Stephanie and I recently rented a furnished apartment in Boston instead of staying in a hotel, and it was a revolutionary experience for us.
We got a very nice one-bedroom apartment three times the size of a hotel room in a great location, with a full kitchen, a washer/dryer in the apartment, fast free internet, and comedy central on TV. On the way to the apartment we bought $50 worth of snacks at a grocery store, and they lasted 10 days, with no insulting minibar or room service fees.
And all of this for half the price of a hotel room!
Very quickly it felt like home. And for half price, there was no comparison with staying in a hotel room where you also have to pay extra for every little thing.
The downsides were: we had to fill out a 2-page rental application form, which included handing over my social security number and a personal reference (which they did not check), and because we arrived very early (7:30am) the bellman wasn’t on duty, so we had to call maintenance from the airport to make sure they’d be there to give us the keys (they were). For stays longer than a few days, it’s definitely worth it. For just a night or two, it might not make sense.
Renting apartments instead of hotel rooms is one of the things the internet has made dramatically easier. Here are a few of the sites that you can use to find non-hotel accommodations:
- VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) (venerable, huge)
- AirBnB (“Travel like a human”)
- Roomorama (“Feel at home”)
- Couchsurfing (“Participate in creating a better world, one couch at a time”)
At one end of the internet housing spectrum you have couchsurfing, which is free and as much about socializing as it is about getting a place to stay. At the other end you have marriott.com.
My friend Rony and I were speculating about a true “distributed hotel” that would rent out your apartment when you’re gone, handling keys, cleaning, payment, maintenance, insurance, emergencies, and other details for you. Maybe it could even help you secure your apartment, removing personal papers and storing them offsite in your absence.
Our apartment was in Boston’s South End, next to a park where people take their dogs to play. Over the course of the week in Boston we got to know the different dogs, and their owners, some of them by name, just listening through our window. Besides all of the convenience and economic benefits, staying in an apartment is a richer experience. For a little while, you get to be a part of a neighborhood and not just a guest in a hotel room.