One of my favorite things about international travel is pretending just for a short time that I live in the destination. A great way to get a taste of living in another country is to stay in a holiday flat (also know as self-catering or vacation rental). Just imagine… When you arrive, you pop over to the market and stock up on coffee, beverages, and local goodies. In the morning, you eat breakfast in your pjs as you gaze out the window at the neighborhood activity. After a busy day of exploring, you grab a beverage from the fridge and relax on the sofa.
Michael and I stayed in our first holiday flat in 2004 in Barcelona. Since then, we’ve enjoyed vacation rentals in Puerto Vallarta, Paris, Stellenbosch South Africa, and Camps Bay South Africa. We’ve had a few minor mishaps, but overall, the experiences have been great. In Stellenbosch, the power in our flat went out on the last night. We called the owner, who tried to help troubleshoot the circuit breaker. When the power didn’t turn on, he offered to come over. We knew he lived 45 minutes away, so we decided to make due and it worked out just fine. In Puerto Penasco, Mexico the front desk wanted to charge us an activity fee at check in. We had prepaid the owner in full, so we presented the receipt. After the trip, we saw that the front desk took the credit card number from the receipt and charged us for the full stay. After several emails and calls, the owner made good on the second charge, but it was very frustrating (we won’t stay at that vacation rental again).
There are some great advantages of choosing a self-catering over a hotel, but there can also be drawbacks. It all depends on your travel preferences, level of independence, and ability to go with the flow. I always enjoy researching vacation rentals… The only challenge is, there are so many great options that it is hard to pick just one.
Barcelona – Passeig de Gracia
Warm, cozy flat on a beautiful boulevard within walking distance of Las Ramblas, Corte Ingles, and Gaudi’s Casa Batlló. An added bonus – the building has a front desk with helpful staff.
Camps Bay, South Africa – 1 The Grange
Hip, modern duplex on a hill with gorgeous views of Table Mountain and the sea. The upstairs and downstairs flats share a pool. It is a 10 – 15 minute walk to the beach and the town where there are a few restaurants, bars, and a grocery store. The rental fee included daily housekeeping.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Home of the Dolphins
If you like being in the heart of town, this is the place to stay. It is a quick, easy walk to many shops, restaurants, and bars. The rooftop pool is an awesome spot to watch the pelicans fly by. Take a taxi to the fish market and get some fresh catch for dinner on your outdoor balcony overlooking the sea.
Paris, France – Rue Regis
Comfortable flat on a quiet residential street within walking distance of Le Bon Marche and Luxemburg Gardens. Favorite features are the washing machine, extra half bathroom, and spacious dining room.