Renting a house or apartment for two or three weeks is a different, less expensive style of European vacation.
After a few trips that involve touring from major city to major city, tourist attraction to tourist attraction and hotel to hotel, many European travelers are becoming attracted to a less peripatetic holiday; one in which an apartment, condominium or private home is rented for a week or more and used as a base or headquarters for daytrips. Not only is travel in this style more relaxing, it's cheaper. The rental price is lower than in a similarly furnished hotel and there is always a kitchen which, if used, saves on restaurant expenses.
We are getting an increasing number of letters like the following one from Alvin Grancell of Mesa, Arizona:
"Do you have any information on small apartments or houses in Bavaria, Austria or Switzerland especially priced for active senior citizens. We like to eat out only two or three times a week. We like music, art, exploring old towns and rural areas."
"We will be there from August 1 to September 1, coming from Great Britain to Northern Germany, maybe wandering for a week or two toward the Rhine Valley visiting friends near Frankfurt, then to the high cool area."
Our advice to the Grancells, is to first determine the specific regions or better yet, cities and towns where they wish to headquarter, then write or phone the German (or Swiss, or Austrian) Tourist Office in Los Angeles and request the addresses, telephone and fax numbers of the tourist offices for their areas of interest. Once that information is in hand, they can then contact these local tourist offices and ask for a listing of vacation rentals.
Perhaps we can learn from the recent experience of the Karl Beckers of Gulf Shores, Alabama, who for two months stayed in a variety of apartments, the cost of which was about 67 DM ($41) per night including final cleaning, utilities, garage, TV, water, etc. The Beckers, who traveled in the off-season, went to Germany with nothing pre-arranged.
"When we decided on a town in which to stay we went to the local tourist information office and asked for brochures on available accommodations (Ferienwohnungen). Then we simply picked out a place. There was nothing scientific about it," said Mr. Becker.
As an example, Mr. Becker mailed us a rather hefty brochure published by the Bad Kohlgrub tourist office which contained listings of all local accommodations from the simplest room in a private home to the best hotels. The booklet is typical of that published by many local tourist offices and, in addition to the listings, contained 50 pages of color photographs of hotels, condos, apartments and guest houses.
"Out of the 191 addresses with 398 Ferienwohnungen/apartments in Bad Kohlgrub we picked Haus Ambos simply because it was the first listing with a picture. And the lady at the tourist office made the telephone call for us," said Mr. Becker.
The photo of Haus Ambos shows a typical, frescoed Bavarian house with flower bedecked balconies and green shutters. The Beckers stayed for one week and paid 385 DM ($235) for a three-room apartment with private bath, color TV and balcony.
According to Mr. Becker, the difference between a Ferienwohnung and a Ferien-Apartment is that the latter usually has a combined sleeping/living area plus cooking facilities and bath, whereas a Ferienwohnung is a full-fledged apartment with separate living room, bedroom, full kitchen, bath, etc., usually with its own entrance. Sometimes it is a separate cottage or bungalow.
"As far as we are concerned, Ferienwohnungen are the only way to go, with perhaps a few guesthouses in between for one-night stands. It does not make much sense to spend a fortune on a hotel room and live out of a suitcase when for the same price you can have a complete apartment and live like a king. And not least, be able to fix yourself a hot cup of coffee in the morning, or a homecooked breakfast."
"These accommodations are spotless, beautifully decorated, and provide more comfort than any Holiday Inn or Best Western hotel ever offered me. And last but not least you get warm, personal service that no hotel chain can give you. All this at half the cost," concludes Mr. Becker.
Here is a list of the Ferienwohnungen rented by the Beckers on their recent trip with average cost per day of the lodgings based on an exchange rate of $1 = DM 1.64.
City Lodging Average Cost
Polle Ferienheim Weserterrasse $37
Lahnstein Ferienpark Rhein-Lahn $51
Langenburg Feriendorf Roseneck $41
Möhringen Ferienwohnung E. Waibe $32
Bad Kohlgrub Haus Ambos $34
Amelinghausen Forstgut Rehrhof $55
Quickborn Ferienwohnung Edith Sendel $43
Based on lodging costs for two persons of about $41 per day, rental of a small car at about $160 per week, roundtrip airfare of about $500 per person, an off-season, two-week vacation for two can be done for less than $2,000, not including meals and gasoline. Our thanks to Mr. Becker for his lengthy and detailed report.