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Having traveled a couple of times to Europe with our 2 boys (4 of us total), we’ve learned a thing or two.  Especially about renting apartments via Airbnb, VRBO or Home Away.

First, there are 2 types of apartments you can rent (I’m only referring to whole apartments to rent, not simply a room to rent).  One is an apartment used as a business.  The owners don’t live there, but rent it out to earn extra money.  They have only the basic necessities and some light decorations.  The second type is someone’s actual apartment where they leave for a period of time and rent it out.  All their stuff remains – books, clothes, etc.  While we have mostly rented the 1st type, we have ended up with the second type.  There are obviously pros and cons to both.  But is’ not always easy to tell which is which just from the description.  We did not feel as comfortable in the 2nd type.  They had 2 drawers available for Airbnb people, certain towels for Airbnb, etc.  WE always felt a little like we were intruding.  When we arrived, there was food in the fridge, etc.  So, my recommendation before you rent is to send the owner a message and ask some questions if it isn’t obvious from the listing.


Second, since we’re flying from the US – most planes arrive around 8 am in Europe.  A key detail I find missing in all these sites – is when are they available to meet and give you the key to the apartment.  We have often found that many are only available AFTER work!  Well, if you arrive at 8am – waiting around the town all day with your luggage and two tired kids until 6 pm – it’s not ideal.  I wish the sites gave ranges when they can meet to let you in.  You may make your apartment selection based on this one important factor!


Third, there is a vital question that is usually not included in the house manuals.  What do you do with the trash and recyclables?  If you’re staying more than one day, this can be really important.  You may think this is obvious – but we’ve been in several places where we couldn’t find out where the trash room was.  And it had a special key code – which we did not have.  We were shocked to find that in France there was no glass bottle recycling in the apartment building.  Also, it wasn’t always obviously in which bins you should add which recyclables and how to add them (sometimes in bags, sometimes without).  So, I know make sure to ask where the trash and recyclables go.


Fourth, ask them to show you how to lock and unlock the door.  In one place, our host left and we tried to lock the door (which you had to do with a key).  We would turn the key – but it would not lock.  Finally, we realized that you have to live the door handle vertically to actually make it lock.  Also, ask if the door closes – if it locks automatically (and you could easily get locked out).  We had such a door – but luckily, we were extra careful.  Make sure to have them show you – as it may not be so obvious.


Fifth, ask them about the appliances.  In different countries appliances work differently.  We had been told that we could wash and dry our clothes in one machine.  There were symbols on the machine for sure – not all decipherable – and the instructions were only in one language – the one we didn’t know very well.  So we successfully washed our clothes – but had not luck drying them.  We tried several times, but they just seemed wetter and wetter every time. Luckily, we had given ourselves plenty of time and hung them to dry.  Things are quite evident to them – but not always for us.  While we never used the oven or microwave – I’ve heard hilarious stores of mishaps.  The bottom line is it’s better to ask and have them show you – then to be stuck.


For families, renting an apartment abroad can be a great solution.  Remember these tips for a carefree stay.