When we traveled to London recently for an extended period, my husband and I debated what to do for accommodations. If you have never traveled to Europe with your family, then be advised that it is rare to find a hotel room that will accommodate more than three people. While we were not opposed to booking two hotel rooms, (let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice to be able to put the kids to bed and stay up and watch TV in the other room) we also were thinking about the length of time we would be staying. A friend of ours that lives in London and travels frequently encouraged us to try renting a luxury apartment in place of hotel room, so we decided to be adventurous and give it a whirl.
After looking online for agencies, we settled on an apartment in the Marylebone area of London that we booked through One Fine Stay. A few colleagues had used the agency and had positive experiences, so we felt like it was a good option for us.
How it Works
A few days before our scheduled arrival, we received an email with the apartment’s physical address and other pertinent information. We told them what time we would be arriving and scheduled a time for the agent to meet us at the apartment.
Our first impression was great! The apartment was beautiful…just as it had appeared in the images on the website. As a photographer, that was one of my biggest concerns. I know just how easy it is to manipulate an image online to make it look a million times better on a back-lit screen than it does in person. One of my biggest worries with renting something like this was showing up to something that looked nothing like the images or description I had seen. That fear quickly disappeared as the friendly agent gave us a tour of the apartment. The apartment came ready to use with towels, toilet paper, detergent for the dishwasher and washing machine, paper towels, sheets, wifi, satellite TV, etc. We were given instructions on how to use the appliances, shown how to operate things like the coffee maker, TV and stove, and given check out procedures, emergency contact info, etc.
The most valuable thing that One Fine Stay offered us was a courtesy phone pre-loaded with all kinds of city guides, maps, restaurant recommendations, public transportation schedules etc. with an unlimited internet package. This fantastic amenity was worth it’s weight in gold. We relied heavily on that internet for the 10 days we canvased the city and it really was a HUGE factor in how much we were able to enjoy our stay.
We had a VERY comfortable stay in the gorgeous 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It offered a full kitchen, living room, dining room as well. Having access to a washing machine was wonderful as well.
Things to be Aware of When Renting an Apartment if You are Used to Staying in Hotels:
While our stay was very comfortable, it was not a hotel. There was no concierge, no daily maid service (although we stayed long enough that they did provide maid service once during our stay), no fresh new towels everyday, one little bottle of shampoo, conditioner etc. If those are things you value when you travel, renting an apartment may not be for you. You will have to buy more toilet paper and paper towels and possibly shampoo and conditioner, as we had to. They only provide one roll per bathroom and with a family staying for 10 days, it runs out.
You are staying in someone else’s home. If the idea of that bothers you, an apartment might not be the best choice for you. I felt very comfortable with this because the apartments One Fine Stay rents are vetted very carefully. Where we were staying was someone else’s vacation home, a place that is rarely used. There were three or four garment bags that were locked up in one of the closets, and a locked cupboard in the kitchen, but those were the only signs we saw of any “personal” belongings. Everything else felt as if no one lived there.
Make sure you know what floor your apartment is on and whether or not it has an elevator. Our apartment was on the 5th floor (6th floor US). It did have a teeny lift (elevator) which allowed us to put our luggage on it in waves and send it up so we didn’t have to haul it up 6 flights. It is not uncommon for older buildings in big cities to not have elevators. Make sure you check on that if it is important to you.
Another amenity to check on is air conditioning/heating. In London hardly any buildings have air conditioning because they rarely need it. This apartment was no exception, however, the week after we left London had an unprecedented heat wave. Had we been staying in that apartment at that time, our feelings about our stay may have been much different. We unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way before, so just make sure that you are aware of the climate control situation.
I was so pleasantly surprised with our experience with One Fine Stay. It was wonderful to have extra room to spread out while we vacationed. It was much more cost effective than staying in a hotel would have been, and gave us the chance to live like a local and have a more unique, slice of life experience. Here is a link to the apartment we stayed in if you are considering a trip to London: Dorset Square
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If you’re heading to other places in Europe, here are some more posts you don’t want to miss! You can check out our entire Europe Travel Gallery to see all of our posts and helpful info.