Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Homely holidays

It seems I have a lot to say about this subject so here is a short summary: When we are travelling abroad we prefer to stay at private apartments. As we generally travel in Europe most often in the Mediterranean, we have found the best sites for privately owned holiday rentals to be and However, when I can’t avoid staying at a hotel I always book it through

When your children’s school semesters or your employer no longer dictate your holiday schedules you will not only have the advantage to avoid the biggest crowds. You will, of course, have much more options to choose accommodation from if you are having your vacation out of season.

Nevertheless, I’m not at all keen on supporting any multinational enterprises or any other faceless replicas that cannot be distinguished from each other in any way. Not to mention that the kind of market concentration to the hands of a few giants we have seen globally in so many fields in the past few decades or so is, in my opinion, an unhealthy development.

I’m not planning to rise to the barricades any time soon. I’m simply doing the little deeds a single person can do to demonstrate his/her values. Therefore, when we travel we always try to support small family-owned places or privately owned apartments and have stayed in one whenever it was possible since we booked our first private flat online almost 10 years ago. In the digital age, it is not that hard to find holiday rentals to fulfill almost any requirements. It does take some more time and effort than booking a hotel but I’m crazy enough to enjoy that kind of preparation, sometimes up to the point my bones need to remind me about the human necessity of sleep.

The first apartment we booked through Homelidays was in Trastevere, Rome.
In 2005, I discovered which is a great site putting holidaymakers in direct contact with private holiday rentals and Bed & Breakfasts. The owners pay a fee to have their property listed on the site but all the services provided to the renters are free. Anyone can browse the site and if you have registered as a user you are free to contact owners or select properties to you personal dossier for future reference. Quite a nice feature even if you weren’t in immediate need of a place to stay.

The site also provides a testimonial service for both the renter and the owner, which is a very useful tool helping both parties to avoid any unpleasant surprises. (Needless to say we have received highest points from all owners who have given a testimonial about us as renters.)

There might be risks with smaller service providers like this but Homelidays is such an established site you need not worry. We have never been disappointed with any apartment or B&B booked based on an advert on their site either in Italy, France or Spain. Neither did we have anything to complain about the B&B we found through their site in Croatia. The owners descriptions and photos of the flats have been accurate and there has never been any trouble with money with any of the more than dozen owners we have dealt with.

Naturally, when you are renting a private apartment you have to pay a downpayment in advance to confirm your booking. It is also customary that you will need to pay a deposit of a few hundred Euros upon arrival to be returned upon departure if no damages are caused to the property during your stay.

Homelidays was launched by a Frenchman in 2001 and it currently features some 3,000 B&Bs and more than 80,000 private rentals from around the world, including some 40,000 in France, 20,000 in Italy and 13,000 in Spain, which are the most popular destinations. However, it was acquired by the American giant HomeAway Inc. a few years ago, which slightly diminishes its glory in my eyes, but at least thus far there haven’t been any changes for the worse since then.

Another private rental service we have used several times without any problems is Interhome. It has grown from a small Swiss business renting chalets in the 1960s to one of the leading rental sites providing some 32,000 holiday homes and apartments mainly in European destinations.

We booked our first Interhome holiday home in Switzerland before the digital era in the early 1990s. In those days, their marketing was done through distributing 2 million printed copies of brochures! We have returned to every now and then and have always been happy.

Their service goes a bit further than simply bringing the renters and owners together. Therefore, if you want to be absolutely sure that the property you are renting has been quality-checked to comply with every single detail in the description provided, e.g. if you are renting a house or villa for a larger group for a special occasion, Interhome will offer the safest alternative. It remains a Swiss company but is now owned by Migros, Switzerland’s largest retail corporation.

Lastly, every now and then even I need to find a place to stay at such a short notice I’ll have to rely on a hotel. In those cases I have found the world’s leading online hotel reservations agency the most comprehensive, flexible, reliable and user-friendly site for bookings. It is a Dutch company but these days owned by an American giant I guess you just cant avoid the multinationals if you are looking for the best online services. Reluctantly, I have to admit that size does provide resources and resources may generate a better outcome sometimes.

To sum it up, if you are planning a holiday in any of the Mediterranean countries is the place to find a nice private studio, apartment or villa for your stay. I just booked a flat for four in Nice. Had I a place to rent I would certainly advertise it through Homelidays. In my view, it is the best site for homely holidays. Anything more homespun than that would be couch surfing and we are too old and too comfort-loving for that kind of travel however tempting it may sound.

Unless otherwise stated, the photos in this post were taken in Porto Santo Stefano on the peninsula of Monte Argentario on the coast of Tuscany where we had a most wonderful holiday last September. Four months later survivors of the Costa Concordia that ran aground and keeled over off the coast of the nearby Giglio island were evacuated to this town.


  1. Kiitos, kiitos. Thank you Laura. This was one of the nicest holidays we've had much thanks to the fantastic apartment. Never mind the climbing to the top floor when you have French windows like that to sit by. We even slept with the windows and shutter open and just loved the gentle sound of the waves hitting the shore literally a few steps from the building. So soothing. It would be so easy to get used to a sound like that.

  2. I love historic place. This is the perfect place to spend my holidays. Your apartment is very clean to stay.

    1. Indeed, it was the one we've enjoyed the most. There were two more bedrooms but the owner was such a practical man that he simply locked the doors to the rooms we didn't need so we could stay there for a lower price for two persons.