Whether you are a business traveller, solo traveller, or travelling with a family, having more living space can make an extended stay in a city much more comfortable. Constantly eating in restaurants can get tiring and expensive. So what options do you have? Welcome to aparthotels. There are so many benefits to staying in one. So, what is an aparthotel and how is it different?
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What is an Aparthotel (Apartment Hotel)?
Aparthotels is the hotel industry's response to vacation homes like Airbnb and Vrbo. The vacation home industry has also come under attack in recent years from cities and residents.
People travelling want more living area and a kitchen. Airbnbs and Vrbo offered that. Now the hotel industry is getting into the game by offering an alternative to those with Aparthotels.
Aparthotels go by a few different names. Sometimes they go by Apartment Hotels or Serviced Apartments. There is a slight difference between an aparthotel and Serviced Apartment, we'll cover that later.
It may seem obvious by the name. It is a hotel room that is like an apartment. At a minimum, you get a kitchenette in the apartment, if not a fully equipped kitchen. It's more than just having a kitchen.
Once you understand the benefits of an Aparthotel, you may want to choose it over your traditional vacation home like Airbnb or Vrbo for your next trip.
What is the Difference Between a Kitchenette and a Kitchen?
Knowing this difference is important when choosing your Aparthotel.
Maybe a kitchenette is enough for your travel style. You just don't want to get a kitchenette when you are expecting a fully equipped kitchen.
A kitchenette is probably what you are used to seeing in hotels over the years. Many hotels now have a mini-fridge and a coffee maker and sometimes even a microwave. A kitchenette will have those three things and include a sink, and some plates and cutlery.
You may find some kitchenettes with a small countertop burner so you can cook a few things in pots and pans. When you are looking to rent an aparthotel and it lists a kitchenette, look at the pictures so you know what you are getting.
A kitchenette is great if you are just planning to supplement some meals by making a simple breakfast or lunch, or even bringing some takeaway back at the end of your day.
Fully Equipped Kitchen
Well, we all know what this is. In a fully equipped kitchen in an aparthotel, you will find all the essentials:
- Pots and pans
- Dishwasher (not always)
Fridges in Europe, aren't North American size fridges. Even in many residential places (like in Airbnbs I've rented) the average fridge size was an under-the-counter mini fridge. Many Europeans buy what they need daily which means there isn't a need to have a large fridge.
Where to Find and Book Aparthotels
You can find and book Aparthotels on almost any hotel booking site. My two favourites are Booking.com and Agoda. They are both owned by Priceline, they just operate a little differently.
Booking.com is the world's largest online travel agency. It is better known in North America and Europe.
They offer a pay at the hotel model but also have started a prepay system. You'll any apartment hotels, serviced apartments and aparthotels here.
Agoda was started in Singapore, so it is better known in Asia.
What they do differently is they buy rooms in bulk, allowing them to sometimes offer them cheaper. It's always worth a look.
They have a large selection of aparthotels around the world.
What are Serviced Apartments?
Serviced apartments are the original idea behind the apart hotel. They are well known to business travellers. They are often located in a hotel and are fully furnished apartments with more living space than a typical hotel.
They have a full kitchen and a living area with all the luxuries of a hotel like housekeeping. Serviced apartments are short-term and long-term rentals. It's like a residential hotel.
Sometimes the terms serviced apartment, apartment hotel and aparthotel get interchanged.
Ultimately they offer the same things. More space, and a place to cook, usually for a better price than a hotel especially for longer stays.
Aparthotel vs Vacation Homes
Vacation homes like Airbnb and Vrbo are definitely popular and have surged over the last decade. A large part of the appeal of an Airbnb is getting more space and a place to cook.
Another factor is the ability to find some unique properties and have a home away from home rather than a room with just some beds and a bathroom.
Let's go through some pros and cons for both Vacation Homes and Aparthotels.
Pros: Aparthotel vs Vacation Home
Cons: Aparthotel vs Vacation Home
Costs: Aparthotels vs Vacation Homes
Often aparthotels, or especially serviced apartments, will offer discounts for the longer you stay. Usually, that threshold is for stays for 7 days or more.
You should be able to find aparthotels for around the same price as a hotel. Even if it is a little more, you save money by having a kitchen. Now you aren't eating out for every meal.
The cost of a vacation home can really vary. You can find ones for $50 per night or $1000+. There is really one for every budget.
Where you have to be careful is with the extra fees. Sites like Airbnb and Vrbo allow a host to add a cleaning fee and an owner's fee.
The problem with this is that the listed price might be $120 a night so the listing fits into the price filters for a cheaper vacation home. Then when you go to check out, it's now an extra $30 a night.
What to Watch Out For
Both will have some extra fees. Taxes are a given. Some cities charge a tourist tax.
Aparthotels will have the nightly rate and taxes. The rate is the rate.
Vacation homes will have cleaning fees and/or host fees, and services fees.
The service fees are the website's cut.
The cleaning and host fees are set by the host. These can really change the price of the listing. Below the host, fees add an extra $52 a night!
The prices between vacation home websites can be really different. Here's an example of the same vacation home on the same days. One is almost twice the price.
Advantages: Aparthotels vs Vacation Homes
There are many advantages of aparthotels. The biggest is that you have the comfort and benefits of a hotel: more units, housekeeping, safety standards, security, 24-hour check-in, and extra amenities.
You can even find aparthotel companies that have locations in other cities. If you like a certain brand, you can find them and expect the same level of service where you travel.
Security is a big one. Most of them have 24-hour security and staff.
The thing I love most about vacation homes is the ability to find very unique properties. If you are looking to find a castle, houseboat, or windmill to stay in, vacation homes are where it is at.
The other advantage is the price point. If you are diligent in your search, you can find some great cheap places, much cheaper than a hotel. Also, you can find them in a neighbourhood that will give you a truly local experience.
Hosts can also make the experience amazing. I've had hosts give great tips on what to see and do like only a local can. Others have lent me bikes and done my laundry. Ultimately, vacation homing is about the people.
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Disadvantages: Aparthotels vs Vacation Homes
There are not many. One could be the cost. Not that you can't find reasonable ones, but you won't find many Aparthotels under $100. There are some, but your options are limited.
Prices can really fluctuate, especially in hot vacation spots. The high tourist season will be more, and the low tourist season will be less. The difference can be as much as double, so you really have to keep an eye on prices. Really it's not different than hotels.
Ironically the advantages of vacation homes can also be their disadvantage. Because there is one person in charge of the property usually, if something goes wrong or isn't working, it can take a while to resolve the issue. Read the reviews, because bad hosts do exist.
The uniqueness of a property can also make it very difficult to match your dates or find availability.
There are no standards for security or safety. One other thing that keeps hitting the news is hidden cameras. Owners are allowed to have cameras in the rental, but they must disclose where they are. They can't be in bathrooms or bedrooms.
Of course, this can happen with a hotel or aparthotel also, but they aren't the ones making headlines. With small hidden cameras so cheap and readily available, it's becoming a bigger problem.
Changes in Vacation Homes
I was a big Airbnb user. I still do rent them on occasion. In Europe in particular I'm very cautious now because of the many changes happening there. Every Airbnb I rented in Europe was amazing.
The owners gave me a personal touch and were super helpful. I had one bad (really bad, read below) experience in North America that definitely makes me cautious.
Restrictions on Vacation Homes
One thing that has changed in the last few years with properties on Airbnbs and Vrbo is that cities are starting to put restrictions on them. Especially in Europe. The properties are taking away places to live from the locals. Some cities are outright banning them. That doesn't mean you can't find them.
You may get owners telling you if anyone asks, you are a family member visiting. That can be an awkward and uncomfortable feeling when you see the neighbours. It happened to me. Most of the neighbours will know that the property is an Airbnb which can lead to unexpected issues. If you are interested in learning more here's an article.
Cancellations on Vacation Homes
One downside to vacation homes Airbnbs is that the hosts can cancel on you. It happened to me during a stay in Chicago. I booked the property 6 months in advance because I knew that the city would be booked up (and the hotel rates get jacked up) because of the Lollapalooza music festival that weekend.
What some hosts will do when demand is high, is take a booking so it guarantees a they have someone staying in their place. Then if they get someone willing to pay more due to the demand and lack of properties, they cancel the booking at the lower rate.
At that time that if happened to me, hosts only got penalized $100 for the last-minute cancellation. If I as the guest cancelled last minute, it would cost me 50% of the booking. Not quite fair. The consequences for the host are really minimal.
My Experience with Cancellation
The owner cancelled less than 24 hours before my trip. It became my problem. Airbnb now has AirCover which claims they will find you a similar or better home or they will refund you. They don't state who will pay for the price difference.
They did find me places to stay, but they were for way more than I could afford, in a bad neighbourhood or a place with bad reviews. They weren't willing to eat the difference of a more expensive place. That's not helpful. Part of my vacation planning is finding a great location that makes it easy to get around. If my host cancels, now everything changes.
I was told to just go to Chicago and call them when I got there. I was travelling with a seven-year-old. I wasn't going to stand on the street hoping they would find me a place at 9 o'clock at night. I got tossed around between customer service reps, and never got callbacks when they said they would, it was a complete nightmare.
I ended up all night on the phone and the internet and finding a place on my own. That place was now a 30-minute bus and train ride to where I wanted to go everyday, and it was $1000 more.
Aparthotels are a fantastic alternative to hotels and vacation hotels, by combining the best of both. You'll find many options in any city making your stay more comfortable and you'll save money.
If you like the idea of an Airbnb but want the security and amenities of a hotel, then give an aparthotel a try.