Have you ever envied people who live in Paris, Istanbul, or Rio? Do you travel to immerse yourself in a place – experience it firsthand and not be a tourist?
Are you curious what it would be like to become a “temporary local,” strolling to the neighborhood pub or market?
If the answer to these questions is an emphatic YES!, then why not rent an apartment in your favorite destination for a week, month … or longer?
We discovered this tactic many years ago and it transformed us from “tourists” into “travelers.” Maybe it’s right for you too! So the next time you travel, here are 7 great reasons to rent an apartment instead of booking a hotel.
1. Live Like a Local. If you want to know what it’s like to live in San Francisco, then pick a neighborhood, rent a short-term apartment, and embrace the life. As in all big cities, each neighborhood comes with its own brand of charm – pretty or gritty, spendy or trendy – it’s your choice. Renting will let you be a local – walk the city, hit the street fairs, take public transit, and go to parts of town not seen by most tourists. When you’re craving authenticity and insight, skip the hotel.
2. Cook Your Own Meals. If you’re a wiz in the kitchen (or even if you’re a total klutz), the best way to save serious money is to prepare some of your own meals. Take a local cooking class, then replicate the recipes in your “home away from home.” Shopping in local markets is the epitome of town life. When you have a kitchen, you have a choice – eat in or eat out!
While living in Athens we learned how to whip up Taramosalata and Tzatziki like pros. We mastered a delicious Spanakopita and Greek Salad, so now we can surprise our friends with an authentic Greek meal – all thanks to cooking in our great little kitchen. The money we saved on eating out enabled us to stay in Greece an extra week – that’s how we got to see Santorini.
3. Luxuriate in More Space. One of the first complaints mentioned on many TripAdvisor Hotel Reviews is how tiny a hotel room is. “Not enough room to swing a Manx cat!” as my London co-worker was fond of saying.
Unlike hotel rooms, apartments are usually described in square feet (or meters), and often include a floor plan. You can compare that number to a familiar space to get a good idea of the total size. Bang for the buck, you’ll get more space and comfort in an apartment.
4. Enjoy More Privacy. I don’t know about you, but in a hotel I seem to have an unfailing talent for getting in the shower just as the maid decides to enter the room. It’s always awkward … and those little “Do Not Disturb” signs never seem to work.
When we rent an apartment, we become our own housekeepers – by choice. We keep things tidy, but it’s also nice to know that we can leave things where we want them (just like home). Nobody will rearrange them while we’re out. And when we sit down to dinner there will be no interruptions for “turn down service.”
5. Stay in a Place with Character. After you’ve endured what seems like a million sterile, boxy hotel rooms, you may be ready to stay someplace with character. Lots of character. For instance, we hit the “architectural jackpot” with exposed bricks walls in our great apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania.
This apartment offered an incredible view from its Grecian terrace.
The gleaming hardwood floors and soaring ceilings sold us on our New Orleans pied-à-terre.
Renting an apartment is the perfect solution for banishing the hotel room blahs. For us, renting also means we can score some outdoor space. We look for a charming terrace, gorgeous balcony, or lovely garden for relaxing.
6. Avoid Paying for Services You’re Not Using. When you stay at a hotel, do you use all the services that are available to you – concierge, front desk staff, pool, spa, fitness facility, or disco? If not, then you’re overpaying – because you are paying for them indirectly in your bill at checkout. When you select an apartment to rent, overhead is reduced considerably.
7. Save Money So You Can Travel Longer. The most enticing reason to rent an apartment on your next trip is that it can be cheaper – way cheaper than a hotel! Our Athens apartment cost only 1/3 of what we would have paid for a hotel in a similar neighborhood. Renting an apartment is easy on the budget, and for us that translates into being able to travel longer.
Sometimes, Renting an Apartment is Not for Everyone
• If you’re staying just a few days, then it’s probably not cost effective to rent, and you may not meet their minimum-stay requirements.
• Or if you rely on a concierge to plan your activities, you’ll miss that service. On the other hand, landlords are a marvelous source of local information … and they don’t expect a tip.
• Finally, if you plan to eat all your meals out, then you won’t benefit from the cost savings of preparing some of your own food.
So if these reasons aren’t deal breakers, then what’s stopping you?
Next week we’ll give you “10 Tips for Renting the Ideal Apartment While Traveling.” Whether you like modern or Mediterranean, bare-bones or luxurious, you can find what you want.
No matter how you look at it, renting an apartment when you travel is your passport to being at home on the globe.
Updated January 2, 2020
This is the first installment in our 3-part series: “Rent a Short-Term Apartment When You Travel.” If you want to see parts 2 and 3, check out“10 Tips for Finding the Ideal Apartment While Traveling” and “25 Tips to Make Your Short-Term Apartment a Reality.”
1. By Cezary via Wikimedia Commons
3,5,7,9. Courtesy Homz Short Term Rentals
All I can say is WOW!!!
Thanks Kaye! Have you ever rented an apartment while traveling? I’d love you hear your tales. ~Terri
Loved the cable car photo, reminded me of my California home. Thanks
You’re welcome Carol! So were you based in San Francisco before your move to Croatia? ~Terri
Being a gypsy in nature, after returning from Hawaii (6 year stay) I lived in Contra Costa County, then to El Dorado county and finally here.
This is so true! You often get more for what you pay for in a serviced apartment. Apartments are more spacious than hotel rooms and offer more amenities – for example, you can have a living area, dining area, kitchen and sometimes, even a spare room and a balcony. A hotel room is usually just a box with a window, a bed, a table and a telly.
You are so right Emma! Even the studios we rent seem larger than many of the hotel rooms we’ve encountered over the years. And the added amenities are a real plus. ~Terri
So glad that you found it helpful. ~Terri
Those are great tips. We spend more money on food than anything else as we eat out every meal (or at least eat street food).
We’ve been thinking about doing something like this in a cheap place for the winter, some place like Ecuador or the Philippines where if a person lives like a local, they can stay for what feels like next to nothing.
Thanks Jeff. I love your idea about wintering in Ecuador or the Philippines. Both places are on our must-see list, and from what I understand, they’re very affordable. We also had really cheap stays in Laos, Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica. We try to use the affordable places to balance out the expensive ones so the budget ends up with a decent average. Sometimes it’s a tricky balancing act! ~Terri
Love this idea. Thanks, Terri. In fact we rented a small apt in Paris one time, for ten days. Totally enjoyed it. Still too short!
Hi Denise … and thanks! It’s great that you rented an apartment in Paris. Ten days sounds wonderful. I could walk that city forever. I was wondering how you found your apartment – an agency, individual, etc.? ~Terri
Can’t wait for the next article in this series!
Hi Sarah, Thanks for the encouragement. Given all your travel experience, I was wondering if you ever rent apartments while traveling? If so, how was your experience? All the best, Terri
That will be a dream trip to Paris, staying in of these apartment for a month or so… 🙂 Thank you for sharing the information, Terre!
You’re welcome Amy! Paris is always on my shortlists of places I want to stay a good long while. So is your dream trip in the works? ~Terri
Great idea! I want to try this in Australia.
Pam, that sounds wonderful. Australia is truly a special place, and finding a way to spend time there and really connect is a joy. All the best, Terri
I’m excited to try our first apartment rentals on our Europe trip… I can’t believe we’re only two months away! We booked apartments instead of hotels for a combination of price and location. Most of the hotels located in key spots (eg center of Paris or Venice) were waaaay outside of our price range, but we were able to find an apartment in that area for much less money. Or, in places like Wroclaw, we’ll literally be staying on the old town square, while hotels would be further away.
Hi Jen, You’re the perfect example of what we’re talking about! Wasn’t it cool to find places with good locations at reasonable prices? If you don’t mind me asking, how did you go about finding your places? And is this for your upcoming Mother/Daughter trip? All the best, Terri
(Oh, and btw, how was your test?)
This is excellent. Between gas prices and airline tickets being astronomical, it is good to save some money somewhere. I love the benefit of staying longer as well. A lot of people go somewhere, stay in an ok hotel, and come back saying “I wish I could have stayed longer. It is better in my estimation to spend $700 for a month in a nice apartment rather than $1000 for a week, not including food. I always look for rooms with a kitchenette anyway. I love cooking my own meals.
Thank you very much Caitlin. You hit the nail on the proverbial head, “Between gas prices and airline tickets being astronomical, it is good to save some money somewhere.” I’m with you … because I want to stay longer. And since you like to cook, you’re already way ahead of the game. So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri
We are definitely going to look into this! Waiting for your next post.
Hi Alison and Don, I think this approach would be perfect for the two of you. It lets you select a place to be your “hub,” find a great affordable apartment, and settle in. Then you wouldn’t be moving around nearly as much. We learned that lesson on our first RTW, so on the second RTW we settled in an apartment at most of our destinations and spent big chunks of time. It was SO much better! How are you enjoying Mexico? All the best, Terri
I guess we hadn’t thought of it because we always just assumed it would be more expensive. Silly us 🙂 Also as long as we get a hotel room with a fridge we fairly frequently prepare our own uncooked meals (breakfasts of fruit and cereal, sandwiches, salads for dinner etc.
We did stay in an apartment in Paris, out in the suburbs, a few years back and loved it. Exactly as you say, we got a feel for local life.
We are loving Mexico, *and* staying put for a few months. We’ve found an absolutely blissful apartment. At the same time we’ve started talking already about where/when we’ll go from here lol.
It sounds like you’re getting your “second wind.” Sometimes all it takes is settling for a while to renew your interest in travel – that’s how it is for us. We’ve been doing a similar thing. So glad you found a blissful apartment in Mexico. Sounds like it was just what the doctor ordered! All the best, Terri
Great advice and I want to live in those apartments! Gorgeous!
Thanks Linda. The wonderful thing is that there are some very cool and affordable apartments all over the world. BTW, I love Riga! We stayed in a great apartment there a few months ago to explore your beautiful city. I’m really glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri
Brilliant, absolutely. Seven reasons – 7 days – why wouldn’t you rent. Our son and his wife just got back from Paris – they rented and they loved it. In fact – they came back and suggested we buy an apartment in Paris – rent it out – plus have our own place to stay. Our son went to university in France – and both he and his wife enjoy the sensibilities of Paris. Of course it wouldn’t be hard to convince me … hmmm now how much is that in dollars? Virginia
Thanks so much Virginia. Your son’s suggestion sounds so exciting – and romantic. Paris is such a lovely place. I was just reading about their short-term rental market, and it seems the authorities are giving some Landlords a difficult time. This might be helpful reading if you decide to pursue it. All the best, Terri
Great advice for at least a week-long stay. I can’t wait to read your next installment about finding the apartments to rent. 🙂
Thanks Cathy. A lot of people have been chiming in with questions and ideas, so I’m working to incorporate those into the post. Have you started your official countdown for coming home? ~Terri
Haha, Terri, I’ve been counting down for months now. I now have exactly 60 days till my last day of work. Then, I’m off to Spain and Portugal for a month, I hope!
So true and such wonderful advice! Local apartments usually get you away from the other tourists & associated tourist-y places. Not only do you end up trying nearby hole-in-the-wall neighborhood places you might have missed staying somewhere else, but (after a week frequenting the same coffeeshop) you leave feeling like they’re somehow “yours.” The best way to feel like a local!
Miranda, you’re so right about the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall places – they usually haven’t been discovered by tourists, the food’s great … and so are the prices! And it’s so fun to become a local at a favorite coffeeshop. ~Terri
This is great advice. It seems to me (with my limited travel experience) that shopping for groceries is a great way to get to know an area, and live like the natives do. You guys sure know how to pick ’em. The places you’ve rented look perfect!
Thanks Anita, The grocery shopping is always a hoot! We’ve been introduced to so many new foods just by watching what the local folks buy – because they know what’s good! Of course we make lots of mistakes, like the time in Sudan when James came home with this HUGE bag of cookies. I said, “What’s the deal?” He said “Well, the only Arabic number I knew how to say was ‘one’ – but since they only sell cookies by the kilo (not the pound), I ended up with 2.2 pounds of cookies!” We were eating on them for months!
That’s funny. I hope they were good. . . . 🙂
Fabulous post. Renting = longer travel – Sold!…I mean, Rented!
Can’t wait for next weeks tips.
Thank you so much Carolin … and I love the equation you created. Renting = Longer Travel. Brilliant! All the best, Terri
Great advice, you two! As you know, we’ve been mostly staying in apartments throughout the Balkans for many of the reasons that you mentioned above. (We did the long stay in Trogir,Croatia, a short-term one in Kotor, Montenegro, and now two short apartment stays in Ohrid, Macedonia.) Up until this trip, we’d never travelled this way, but must confess that we much prefer it! The trips to the fresh markets are definitely one of the big perks to this approach.
Thanks Tricia. Given all your recent experience, you and Shawn must be true pros at renting apartments. It really makes a difference in the quality of the journey. We also love the fresh markets and delight in trying foods we’ve never seen. We were mesmerized by Broccoli Romanesco in Rome. I wish we had been in Croatia during the wild asparagus season. I was wondering, do you reserve your apartments in advance, or wait until you arrive to look for a place? ~Terri
If we know we’re going to stay in one spot for a longer time, we usually book a place for 2 nights, then come to the city and scope it out on foot. 🙂 Of course, that might be a more challenging approach during the high season travel months, but it’s worked for us this winter/spring.
This is a timely post as Terry and I are planning a SE Asia trip this winter (barring no issues with folks) and we are considering renting in Bangkok. Thanks!
Hi LuAnn, That’s so exciting. We really enjoy Bangkok. It can be an intense experience that may take some getting used to, but we love it. We were there last February and rented an apartment in the Sukhumvit Area because it was close to a park, the Sky Train, and modern shopping areas – but it still felt like Old Bangkok. Can’t wait to hear about your plans. ~Terri
Thanks for the tip on where to consider renting.
Great way to sum up all that is fabulous about renting an apartment/house instead of staying in a hotel. We gave up hotels 15 years ago since we usually travel in a herd (5+). We love coming back to our own place at the end of the day with a bag full of local delicacies and a bottle of wine (or 2 or 3). We still do hotels if it’s just The Mister and I, but we love coming back to our own place at the end of the day with a bag full of local delicacies and a bottle of tine (or 2 or 3). Interesting to see how much the market for properties has changed in the last decade or so.
Hi Megan, So glad you stopped by. It sounds like your family has been trailblazing this concept for a while – so on behalf of all travelers, THANK YOU! And you’re right, the market has changed drastically over the last decade – definitely for the better. The choices available today are amazing – something to fit just about anyone’s budget. All the best, Terri
Took me ages to get down here cos I was reading everyone’s viewpoint on the way! Interesting though. I’ve done both and in the days when it was all package holidays, apartments were quite an expensive option because you had to pay under-occupancy supplements quite often. Package hols- who remembers those?
Will be interested in your booking tips, so I’ll have to check that out when I’m back from Poland. 🙂
You’re right – you don’t hear too much about package hols these days. Surely they still exist – probably under a new marketing term. And apartments did used to be so much more expensive. I’m so glad that has shifted and the selection includes both ends of the spectrum. You Poland trip sounds like fun. Have a blast! ~Terri
Hi! We’ve been doing this and it is a great way to travel, live long-term in a location and enjoy the lifestyle of a particular place. Great post!
Thanks very much Jane. It’s great to hear from someone who uses this approach. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you go about it? All the best, Terri
Hi Terri, We usually find places through VRBO and it has worked out well. You sure have had a fun traveling life! I enjoyed your story.
Awesome! A friend of mine is renting an apartment in Paris for a month for many of the reasons you outline! Ideal for long-term travel! I find for short-term travel I’m too much in need of relaxation to want to cook or clean etc. But longer than a couple of weeks and renting a place overseas is a great way to save money and stretch out your trip! Great article!
Thanks Arden! I bet your friend is enjoying embracing Parisian Life, and having an apartment must make it so much easier. I hear you on the need for relaxation if it’s just a short trip. Sometimes it’s just about taking it easy. All the best, Terri
Thank you for an excellent post. Terri, I have done both (last year, I rented a place in Boquete, Panama for a month). Frankly, I wanted to do a RTW trip since I was a kid and I was able to do it with minimum issues/problems. However, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to do a RTW trip, i.e., you have to wrap your mind around the fact that patience and acceptance are key to traveling to multiple places every 2-3 weeks. I found that you have to minimize expectations (be flexible), don’t over-plan, be especially patient at airports, have B, C, and D contingencies for plan changes, and accept that you are going to be doing a lot of unpacking and packing at hotels. In short, you better be a go with the flow person or you’re going to get frustrated constantly.
Conversely, as you pointed out – a month or longer at one destination allows you to relax and immerse yourself in the culture (along with all the other advantages you pointed out). I wont indicate here which style of travel I like better – simply because it will take me a month or more to reflect on everything that has happened during my RTW trip. However, I can say unequivocally that I am happy that I did this once in a life time trip, I just don’t know if I have the focus (especially with regard to blogging about it), physical energy, emotional stamina, and interest in repeating the experience.
In any event, thank you very much for sharing this post, because it did remind me of Boquete and how I was able to effectively utilize that city as a “base” to go to other Central American cities and countries, while still enjoying Boquete as well.
Wow Steve, thank you. Your RTW is an inspiration to us all! And it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to fulfill your childhood dream. You’ve really been covering some ground … and all of us reading your blog have enjoyed your adventures.
Your point about patience is so true. I guess all travelers come to understand that … or they go home! And contingency plans – oh yeah. Our first RTW was much like yours with a similar time frame and destinations. When we did the second RTW, we allocated a lot more time and decided to do it totally differently. We had a rough plan, went the opposite direction (west to east), only bought our transportation tickets as we went (instead of the “RTW ticket” we used the first time), and did a combination of hotels and apartments depending on the destination and our mood. Both trips were wonderful in their own ways.
I love hearing about your stay in Boquete – a place we haven’t visited yet. It just got added to our wish list. Thanks!
So, where are you off to next? All the best, Terri
By the by, speaking of inspiration – James and you “knock it out of the park” on every post I have read here. Both of you have inspired me to do things a bit better and with more grace on my future travel plans. I really admire both of you!
Wow Steve, we’re collectively blushing. Thanks for your incredibly kind words. ~T & J
Terri, I have no idea at the moment. I am sort of chuckling here because I am reminded of a couple that my wife and I once went on vacation with. We were on the beach in Playa Del Carmen with them on our first full day and they were yapping about some other place they wanted to go to (Grand Cayman I think). It was hilarious (and a bit sad) they couldn’t enjoy the present moment. It reminds me of an old saying, “If you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you end up pissing on today.” Consequently, I guess my mind right now is savoring my recently completed trip to Italy, but am excited about France unfolding tomorrow.
Steve, I absolutely love the old saying! It would be the perfect tagline for a travel blog! Good for you for “staying in the moment” and savoring today – and Italy is well worth savoring! Looking forward to your wander through France. All the best, Terri
I love it and totally agree! I’ve never been much of a hotel person though I do enjoy it while there. Couchsurfing with friends is a great way to live like a local but if you don’t have the friend or contact I love the idea of Airbnb and the like!
Having said that, from all the photos you put up I think you are just on another budget to me… At least for now 😉
Thanks for the blog!
Hi Tanny, Isn’t it wonderful all the creative options people have created – from couchsurfing to Airbnb rooms. I love it! And as to budget for apartments, they can certainly run the gamut from very cheap to super expensive. We tend to stay down on the “budget end,” choosing small places so we can get a good location. And … congratulations on your marriage! I know that you and Jonas will be so happy. Wishing you all the best, Terri
This is a sensible concept and one I might well try in Asia. Often when I travel I don’t have the attention span to stay for a month in one place.
We’re like you Jerry – sometimes we only want to stay a week or two – and renting an apartment lets you do that. Then if you decide you love the place, you can rent longer to get increased savings. Asia is a great place to find apartments at reasonable prices. Have you decided where you’re going yet? All the best, Terri
we’ve just put our London apartment on airbnb as we will be staying in our Croatian home this August…. Will let you know how we get on (seeing it from the other side, ie the owner’s side…) hope we’ll get some guests and hope they will leave nice reviews…
That’s exciting! After all your hard work I’m sure you’ll love being in Croatia to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And it will be fascinating to see the Airbnb experience from the owner’s side. Hopefully you’ll get wonderful tenants who will rave about their stay. 🙂 ~Terri
thanks Terri, I just had a booking today on airbnb, our first!! an American couple with one daughter, so all excited!! 🙂
hi Terri, I have now posted our experience as hosts on Airbnb. see this link
Congrats on a great Airbnb experience. I can see that your gorgeous flat would be appealing to anyone. And you have the wonderful bonus of making money to offset your travel expenses. ~Terri
So, how did you find the apartment? Before or after arriving? Are there any sites that list this type of renting that you would suggest? Hoping to do a lot of traveling with the wife. Thanks.
Hi archecotech, so glad you stopped by. We prefer to find our apartments before we arrive. We wrote about our approach in 2 following posts – “10 Tips for Finding the Ideal Apartment While Traveling” and “25 Tips to Make Your Short-Term Apartment a Reality.” Hope that you find these tips helpful and have fun traveling. All the best, Terri
These are all great reasons! I tried to convince my mom to rent an apartment while we were in Istanbul, but she didn’t go for it. Maybe if I send her this list, she can finally be convinces… hehe.
Thanks Sally. For some travelers the comfort and predictability of a hotel is the way to go … and that’s fine. But I really think that if you can get your Mom to try it just once, she won’t go back. If we have a short stay, we use hotels. But if we’re in place longer than 4 nights, we look for an apartment. It might help to tell your Mom that she won’t have to cook, unless she wants to. ~Terri
The issue was our timing, we spent a total of 7 nights in Istanbul but split it up with a trip to Cyprus in between. I’m pretty sure I’ll persuade her next time! 🙂
Fantastic tips! I am in the middle of planning a trip to Paris in the spring and I am planning on renting an apartment there for all the reasons you mentioned above. I am going with three people so it makes so much more sense to cook a few of our own meals and have some more common space rather than being packed in a hotel room. Thanks for sharing!
Many thanks Bridget, I’m so glad you found it helpful. And I can’t imagine a more glorious city than Paris to rent an apartment. You will certainly save loads of money with a group that size – more money for luscious French pastries. 🙂 I’m so glad you stopped by and I’m looking forward to reading about your trip. All the best, Terri
I agree! And I can addtwo bonuses on the list from the family perspective: small kids eat often and are not the best company in restaurants when over tired so to be a bit more flexible for some meals is conveninient. Also, nice to have a second room/ balcony to spend relaxing parent time on after kids bedtime.
Vilma, those are really great points! Thanks for including them. I’m sure that the challenges of traveling with a family are many, but you always come up with ways that make it fun and (seem) easy! 🙂 ~Terri
One of these days, we hope to have the time to do a stay-away-from-home-cation. We love just taking in the local feel, often putting the big tourist sites second, and this sounds like a great way to go.
Thanks Mary Lizie! We started choosing small apartments instead of hotel rooms many years ago, and it makes such a difference in the quality of the experience. We love being able to cook and we always end up saving money. Win-win! 🙂 So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri
Great post! My husband and I travel the globe and use Airbnb to book our apartments. What services do you use for long term stays when you travel?
Thanks for the comment Angela and for dropping by the blog. We haven’t used Airbnb yet. The three that we’ve had the best luck with are Homeaway, VRBO, and Flipkey. We’re firm believers in apartments instead of hotels, and while we’ve had a few small surprises, most of our experiences have been good. Our policy is that we never rent any apartment which doesn’t have reviews. ~Terri
That is our policy as well. You should check out Airbnb. We have had wonderful experiences.
Now THAT’s an idea! Booking boxed hotel rooms and staying at a city or town for 3 days (and taking pictures next to popular tourist spots just so I can say I’ve been to this to this or that place) is not my idea of truly experiencing the culture. Thanks so much for the great tip!
You’re welcome, Anna. So glad you found the tips helpful. We’re staying in a tiny apartment now in the old town of Kotor, Montenegro and it’s wonderful. We’re part of the daily life of doing laundry, cooking meals, and of course feeding the little kittens outside our door. You miss all the fun in a hotel! 🙂 ~Terri