This is the second part of my “case study” on vacation rentals. Read Part 1 here:
I have received a consideration from FlipKey in writing this post. The opinions, recommendations, and editorial content are entirely mine and have not been provided, edited, reviewed or approved by another party.
Parameters of Research
To preserve my sanity, I picked one neighborhood in Paris, where I would like to stay with my mom during our visit—the Left Bank in close proximity to the Luxembourg Gardens.
Here is what I intend to compare.
- A studio vs. a regular hotel room
- An upscale 1-bedroom apartment vs. an upscale hotel suite
This has turned into a daunting task. Most hotel websites either don’t have real suites or don’t put them into the booking system. By “real”, I mean two-room suites where two different parties can comfortably coexist.
A 180-sq-ft room is not a junior suite just because it’s 20 sq ft larger than your deluxe 160-sq-ft room. And no, even if you’ve managed to squeeze in a couch or a couple of chairs, it doesn’t magically turn a tiny Paris hotel room into a suite either. Maybe it’s time to update Hospitality 101, so they’d stop using these ridiculous antics. Almost every suite I’ve found in my research has followed this description. I honestly didn’t realize how hard it is to find a hotel with a real two-room suite in Paris until I tried.
But, you know me, don’t ya? I persevered.
How to compare apples to apples
While I’m sure there are more elegant ways to do this, here is what I did. Since I want to stay within walking distance of the Luxembourg Gardens, I built two maps–one with FlipKey and another one with Google Maps.
After you tell FlipKey where you want to go, you are presented with a map, like this:
This, of course, didn’t help much, so I zoomed it in to see the Luxembourg Gardens and the surrounding area.
You can set your own parameters, such as price, number of bedrooms, and some amenities you want to have.
Then I went to Google Maps, and searched for the Luxembourg Gardens.
After that, I clicked Search Nearby Hotels, zoomed in the results and chose the days I wanted to stay (remember apples to apples).
A great feature of Google Maps is that if you hover your mouse over the hotel, you will see the average price they charge. In addition, some hotels already display their rates. They might not be completely accurate, but they give you a general picture.
FlipKey does the same thing.
Now, if you want to be really methodical (to be honest, I didn’t go that far for my research), you can do a lot of things in the Paint application. You can mark the price of the hotel room on the map, draw a nice circle (or whatever you want) to make a perfect visual for comparing both options. Like I said, I didn’t go that far, but it is possible.
Case Study 1: A cheap apartment vs. a cheap hotel room
Is it possible to stay on the cheap in Central Paris?
Yes, it is. Even in Saint-Germain, which is one of the most desirable locations in Paris, I’ve managed to find a few hotels and a few apartments in the sub-$100 range in the middle of the summer tourist season.
It didn’t take me long to find a few apartments on FlipKey, from $59 to $100. Some of them look pretty decent.
Would you believe me if I told you that one of these $100 apartments is a 2-bedroom duplex with very good reviews? Please take my word that I wasn’t asked to highlight any listings in my write-up.
This is another one that caught my eye. It’s small, but looks nice and stylish.
I’ve also found three hotels in the same price range.
Hotel Residence du Palais is a 1-star hotel with bathrooms down the hall. Rates start at around $80 plus tax.
Hotel du Bresil is a 2-star hotel. Rates start at around $90 plus tax.
Hotel Perrieve is a 3-star hotel. Rates start at around $110 plus tax, but include breakfast.
Case Study 2: An upscale apartment vs. an upscale hotel suite
Here is an apartment I found on Flipkey. Love the look.
At $213 a night, this apartment is not exactly a bargain. If only could we find a hotel in the same location that would feature a nice suite like that with the amenities to match, like, for example, I don’t know, a kitchen!
Well, as luck would have it, we can. After browsing through at least a dozen hotel descriptions, I found just the right place within a few blocks of the apartment above. Residence & Spa Le Prince Regent is a well-reviewed 4-star all-suite hotel featuring studios, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom apartments with full amenities. A 1-bedroom apartment at Le Prince is a bit smaller (about 460 sq ft vs. 690 sq ft), but it has everything including a sofabed in a separate living room and a full kitchen, as well. So how do they compare?
I couldn’t find availability for my exact days, but for the next week, a 1-bedroom suite at Le Prince goes for 342 Euro or $380 a night plus taxes. Of course, it’s not completely fair to compare a regular apartment to an equally equipped suite in a serviced hotel. For one thing, Le Prince has something an apartment doesn’t: a huge Jacuzzi in the basement. The price difference is, however, quite significant! (Please, click to enlarge).
Actually, there isn’t one. As this [very unscientific] study shows, you can definitely save money on vacation rentals. However, it doesn’t mean you should swear off hotels and resorts. There might be a bigger risk involved with renting vacation properties than staying at a hotel, especially a quite-familiar brand name hotel. And if you are a point traveler—how do you justify paying money rather than enjoying a “free” stay?
Of course, there are ways to protect yourself. Nowadays, it’s unlikely that someone will con you out of your money. Like I said before, I have never been burned renting from other people. However, I’ve had my share of disappointments. Nothing too dramatic, really. Unresponsive owners, lazy and disorganized managers and staff. Slow WiFi, defective TVs, bad plumbing, noisy air conditioners. In fairness, staying at a hotel will not guarantee you won’t run into a similar problem, but it feels better knowing that you can call someone right away.
Having said that, do I still love staying in vacation rental properties? Absolutely!
However, that’s me. When you travel with a family or several parties, you are less prone to take risks. Although, if you do travel with an extended party, you really don’t have a choice other than drastically overpaying for several hotel rooms.
You must check reviews, see how an owner or manager handles communications, and when your gut tells you to stay away, you’d better listen. See if they have a professional or frequently updated website, how quickly they respond to questions or concerns. All that can be a very good predictor of how awesome or stressful your experience will be.
As for budgeting, here is my unscientific “method”.
I choose to stay at a vacation rental property under one of four circumstances.
- When a “points” stay is not feasible—no chain hotels, or redemption levels are out of whack, so I have to pay anyway. In that case, I lean toward vacation rentals.
- When I want a better experience and/or more space. I have stayed in huge, modern apartments and beautiful villas with private pools for the cost of a good hotel room.
- For longer stays.
- When I want a better location/view and there are no affordable hotels that I could book on my terms.
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