For your next journey, you decided to skip the boring hotel and rent a short-term apartment in your dream destination … and you found a great place! Now it’s time to make it a reality.
Maybe it’s a tiny pied-à-terre in Paris with a great garden …
… a charming waterfront cottage on the Great Lakes …
… or a romantic attic loft in Tallinn.
Here are 25 of our best tips to seal the deal and make your stay everything you dreamed.
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Make a Checklist. When you arrive at your new apartment, there will be some confusion – lots of handshaking or bowing … and maybe some language challenges. So that you don’t get flustered, make a list as a reminder of your discussion points.
2. Gather Your Docs. To prepare for your stay, pull together all your communication with the rental agency or owner. Be sure to bring copies of:
• Agreements and contracts
• Your apartment’s ad with the photos that were included (*You’ll see why later!)
• Questions asked and answered
• Receipts for deposits and pre-payments
• Reviews with helpful information, such as grocery store locations
• Directions to your flat
• Contact information in case your flight is delayed or your plans change.
3. Set the Meeting. You’ll need a way to meet your contact and get the keys to your apartment. Be sure to confirm where and when this will happen.
4. Figure Out How to Get There … Really! Plot your destination on a map, determine if you’re going to use public or private transport, and have a contingency plan … trust me on this one!
The journey to our Athens apartment was a huge comedy of errors. When our plane landed, we discovered that the Metro had just gone on strike. Oh great! So we jumped on the bus, but it stopped running mid-route because of the riots. Then we flagged down a taxi, showed the driver the address, and off he went. We leaned back and breathed a sigh of relief. He dropped us off at an address, we rang the bell … it was the wrong place … way wrong! Arghhh! So we hailed another taxi, headed back across town. and finally got to the right place … 4 hours later! It was supposed to be a simple Metro ride.
5. Get Directions in the Local Language. Ask your landlord for an email with directions in the local language. Your transport driver will thank you. If we had only done this before arriving in Athens it might have saved us hours of grief and misdirection.
6. Know the Money Situation. Most landlords will ask you to pay all or part of your rent when you arrive. You need to know if they will accept credit cards or expect cash – if so, what currency.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
7. Meet Your Host. In our experience, apartment owners who deal with world travelers are fascinating, patient, and helpful people. They’re accustomed to different languages, ready to answer your questions, and truly want you to be comfortable in your temporary home.
8. Get the Keys and Codes. We’ve had every kind of apartment “door opening device” imaginable – skeleton keys, padlocks, cards, and codes. We always ask for a set for 2 adults. You may also need the code or key to get into the building. Test the keys and locks to make sure you can get the doors opened and closed securely.
9. Ask About the Rules and Regulations. All landlords have rules related to things like smoking, pets, noise, etc. For example, some buildings strictly prohibit hanging any laundry or swimwear outdoors – others positively embrace it and encourage you to send your undies out to frolic in the breeze with the neighbor’s.
10. Do a Quick “Recce.” Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you have all the basics you were promised. We do a quick “recce” (reconnaissance) to determine if everything is there. We use a copy of their ad as a checklist to ensure we have:
• Bathroom towels
• Bed sheets, pillows, and comforters
• Hangers (notoriously missing).
The kitchen basics we expect include:
• Enough silverware, plates, bowls, cups and glasses for each person
• A way to make coffee and tea (although the equipment may be unfamiliar to you!)
• A skillet and cooking pot (at the least)
• Basic cooking utensils, one sharp knife, and a wine opener.
Consider anything beyond this a wonderful bonus! If these basic items aren’t present, just politely ask your landlord to provide them.
11. Learn How to Operate Everything! You may think you know how to operate a washing machine – only to face your Italian laundry nemesis in your stylish Florence apartment. Oh, and how DO you get hot water for the shower? Where does the heat or AC come from? And figuring out how to control some TVs is like launching the lunar lander. Remember, there won’t be any front desk staff to rescue you.
So get the demonstration on these biggies:
• Hot water
• Heat and air conditioning
• Stove top, oven and microwave
• TV, DVD player, and Wifi
12. Scope Out the Trash. One of the biggest complaints by landlords is that their temporary tenants don’t dispose of their rubbish. So be sure to ask where and when to dispose of all garbage … and your landlord will love you!
13. Love That Local Knowledge. Owners know their cities like the backs of their hands – and they love sharing their expertise. They often have folders crammed with brochures, maps, and restaurant recommendations. Be sure to ask them about local markets and grocery stores. And in emergencies, they are your best source of information. When James became ill with Dengue Fever in New Zealand, our hosts in Wellington hooked us up with a great doctor.
14. Request a Contact. You will need to know who to contact for questions and emergencies, and how to reach them.
15. Note Anything that is Damaged, Broken or Missing. Using the owner’s *photos you brought with you, determine If anything is missing that you need. One time we arrived at an apartment that had a dining table, but no chairs (which were clearly visible in the photos). Evidently they had been “borrowed” by other tenants in the building, so we asked for their return. Also note anything broken so you will not be held responsible for the damage when you leave.
16. Ask About the Departure and Deposit Procedure. Determine what you need to do when it’s time to leave. And if the owner required a deposit, clarify how and when it will be returned to you. We always ask the Landlord to do a final walkthrough on our last day and return the deposit then.
17. Do the Deal. Pay the amount you agreed, and most importantly, get a receipt signed and dated, stating “Paid in Full” because you just might need it when you exit the country. Make sure it looks official – no scraps of notebook paper or the back of the Chinese menu. We always print one up in advance for the landlord to sign and verify.
18. Grab Your Tote and Go Shopping. Since the owner just told you where the closest grocery store is, head out and buy only enough to get you through until tomorrow. For us that means something celebratory (a local wine), and a light evening snack (local cheese, fruit, bread) or some lovely takeout goodies. You may also want something for breakfast. That way you can eat in or out – your choice! Now you’re ready for your first night in your “home away from home.” And for us, the quickest way to make it feel like home is to also grab some flowers!
WHILE YOU’RE LIVING THERE
19. Treat it Like You Own It! Most landlords take particular pride in their rental accommodations. They want you to feel comfortable – like welcome house guests. Your consideration and respect for their property will go a long way toward a harmonious stay.
20. Put Yourself in Your Neighbor’s Shoes. Often you’ll be staying in apartment buildings with many full-time residents … who have to go to work every day. They (and your landlord) will appreciate your courtesy when it comes to noise and activity.
WHEN YOU LEAVE
21. Leave It Clean. You may be able to save yourself a hefty add-on fee by cleaning the apartment yourself, thus avoiding an unnecessary travel expense.
22. Follow the Departure Procedures. Checkout procedures can be simple or amazingly complicated … and we’ve seen it all. Some landlords want you to wash the linens – others don’t. Just follow their instructions and you’ll be fine. Remind yourself that you don’t want to give your landlord any reason to keep your deposit
23. Get Your Deposit Back. You don’t want to have to chase down your deposit and the landlord after you’ve left. That’s a complication you don’t need.
24. Pay it Forward – Write an Honest, Informative Review and Help a Fellow Traveler. Thanks to reviewers of the apartment we rented in Tallinn, Estonia, we knew exactly where to find the local grocery store. The lock on the front door of our New Orleans short-term apartment was stubborn, but a reviewer told us to enter the code 4 times in a row … and it worked like a charm. And reviewers for Amsterdam flats steered us out of the Red Light District. So “Pay it Forward.”
25. Relax. No Matter What You Do, Not Everything Will Be Perfect … Just Like Home! You can’t anticipate … or control everything. Kitchen tools will be missing, the toilet will be weird, and the pillow will suck. Such is the traveler’s lucky lot. Remember, this is an adventure and you’ll probably have to do a lot of improvising. You’re living like a local in a very special place. Just think of the memories … and the bragging rights!
Enjoy your next adventure!
Updated January 2, 2020
***This is the final installment in our 3-part series: “Rent a Short-Term Apartment When You Travel.” If you want to catch up, check out
“7 Reasons to Rent anApartment the Next Time You Travel” and “10 Tips for Finding the Ideal Apartment While Traveling.”
Thanks for sharing this wonderful list of tips. Several were things I never would have thought of (despite being obsessively organised and meticulously tidy/clean in my own daily life).
I’ve never rented an apartment overseas, but will bookmark this post just in case I ever do.
Thanks for your kind words Victoria! I’m glad you found it helpful. All the best, Terri
PS Don’t know whether it’s necessary these days, but when I first went over to the UK & Europe in the mid 1970s, I took an English & European power adaptors for my hairdryer. Both the English and European power points and wattage are different to our Australian ones.
And now, I have my Apple Mac laptop battery recharger linked through a ‘power surge protector’ as Apple uses only 65v (?) and our Aust. electrical outlets are (240v).
Haven’t been overseas for many years so don’t know what they use.
Hi Victoria, One of the great things about renting an apartment is that it almost always includes a hairdryer. If they don’t mention it in their ad, just ask – these owners are great and usually very accommodating. Then you won’t have to travel with a hairdryer – more room for something else! We travel with a small “all-in-one” power adapter that will work in any plug around the world. Our Mac, iPad and iTouch are dual voltage, so all we need is the power adapter. It’s so much easier than it used to be! All the best, Terri
Lovely post and very informative.
Thanks so much! ~Terri
Nicely done, Terri. We especially look forward to the moment when we get to explore he neighborhood grocery stores: so many new foods and customs! The discovery is great, but the knowledge (of location an procedure) is required or apartment living.
Thanks so much Tom. I can’t tell you how good it is to hear from you – you gave us quite a scare. I’m so glad that your glorious sense of humor and eloquent writing survived intact. It’s not every guy who can sport a different bandana for every day of the week! Here’s to getting you back on the trail soon. All the best to you and Louise ~Terri
Thank you! I immediately forwarded this to Don who is mostly doing the travel planning while I mostly do the blog.
Looking forward to the apartments in our future 🙂
You’re welcome Alison and Don! I know that sometimes it feels like travel planning is a full-time job – but the payoff is great! Are you starting to line things up for future travels or just relaxing in your casita? All the best, Terri
A bit of both. Casita in La Manzanilla til middle or bit later in July (with a side trip to San Miguel), then about 10 days in Oaxaca for the Guelaguetza Festival, a week in Mexico City. Second half of August we take our granddaughter to Sweden for two weeks to visit her dad&family, then 3 or so weeks in Montreal to visit my sis&family and then . . . . probably back down to this part of the world – Central/South America. Just beginning to talk out ideas and research options. Seems we’re always lining things up for future travel 🙂 in between lots of relaxing of course 🙂
An absolutely fantastic series, so well written (as always) We can’t think of any stone you’ve left unturned-a definitive guide that we’ll book mark for our next extended stay. We’ve done self-catering units, but have always been a bit nervous about staying “real people’s” apartments. This has been an eye opener and an avenue to explore! Thank you!
Wow, thank you so much (I’m blushing)! Your kind words and encouragement are really appreciated. One of the things we love about the WordPress Travel Community is that we all try to help other travelers. James and I have been the happy beneficiaries of so much great travel advice that we wanted to give something back. All the best, Terri
Once again, thanks James and Terri for your great advice.
You are so welcome Curt. Thanks for hanging in there with us! ~Terri
lots of very helpful info there!
Thanks – always glad to help! ~Terri
This will be an invaluable post when we make our trek to SE Asia. Thanks Terri! 🙂
You’re welcome LuAnn. So glad that you found the info useful. ~Terri
I’ve never tried this – a bit daunting maybe – but I can see the advantages. Hmm. An excellent article, with good advice.
Thanks Alison! Good point! I know that the first apartment we rented seemed like a real leap of faith. Fortunately we were blessed with a charming landlord who walked us through the process and gave us a wonderful introduction to the concept. And that experience changed the way we travel. If you decide to try it, let us know how it went. All the best, Terri
One of the best series of articles I’ve seen on this topic. The details are so important, so thank you for taking the time to include the bits that most people overlook. I tend to gravitate towards well-known hotel chains when traveling because you know what you’re getting. But this article has really peaked my interest in trying an alternative path to traveling.
Lan, thank you for your very kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the series and hope the information is useful to you in the future. We too were a bit dubious at first, but after several great experiences we’re converts! So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri
Just found your blog and absolutely love it! We start international travel this summer and these articles are so helpful. Thank you!
Thanks for the comment Nikki and for dropping by the blog. We are big believers in apartments vs. hotels, and we rent them whenever possible. The internet has made is so much easier, and more reliable. As you can probably tell, we’ve traveled quite a bit and blogged about lots of places. Start with our “Travel” pulldown menu and you may get some ideas. Best of luck on your trip. ~James