By Juhi Bansal
September 11, 2021 (IANSlife) When one travels as extensively as we do, you start missing homely comforts (and discomforts) even though you continue to practically live out of a suitcase. We started experimenting with local apartments while travelling over 10 years ago and over the last few years have gravitated towards picking an apartment over hotel every single time.
Especially when travelling internationally and staying in a city for more than 2 nights we always prefer to stay in an Airbnb or in local homestays. There are so many advantages to staying in an apartment while travelling. However, here are just a few, to begin with:
Value for money
Apartments and local homestays are always more value for money. For a similar-sized hotel in the same locality, you will end up paying much lesser if you choose to stay in an apartment. During our trip to Venice, we chose a small Airbnb overlooking the canal. It cost us one-third of what a hotel in the same area with the same view was charging. The apartment was well appointed with all modern amenities that you could want and at the same time had an old-world charm to it. So, no you do not end up “compromising” in comfort and service when you choose an apartment over a hotel. In fact, many a time, the apartments are fancier and better equipped than top hotels in the same area.
Because you stay in a local building in an area around local people, you end up interacting with them. You also get a flavour of the local culture without being too intrusive. We learnt so much about the Chinese by just riding with them in lifts during our apartment stay in Shanghai. They are so adorably nosey!
Local homestays would inadvertently be hosted by locals which means you get a free masterclass into the local life. They can tell you about local watering holes, must-visit areas, must-eat places, where to shop, where not to go, which are the rip off places and so many local tips and tricks. Our hosts in Johannesburg cooked local delicacies for us and regaled us with many local tales over some brilliant South African wine. They also told us the best route for our drive next day to Kruger and helped us discover secret spots and avoid the overrated famous ones.
An apartment has all the worldly pleasures that you might need. Washer, dryer, dishwasher, gym, pool (you can select apartment buildings accordingly), reception, car park, gorgeous views and of course a well-appointed kitchen. I don’t know about you but we get bored of the hotel breakfast buffet after the second day. The apartment kitchen allows us to wake up on our time (without the worry of missing breakfast), cook our own breakfast using local ingredients or simply order in. The freedom to just be is so much with an apartment that once you stay in one you cannot go back to a hotel.
In Mauritius, we would go to the local bakery for breakfast and have lunch at one of the many beautiful cafes while we were out and about. However, the days the little one would feel sleepy, we would come back home in time for dinner- the husband would whip up something nice and once the little one went off to sleep, quietly enjoy a lot of couple time with a bottle of wine.
There are no other guests like in a hotel so no noisy floors and you have complete privacy. It’s like having your own house in a foreign land. In Seychelles, our apartment overlooked a beach which actually was a small stretch of private land. Imagine having your own piece of heaven without any distractions all through the day!
And, this is literally the best part. When you’re staying in a hotel you end up staying in a room with your little ones because an upgrade to a suite costs a fortune and they are too young to stay in a room by themselves. In an apartment, you have space and more space and then some. Of course, you need to choose a 2 bedroom apartment but it’s hardly a stretch. So, you have your own space and your children have their own space and that’s just wonderful. It is like living in your own house away from your house.
In Ljubljana, our apartment had a kid’s room which had so many games and toys, our daughter would keep busy the whole time we were in. It allowed us a lot of couple time and we never had to worry about keeping her engaged.
Like with everything else, staying in apartments also comes with its cons. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. And, let me say it again, value for money does not mean cheap. Apartments are more luxurious, cleaner and better appointed than most of the five star hotels I have stayed in. So, do your research, read reviews and select properties after having checked out the photos thoroughly but do give apartments a try the next time you are travelling.
(Juhi Bansal is an offbeat traveller, an experimental educator and a lazy parent.)
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