Vacation Rental Reviews: Homeaway – Brugge, Belgium

Thrifty Travel Mama - My Homeaway Experience, BruggeFor families wanting a vacation rental for their next getaway, VRBO is a good resource, but Homeaway is much, much better!  Today’s review is of our Homeaway experience in Brugge, Belgium.

Though Homeaway doesn’t have as many search options as Airbnb, I am still usually able to narrow down my search enough to find what I’m looking for.  This is the main advantage that Homeaway has over its sister site VRBO – and the prices are usually better on the former.

As I mentioned in my comparison of the big three vacation rental websites, I find the listings on Homeaway to be a tad more expensive than Airbnb.  This is probably due to the difference in structure between the two sites – Airbnb charges a service fee for completed bookings, but simply listing your place is free.

Homeaway often has minimum stay requirements, but if you’re close enough to the booking date, you may be able to request an exception.  The rental agreement for teh apartment in Brugge insisted all visitors must stay at least three nights.  We only needed two, and since the reservation was only a few weeks away, the owners acquiesced.

As always, I sent multiple emails to the owners, inquiring about all sorts of random details.  Is there an elevator in the building?  Is parking free?  Plentiful?  How long is the walk to the center of the city?  I received prompt replies, and the answers turned out to be accurate.  The owners were courteous and personable; the whole situation felt safe and comfortable.

My experience with Homeaway was so positive that I used the website to book our two-week Tuscany vacation in August.  If each reservation is as smooth as our Brugge experience, Homeaway will continue to be my primary vacation rental website.

For those interested in a review of Brugge Homeaway property #854271 here goes!

Tom and An rent a neat and clean two bedroom apartment in Brugge, twenty minutes by foot from the city center.  An welcomed us with a bottle of wine and personally showed us how to work everything in the apartment.

Loads of cable channels - many in English!

Loads of cable channels – many in English!

Light pours into the apartment, and the open plan of the living area makes the space seem large and bright.  Though it’s obvious that the building is old, the rooms have been thoughtfully renovated.

Second bedroom with double bed.

Second bedroom with double bed.

The view from the flat is nothing to write home about which is a pity since Brugge is such a beautiful city.  The front of the apartment looks onto the street; the back balconies face a sea of patchwork rooftops.  But, no matter, this apartment is a fabulous budget choice.

Street view.

Street view.

We walked in to Brugge each day; we didn’t need to take a bus or car.  At the property, on-street parking is free and plentiful. We experienced no street noise at any time of day or night.

Back balcony view.

Back balcony view.

Want to buy groceries and cook a meal at home instead of paying outrageous Brugge restaurant prices?  A gigantic Carrefour is located just a few blocks away.  The kitchen boasts a toaster and paper towels (not standard for most vacation rentals), but lacks dish soap.

Bathroom with tub and rain shower, a nice surprise.

Bathroom with tub and rain shower, a nice surprise.

A high chair and baby travel cot (pack & play) are available.  An has also collected various children’s games, puzzles, and books that other renters have left behind.  What a nice surprise to find new toys to hold the boys’ interest!

Kitchen and dining area with high, wobbly chairs.

Kitchen and dining area with high, wobbly chairs.

If forced to find a fault with this property, I’d mention that the table is a high top (not great for little kids), and the dining chairs are quite wobbly (dangerous for young ones who want to do everything themselves!).

Would I stay here again?  Most likely, unless of course I could find something comparable in price and amenities located just a tad closer to the center.  To sum it up – a fabulous find in a wonderful city!Signature-Marigold

Vacation Rental Reviews: VRBO – Salt Lake City, Utah

Thrifty Travel Mama - My VRBO Experience, Salt Lake CityFor our traveling family of five, the best accommodations on the go are vacation rentals.  Several months ago, I detailed three of the most popular vacation rental websites: VRBO, Homeaway, and Airbnb.  This week, you’ll be able to read reviews of my experiences with all three.

First up, VRBO.  I mentioned in my previous post that VRBO is my least favorite.  Since I travel with three children under six years old, I usually need to search for properties with kid-friendly amenities as well as necessities like wi-fi or extras like air conditioning or a pool.  It can be hard to navigate the listings and find exactly what you are looking for. Compared to other vacation rental websites, VRBO offers a paltry few filters to pare down the options.

Price is also important, and VRBO tends to be the most expensive of the three websites.  But, exceptions always exist, and I don’t recommend throwing VRBO out all together.

In fact, VRBO came out on top when I searched for a Salt Lake City rental during a very busy convention week.

According to VRBO’s security suggestion, I contacted the owner via email and phone.  I asked loads of questions about everything from what shops were in walking distance, where the nearest bus stop was located, if sheets came with the pack & play, etc.  The owner responded promptly to both email and phone calls.

I requested a discount since we were staying 7 nights, and the owner acquiesced.  Payment via Paypal went smoothly, and we received our damage deposit back as promised (also through Paypal).

All in all, our experience using VRBO to find and reserve a holiday apartment couldn’t have gone better.  VRBO has moved up to my second choice of the top three booking sites, and you can read more about why in my Airbnb review (coming Friday).

For those interested in a review of Salt Lake City VRBO property #328966 here goes!

As I mentioned above, communication with the owner was stellar.  The major selling point of this condo is that Lisa concerns herself with responding quickly and even anticipates guest questions and concerns.

One week prior to check-in, Lisa emails a thirteen-page check-in packet (yes, 13 pages!!).  Guests will know where to find items, how to use services, the quantity of supplies provided, and what to do if something goes wrong.  I’ve never seen a more thorough welcome packet.

The pictures online accurately depict the state of the unit and the furnishings.  The beds were comfortable and the the kitchen fully stocked.  I was pleased to find extras such as laundry detergent, dish soap, sponges, and paper towels.

I really appreciated the baby-friendly amenities; the pack & play and highchair were both clean and in great shape.

A few things a renter might want to know before settling on this property… First, let’s talk location, a major selling point in the ad.  The condo is very close to the airport (less than 10 minutes) and downtown Salt Lake City (again, under 10 minutes).  Unfortunately, the area is rather urban and the surrounding buildings quite shabby.

I never felt unsafe in the neighborhood, though I will say I was glad the parking lot was gated.  We walked to the kids playground several blocks away one afternoon, and I decided not to do that again.  I know that honest, hardworking people live in this area.  But, if I have a choice about where I wanted to spend my time on vacation, this part of Salt Lake City wouldn’t be on my list.

Second, the condo is garden level, meaning if you walked up to the building, the living room window would be where your feet stood on the ground.  I felt uncomfortable leaving the blinds open during the day since everyone could (and did) look in the windows.

Third, I knew in advance the size of the condo was rather small (620 sq. ft).  But, I didn’t realize how cramped the common area would feel with three kids playing.  If I wasn’t spending a lot of time in the unit, the size wouldn’t be a concern.  But I did, and it was.

Would I stay here again?  Maybe under certain circumstances, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.  In a nutshell – great owner, not-so-great neighborhood.Signature-Marigold