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Guest Post: How To Rent a Family Friendly Apartment in Paris & London

Editor’s note: I often get asked travel questions that I don’t have an answer for, and they are often about traveling abroad with children. On multiple occasions, I’ve been asked “How do I rent a flat in Paris or London?” even though I haven’t done this myself, my friend, Mike August, has.My husband and I even tagged along on the August family vacation to London and Edinburgh, and we had Mike book a flat for us, too. I asked Mike to write this guest post for the blog and I’m honored feature it here. – Jen Pollack Bianco

Veteran world travelers, my husband and I spent the first three years of our daughter’s life traveling exclusively across the United States to visit the grandparents — and nowhere else. With her fourth birthday nearing, we decided to venture back abroad, preschooler and 15-year old cousin in tow and our sights set on Paris. Paris with kids requires a different approach.

Overseas travels always had us in hostels, hotels and resorts. But, experiencing a foreign city with the unpredictable schedule (and finicky palate) of a child, we thought an apartment (or flat, as they are often called in Europe) the best way to accommodate the four of us. We felt an apartment would provide more space than the typical hotel room, with separate bedrooms for kids and grown-ups. It would have the benefit of a kitchen (and refrigerator) for storing and preparing provisions (self-catering is the norm with apartment rentals), plus a common room for entertaining friends who would be traveling with us (but lodged elsewhere).

I explored options presented on various vacation-rental sites, such as VRBO and similar Parisian iterations. However, I was reluctant to use these services, because results can be unpredictable (floor plans are unavailable, locations are vague, amenities are trumped up, pricing is opaque, etc.). While some of those factors would be acceptable for well-seasoned family travelers, we didn’t want to take risks on our daughter’s (and nephew’s) first trip abroad. A fortuitous Budget Travel article I read during the time of my search gave me the one and only resource that ended up mattering: A link to Guest Apartment Paris.

View of the Paris apartment living room -- from Guest Apartment Paris website

View of the Paris apartment living room — from Guest Apartment Paris website

Guest Apartment Paris specializes in apartment rentals in Paris, specifically on Ile St.-Louis and in the Marais district (most of which they own). Their website has very detailed information on each property, including floorplans and video tours. When I contacted them regarding the need for two apartments (one for us, one for our friends), they were very responsive and suggested ideally situated locations — not the most expensive properties, but the ones that best fit our needs. They were incredibly helpful in orienting us before our arrival, including coordinating airport transfers. Upon arrival, we met them at their office on Ile St.-Louis, where they keep daily office hours to respond to guest needs — much as a hotel concierge and front desk would.

Standard "money" shot of Paris - photo courtesy of Mike August

Standard “money” shot of Paris – photo courtesy of Mike August

Rental prices were comparable to a standard room at a “luxe” hotel, but gave us the flexibility and benefit of over 1000 square feet of living/sleeping/dining space, high-speed and reliable wifi, and an unbeatable location overlooking the Seine. And, what could be better for any four-year old, newly-minted world traveler than to have the world-famous Berthillon Ice Cream shop just around the corner from your Parisian pied-à-terre, always at our disposal?

Paris - Living Room View of the Seine

Paris – Living Room View of the Seine – courtesy of Mike August

One year later, we ventured to London and Edinburgh with our daughter and nephew, wanting to match the great experience we had had in Paris. I felt more willing to explore vacation rentals this time around, more comfortable with the ambiguity that such rentals bring. However, I ended up finding an unexpected solution: serviced apartments geared toward the longer-term renter (exemplified in the United States by corporate travel mainstay Oakwood).

For London, we came upon SACO, which has numerous locations throughout the UK, as well as affiliated properties overseas. We explored their London properties’ neighborhoods via Google Street View and found a terrific location on Lambs Conduit Street, just a few steps away from Coram’s Field — a collection of children’s playgrounds that served as a great respite for our daughter (and her dads!). Our apartment was mixed in with rentals of long-term corporate clients, and was very modern in comparison to the Parisian rental the year before. But, it felt equally comfortable as a home-base that provided the flexibility that our family needed.

Editor’s note: Renting a flat abroad can be done, and children can be enjoyable traveling companions. I hope this post helps demystify the process and encourages parents to get their kids passports and show them the world.

London - Living - Dining

London – Living – Dining