The pursuit of finding an ‘authentic’ experience when travelling is often hard to find when surrounded by doormen wanting to help you with your bags and receptionists that greet you by name upon walking in the door.
Hotels or even luxury hostels are nice to stay in – I won’t deny that – but in the pursuit of seeking authenticity hotels and hostels often don’t check that box.
With the rise of vacation rental websites, like FlipKey, I was keen to try but nervous at the same time until I finally took a chance when I realised that hotel accommodation in central Paris was a little out of my reach.
So many questions filled my mind – would I be able to understand the house owners? Would they be nice? Would they rip me off? Would the apartment meet my expectations of ‘clean’ and ‘operational’? Would I find the authentic Parisian experience that I craved, an experience that would help me build my French skills without having receptionists, bellmen and concierge speak to me in English and instead have to do my own planning – often in French – stumbling over my limited vocabulary.
I needed not have worried when the door was answered by a cheery gentleman, his accent thick and insisting on helping carry my bag up the eight flights of stairs.
The apartment was clean, if not a little smaller than I imagined, and while not a hotel room I was so accustomed to it was quaint, quirky and I had my own kitchen.
The apartment owner had taken the time to put together a small document for me to use with emergency numbers, maps to must visit sites and need to know information about the property and surrounding area.
It was a perfect introduction to vacation rentals and a place I’ve recommended a number of times to friends and colleagues visiting Paris.
Since then I’ve used various companies properties in Barcelona, Pamplona, Florence and most recently, Reykjavik.
Why? It’s simple really – vacation rentals offer me a more authentic experience.
It forces me to get out of my hotel room bubble and try new foods or attempt to navigate a local market or store, explore the city from a locals point of view – including using public transportation and walking more than when at a hotel where taxi’s are easy to find – and even try harder to use a new language where I only know one or two words. It’s a challenge and sometimes exhausting but it gives yourself a deep sense of pride when you get something write, no matter how small.
Sure, there’s no one you can complain to when the pictures and expectations don’t meet reality and the landlords or property managers can sometimes be scary – as proven in Pamplona – but the companies are on hand to ensure your stay goes smoothly, including helping you find a new property should everything turn sour.
Now it’s over to you:
Have you stayed in a vacation rental?
Where has been your favourite ‘authentic’ stay?
Would you consider staying in a vacation rental?
My accommodation in Reykjavik was supported by FlipKey.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.