where will we stay?
Wlhen we begin Roaming we plan to stay in each location at least one month. I’ve never taken more than twelve days off work so this will definitely be a new experience! We have some comfort with AirBnB and have been dreaming over apartments on that site for our first ventures, mostly in France, Italy, and Portugal. Having vacationed in rentals six times, we decided to review each place and look for lessons learned.
Our first vacation apartment experience was on a trip to Paris with our kids. We had a wonderful Palais Royale location, two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a tiny kitchen. It was a splurge, but we loved it! We discovered a lovely bistro at the end of the block and became friendly with the owner. We’d love to visit again, but it’s too expensive now! We used the same company a couple of years later, booking a smaller two-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the Sacre Coeur. It was just a touch shabby, but it was affordable and had everything we needed–two bedrooms, one bathroom, and beds for all five of us–and a tiny Parisian elevator so we didn’t have to lug our bags up several flights of stairs.
For our next vacation apartment adventure, I decided we didn’t need luxury and looked for something very affordable. This was our first real lesson (and our first AirBnB experience!). The ground floor apartment in Berlin looked cute in the pictures–crisp, bright colors, and compact. When we arrived, however, it was a different story. The bed, which looked big, was way too small, so I had to sleep on the sofa. The bathroom turned out to be a wet room, and the shower drain was plugged and flooded the bathroom and part of the living room. And when we opened the freezer, we found some horrible, very old, frozen food. The first night, a drunken, angry man serenaded us outside the open windows, which we couldn’t shut because of the heat. We paid well below $100 per night but spent as little time in this apartment as possible.
So, what happens after an experience like ours in Berlin? You overcorrect, of course! Our next trip was to Stockholm, and I was determined to find us a pleasant place–and I did. Located a stone’s throw from the Old Town, our apartment on the top floor of an elevator building boasted two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a huge dining room with a piano, and a wonderful kitchen with an espresso machine that I spent an hour on youtube videos to master! It was more expensive than a hotel, but it was wonderful! In fact, it was much larger than we needed for only two people. But it was definitely an overcorrection.
Our next adventure was in California, where we stayed with our daughter and son-in-law. The place was close to the beach, old, and quaint. We loved it! However, we didn’t know that the owners turned lived above us and shared the garden, and they REALLY enjoyed spending time with us, popping in unannounced just to visit. We, however, craved privacy and family time. Eventually I found myself hiding in my bedroom to avoid chatting.
Our most recent AirBnB experience was on a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, in April 2019. We flew to Rome for a couple of days, then met our kids for the drive to our villa. The landscape was gorgeous, our host was charming but gave us privacy, the four-bedroom, two-bath villa was larger than we needed but very comfortable, and while it was too chilly to swim, we enjoyed both sitting by the pool and warming up by the fireplace. And perhaps the best part was cooking together and eating in the spacious kitchen! But we had to drive 20 minutes to get to any store or cafe.
So. . .what have we learned? To shoot for a mix of luxury and frugality. To focus on location. To look for gracious hosts who are friendly but don’t want to spend lots of time with us. To make sure the basics (a clean, workable kitchen, a comfortable king-sized bed, a bathroom with a good shower) are there. And, when it’s booked and we’ve arrived, to remember that no place is perfect, to roll with the punches and make the most of our precious time in each temporary home, and to remember our sense of humor. And most of all, to cherish the memories!