A few years ago, there was only one answer to this question – get a hotel room. You know, more or less, what you’re getting. If it’s a Hilton or Holiday Inn or even just a single local hotel, you can figure out roughly what they have to offer and expect to get that more or less. Does it have a pool? Does it have breakfast where you can find kosher fruit, cereal, and milk?
If you wanted to find a house or apartment to rent instead, that would be an ordeal. You could look at a five line ad in a newspaper (remember those?) or the equivalent on Craigslist or even websites where you can see some pictures … but you’d have no idea if you were dealing with an honest person, whether you’d find bed bugs or termites, or if you’d ever see your security deposit back . . . and it used to be very expensive. We once ended up in a former warehouse converted into a tiny house and were expected to stay in the back room only. It was an experience.
New websites have changed all this. We’ve now had experience with both airbnb.com and vrbo.com / homeaway.com and our next booking in the United States or Israel is much more likely to be with them rather than a hotel. Here’s why plain and simple: You get a whole lot more for the same price and have a whole lot more detail about what you’re getting. Plus, you get pictures of every room, details of the amenities, reviews from others with detailed comments, and know what to expect from top to bottom. and Here are three actual examples.
Orlando, Florida – the first time we went circa. 2009 or family was smaller and we stayed at The Westgate Palace. Don’t get me wrong, this place is very, very nice. They give you a two bedroom suite with kitchen for, when all is said and done with taxes and fees, about $160/night. There’s an outdoor pool … fairly shallow, but very big. It’s also very close to Universal Studios and Seaworld as well as the Chabad 1.5 miles away with minyan. On our more recent trip, even this wasn’t going to cut it. We’d need two hotel rooms and still be cramped plus have to exit one hotel room and enter another to check on the kids. So we’re talking $320/night and have to deal with crankiness over the arrangement … from us or the kids.
So instead, we looked into house rentals. It’s not what it used to be. We rented this house which I’m happy to share publicly and tell everyone to do it because it was so great. Or, even go to the owner’s website – Florida Gold. For more-or-less the same price as a single hotel room even if your security deposit isn’t returned you get a whole house. For even just two people traveling this a better deal!
We’re talking five bedrooms with most of the kids upstairs away from the two master bedrooms downstairs and a heated pool. On our first trip to Orlando in January, we used the pool once … after that, it was too cold. On our most recent trip the kids literally wanted to leave the parks early to go swimming. It’s $100/ticket/person at Disney parks, and the nice house for which we paid half price for is upstaging Disney for all except one daughter who loves princesses and said the house tied with Magic Kingdom.
in addition to having a private (heated) pool, which solves tznious issues in a major way, the house rental websites have started an arms race. You can find houses with game rooms – pool table, shuffle puck, foos ball. On top of this, your own washer/dryer, your own kitchen fully stocked (we kashered the oven and microwave), and in our case, complete with high chair, umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, soap, strollers, and more than I would ever even remember to think about.
There were only two downsides: 1) location – the area with the minyan and parks are about 30 minute drive away to the North and we wouldn’t stay there for Shabbos; 2) as mentioned above, my kids didn’t want to stay at the parks which I paid a whole lot more money for.
Modiin, Israel – Here, we used airbnb. Hotels simply aren’t near residential areas here and that’s okay … so instead we found a room in someone’s house. It’s not nearly as fun as having the whole house to yourself and you have to, you know … be social with strangers in their house. Like Orlando, again, the price was cheaper than a hotel. Unlike Orlando, this was about location. Zoom in on the map and find the location where you want to be (in this case, near relatives) and then look at the closest options, prices, and availability. With such rentals your geographic options are much improved over zoning ordinances limiting locations of hotels.
New York City – You cannot, practically speaking, find a hotel room in Manhattan less than $400/night. The taxes and expenses there are simply too high. My German business colleague (he handles my patent filings in Europe), meanwhile, was in the New York City for a conference. He found a room for $80/night just off Wall Street in lower Manhattan – we meet at Reserve Cut and each pay about that much for our two courses of appetizers we order for dinner.
Thus, if you’re like me, you embrace what technology has to offer you for the good. Smartphones brought taxi rides from anywhere to anywhere, apps telling us the nearest minyan and kosher food on our way, and places to stay anywhere for a whole lot less than a corporation can charge. Those who can provide the best service and most information prevail and that is what this blog is all about, besides – fostering the exchange of this information for the kosher traveler. It has further helped me immensely in business. Search for New York Patent Attorney or variants thereof on the internet sometime.
P.S. I don’t own a smartphone. How do you do pay attention to life when you have one of those in your pocket?
P.P.S. One more tip: If you find a house you like, go to images.google.com and search to see if you can find the image on another website – you might find the same house advertised for a different price elsewhere. I also saved about 40% on a bathroom vanity this way.