Short-term Vacation Rentals & Holiday Apartments

hotel v holiday rental

Is a vacation rental or holiday apartment the right choice for your time in Lisbon? How can you possibly find the right one? Never fear! We’re here to help you figure it out…

What is a Holiday Rental?

A Vacation Rental or Holiday Rental is any residential property that is made available to travellers on a short-term basis.

Other commonly used names for these types of properties include: short-term rentals, holiday homes, holiday flats/apartments and holiday lets (UK). The term self-catering rental implies that no meals are served, while serviced apartments often provide many hotel-type extras. In warmer climates, fancier homes are often called holiday villas. Rental properties in rural areas often use the terms farm stay, cottage holidays (UK) or gîtes (France).

Unlike hotels, and even aparthotels–which normally have multiple rooms/units of the same type–each and every holiday rental is unique. Options range from yurts, campers or tee-pees in the woods to funky city lofts to lovely family homes to fully-staffed luxury villas in tropical locations.

This variety is both the fun and the challenge of renting and managing vacation rentals.

Why stay in a Vacation Rental?


holiday rentals on a typical street
A typical street in Lisbon

Because every vacation rental is unique, finding a good holiday home can make your vacation feel perfectly personal, unique and authentic.

Travellers looking to “live like a local” will more easily find that by renting a holiday home in a residential neighborhood, rather than a room in a hotel or resort complex.

Also, many short-term rental owners go out of their way to help guests feel a part of their community. For example, we cultivate relationships with excellent local restaurants and always point out the best neighborhood shops at check-in.


Most short-term rentals include the whole house, or at least access to kitchen and laundry facilities. This means that you have more room than you would in a hotel. Besides the fact that being able to cook some of your own meals can lower stress when travelling with children!

Plus, you’re free to do things on your own schedule–no more running down to catch the tail-end of a hotel breakfast or setting your watch to some restaurant’s opening hours.


Preparing some meals at home–even if it’s only breakfast–can also save a bit of money, allowing you to splurge on more interesting, more central accommodation.

Besides that, because most holiday apartments are rented as a unit (rather than priced per-person), they are often less expensive for a group of 3-4 adults than a comparable hotel would be.

Holiday Homes vs Hotels

When compared to hotels, holiday rentals offer more space, more privacy and less service.

In a holiday home, you have your own bedroom plus separate living space, something that’s rare in a hotel. There’s also no reception, and (generally) no staff to gossip about what you’re up to.

On the other hand, there’s no on-site reception to give you advice or find a lost key, no daily cleaning, and nobody to make you breakfast…

Depending on your preferences, a short-term rental might be exactly what you want. Or not.

Why NOT to stay in a Holiday Flat?

Too much adventure

Where one person sees an exciting adventure, another sees a stressful risk. Because short-term rentals are all so different, sometimes you can end up with a less-than-stellar experience. There’s even a term for rentals than don’t match the advertisement: SNAD, or “Significantly Not As Described”. But if you choose your rental carefully, there’s no reason to think you’ll be disappointed.

Still, everyone is different, and holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing. Don’t make yours stressful! If the idea of staying in a holiday rental has you feeling anxious, rather than adventurous… just don’t.

Not enough service

There are holiday rental people, and there are hotel people. If you like the snazzy breakfasts and daily cleaning at a hotel, a short-term rental may not be right for you.

Also, services provided vary from rental to rental: some owners/managers are very available, while some are more hand-off. We’re happy to let guests explore on their own, but–for those that prefer it–we provide a virtual consierge service and even have a local boutique hotel that will let our guests join the breakfast buffet! Be sure to ask about the services and amenities that are most important to you.

Rules about Holiday Rentals in Portugal

Vacation rentals in Portugal are refered to as Alojamento Local (AL). Each one must have an official registry number and there are minimum safety standards. These safety standards are very minimal, however (fire extinguisher, window coverings, doors that functionally lock, etc.), so you’ll still want to do some research to find the right rental for you.

How to choose the perfect Short Term Rental

There are so many options in Lisbon, and so many of them are BEAUTIFUL! We’re thrilled to see how the quality has improved over the last few years.

But that does make it hard to know which rental to choose. No worries! We’ll help you through the steps:

1) Choose a neighborhood.

This is really the place to start. Try to stay close to the things you want to see, so you don’t waste time shuttling from place to place. Don’t rent an apartment over a bar if you’re travelling with kids. Read up on the different neighboorhoods and find YOUR best place to stay in Lisbon.

Think about your group, about how you’ll get around and what you want to see. Then, outline the area you’re interested in on a map (even if it’s just a mental one).

2) Search for holiday rentals available for your dates.

All of the major Vacation Rental websites allow you to view the search results as a map. Compare your results to the neighborhood(s) you chose in the previous step.

Don’t forget the little guy!

Many owners have their own websites (like the one you’re reading!), even though they probably also list their properties on the big search sites. Try searching online for the personal websites of vacation rentals in your chosen area.

By going to the owner’s website, you save everyone the commissions that the big sites charge. Plus you’ll have a better feel for both the property and the owner, which can help you be more comfortable with your choice. And last but not least, you’ll almost certainly get more personalized service.

3) Choose your top options.

Look at the photos and at the comments or reviews from past guests. Choose a couple of properties that speak to you, then ask any and all questions you may have.

If you’re still feeling a little nervous, you can look for properties that have been verified or inspected. Alastair Sawday’s is a great resource.

4) Book!

Once you’ve found that perfect vacation rental, go ahead and book–either on-line or over the phone.

Be sure to check cancellation policies before making your booking payment and consider buying trip insurance.

What do you think? Are you ready to give Short-term Rentals a try? Find your Historical Holiday Home below!

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