A part of Beyond Vacation involved traveling slower, which for us has meant staying in a place more than a week at a time. We have found that staying in apartments is the best way to do this.
We had some good luck and some bad luck with our apartments this summer. We learned that we need to do better research. With so many sites and so many different variables, a list is important. Your list will probably be different than ours, but this is my blog so this is my list. Feel free to share thoughts in comments.
This is the most important category, really! If it is not in a good location, the apartment is probably going to annoy us.
- Public Transport – Make a list of the places you think you will want to go to in town. Make routes (Google maps has public transport in the directions often.) and make sure the time is within your pain threshold. If it takes you an hour to get into town, realize that it may discourage you from going as often as you would like. Also check how often the trains/buses run and how much they cost. Is the Metro a 20 minute walk from the place?
- Food – People need to eat. Check that there is a grocery store nearby and attempt to see where the cafes are. This is a hard one to judge sometimes, but worth looking into. Are you going to be spending an hour to get groceries every few days? Or is there an awesome looking curry place around the corner?
Street markets can be a great solution to both of these.
- View – Not always important, but can be a great tie breaker. It really depends on the purpose and city of your trip. We loved the view in Minori.
- Wi-Fi – No internet and we won’t stay there. Between needing to stay on top of e-mails for my freelance business and our being bloggers, we are just addicted to the Net.
- Kitchen – Cooking in apartments is one of the reasons we like staying there. Eating out can get overwhelming and expensive. We check that a kitchen has a fridge and burners (electric preferred).
- Bed – We check that it is a real bed and that it “looks ok” in pictures. It has to be big enough for us both. We note anything like windows without blinds that might mean too much light. Unfortunately the comfort of a bed is not easy to see from pictures.
- Air Conditioning – This is by no means a requirement in most places. It will depend on the place and time of year.
- Washing Machine – If we are on the road for weeks or months, laundry is a reality. If there is no washer in the apartment, be sure to ask the owner where there is a laundromat nearby. We didn’t have a machine in Brussels, but the laundromat was around the corner.
- Hair dryer – Ali has long hair and uses it. I have no hair and forget to check sometimes.
- Table – I really like having a table to sit at with the laptop to work.
Price & Availability
This can feel like the top category and while it is indeed important, can be somewhat deceptive.
- Is the place available on your chosen dates?
- Check-in/Check-out times. Unlike with a hotel, most of the apartments, you are dealing with owners with their own lives and schedules. Make sure you can deal with the limitations that might bring. Do you have a late day train but must be out by 9am? Or if you have an early flight, can you just leave the keys?
- Deposits. Assuming everything goes ok, having security deposits isn’t a big deal, but something to be aware of.
- The base price. How much does the place cost per night? Per week? Per month? Are there potential discounts?
- Depending on the site you use, the cleaning fees and site fees are in the rate or not. Be aware.
- Public transport. This bends back into the location category. If a place is a tram ride into town and you plan on using transport every day, think about that cost. If it in the middle of everything and you don’t need transport, that could be a savings.
- Are there any amenities (like Washing Machine or Kitchen) that are missing which would mean more cost for you?
This is a hard one to judge. As the apartment sites have grown so fast, there are often new apartments every day. Just because they do not have any reviews does not mean they are bad. If your site has reviews, certainly read through them to get a sense of the place and the owner to help make a decision.
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One theme through the entire list is that things that are important to you in your “home” are probably similarly important in looking for an apartment for long term stays. Short term is something else, but mostly what you need around you at home to feel ok you are likely going to need in some form on the road.
This is our list. Even it is pretty long and can make choosing a place difficult, do you have anything to add?