Over the summer, I was able to take my older girls (ages 8 & 10) to Paris. We spent six days in the City of Light before returning home to DC. You can see some of our favorite activities in my blog post from August, Paris with Kids: 6 Family-Friendly Must-Do’s, including Disneyland Paris and the Jardin d’Acclimation. Such a wonderful trip.
Just like when we went to Vienna and Prague in December, we opted to stay in a vacation rental over a hotel room. Not only is it a big cost-saver to stay in an apartment while traveling, but it was nice to have a refrigerator and a washing machine (we used both every day). Booking an apartment also enabled us to stay closer to cafés, supermarkets and public transportation.
I used FlipKey.com to secure our vacation rental in Paris and overall I was pleased with the experience. Their website was very easy to use and while not every rental was available during my preferred dates, it was easy to look at pictures, see amenities at-a-glance and request more information from rental owners and managers. Plus, I received replies to my inquiries very quickly.
Since booking my rental, FlipKey.com added a “Book Now” feature that many owners are using to eliminate some of the back-and-forth. So, if you see what you like, you can book the rental on the spot, much like you would on a hotel website. FlipKey.com also has a Peace of Mind Guarantee should the vacation rental you select not match the description, if you are unable to access the rental or if Internet fraud is involved.
If you’re thinking about booking a vacation rental, take a look at my six do’s and don’ts.
Do Research Where You Want to Stay in a City.
Paris is a big city with many “arrondissements” (districts), so before you book a vacation rental, do your research to figure out your preferred part of town to stay. Once you know, or have narrowed it down to several areas, FlipKey.com makes it easy to sort apartment and home rentals by area so you can then favorite the ones of interest to you and make contact with the rental managers.
Don’t Book a Rental Without Reading Reviews.
When I book a vacation rental, I always look at the reviews. After the photos it’s the next section on a rental listing I check out. I like to see that a property has a good number of reviews, recent reviews in particular. However, just because a rental doesn’t have any reviews doesn’t mean you should stay away. Ask the manager if he or she can direct you to other sites that may list reviews for the property.
Do Double-Check on Amenities That are Important to You.
When I search for a vacation rental, I look for a few key amenities, like a washer / dryer and a shower (as opposed to simply a bathtub). When I booked this apartment in Paris, the listing included “central air conditioning.” Unfortunately, this was a mistake and there was no central air conditioning in the apartment and it was quite warm that week. I wished I had re-confirmed that amenity over email.
Don’t Wait to Book a Vacation Rental During High Season.
I started to look for an apartment in Paris about five months before our late-July arrival, and even with a five-month lead time it was tough to find an apartment in the right location with the right amenities. I’d suggest starting your search about six to eight months in advance, particularly if you are planning to go to a popular city during high season.
Do Ask the Rental Manager to Show You How to Use Appliances.
If you’re planning to use the dishwasher, washer / dryer or oven while you are staying in a vacation rental, don’t hesitate to ask the manager to show you how the appliances work before he or she leaves you to your vacation. In Paris, we were fortunate to have the manager show us around the apartment and she even had a book prepared with clear instructions on how to use each of the appliances.
Don’t Wire Money to Pay for a Vacation Rental.
If you can, pay for your vacation rental by credit card or by PayPal. Or, use FlipKey.com’s payment service. These are good, traceable ways to protect your payment. Never, ever send cash or wire money to book a vacation rental no matter how reputable the owner seems. You need to protect yourself, and your money.
Have you ever stayed in a rental property on a family vacation? If you have any more tips or thoughts, leave them in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: FlipKey.com
Disclaimer: FlipKey.com arranged for us to stay in the Paris apartment at no cost to us. However, all opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.