Winter is a terrific time to visit Europe—you’ll avoid the crowds and find better prices on airfares and lodging. If you’re going somewhere for a week or more, consider renting an apartment or home.
It’s always tricky renting someone else’s home or apartment, but the price can be right and the experience enjoyable if you do some advance research.
Your first decision is whether to rent directly from an owner or through a rental service. If you choose the former, rely on trusted web sites such as Vacation Rentals By Owner. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true ads on sites such as Craigslist. A friend of mine who rents her Paris apartment found her home—complete with pictures but a slightly wrong address—on offer on Craigslist at one-third her asking price.
It’s a growing scam: People appropriate pictures and details of someone’s legitimate apartment, condo or home and rent it to you. You send the money but when you show up, the place either isn’t there or the owner has never heard of you.
If you do use a site like Craigslist—and there are plenty of legitimate offers there—make sure you talk to the owner and verify the address and all other details.
For vacation homes, I like PackLate that takes postings from property managers at resort communities, deeply discounts rates and then reduces those prices the longer the units remain un-rented.
For very fancy digs, ideal for families, consider a site such as Elite Destination Homes, which offers everything from a luxury condo in Manhattan to fabulous beach home in Mexico.
I’ve rented two different lovely homes on the Amalfi Coast (photo above, left) through a company called Ville in Italia. There are great deals to be had if you rent after the high season—I’ve always found warm weather and great swimming in the Mediterranean in early October, for example. (Plus, those annoying tour buses that block traffic because they can’t make the curves on the coastal road without backing and filling are all gone.)
Here’s the important thing: For urban destinations—such as Paris and Rome—and winter resorts—such as Park City—you can find deals now. For summer rentals, it’s not too soon to start shopping and making reservations.