Summer is the time many business people actually take a vacation—not a vacation where you simply check into the same hotel in Manhattan you were just in a few months ago for business—but one where you rent a flat for a week or two, and actually slow down and have an opportunity enjoy the city the way locals enjoy the city. There are numerous websites to help travelers find the ideal room, flat, or house to rent for a week, a month, or an entire summer, virtually anywhere in the world.1
They offer services to facilitate the payment to the landlord, or the management company who will let the property (in the United States, “rent” is used instead of “let”), and they handle the necessary wire transfer and currency exchange.
Granted, there is much to be said about staying in your favorite hotel chain when travelling abroad: the conveniences of having a concierge just a phone call away, having housekeeping make up the bed and freshen the towels everyday, and room service at your beck and call. There is little question that when travelling to foreign places, especially for business, these conveniences are indispensable. No busy executive wants to spend their valuable time while in Paris trying to figure out how to get to La Défense for that crucial meeting, or trying to find where Santos Dumont airport is in Rio de Janeiro so they can catch their commuter flight to Sao Paulo—or, after a grueling day of negotiations, having a juicy hamburger wheeled into their hotel room by room service is sometimes the best reason to stay in a hotel.
This is all well and good when rushing through a city (or cities) on business travel. But this summer, why not slow down a bit. Rent a flat in Greenwich Village in New York City and buy some delicious “chicken and rice” from one of the many street vendors; or a room in a 17th century home on the Rive Gauche in Paris to wake up every morning to the scents of the boulangerie downstairs baking their fresh bread.
Living (and Paying) Like a Local
While there are numerous websites that are designed to help facilitate finding and renting short-term flats and homes, sometimes the best properties aren’t found on these rental websites. Sometimes the best flats or houses in the best locations are hidden gems, found in the online classifieds of local newspapers or on-line classifieds. These properties are often let out by the property owners themselves, who prefer not to utilize the popular rental websites (which, while convenient, do charge fees for their services). When working with the property owner themselves, utilizing online currency transfer services or wire transfers are often a convenient way to make arrangements with the owners for a deposit or payment for the property. Of course, one must be careful to ensure that the person they are sending money to is who they actually say they are, and that they are someone who is authorized to let out the property that they advertise.
Currency transfer services and wire transfers can also be useful to transfer money from one’s home country to the local country where summer vacation will be spent, for other services. Not only to rent the vacation property, but to rent (or even buy, if the vacation stay will be for several months) a car, furniture (if the property is unfurnished), and more.
Three Important Factors: Location, Location, Location
When renting a flat for a vacation, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.2 Some of the amenities that one would look for (and require) in a flat or house that they would seek to rent in their home city, to live in for years, would be useless in a short term vacation rental (i.e., is a full size oven necessary, if only staying in a flat for two weeks and eating out almost daily to try the variety of local restaurants?). Conversely, there are some features which might be critical in a short term rental. Location is often at the top of the list when choosing a flat for a vacation: flying half way around the globe to spend time in your dream city shouldn’t be for naught simply because the flat that you chose is in some far flung suburb, and to enjoy the city an hour long commute is required. Ensure that the owner provides an abundance of pictures of the interior and exterior of the property, and carefully scrutinize those pictures. Does the flat look clean? Are there enough beds for all the persons who will be travelling with you? Does the building and neighborhood look secure? Is there a refrigerator, stove, microwave?
To this author’s chagrin, he once rented a large, beautiful, spacious flat in the heart of the old quarter in San Juan, Puerto Rico—which, upon arrival, was discovered to not have a single window, anywhere, in the entire flat. Spending a week staring at the windowless walls was disconcerting, but luckily there were plenty of quaint little cafes and restaurants just steps away, in which to while away the days enjoying the local scenery.
So this summer, why not try a new twist to your summer travel? Discover a city for the first time—even if you’ve been there dozens of times before on business.
With some diligent research, careful planning, and the use of convenient tools like wire transfer services, you may have the opportunity to really slow down and live like a local, if only for a few weeks.