We’ve just checked into a hotel room in Ecuador and we’re a bit bummed. Yes, yes. We love hotels (especially these best hotels of 2013). But we recently spent a week of our travels in this vacation rental apartment in the historic center of Quito, which we booked through Flipkey, and we want it back. Here’s why a vacation rental may be the best accommodation for your vacation too.
Vacation rental win #1: Free laundry
Having the ability to wash your clothes mid trip means you can pack less and avoid any baggage overage charges.
Vacation rental win #2: Instant hosts/friends/city guides
The best vacation rental owners are also the best converges. They’re proud of where they live and they want you to enjoy it too. Down here in Ecuador owners of vacation rentals also often speak better English than hotel staff members.
The owners of our vacation rental, Ken and Maria, are a US expat and an Ecuadorian artist respectively. Before we even arrived they welcomed our many questions and sent detailed emails with additional information and endless help with solutions to our particular questions and problems, like where to find nearby parking for our truck. We arrived in Quito very late at night and Maria even called to make sure we were safe and sound.
Ken and Maria also offer a walking tour of the historic center of Quito, where the apartment is located, and the apartment was full of maps, brochures, guide books and other information about the city. They became instant local friends and enriched our visit on a much more personal level than any concierge ever could, including an illuminating evening of cocktails and conversation in their home.
Vacation rental win #3: Space
Our vacation rental in Quito was 750 square feet (70 square meters). That’s the same size as the apartment we had in New York City before embarking on the Trans-Americas Journey and included tons of closet space, a living room and a desk and working area (important for us). It also included a complete kitchen (see below).
Vacation rental win #4: A real kitchen
We’ve said it a hundred times: going to the markets and supermarkets in a new country or new city is one of the fastest and most entertaining ways to get inside the culture. With a full kitchen in our vacation rental we immediately went in search of groceries at supermarket chain called Supermaxi and discovered that groceries are much cheaper in Ecuador than they are in Colombia, there’s a major brand of canned food here called Snob and you can buy liquid hand soap called Sanity.
In addition to the cultural immersion to be had at the Supermaxi, having a real kitchen meant we could eat what we wanted and do it on the cheap. We made fresh pasta sauce, roast beef and chicken fajitas. There were pancakes and fruit salads for breakfast and big green salads for lunch. We were not at the mercy of the meat heavy menus at the local cheap eats restaurants or stuck fueling up on a skimpy hotel breakfast buffet.
Vacation rental win #5: Homey atmosphere
Maybe it was because we were in our vacation rental during Christmas but we really liked being in a homey atmosphere. Yes, we’re in Ecuador to experience Ecuador but it was nice to find touches of “home” like copies of The New Yorker on the coffee table.
There were even Christmas decorations up including wreaths on the door and a small tree with lights inside. Only a handful of (very pricey) hotels offer in-room holiday decorations and even fewer are going to have copies of The New Yorker for you.
We also appreciated the fact that the walls of the apartment were full of Maria’s black and white photos from around Ecuador which gave the place more personality than any hotel room.
Vacation rental win #6: You know exactly what you’re getting up front
Even the best hotel websites can require a lot of hunting around to find full details about what’s included in your room and in your stay. We’d never used Flipkey before but we found their property description pages to be concise, complete and easy to navigate with lots of pictures and a list-based format that made it easy to see exactly what amenities our vacation rental included right down to which appliances were in the kitchen. No guessing. No trolling around a website for ages. No disappointments. No confusion.
Vacation rental win #7: No hotel tax or surcharge
This one is a bit controversial since one of the main complaints that hotel operators have about the growing vacation rental market is that vacation rentals are not subject to the mandatory taxes and surcharges that hotels much charge each guest and, they say, that gives vacation rentals and unfair pricing advantage. In Ecuador, taxes and surcharges add 22% to your hotel bill but are not applied to vacation rentals which adds up to real savings for travelers.
Read more about travel in Ecuador
Flipkey, which has vacation rentals available in 12,000 global locations including plenty in Latin America, provided our stay in Quito, Ecuador so that we could share our honest opinions about the experience and that’s exactly what we’ve done.