|Each window in our Normandy rental could have been a still life painting.|
I always hope that sentence will galvanize my listener into action so that he'll race to buy my book, Europe on a Dime: Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, and start planning a trip. After all, the book holds your hand, step-by-step, so you can plan a European experience that is easy on the budget. Truly, Europe on a Dime practically makes the reservations for you!
But no matter how sincerely I promise to walk people through the process, it's never quite that easy to convince them. No matter how tantalizing the thought of traipsing down the Champs d'Elysee or cruising the canals of Venice, there's usually a "yes, but...." counter to my promise of cheap and meaningful travel.
So, it's time to face those "yes, buts...." in the next few blog posts. We're going to take a look at the fears which keep people rooted to their La-Z-Boy recliners when they could be sauntering down exotic cobblestone alleys. We'll confront the objections head-on in hopes that everyone will soon feel confident enough to plan a European trip.
I think one of the fears that keeps people firmly at home is the Money Fear. They don't believe a trip to Europe can be accomplished for $98 a day per person (assuming two people are traveling together). Oh, they wouldn't come right out and call me a liar, but, they've done a bit of homework and have studied the AARP, Globus, Tauck, Grand Circle, or Costco travel ads, and have seen that organized tour trips cost $200-500 per day per person. So, how on earth can I promise $98 a day and still insist that the accommodation will be even more comfortable than a four-star hotel? Surely, think the skeptics, if I'm not lying outright, I must be stretching the truth.
As difficult as it may be to believe, the truth is actually this: Short-term rental apartments are almost always more comfortable than hotels, and they are almost always considerably cheaper. How much cheaper? My fiance, David, and I have found, in every area of Europe, apartments that are 50 to 75 percent cheaper than hotel rooms. In fact, we often find an apartment that is cheaper than a private room in a hostel serving backpackers!
Remember, a rental apartment is most likely managed by the owner himself so there is no middleman to pay. He has few advertising costs--only the yearly fee to list his place on a service like Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO.com). He does not have to staff expensive services like a bar or restaurant, pay a concierge (though owners will go out of their way to tell you about the local attractions, eateries, and transportation), or pay front desk personnel. In other words, the apartment owner's overhead is quite low, and he passes those savings on to you. Making his rental more attractive with cheaper prices means you will choose his place instead of a hotel.
|Window in Paris Apartment|
In Paris, David and I stayed in a one-bedroom charmer in a historic building right in the heart of the 10th arrondissement. We had a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, Internet, a TV, and we looked out our floor-to-ceiling window balconies (In America, we would call these French doors. Here they led to Juliet-size, standing-room-only balconies.) to the cafes, patisseries, and markets six floors below. The Metro stop was literally 25 steps from our front door. We stayed there a few years ago, but I just checked the price which is still an exceedingly low $43 per person per night.
|Hutch in Normandy Kitchen|
Last spring, David and I were thrilled to stay in an historic converted barn in France that was so luxurious it gave no hint of its former roots. Every night, after seeing another Normandy battlefield or memorial, David and I sat in front of the fire "back home" marveling at all we'd experienced. Try finding a hotel in this area with four bedrooms, two baths (I could have stayed in the spa-like shower for hours), a country kitchen and gargantuan living room with the biggest fireplace I've ever seen for $39 a night per person.
I could go on and tell you about the two-bedroom house in the Dordogne area of France that bordered a lake; the hundred-year-old granite house in Dinan, France; or the apartment in Sorrento, Italy, overlooking both the mountains and the sea, but I'm sure you get the idea that I really am telling the truth about low accommodation prices.
|Normandy Living Room|
If you don't mind searching through almost 300 articles, you will find most of the information you need to choose a great rental right on this blog. Or, of course, you can always get a copy of my book and peruse the section on apartment rentals. There you will find the companies David and I used to reserve all the places mentioned in this article as well as tips on how to make the rental process a smooth one.