I realized yesterday when debating which tip to highlight this week that I have not yet doled out my most important Authentic France Travel Tip: stay in a vacation rental if at all possible.
‘Tis true that vacation rentals happen to be our livelihood (or part of it) over here in France, but aside from that our family are also frequent clients of European vacation rentals. Every time we travel we try to stay in a vacation rental if we possibly can because;
1. Being able to shop locally and cook at our temporary “home” saves us a huge amount of money compared to eating out three meals a day.
2. We love being able to have a place to kick back during moments when we simply want to hang out and do nothing – this is especially valuable when travelling with kidlets.
3. We find there’s nothing that gives us the flavour of a new place and a new way of life than living like a local, which is impossible to do when staying in a hotel.
To begin your search for a vacation rental, I recommend first of all asking for recommendations from friends and family. If nothing turns up, then consider searching one or more of the following websites as a starting point;
I will give you my rule of thumb when choosing a European vacation rental. First of all, although this is changing somewhat, in my experience vacation rentals owned by North American or British owners tend to be more fully equipped than French owned “gites“. We equip and furnish our vacation rentals based on what we would like to find when we rent a vacation rental ourselves i.e. lovely linens and made up beds, fluffy white towels, DVDs, wireless Internet, a washer and a dryer, an unblocked phone line, a bottle of local wine, and as for me, tons and tons of books to read!
Gites , on the other hand, originally catered to clients who were fellow Europeans and coming by car. Gites were traditionally inexpensive and bare-boned, meaning that guests brought their own bed linens and towels, or paid to rent them on the spot, and wouldn’t expect laundry facilities, nor a phone line.
French gites have evolved quite a bit, and the more luxurious ones often boast just as many bells and whistles as the Anglo-owned ones. However, do be aware that the bare bones ones still exist to cater to a European clientele who is looking for exactly that.
With this in mind, here are the questions I always ask before booking a vacation rental in Europe;
1. Are bed linens and towels provided? If not, how much do they cost to rent?
2. Is there a phone available? If so, is the phone line unblocked?
3. Is wireless Internet access included in the price?
4. Is there a washer AND a dryer (indispensable with kids – I am not spending my vacation in a laundromat!)
5. What is the situation for parking? Is it easily available nearby? Is there an extra cost?
6. Is the kitchen fully equipped (i.e. with pots and pans, a regular sized stove, etc.) to cook meals?
7. What is the security deposit (the large majority of European vacation rentals charge this)? What is the policy for its refund?
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly if you have any further questions (even if you have no intention whatsoever of staying in one of our places). I ever-so-modestly consider myself something of a vacation rental mentor nowadays, and like nothing better than an opportunity to spew forth all the vacation rental-esque knowledge I have stored up over these past eight years.
*”Authentic France Travel Tips” are posted every Tuesday and give ideas for savvy travellers who want to experience the authentic side of France.