Local travel beyond self-catering accommodation

self catering accommodation

The vacation rental vs. hotel divide

Have you ever noticed that we all tend to see the world as if it was made of contrasts? Good things vs. bad things, beautiful things vs. ugly things, funny things vs. boring things. We like dualisms. We extend this Euclidean view of the world to all aspects of our life, including travel. You are either a beach person or a mountain person, a traveler or a tourist, an independent traveler or a packaged holiday person. I guess that’s just a way to simplify the enormous complexity of present-day life, but things are blurred. Actually, they are very blurred.

When I told a friend I was thinking of writing something for this blog, she looked at me in amazement and stuttered: “but… you… you like vacation rentals… not cold hotels…”.  I was taken aback. I had never thought of myself in those terms. In a way, she was right… I don’t like cold hotels. But she was also very wrong: I do love the cool and cozy hotels and B&Bs. When did the vacation rental vs. hotel divide become a serious dichotomy?!

What I love about holiday homes

I do love the extra space, the homey feeling, the possibility to cook and save some money that are typical of a vacation in a holiday home.  I like discovering different ways to equip a home, and even the little inconveniences that may sometimes arise. In other words, I love the idea of living like a local for a week or more and of saving a bit of money by preparing our meals every now and then.

What I love about hotels

However, I also love the smell of a clean hotel room and the little complimentary things – I am not sure how much I have cost in soap bars, shower caps, and pens to the many hotels I have stayed in! I love when I find everything necessary to make tea and coffee and, oh, the breakfast spread!!! Arriving in a hotel room always comes with a sense of excitement and it is certainly part of the fun if you are like me, and accommodation is not just a place to crash at night after a day out. I love checking out the décor, I look for the little touches that make all the difference.

A few tips for hotel travelers

So if you are (supposedly or allegedly) a vacation rental person, these are 5 simple things you can do to preserve the taste for local and independent travel when staying at hotels (and loving it):

  • Remember that the people working there are often locals and not impersonal “geo-abstract” entities. They can recommend the little pub or the trattoria where they would normally go with their friends. Ask them to give you a tip that they normally wouldn’t give to their clients. You will be surprised.
  • If you are travelling to Tuscany ask about the nearest bar that serves “”: you will be surprised at the amount of finger food they offer for free for just the price of your drinks.
  • The minibar is not necessarily your wallet’s enemy. Find a market (again… ask the locals) and buy fresh fruit and local products to make a couple of sandwiches. Then find out about parks and picnic spots in the area.
  • Use the hotel spaces. While it’s true that your room might be smaller than a vacation rental, most hotels will have communal areas where you can hang out to read, watch tv, have a drink or just meet other people.
  • If you happen to miss that nice terrace you had at your latest holiday home, remember that the entire city or town where you are staying is your terrace. Find a nice park, a square, a look-out point and sip that glass of wine (if allowed… don’t get arrested!!) or eat that gelato (that’s legal everywhere I guess…) and enjoy the view. And don’t forget that the most important part of your vacation is you.

About the Author

Gloria is the owner of a vacation house in Tuscany near Siena, Casina di Rosa, and of a self-catering apartment in Pisa, Behind the Tower.  She was born and bred in Tuscany, where she lives dividing her time between her home village, Civitella Marittima, and Pisa, where she works. She writes a blog about living and travelling in her region, called At Home in Tuscany.