HomeAway from Home in Venice
For someone who pens a blog about travel, you’d think I’d know how to take a vacation. For my own sanity (and just keeping up with emails), I prefer the working vacation, where I get away, stay on top of my work, and get rewarded by exploring a new place. When Margaret and I first agreed to take a trip to Venice our original plan was to meet up elsewhere and then travel to Venice together. With a heavy workload and trying to stick to a budget, I realized it made more sense just to go straight to Venice and “live” there for more than a day or two. Last November I won an apartment rental anywhere in the world from HomeAway in the GranTourismo travel writing contest (you can win my winning entry here). For GranTourismo Lara + Terence traveled to 24 cities in the course of a year staying in various HomeAway apartments along the way – it was part of the overall goal of the project to celebrate local travel.
After arriving in Venice by train, I exited the station and hopped on the Vaporetto water transport to Dorsoduro. Back on land I rounded a corner and had a view like this. I crossed a bridge and then came to the street pictured in the top photo (the apartment was mid-way down on the right). This was my home for the week. And little did I know at the time of the booking, but this neighborhood quickly became my favorite in all of Venice – great exploring, very local, and hardly any tourists – just how I like it!
Worldwide there are over 450,000 properties in the HomeAway rental system. For me it came down to three main requirements 1) Internet access (amazingly not a given these days) 2) a good sense of design and 3) budget friendly (yes, I wanted to be smart how I used my prize). Had I known more about Venice and the neighborhoods, I would have factored this in as well.
The way HomeAway works is that you browse properties online using various filters. When you find one you like, you send a simple email through the website with the dates you are interested in staying. Depending on whose home it is, the owner will send you a response within 24-hours. The first apartment I liked was a smaller studio, but when I found out there was no internet, that was a no go. Luckily that particular home owner had two other places available (and set me these photos too, which really sealed the deal). As soon as she sent the listings, I knew I had found my home. Because I was booking last minute I even managed to score a better deal. In hindsight, waiting to book the place a week before the trip may not have been the best plan, but it all worked out. My train was an hour late, but even that worked out and the home owner and I were in touch the key exchange and introduction to the apartment and the neighborhood was great.
The living room alone was bigger than my apartment so it was a real treat and getaway for me. The space was really multi-functional where the living room couches could become extra beds. And the kitchen and refrigerator were great to have for basic snacks (or a make-shift dinner) and an easy breakfast. The best part too is that I not only got my work done, but I got to share the apartment–and the experience–with a friend.