Posted on | October 18, 2009 | 5 Comments
Sydney Harbor + Harbor Bridge
I’ll be traveling to Sydney with my boys (but without my husband) in November. We’ll be meeting a new family member – LittleL, who was born in July – for the first time. We were able to take advantage of Quantas’ sale earlier this year to pick up flights at a fairly reasonable price (~$600 each) but I didn’t start looking for somewhere to stay in Sydney until this month and now that I’ve finally sorted that out I can share my experience.
Vacation Rentals In General
I’m a huge fan of staying in vacation rentals when I travel with my family. It’s proven to be a good way for us find holiday accommodation which is more suitable for a family than a standard hotel room. We usually look for a one or two bedroom property with a kitchen so we can have separated sleeping spaces (so everyone gets a better night’s sleep) and we have the option of eating in rather than having to pay restaurant prices for every meal. I’ve been able to find well-appointed properties with per-night rates similar to three or four star hotels in many locations world-wide.
Vacation Rentals in Sydney
For our trip to Sydney, I started my search with two constraints: the cost couldn’t be more than $150 – $200 per night and a property in Balmain – which is the neighborhood where my sister lives – would be ideal. Surprisingly, HomeAway.com, Vrbo.com and Rentalo.com had little or no vacation rental properties which met these criteria. When there is limited inventory with these familiar brands, I find that the next best thing to do is to look for a local (to your destination) property rental company. The trick is to find one for which you can find sufficient additional evidence showing that the company is a reliable entity from whom to rent. In this case, I found an Australian company, Rent-A-Home, which has a large selection of properties all over Australia. I’ve written before about tips for finding vacation rental accommodation. The Rent-A-Home website and the vacation rental property listings fulfilled all my criteria for clearly written property descriptions, full amenity listings, plenty of photos, customer reviews of properties and a responsive administrative staff.
But booking a property became an issue. As the New York Times reported last week, many American travelers are finding that it’s not so easy to use your credit card overseas any more. My experience with this booking highlighted a different aspect of using a U.S. credit card for a purchase in another country. When I tried to pay Rent-A-Home the deposit on my chosen property, my visa card was rejected multiple times. After the first time, head-slapping myself for stupidity, I called the bank. I verified to them that the charge wasn’t fraudulent and they said that Rent-A-Home should be OK to re-process the charge. It was denied again. This was very frustrating. I wondered if I would be having the same experience if the merchant name was a well-known hotel chain?
I was tempted to settle for a hotel room, but instead decided to try another credit card. I logged on to my American Express account and used their handy-dandy secure message center to send an email to Amex customer service informing them of my travel plans and the need to place a charge in AUD$ to book accommodation. I received a response within a day and attempted to pay Rent-A-Home again. This time the charge was processed immediately.
Sydney River View
Sydney Accommodation Costs
We’ll be staying in a two-bedroom apartment across the harbor from Sydney’s Central Business District. We have spectacular views of the harbor (see the top photo in this post) and of the river (above). The cost is an affordable USD$175 per night. We’ll be right next to the new Ballast Point Park and a couple of blocks from the harbor ferry terminal. The ferry ride into downtown Sydney is seven minutes. Now that all the details are (finally, painfully) sorted out, I can start getting excited about the trip 🙂
If you have any suggestions for must-see attractions or activities in Sydney, leave a comment below.