Slow Travel & Lodging: Why we prefer rentals and how to find them

January 25, 2013 in Inspiration

Family Travel- Lodging

The first year we traveled full time we were on our bikes and camping most of the time. It was a cheap option and lots of fun as we worked our way across Europe during the excellent weather of the summer months. When we needed to stay in Prague for a couple of weeks so Tony could try out working remotely for the first time, we rented a fully furnished apartment, and that opened the door to a whole new kind of travel lodging for us.

Traveling with six people, lodging is one of our biggest costs, especially if we are reduce to hotel stays, where we need three rooms in most countries outside of North America with their generous five person per room caps. In other parts of the world, two, or three at a maximum, per room is standard. Discovering that it is almost always cheaper for us to rent a full apartment or house for a week or more in our destination of choice was a huge boon.

How to find them

Google “holiday homes, vacation rentals, or short term furnished apartments” and a whole array of possibilities will present themselves. One consistently reliable site is Wimdu. Just choose your country, enter your city and search!

It can take some digging. You’ll be submitting enquiries direct to the owners in many cases, and the presence of decent photographs or mapping varies widely. Take the time to read the fine print and to read the reviews left by other travelers, as these are your best guage of the veracity of the listing.

Questions to ask

Before entering into a rental arrangement, even for a week’s stay, you should ask a few key questions:

  • Are children/pets/smoking allowed? (if someone in your family has allergies, this is key)
  • Will your security deposit be returned?
  • Is there a mandatory cleaning fee upon departure, and how much is it?
  • How close is the nearest public transportation?
  • How close is the nearest grocery store/market?
  • Is the kitchen fully equipped, if so, what, exactly, is there?
  • Is there a washing machine? If not, how far to the nearest laundry?

Playing it by ear

The best deals are the ones NOT listed online. If you have the time, the best way to find a good local rental at a bargain price is to show up and pound the pavement in person. The listings online are always more expensive, as they’re marketed to the holiday crowd. However, they’re also more likely to have amenities closer to western standards.

Advantages of living local

In addition to being less expensive than a hotel, renting an apartment or home in a place you’re traveling to will allow you to soak in the local experience better than being stuck on the tourist strip.

When we rented a fourth floor walk-up in Marseille, France, our upstairs neighbour would knock on the door most every day and invite us to visit a market with him, take a walk to see something interesting, or meet his friends.

When we rented a 3 bedroom house in Thailand the kids played outside with the neighbourhood children, we were invited out by our Russian neighbour, and when we had a health emergency, the lady across the street accompanied us to the hospital as a translator and friend.

When we lived in Guatemala for six months our house, with a great big garden, became party central for the backpacking crowd, and the village children played soccer in our yard with our kids most afternoons.

When we rented a fifth floor apartment in Kota Kinabalu for a week we were walking distance to all of the downtown conveniences, had our own washing machine, and a perfect view of the South China Sea as a cherry on top.


Renting fully furnished houses wherever we go has allowed us to dig deep into cultures, make friends, and learn more than we would if we were relegated to the tourist district. It has saved us thousands of dollars over the long haul of our journey and we’ve been able to settle in and feel “at home” in a way that we never could have moving from hostel to hostel.

You may not travel for months on end, but even if you’re taking off for a week for spring break, check out how it works at Wimdu or search the web a bit and you’ll be surprised at what you find!