Last year I wrote about my first ever experience with a short term vacation rental while vacationing in Brussels. To sum it up, we had a great experience and couldn’t wait to try it again when exploring Europe once again last month. I learned a lot the second time though and even though the experience wasn’t a bad one, there are certain lessons I took away.
Like last year, we wanted to pick a city as a home base from which we could take several day trips to neighboring regions. We eventually settled on Milan, which allowed for easy and quick access to places like Venice, Bologna, Torino and Florence. The hard part was done, next came trying to find the perfect place at the right price and most importantly the best location. For me location is key, especially when I’m traveling for less than a week. It saves so much time and money to be well situated near attractions and public transportation. After hours of research I found what I hoped was the perfect condo, seemingly centrally located near the historic Milan city center.
Just as a note, like last year I worked with HomeAway Vacation Rentals on the stay. They paid for most (but not all) of the rental costs and I agreed to write a review of the property. As always, and as you’ll see, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.
Here is a link to the property we booked. As you can see it looks nice, upscale and modern, which is absolutely my style. More importantly it was close to a metro and within easy walking distance of the Duomo, the major tourist attraction in town. We coordinated with the property management company and they were very kind to agree to an early check in which was key since our flight from Washington, DC arrived fairly early in the morning. We walked in and liked what we saw until I asked where the bedroom was. The owner’s face dropped as she said, “Well there is no bedroom,” as she proceeded to unfold the sofa couch. Ah. This was the first lesson I learned, research.
The blame is all mine, and I accept that freely. The web site was in no way misleading and had I taken the time to really study the information and the photos then I would have realized that there was no bedroom and booked another property. But I did not and there was not and so there we were, two guys both over 6 feet tall crammed into a pretty small, if not well decorated, apartment. Ultimately, we got used to it and we really didn’t spend that much time in the condo anyway. But we did miss that feeling of space and comfort that we enjoyed during our last rental experience. But on the upside, another lesson was further confirmed in Milan, location.
Real estate agents swear by this maxim and so should travelers: Location, location, location. No matter your budget, interests or travel style, being well situated when you travel is vital. It saves you time, money and it just makes the experience more pleasant in almost every way. Our condo was perfectly situated very close to a metro and ten minutes by foot from the Duomo. Had we shelled out the big bucks for a similarly located hotel, our lodging budget would have quadrupled instantly.
The third lesson from our rental experience was how much I love my privacy. Yes, I do love hotels but I have to admit they lack a certain amount of privacy. Someone is always noting when you leave or come back and of course housekeeping invades the serenity of a quiet hotel room once a day, often at completely unpredictable times. Renting a short term condo though is like staying at home or a friend’s house. I never worry what anyone thinks if I sleep in late or have to run a dozen errands, I’m in my own space and that’s a great mental luxury when you’re traveling. It’s not something I look for on every trip of course, but when spending a week or two in the same spot I love it.
So what did I think about my second experience with a short term vacation rental? I loved it, no question there. I really enjoy the feeling of living like a local that only renting a condo can bring and while I made some mistakes in the property I chose, at the end of the day it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Just as I wrote last year, it’s certainly not appropriate for every situation but when I want to settle into a destination and really get to know it personally, I can think of no better option.