Why would anyone want to stay in someone else's home or apartment instead of a hotel?
Hotels can offer a nice vacation from home routines and chores, but they also mean having a shortage of space and strangers coming in to make up the beds and clean every day.
Wandering to the kitchen for a midnight snack while planning the next day exploring... or having a nice cup of hot coffee or tea ready to start the day...before you get showered and dressed, is not a strong point of hotel life.
Other good reasons for vacation rentals are availability and affordability.
Planning ahead for popular destinations is always a good idea, but sometimes, even the best plans skip an important detail. Local feasts and events can fill up hotel rooms quickly. We found that out during Fleet Week in San Francisco. With no hotel rooms available that matched our budget and the area we wanted to be in, we decided to explore alternatives.
What we found were a wide variety of houses and apartments in the Bay area that offered comfortable, and even luxurious accommodations, for much less than a comparable stay in a hotel.
After scouting out the possibilities, we settled on an apartment, a full floor, in a Lombard Street Victorian home.
Just below Coit Tower and a few blocks from the Wharf area where we planned to pick up bus tours and ferries, the North Beach area apartment offered a stunning view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. We found wonderful, fresh bread and friendly neighbors eager to point out the flights of the wild parrots who also call the area home.
Both the restaurants of the Italian area and Chinatown were within a short, although very steep, walk. Cabs were easy to find and the best way to get home without a climb back up the hill after a day of wandering. The address was never unknown to the taxi drivers, who were amazed at the location we managed to find despite being strangers to the area!
The apartment was complete with a small office and Internet for us to use. The kitchen was state of the art and provided the perfect space for spectacular breakfasts to start off each day. The large, flat screen TV would have been more appreciated if we had spent more time at "home" and less discovering the delights of the San Francisco Bay area!
The bathroom "spa" with whirlpool treatments was the perfect end to a day of sightseeing and the small fountain beneath the bedroom window provided relaxing "music" to drift off to sleep. The seals in the harbor sang along on most nights as a sweet reminder of the day's adventures.
The owner met us as we arrived and provided the layout of the apartment and the area. A special treat during Fleet Week was the rooftop view of the festivities with the Blue Angels flying overhead and the boat filled Bay stretched out below.
What hotel could or would have offered the private viewing space along with a delicious lunch complete with plenty of local wines, cheeses and fresh baked bread?
We decided on not renting a car for our San Francisco stay. We had been warned about the parking problems - 2 hour limits strictly enforced.
It is true that public transportation is easy to find and use. Buses and trams go everywhere and often during the day. Walking around the area is fun, but the hills are very, very steep.
If you aren't used to lots of walking or are traveling with someone with mobility issues - we think having a car readily available is definitely worth the effort of finding a parking space!
Would we recommend going the vacation apartment route? Absolutely. For a fraction of the cost of two hotel rooms, we found a home away from home in a strange city complete with friendly advice and piping hot coffee to start off the day. Throwing the covers over the bed ourselves before heading out was not traumatic and the amenities more than made up for having to rinse off the morning dishes.
We didn't leave our hearts in the city by the bay, but we did leave a camera behind at one of the places we visited. The owner of the apartment was kind enough to go to fetch the camera and ship it back to us when we arrived at home. Try finding that kind of service in a hotel!
We left San Francisco after a wonderful week with our laundry washed, our spirits high and a new perspective on what it's like to be a "native" in San Francisco.
About The Author...
Chiff.com Travel Staff.