as follows:
1. Berlin, Germany. The owner of my apartment rental was a friendly film editor who shared stories of life during the Berlin Wall, and gave firsthand anecdotes of the day the Wall came down. He brought us to see a jazz show, gave us advice on restaurants, and simply shared his love of the city.
2. Venice, Italy. Anyone who enjoys cooking must consider self-catering options in Italy. A travel dream of mine came true when I strolled into the Rialto Fish Market early each morning to select something from the daily catch. Affordable bakeries and grocery stores complemented my purchases, and each evening, I whipped up my own Italian specialties.
A healthy bit of hesitancy will ensure you have a good experience with self catering. Never book a vacation rental if you haven’t seen photographs. Never hand over the entire price of your visit – even if a discount is offered by paying in full. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about location, amenities, and price. And lastly, don’t be shy about discovering a new area of town.
What are your favorite things about self-catering? Have a nightmare story about vacation rentals? Share your advice with fellow travelers below.