Looking for the perfect place to stay while visiting a city in the U.S. or abroad? Think about renting an apartment instead of booking a hotel.
"Travelers have rented big-city apartments for years, especially in Europe," says Pete Meyers, vice president of EuroCheapo, a budget-travel website. "The recent massive growth [in city rentals] is due to the Internet creating a platform to allow anyone anywhere to list a space for rent."
Much of the draw is gaining a sense of place. "An apartment can put you in a part of town where hotels are scarce," says Tim Leffel, author of The World's Cheapest Destinations. "It may be the most desirable neighborhood with the best restaurants and bars."
On Airbnb we saw a one-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot residence in Denver atop the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel for $99 per night. A few floors below, the standard Ritz-Carlton room runs $419 a night.
Chicago's chic River North area had a one-bedroom condo for $180 per night through HomeAway. A room in a nearby four-star hotel would cost $279 per night.
And in London you could spend $160 a night to rent a beautiful one-bedroom in the Aldgate neighborhood via the London Serviced Apartments site — or put $257 toward a hotel room in the same neighborhood.
How to Book
Though the options can seem daunting, finding an urban abode isn't difficult. Typically, sites let you search by destination, with filters to drill down by neighborhood, price and features. Once you find a place that looks like a fit, do some legwork to make sure.
- Check the photos: Don't go on faith that the lodgings will suit you.
- Read guest reviews: Look for reactions to the neighborhood.
- Contact the host: Ask about the building. Does it have an elevator? Laundry? Air conditioning? Is there public transportation nearby?
- Get a rental agreement: Make sure terms are spelled out: checkout time, cancellation policy, etc.
- Pay by credit: Scammers prefer cash. If the owner asks for a wire transfer, walk away.
Laura Daily is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to AARP The Magazine.