Ask Karen: finding an apartment for short-term rental

Dear John: I am a great proponent of renting apartments rather than staying in hotels if your visit is longer than a week. However, with so many choices, it’s no easy decision about apartment to rent and frequently, thanks to wide-lens cameras, photos are misleading. To evaluate potential apartments you should begin with a checklist:Have you been to ParisBudgetLocationNumber of PeopleAmenitiesPurpose of Trip If this is your first Paris trip, you’re going to need to do extra homework. Read extensively to familiarize yourself with the city. Decide if you’re comfortable staying in an apartment without a concièrge. It’s no sin if you’re not. Budget How much do you want to spend? Are you renting an apartment to save money or because you want to live as a Parisian? How important is décor? Do you plan on doing any entertaining? Consider what you would normally spend for a hotel room and keep that in mind. If you’re the budget-minded traveler, there are apartments for you. If you’re used to the Ritz, there are many apartments available that are equally as elegant and won’t set you back 700 Euros a night – for a double room! Apartments come in all shapes and sizes and with or without concièrge and/or maid service. There’s no dearth of choices.Location: Location is one of the main considerations. Left Bank (5th, 6th or 7th arrondissement) apartments tend to be smaller and more expensive than apartments located in other parts of the city. Apartment rentals also fetch high prices on the Ile St. Louis and in the Marais. If you’re trying to save money, stay in a less than prime location. Keep in mind that Paris’ transportation system is excellent. It’s rare that an apartment is located more than a five-minute walk away from a metro. Meals: Most tourists eat the majority of their meals out. They generally eat breakfast and keep wine and snacks “at home.” Others want to cook after trips to the wonderful omni-present Paris markets. Know yourselves and your habits and needs. If you’re a chef, be sure the kitchen is stocked with more than a microwave. When determining your budget, factor in that you won’t be paying for breakfasts (unless you choose to eat out). You can negate (or minimize) your cocktail and/or wine bill by having pre-dinner drinks chez vous. Buying a small pastry to enjoy in the privacy of your apartment is the way to end an evening rather than paying six Euros for a restaurant dessert. Eating lunch in a good restaurant can also save money, since many offer less expensive prix-fixe menus that leave you wanting only a light dinner in the evening, which can be whipped up in the apartment’s kitchen. How many people are in your group? And what ages? This should play heavily in your decision making process. If you’re a couple that does not need to spread out, a studio is the answer and is the most economical. If you sleep at different times, having a second room can be a blessing. As one who tends to be up and down at all hours of the night (and day – if I am jet-lagged), sharing a room with my husband can be problematic. He tends to get cranky when I move around and read (or type) during, what to him, are sacred sleeping hours. Victor feels that there’s really a time for lights to be out. If two couples are traveling together, how much privacy do you want and or need? Many one-bedroom rental apartments have sleep sofas, but rarely are they as comfortable as a real bed. In addition, some couples are not at ease sharing a bathroom – especially when it’s located in a common space. Remember nighttime forays inevitably awaken your apartment-mates. You’ll probably be happier if you rent a two-bedroom apartment. This is especially true because French apartments are generally much smaller than what is the norm in the US. There’s something called too much intimacy.Children If you are traveling with children, you’ll most likely want to eat many meals “at home” rather than in restaurants. See if the agency or apartment owner knows a reputable babysitter if you want to go out for an evening alone. If your children are young, an apartment located near a park will be appreciated more than you can imagine. While they’re running off energy in the playground, you can sit and relax with a watchful eye. Bedrooms Check on bed sizes. Large beds in France are usually 140 centimeters wide. For those who are used to king-sized beds, this can be too cozy. Two twin beds pushed together are often more comfortable for those sleepers. Bathrooms: French bathrooms are invariably one room with a toilet (with or without a sink) and another bathroom without a toilet. Check and see if there is a tub and/or a shower. Remember, most French use handheld showers in their bathrooms. It is really more efficient, but some Americans are uncomfortable not having an over-the-head shower or a shower rather than a tub. Elevator versus stairs: Please remember that a second floor in France means the third floor in the US. That’s fine if you’re hale and hearty but not so great for the elderly or if you have two toddlers in tow. I advise people staying in walk-ups to do one major shopping at the beginning of their apartment stay. Buy all of the wine, UHT milk, water, sodas and paper products needed for the duration of your stay and have them delivered by the local super market (Monoprix or a Franprix). Depending on the market and/or how much you spend, there may be a delivery charge. Give the deliveryman a tip, as it’s he and not you who had to do the lugging. Leave your “fun” shopping for the bakeries, vegetable and fruit stands, etc. And, naturally, flowers.Washer/Dryer : Do you need one? Consider this when it comes to renting. There’s nothing more boring than spending time in a laundromat. Some people can pack for the duration of the trip, while others are wash-and-wear specialists! Sending…
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