Vacation Rentals – The Inside Scoop

There’s a good reason that Tim and I have been called the poster children for vacation rental living! For almost five years short-term properties were our only homes. Most were just fine, some mediocre, and a few were disappointing. Sometimes we were so uncomfortable, like the villa in Florence, which was so hot that we bolted for France two weeks early. It upset us to leave money on the table, but we decided that sanity trumped frugality. There were also many places which exceeded our expectations. Our experiences, both ugly and terrific, informed our decisions when we built our own vacation rental/home last year.  Creekside Cottage serves as our permanent residence, and when rented, it supplies us with extra income to use for our travels. It’s a perfect follow-up to five glorious years of full-time travel.

So here’s a candid look at some of the places we lived – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In truth, all of them had their good points, but we certainly learned that reading the fine print of listings and not being seduced by a good deal are essential to health and happiness on the road. Once I read a dozen glowing reviews of a property we were just about to rent, and in the very last sentence of the final comments, the traveler casually mentioned that “Everything was just perfect once we finally adjusted to the barking dog down the street!” We continued looking.

Let’s start with our all-time favorite rental. This place in Paris is so perfect for us that we will be renting it for the third time this summer.  Here’s an inside scoop: this apartment has been booked up for years, but a regular tenant has canceled due to illness. Andie has some openings for next fall and winter. If you’re interested, you may email her at [email protected]

This apartment gets a 100% rating from us. It is exactly as advertised. The location, in an authentic French neighborhood, is perfect. Shops, wine stores, and a fresh street market twice weekly make living there easy and delicious. Metro and bus stops are within easy strolling distance, the apartment is fully equipped with everything you need, including washer/dryer. The building is totally quiet and safe, and the place is immaculate. The owners are helpful and make sure that visitors enjoy Paris! It’s reasonably priced, too!

On the other hand, here’s a place in Florence where we didn’t get so lucky. We were so enamored of the low price that we let that cloud our thinking. We allowed ourselves to be convinced that we could enjoy July and August in Italy without air conditioning – wrong! We also believed the fable that we could breeze into town from our hillside aerie with no trouble at all – wrong again! It was a gorgeous view and the pool was a saving grace, but we were so miserably hot that we pulled up stakes two weeks early and beat it back to France for relief. 

Let’s return to the good news. We have lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on many occasions, each time a lovely experience! Theses properties all offered grand interiors, lovely outdoor spaces, and lovely locals who took excellent care of us. If you have a chance to go there, you won’t regret it, and if you rent for a month or more you can usually negotiate an affordable price.

Continuing on a South of the Border theme, Buenos Aires was a whole different matter. Although the apartment was adequate, we found living there trying. Just then, due to a serious economic downturn, the Argentinian people were not a very happy, and we struggled with their lack of hospitality until we gave up and returned two weeks early to California. The apartment, although it had some issues, was light and bright and we had a chance to try out living in a densely populated city.

We adored our condo on Portugal’s beach near Lisbon. It was enormous and featured a large courtyard which we enjoyed every day, the manager was responsive and helpful, and the place was a block from one of the world’s greatest beaches. The charming Portuguese people made our stay even more pleasant

And then there was Staten Island, where we lived for six weeks when birthing Home Sweet Anywhere. It was the lower floor of a creaky, drafty old Victorian house. We were chilled to the bone and riding the Staten Island Ferry when it’s 40-ish degrees is not a lot of fun!  Our snoopy landlady gave us some good laughs, though, and the weird Jamaican cleaner/janitor was an entertaining side note. Tim’s fix, using duct tape around windows that leaked frigid air into our space, was just one example of why we never travel without a roll.

We had a cute place in Berlin. It was in an immigrant neighborhood, which meant the dining options were interesting. But most of all, it had a nice terrace with a barbecue, a rare find in most of Europe.  We enjoyed our month there and loved getting to know the German people, whom we found warm and welcoming.

Our place in East Molesey, just twenty minutes outside London, was so comfortable that we returned the next year for another month and I designed the kitchen in our vacation rental after their plan. I love it!

And right across the Irish Sea, we were fortunate to find an apartment in a stately Georgian mansion just a twenty-minute train ride from Dublin. Our neighbors became forever friends, which made the whole experience even better.

The vacation rental the love the best is in Templeton, California, which we built in 2015. We were restricted to 1200 square feet by the local constabulary, so we had to make every inch count.  Here is the result:

We have shared it with several renters and all say they have loved living there. It became so popular that we bought an RV so we could run away on weekends and reap the financial benefits, too. There we go, reinventing ourselves again! It’s worked out beautifully and we’ve enjoyed the bonus of making new friends every few weeks! If you’d like more information about it, please go to Creekside Cottage.

If you’re making plans for vacation rental stay, remember to read the fine print, ask lots of questions, and be don’t be afraid to move on if you need to! Postpone nothing – especially having a good time!

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  1. Annita M

    You bought an RV?? I would love to see that sight! For anyone wondering about Creekside Cottage, it is as fabulous and wonderful as you can imagine something created by the Martins! Please do yourselves a favor and go! Actually, I want to try out the RV, Ms. Lynne.
    Love all the pictures and jealous you will be in the City of Light this summer…

  2. Lynne

    Hi, Lynn,
    Thanks for the kind words.Glad you like the book. The only one of the properties I listed that is still available
    is the one in Paris. The contact is: manhattanschool.wanadoo.fr. I recommend homeaway.com If you do your homework,
    read every review, and get personally in touch with owners or managers you’ll likely come up with something nice.
    Bon voyage!

  3. Lynne

    Hi Candi,
    Thanks for writing. Yes, travel does broaden our fannies and our resilience! Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Lynne

    Hi, Arabella,
    Oh, I’m so sorry to tell you, but all of those places have been sold and are no longer on the rental market.
    There are, however, hundreds of rentals and if you read the reviews carefully and pay attention to the neighborhoods
    you’re bound to find the right place. I know you will LOVE SMA. It’s magical!!!

  5. Lynne

    Hi, Warren,
    Thanks for writing. Please don’t be unhappy, but most of those places have either been sold or are no longer rentals.
    The only one I know for certain that is still available is the one in Paris. My friend Andie owns is and her contact
    is: [email protected].

  6. Lynne

    Hi, Nicolle,
    Sorry it’s taken so long to answer. We have been out of the country. I wish I could give you details, but unfortunately,
    most of them are no longer on the market for rentals. The only one I know for sure that is available is our place in
    Paris. She’s very booked up, but it’s worth a try: [email protected]. Her name is Andie. She’s lovely!
    Thanks for being in touch.

  7. Lynne

    Hi, Cynthia,
    Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond, but we’ve been out of the country.No, Spain is not in the book and I’m sorry to say that we haven’t
    visited that country lately.I was there some years ago and ADORED it!
    I wouldn’t worry about your cellphones.No one will bother you about them. Did you know that Verizon will allow you to make phone calls and texts for $10 a day? You are only charged when you take your phone off
    airplane mode.
    I would certainly invest in international health insurance. Our expert is [email protected] will get you the best deal. You need it for
    evacuation if nothing else.
    If you don’t speak Spanish, there is a wonderful app called Point It that’s handy.
    I would recommend that you don’t try to do too much.The time is too short. Pick a place and stay there to get the feel of it. Barcelona is
    a fabulous city – beautiful, cosmopolitan, walkable. I’d recommend it highly. Madrid is SO big, but very exciting, too.
    I know you’ll have a great time! Let me know how it goes, please!

  8. Cynthia Vannoy

    I thoroughly enjoyed Home Sweet Anywhere! Thank you for sharing your entertaining adventures with the world.
    For our 25th anniversary, my husband is planning our first trip outside the US…to Spain!
    I don’t recall that being a destination in Home Sweet Anywhere, but would you have any current advice on the locale? We will not be making an extended stay, unfortunately; only a week or less.
    Or perhaps just basic advice on traveling outside the US for the first time? I am hugely concerned about cellphones getting through Customs intact!
    Thanks again!

  9. Nicolle Thompson

    Hi Lynne. Just about to embark on our own travelling retirement, we too would be interested in the details of rentals you have mentioned. Thank you!

  10. Warren Meyer

    Would love to see the link to each rental flat.

  11. Laurel L. Barton

    Ahhh, we have had some winners and losers as well! In fact, I was inspired to write an open letter to vacation rental owners. Here it is https://gooddayrome.com/2016/02/06/dear-vacation-rental-property-owner/

  12. Arabella

    Dear Lynne,

    I would very much like if you would share information regarding the rental in San Miguel de Allende. It is on my travel list and the picture you posted set my heart racing in anticipation 🙂

  13. Candi Licence

    Hi Lynne, Loved your post about the ups and downs of rentals. We’ve had similar experiences and I now REALLY look at the photos and think about the “convenient” locations – are there tables and lights next to the bed?, how many stairs/flights of stairs, how easy is it to get to town, etc. Most places fortunately have been wonderful and I would return to many if I were in the area again. We did get sucked into the view at a villa in the Lake Como area of Italy only to find we had to get a taxi to take the “short trip” into town that otherwise necessitated walking on a hairpin, single lane road with no sidewalk or even grassy path next to the guard rail to keep you from driving off the Cliffside. AH, the absolute joys and surprises of travel. AND the best advice of all – read ALL the comments/reviews – even if you have to translate every one – that’s where the gems of info good and bad are hidden and sometimes only by reading closely do you recognize what the person was trying to say without slamming the rental. Great read, as always.

  14. Jere Brown

    Hi Lynne
    I’m the guy who sent you a picture of my traveling chef kit that you published in a very early blog. We are interested in your picks for Paris for this October. Can you please send them along to me? Thanks Jere Brown

  15. Lynn Buckman

    Hi, Lynne. My husband and I are now about halfway through your entertaining book and getting fired up with thoughts of travel! It was nice to find your blog and see photos of the places you are talking about in the book. I’m wondering how one goes about getting the necessary details in case we want to stay in the rentals you’ve mentioned? Thanks.