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Renting a Holiday Apartment

FugenBalconyOn our recent trip to Austria, we thought it would be a great idea to rent apartments instead of hotels so we could do a bit of self-catering to help cut costs. The last time we were in Austria, we were camping with our tent (and car) and had breakfast and dinner at our campsite, so shopping in Austrian grocery stores wasn’t a foreign concept (haha!).

When you are choosing to rent a holiday apartment, you have two options. You can either rent a private home through a site like airbnb or you can rent an apartment in a managed property, similar to a hotel through booking sites like booking.com (what I use)*. I also leave a tab open with TripAdvisor to check reviews of the apartments I’m looking at and a tab with google maps for checking the area the apartments are in for finding out how close they are to public transportation, shops, restaurants, and attractions. I’ve never used airbnb, but I have friends who have used it while travelling abroad, and they’ve had very good experiences. Airbnb also seems like they are on the ball with their customer service if you have any problems. Likewise, booking.com has excellent customer service. I have had good luck with booking.com, but also some less-than-perfect luck. Booking.com suggests not booking properties with a rating below 7, as their ratings are generated based on users reviews. So if you don’t mind renting someone’s private apartment, you might want to have tabs open for both to compare apartments. I also kept open a tab with google translate in case I needed to look up German words I wasn’t familiar with.

Firstly, you need to decide on your location and price range. Booking.com lets you search by towns as well as regions, so I put in “Zillertal” and then ticked the box for £0-£55/night which led me to several choices, including Apart Heim, the place we stayed. I wound up looking at around a half dozen places before making my decision, and one of our “musts” was being close to public transportation as we would be using the Zillertalbahn to get around and would not have a car. We also needed to be close to a grocery store, due to the aforementioned lack of a car. I used Google Maps to look at where the apartment was and zoomed in until I could see the icons. When I saw a shop icon, I googled to find out what the shop was and discovered MPREIS was the name of a grocery store.

Another thing to consider is what amenities you need. It was only my husband and I travelling, so we knew we could stay in either a studio apartment or a one-bedroom. When we travel next Summer with my mom, we will be looking at one-bedroom with a sofabed in the living room as well as two-bedroom apartments. Our only other requirement was that we wanted to have our own private bathroom (not usually a problem with apartments, but many hotels have shared bathrooms). I also looked at what was available in the kitchen and we picked an apartment that had a stove (hob), refrigerator, sink, microwave, and kettle. Our first apartment didn’t have an oven, but the second location did. We weren’t bothered by things like wifi or television since we knew we wouldn’t watch TV and we had our phones for internet. Our apartment provided dish soap, a sponge, and potholders in the kitchen. You also can assume that apartment rentals will include basic dishes and cooking equipment, though if you need anything specific you probably should pack it. Our apartments also included towels and linens, but some apartments do not or charge extra, so check the notes on the listing.

Most apartments also charge a flat cleaning fee between €25-50 no matter the length of your stay. You’ll want to make sure you factor this fee in when you’re picking an apartment as it won’t be part of your total for accommodation and many places will ask you to pay the cleaning fee separately in cash on arrival. Some apartments also charge a security deposit, so again, make sure you read all the information listed on the booking site.

Unlike a hotel, front desks at apartment rentals aren’t open 24 hours a day, so you will need to check and make sure you can arrive at the hotel while the desk is open or are able to ring the landlords when you arrive. This was another mistake I made with our second booking.

Even though you paid a cleaning fee, some apartments require their tenants to take out (and sort) the rubbish, strip beds, or sweep the floors. Most places will come with a set of rules, and it’s important you read over these. Google translate can help translate a picture of text. This is particularly important in case there are additional fees for breaking any of the rules!

Have fun and happy planning!

*~*
*But I did make a mistake and wound up booking a private apartment through booking.com….more details in another post on that apartment.

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Serious Tourism Blunder!

As some of you might know, Tim is traveling across the pond to visit me for three weeks in July and August. Being a British bloke, he’s not used to the really hot summers we can have in Pennsylvania, so I’ve been trying to prepare him. Today, for example, it was 30C in Lancaster, PA. While we were on the phone (Skype), I googled “average temperatures july lancaster pa” to try and give him a decent taste on what the weather would be like.

I stumbled upon the “World Guide to Lancaster, PA”. Where do I begin on how inaccurate this website is? We can start with the website suggesting that Zoo America is located in Lancaster, when it is in fact located in Hershey, PA, about a half-hours drive. Or how about how it claims that you’ll get views of the countryside, but most of the hotels are downtown. No, I know. Let’s look at the photos. You know, the main item on the webpage that is supposed to grab people’s attention and make them want to visit the town your site is showcasing.

Photo 1 – The center square in Lancaster, PA. Nothing wrong here.
Photo 2 – The side of Central Market, the oldest market in the United States. Again, nothing wrong.
Photo 3 – “Lancaster Castle Prison”

Uhm, what?

That castle you’re looking at? Is this castle:

800px-lancaster_castle
(image provided by Wikipedia)

That castle is in fact, Lancaster Castle. In Lancaster. However, it’s not in Lancaster, PA. Heck, it’s not even in the United States. Nope. It’s in Lancaster, United Kingdom.

The “Lancaster Castle Prison” is this building:
lanco_prison
(image provided by Wikipedia)

Which is an actual county prison. The only way you’re visiting it is if you’ve broken the law.

Now, both Wikipedia entries for Lancaster Castle and Lancaster County Prison as well as the Lancaster County Prison’s website claim the Lancaster County Prison was modeled after Lancaster Castle. Personally, I can’t really see it as being an “exact replica”, but it’ll do nicely as a homage. Still though, I can’t quite justify showing an image of a castle on a tourism website that is located in another country.

I can see tourists wanting to see “the castle” and being directed over to the prison and soon being disappointed that it’s not the castle pictured on the website. Uh, sure, just drive to the Atlantic Ocean, swim for about 3,000 miles, then travel halfway up the UK to get to it.

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