For Americans vacationing to London and other parts of the UK, it’s easy to overspend if you’re not careful. Though the exchange rate is more favourable to Americans than it was pre-Brexit vote, money can still evaporate quickly.
That makes staying somewhere like an Airbnb appealing, as you’ll usually have a kitchen at your disposal to cook meals cheaply whenever you want.
When planning a trip to London this summer, I didn’t have enough time to scope out Airbnbs, so I chose to stay in an “aparthotel” by Marlin Hotels, a British chain that specialises in such rooms.
I stayed in the hotel that had just opened a few months prior in London’s Waterloo neighbourhood. Prices range, but I paid an average of $US165 a night for seven nights.
“Aparthotel” rooms aren’t much different from normal hotel rooms, except that they have a (nearly) full kitchen in addition to the usual sleeping arrangements. I say “nearly full” kitchen because the rooms have a range, microwave, sink, dishwasher, toaster, refrigerator, electric kettle, and a full range of cookware and utensils, but they don’t have an oven.
That means no frozen pizzas. Still, you can easily make a wide variety of meals with the available options. During my stay, I made salads, toast, grilled cheeses (or “toasties,” in local parlance), and omelets with the cookwear provided in my room. I was also able to make use of the utensils and tableware to eat cereal, yogurt, and other breakfast items.
I was able to save quite a bit of money by shopping at the nearby food stores instead of eating out for every meal. I paid about $US33 for a week’s worth of groceries, including things for breakfast, fruit for in-between-meals snacking, and even some food to make for dinner. That comes out to less than $US5 a day, significantly reducing the amount of money I was spending for food. It may not seem like a ton of money to save, but in a city where even the simplest wrap from a street vendor can top $US12 and a muffin from a cafe can cost $US4, it adds up.
I ate breakfast at the hotel every morning of the seven days I stayed in the hotel, and I felt full of energy and ready to take on the city of London and all it had to offer. Some nights, we also made dinner at the hotel after a long day of museum-hopping or taking the expensive-but-worth-it transportation options.
I felt more like I was a local, as I imagine it would have felt if I were staying in an Airbnb. I was able to sample the groceries that you would buy if you lived in the area, which made me feel more connected to the city. To be honest, I became a bit jealous of the quality of produce and food that is readily available for low prices in London.
The hotel rooms are also fully serviced, meaning cleanup is simple: just put what you used in the dishwasher, and let the room’s cleaner start it. On the second day, I placed dishes in the sink to deal with later, but I came back to find them in the dishwasher with the washer running, which was a great feeling.
Always having food in the hotel took a lot of the stress out of searching and buying food while roaming the city, and always returning to a clean kitchen made it still feel like a vacation from normalcy. I wasn’t stuck doing dishes.
Staying in an Aparthotel wasn’t outrageously more expensive when compared to similar hotels in the area, which range from $US100 to $US200 a night. I would call it mid-range, price-wise. You can certainly find cheaper hotels, but you will get what you pay for.
For medium to long stays, I would absolutely choose to stay in an “aparthotel” again wherever I travel. It takes the worry out of travelling — and leaving your worries behind is really what going on vacation is all about.