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Vacation in Paris? Yes please!

Windows in Paris image from Shutterstock(Windows in Paris image from Shutterstock)

Disclosure: I received a small discount on my Vacation in Paris apartment rental in exchange for a writeup about my experience and a post about some of my favourite foodie discoveries on my most recent trip. You can read my Gourmand’s Tour of Line 8 over on the Vacation in Paris blog.

Over the past decade I have rented a lot of properties in France but the place I go back to most often is Paris, as you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or if you are a long-time reader of this blog.  In 2004, on our way back from a cycling/ hiking and canoe trip in the the Dordogne (oh I wish I had been blogging then – I sure had a lot of tales to tell  about the silly Canadian/ English/ Australian group cycling UP to Rocamadour in the blazing sun of French summer midday…. but that truly is a tale for another day!), Neil and I rented a tiny apartment a few blocks from where I used to live in the 2nd arrondissement.  Immediately, we were hooked. Having a place to cook fresh produce and meats from the nearby market was bliss.

Market spoils. #Nérac market. #FranceSoon after that, we rented properties in Hawaii for a family reunion (Neil’s mum came from Vancouver, my parents from Sydney) and the ability to cook meals and prepare breakfasts saved us, as a party of five, a lot of money on that trip. After that came rentals in Tuscany and Umbria, then a string of rentals in Paris over the years I was completing my M.A. at The University of London in Paris. During those summers, Neil would join me for two weeks after my courses were over and we, with our friend Cathy, would choose a different part of France to explore together. We’d get the train, rent a car and have a home base property for a couple of weeks together.  Sometimes, other friends would join us – we always rented places with more bedrooms than we needed in case people decided at the last minute to come and spend a few days.  This was all before Airbnb came on the scene – we were quite often renting from the owners directly or through an agency (which can be more expensive).

Vacation rental vs hotel

Friends would wonder at how we could afford these trips but in fact, renting a house or apartment, if you are savvy (and, ahem, you are long-term planners like Neil and I are), is much much cheaper than a hotel and it offers so much more independence in terms of mealtimes (which are very important for me – especially as I started my blog, I love cooking on vacation so the thought of two weeks in a hotel makes me a little stir-crazy!).  I love the fact that I can pop out to the boulangerie and buy some pastries to enjoy with my freshly brewed coffee and I’m not paying an arm and a leg for it. I love the fact that for a while, at least, you can pretend you live in that lovely little French town in the south of France or the middle of Umbria…  And friends who have come along with us (including family), have always been amazed at the good value a rental property is compared to a hotel…

#Paris le matin...“You rent from people you don’t know?”

Even when they heard about what a good deal renting a property was compared to hotel and restaurant expenses was, many people didn’t like the idea of renting a place from someone they didn’t know. We would get asked so many questions:

What if they run off with your money?
What if the place isn’t as advertised?
What if they don’t return your security deposit?
How do you know they are legit?

(these are questions we still get asked today – less than we used to but many people are still a little wary)

Honestly, we have never had a problem (*knocks on wood*) – at least nothing huge. Perhaps the truths have been stretched a little in a property description a few times and there was once when we were in such a hurry to leave (pre-sunrise) that we left some food in the oven (nothing stinky) so the owner protested by not giving us all our security deposit back (we were mortified when we realised what we had done, normally we’re pretty meticulous when we leave a place) We’ve learned what to look for, how to search what we are looking for and – because I speak fluent French – are able to communicate directly with owners in French. This has been a huge help – especially in the days pre-Airbnb when there were less places to look for rentals (in France, anyway) unless you spoke French and felt confident booking a rental property all in French. Nowadays, things are very different and you can find many more options to rent directly from the owners who speak English, although many people still prefer to go through an agency.

“What about rental agencies?”

Somewhere along the way, there were times when it just made more sense to use an agency, even in Paris. Times when I was booking pretty last minute and I contacted agencies hoping that they’d be able to save me a little time hunting for the perfect place. I used a number of different places and for the most part, speaking French was a definitely necessary – either the agency was French-speaking or the owner (who I was eventually put in touch with) was. This didn’t matter to me but when people were asking me to recommend agencies, I’d hesitate, knowing that the language might be an issue. Looking at the contracts I was signing (for month-long rentals, mind you, but still) I wasn’t confident non-French speakers would be ok signing stuff like that even though I would absolutely recommend those places and had excellent dealings with them. And even as the whole apartment rental directly from owners thing was taking off, a wanted the security an agency seemed to offer (versus renting directly from the owner).  Unfortunately, since I hadn’t dealt with an English-speaking agency, I wasn’t in a position to recommend one.

“What about rental agencies that speak English?

One of my rental dealings with an agency that spoke English. I have the habit of Googling the exact apartment/ property I want (i.e. “studio apartment, WIFI, washer-dryer, street XYZ, neighbourhood ABC”) and I needed an apartment for a teacher training session I was doing in Paris so when I was given the option to book it myself obviously I did. I Googled that exact phrase and up popped a new-to-me name – Vacation in Paris.   In the end, that teacher training got moved to Amsterdam and I was left with an apartment that was already paid for. I contacted ViP and they were super helpful (they are based in New Jersey with an English-speaking staff). SO much easier to deal with something like a potential refund in my native language! In the end, they were able to rent the apartment out for most of the time I would have been there and I received most of my security deposit back which was a nice surprise. I was so impressed with them that I recommended them to a good friend who was travelling to Paris at the same time as us later that year and who didn’t want to deal with a French-speaking agency. Some of the things she was very impressed with about her dealings with the company are the reasons I continued to recommend them (based on her experience and seeing her apartment).

Apartments under the roof on Shutterstock(Apartments under the roof image from Shutterstock)

After recommending the service to so many people over the past couple of years, I was finally able to test the service for myself this past March – though I absolutely trust my friends’ judgement, it’s nice to be able to recommend somewhere from your own personal experience.

Vacation in Paris

Right off the bat, the ViP website is easy to use. You can customise your search for a Paris property (or even beyond Paris if you choose) and if you know the area you are looking for, you can probably find something fairly quickly. Rentals are rated with a $ symbol for price – $ = $150 or less, $$ = $151 to $250, $$$ = $251 to $475, $$$$ = >$475.  Terms and Conditions  are clearly stated right on the site, including their cancellation policy and their fee structure (no hidden fees) and even if you have never rented a vacation apartment before it’s fairly straightforward. Communications are in English and so there’s no second guessing the meaning of a contract or document.

There are apartments for rent in so many different parts of Paris – right and left bank – in all price ranges – all independently owned but managed by ViP. No matter what you are looking for there should be something to suit. I’ve recommended ViP to all sorts of different groups – couples, mother-daughter trips, families, solo travelers – and every one of them has been more than happy with both the selection of apartments available and the service offered.

The best thing of all?

ViP mails you the apartment keys and complete instructions for getting to your rental property before you leave home. Yes, that’s right, you can arrive in Paris, keys in had, even at the oddest hours of the day and simply head straight for your apartment. No messing around trying to make contact with the owner beforehand, or on arrival. No worrying about language barriers. No worrying about figuring out cell phone service when you arrive so you can get in touch with the owner. On receipt of payment, ViP will send you a complete package including the keys and the detailed apartment information with directions for getting there.

As someone who has a permanent French mobile number and who is easily able to contact people as soon as I land in France, I generally wouldn’t worry about the need for having the keys before I land. However, having experienced a massive flight delay a couple of years ago (as in a 30 hour delay), when I was contacting the property manager every hour it seemed to update them on Air Canada’s “updates” on our estimated flight arrival and in the end having to go by another property to pick up the keys en route, I really appreciated the ease and convenience of taking off in Toronto in March, keys in hand, safe in the knowledge that a flight delay or problem was only going to affect me. It really does make everything so much easier.

Your information package includes contact details for an English-speaking property manager who is available should you encounter any problems while you are in Paris – I didn’t need this but a couple of friends have had needed to get in touch with that person and had nothing but good things to say about the efficiency of having someone who speaks English able to sort out a leaking dishwasher or a faulty washing machine. Little things that if you are renting from the owner directly might not get sorted as quickly without a dedicated person taking care of things.

Obviously I cannot comment on all the apartments of offer but those that I have seen in person (all by one of my friends’ and the one I rented personally) were all fairly true to their descriptions and looked exactly the same as the pictures you see on the site.  Obviously, being independently owned, each apartment varies a bit in terms of what they offer, how they are decorated etc… but all the amenities are clearly listed in the detailed description on the website.   If you’re looking to further cusomise your Paris experience, the Paris à la Mode section of the site offers Travel Insurance, Airport Transfers, The Paris Pass, Tours & More, Fat Tire Bike Tours, City Segway Tours and Concierge Services.

It would be hard to rate every apartment an agency offers and in any case, it’s the service that ViP offers that sets them apart from other agencies I have dealt with. Emails (and phone calls) are dealt with promptly (I have never waited for more than a few hours for a response to a question or concern) and (if this is important to you) in English. And then there’s that key mailed to you before you leave…

The bottom line for me is that  ViP takes the guesswork (and stress) out of renting an apartment if you don’t speak French. Instead of spending time searching for and arranging the perfect apartment rental, put your energies into planning activities for your trip to the City of Light.

I know I’m looking forward to checking out a new ViP apartment in Paris this summer – back in my old stomping grounds of the 2nd arrondissement and because I already have the key, I’m able to spend more time planning what to do (and where to eat!). Stay tuned for a gourmand’s tour of the rue Montorgueil – coming this July!

Teatime in Paris! by Jill Colonna

 

 

 

US/ Canadian readers –  enter to win a copy of Teatime in Paris by Jill Colonna. Recipes for classic Parisian teatime treats and a sweet tour of Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement! Ends Wednesday June 10th.  Details here.

 

 

 

Disclosure: I received a small discount on my Vacation in Paris apartment rental in exchange for a writeup about my experience and a post about some of my favourite foodie discoveries on my most recent trip. You can read my Gourmand’s Tour of Line 8 over on the Vacation in Paris blog.

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6 Responses to Vacation in Paris? Yes please!

  1. Alicia June 3, 2015 at 19:55 #

    I think I’m that friend who was very impressed with ViP, if I’m not mistaken! Vacation in Paris was lovely to deal with. Their staff were so nice and helpful, and ensured that my first time using an apartment rental while travelling was a very pleasant and non-stressful experience. I loved staying in a small flat in the middle of a Paris neighbourhood – and right above an excellent Monoprix too! And very close to the Metro. Based on my experience with ViP, I am now heartily in favour of apartment rentals when on holiday, whenever possible. I’ve highly recommended ViP to all my friends and a couple of friends have used them as well and were very happy with their experience. Great accommodation options at various price points, safe and secure service, and lovely staff and customer service.

    • Mardi Michels July 5, 2015 at 11:10 #

      Yes, you are the friend 🙂 Glad you had such a great experience!

  2. Cathy June 5, 2015 at 14:12 #

    We had a great experience with ViP too! We have two young children – eight and twelve – and have found that we prefer renting apartments when traveling rather than staying in a hotel for all of the reasons you mentioned above. So much more room, more economical, allows for the kids to get a more unique cultural experience, lets you save money by making a few of your own meals or snacks, etc. The flat we rented through ViP was perfect – just off the Rue Montorgueil, close to a Metro, within walking distance to most of the major sites, along with being spotlessly clean and charming. I loved that we had the key ahead of time – so nice when arriving on a Sunday morning at the crack of dawn. I’ve recommended ViP to several other friends and would not hesitate to stay with them again!

  3. Alice June 6, 2015 at 00:49 #

    What an interesting post! I’m certainly sharing this post with friends! This would have been so nice to know about when my husband and I travelled to Paris from London for the weekend with Mei when she was still just one years old, but those were before the days of AirBnB and we really didnt hear of anyone staying in a vacation rental over a hotel – but families with young children could find this really useful too! 🙂
    What an interesting life you lead, Mardi!

    • Mardi Michels July 5, 2015 at 11:10 #

      It’s definitely much more budget friendly than a hotel for families!

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