It seems rather prosaic to start this series with something like lodging, but it was one of our biggest items in planning our trip, and our choice of lodging made a huge difference in the overall success of our grand adventure.
I had a hunch that we would want to go with apartment rentals rather than hotel rooms, and all of our preliminary research agreed, so rather than scouring for budget-friendly hotel rooms (nearly impossible, especially in London!), we opted to look for short-term rental of an apartment that would accommodate all five of us. Sharing the expense made this an extremely appealing option for us.
As Americans, we are accustomed to “family” style hotel rooms with two queen beds — or even suites with the option of an adjoining room with a sofa bed or at least a roll-away bed — as a fairly standard option, but the plain fact is that European hotels, in general, don’t have those options! Rooms are single (1 person), double (2 people), or triple if you’re very, very lucky (3 people). Additionally, since our stay would be somewhat lengthy, we loved the idea of having conveniences like a full kitchen and a washing machine.
In the end, we had terrific success with booking through sites like Vacation Rental By Owner and HomeAway. Our apartment (or “flat” to be more European in terminology!) in Dublin turned out to be smaller than we anticipated from the listing pictures, but we couldn’t have asked for a better location–literally steps from Dublin Castle and the Temple Bar area. London’s sky-high prices forced us to look slightly outside of central London, although in the end, the extra cost of transit in and out of the city every day might have offset the lower rental cost. (In hindsight, I should have researched this more thoroughly–but we did enjoy our daily adventures on the Tube and the DLR!) By the time we reached Paris, Kate had returned to the States, so the four of us shared a tiny studio just a few blocks from the Seine and the Île de la Cité – again, we could not have asked for a more central location!
Our one major “rude awakening” with the whole experience was learning that American washing machines and European washing machines are NOT created equally. I could have predicted the size difference (since nearly everything in Europe is smaller than in the States), but what I did not realize was that in all three apartments, we would have a combination washer and dryer machine that a) took a minimum of 3 to 5 hours to fully “process” one load, and b) used a steam drying process that never seemed to fully dry anything and also had the nasty tendency to shrink clothes! Needless to say, we ended up doing far less laundry than we might have otherwise — and one of the first things that I absolutely could not wait to do when we got home was rush to my gloriously large, thoroughly American washing machine and start a load of laundry.
Oh, international travel, what wondrous and strange perspective you have given me on the most ordinary of life’s conveniences!
Do you have any European lodging tips or horror stories to share? Join me in the comments!