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Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

Jun 29th, 2008, 09:51 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52
Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

My family,11 people in all, recently returned from a two week vacation in Great Britain - one week in Scotland and another in England. We do this type of trip, which is in effect a family reunion, every other year in some part of Europe and have never before been disappointed in our accommodations (we choose self-catering rentals because of the number of people). We had worked very hard on finding just the right places in Scotland and England and were really looking forward to our reunion. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived in Scotland to find an old stone house that was in a great state of disrepair. For example, there were cracked window panes which probably were responsible for what looked like mold on the walls - and also the smell that pervaded the house. . The wallpaper was peeling in the dining room - big time! - and pieces of wood had been nailed over baseboards in the ktchen to cover what appeared to be rot. The shower was a trickle of water and we slept on the beds' dust ruffles since there were no sheets (or mattress pads).
Need I say, we were very upset but stuck it out, in spite of the fact that we felt the house had been misrepresented.
In checking reviews of this place on the Internet, we found 2 of them - one from an American and one from an Englishman or Scot. The American wrote a scathing review warning people to stay away from this place, a review which we found to be only too true. The Englishman found no fault other than to say that this is one got in such an old house. Which leads to the question: are we wrong to expect better accommodations when we go to Europe or should we just accept that things are much older and not in the greatest condition? Again, we have rented before in Spain, Italy and France (one of the houses here was a 16th century old mill in beautiful condition meaning that it can be livable and old at the same time).
I will also add that we paid top dollar for these accommodations so it wasn't a question of doing it on the cheap.
Comments, please?
Rmkelly313 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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I think your post is lumping everything together, including a bunch of stereotypes and assumptions based on one person's review you found online--okay, two, American vs. Englishman and thus those two reviews of one old castle is now being generalized to all Americans, all Europeans, and all accommodations.

I think if you are renting old houses, you have to be more careful what you get and what you expect, but that doesn't translate to everything else (Britain also has notoriously bad standards, in my experience, although they have gotten better in the last decade or two, they used to have a lot of terrible hotels). I'm American and have never stayed in a hotel in Europe with mold or that was dirty, or was worse than I expected from its rating, price, and my research, nor worse than what I'd expect of similar American hotels I stay at. I don't rent old houses or very unique or peculiar accommodations, though, they don't particularly interest me. If I were going to rent such places, I'd realize it would be a gamble, especially if you are doing that based on two reviews and no other knowledge of the place.
Christina is online now  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:15 AM
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What did you pay? "Top dollar" doesn't tell us much.

I am assuming it was a very large old house since it slept 11 of you. Why not give us the link so we can see how the owners represent it.

I have rented countless cottages/houses/flats in the UK. A few were over the top/posh/modern - but most are "serviceable". Meaning they are clean, and have the equipment advertised. I never expect "new build" type properties, and old fashioned or a bit on the tatty side doesn't bother me at all. As long as I'm not paying posh prices for less than posh places.

But maybe because I lived in the UK for several years, I'm more tuned into what to expect just by reading between the lines and carefully examining the photos. There are words/terms that are definite signals.
janisj is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:16 AM
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britain has very low standards for hotels and rented accomodation. even eastern europe (which we consider barbaric) has much better standards. unless you get a luxury place, it is typical to find horrible exposed piping and mysterious plumbing features, wooden toilet seats (nice and sanitary in a hotel!), carpet in the bathroom (see last item), toilet seats that must be held up during male use (we ALL love to touch toilet seats).

as for the reviews, you need to understand britons. we have a saying 'that's lovely' that is used no matter the situation. we can go to a restaurant, wait 2 hours for our food, be treated like crap, be served frozen food and our review will be 'it's lovely'. we will even tell the owner that everything was lovely as we leave. we accept low standards with our trademark stiff upper lip. the more we accept, the more standards slip. most countries are far more demanding (certainly americans are) so the standards of things are not nearly as bad as ours. most european countries also have higher standards.

but of course some cultures have higher standards for some things and not others. for example, i think germans have a higher standard for housing but they seem to accept crap food without much complaint. britons tend to accept lower standards for most things - food, our housing, etc.
walkinaround is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:21 AM
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Without generalizing too much, I think many Americans are use to the Holiday Inn style of accommodations found throughout the US. It is difficult to find many hotels or inns that have a great amount of character or uniqueness.

In the UK, many hotels, gueshouses and/or inns have been in place for hundreds of years. While some have been completely modernized over the years, many have not. Europeans are use to not always having a private bath, Americans not so much.

I think it's just a difference in expectations.

While I prefer to have some amenities, I do want to stay in a place with some charm and character that doesn't look like every other hotel at home.

It can be difficult trying to book accommodations on the internet. While a great tool, people only have to reveal what they want to about their property.

That is why sites like Fodor's are helpful because you can ask questions about places where people have stayed and find out if they recommend them.
bettyk is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:22 AM
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I think you were unfortunate. Self-catering places in England have improved enormously in the past twenty years, and I cannot think why Scotland should be different. Did you rent through an agent? The booking companies often have very high standards, and will not deal with properties which do not come up to their specification. We stayed at a place on a farm in Devon a few years back, and the owners told us they were expecting an inspection visit. We thought the place was OK, but it was not listed the following year.

Scotland may have a shorter season, and many visitors may not be looking for comfort but access to good walking country. You say you paid top dollar, but one general comment I would make on many Fodor postings is that people expect to get quality at low prices, and do not realise there is usually trade-off to be had.

As a final comment, can I say that we have been surprised at the very primitive facilities in accommodation at US national parks. Travel is sometimes about things not being what you expect.
chartley is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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betty, i don't think it's a fair comment to put this down to americans preferring holiday inns and not appreciating charm and character.

the standards are quite bad overall in the uk. in the rest of europe, it is much more common to find very old, charming, character filled places that have been modernised to a good standard - smartly designed bathrooms, refinished original flooring rather than carpet laid down everywhere (including the bathrooms), buildings' characters not destroyed by ugly fire doors, etc.

it might be tempting to blame the americans for not having the taste to appreciate 'character' but i think this misses the mark. anyway, if anyone wants 'quaint' and charming when visiting europe, it's certainly the americans!
walkinaround is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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Chartley's comment about US National Parks strikes a cord. Yosemite Lodge is not a budget hotel by any means. It is downright expensive for what are essentially worn, motel-type rooms. If it was outside of Yosemite Valley - in say Fresno, it would cost a fraction of the rates it charges. Those of us who stay there and love it just understand the trade-off - priceless location/so so accommodations.

But a LOT of people post scathing reviews of YL - expecting more for the money.
janisj is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:01 AM
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Excuse me, walkingaround, but you are putting words in my mouth.

I never said that Americans "prefer" Holiday Inns. And I did not say that American do not appreciate charm and character. I said it is difficult to find accommodations in the US that have charm and character. I suggest you read my first paragraph again.

And in no way was I blaming Americans for not having the taste to appreciate character. What I did say was that we are not use to the very old buildings that they have in the UK and Europe. Most of our hotels are modern, except for the rustic facilities at the National Parks which have already been noted.

Because so many of our hotels do lack age and character, I'm sure that is why many seek it when travelling to Europe.
bettyk is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Keep a stiff upper lip and everything will work out.
analogue is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:12 AM
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Are Americans too picky about accommodations abroad?

Umm, No.

Walkinaround is right, British lodging standards are just low. The situation doesn't improve that dramatically on the continent either, but it is better. Basically, I find knocking everything down 1 to 1-1/2 stars usually gives a better idea of what you are going to get.
travelgourmet is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Because of the size of our group, we don't have as many options as a group of 4 would have. All in all, we are 21 strong if everyone in our immediate family comes and we try to find a place that will accommodate everyone who might come.
BTW, our rental in England, which dated from the 13th century, was not perfect but but we enjoyed our stay there very much.

First, let me thank you for all the advice you gave to Neal623, who was a member of our group!
The weekly rental for the house was $3300.
The reason I didn't give the link to the house was because I was advised by another member of the group, a lawyer, to be very careful about what I said. However, if you type my user name into the search box I don't think you'll have any trouble in identifying the house...

Interesting comments! We were talking to an Englishman who commented on some of the British laws and my husband asked him why the British put up with such a punitive system. He replied that the English are much more likely to accept what is handed them as opposed to the Italians (did he use them as an example because he didn't want to offend the Americans?) who are much more demanding and aggressive.

This goes back to my question about Americans being too picky. I agree that the expectations are very different.

This was the first - and definitely the last - time we rented directly through the owner. We wondered if he is just oblivious to the condition of the house.

Also, charm and character is something we definitely want in a vacation house. I don't want to feel that I traveled all the way to Europe to stay in a place that is like my own in the US.
Rmkelly313 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:24 AM
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I have a friend who owns and, in between her own vacation periods, rents a cottage in Scotland so I shall query her as to her opinion.

What was 'top dollar?' Was this a rural or urban destination? The UK is not a cheap destination, as a rule, but on the other hand if you paid above average for that type of accomodation in the market area in question, then I think you have a right to be disappointed.

Cracked window panes wouldn't cause mold, necessarily. Mold comes with high humidity, which can come from a house too tightly sealed as from one with air leakage. If the heating is turned off in the wintertime, this could be the cause.

"Picky" is a subjective term. What was promised in your contract? Unfortunately with house rentals one has to pay closer attention to those sorts of things (sometimes bed linen rental is extra, for example.)
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:33 AM
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Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with your place in Scotland. To answer your question, no I do not think Americans are too picky.

Recently I have been renting apartments/flats for vacation (2 times) and have already experienced one disappointment, which was in Paris. When I stayed in Scotland, the flat was very nice and clean. In Paris, the flat was dirty. There was mold on the bathroom vent, the bathroom ceiling paint was peeling and falling on the floor and in the tub. Broken glass light fixtures, cracked mirrors and bugs in the kitchen. These are only some of the things I found to be unacceptable. I had never stayed in such a filthy place. I can deal with most things but this flat pushed me to my limit.

Like any seasoned traveler, I did my research but one just never knows. Reviews sometimes can be fixed and I try to take them with a grain of salt. The Paris flat looked like the pictures but they didn't show the ceilings or broken things. Of course they wouldn't right?
sassy27 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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If this place was/is a "true dump", maybe the positive reviews were shills or written by someone with an interest in pushing the property.
longboatkey is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:49 AM
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When you spread out how much each person per week, it's only 101 €. That gives you about 14 € per day.

Where can you find anyplace in the US for 14 € (roughly $20) which will be similar.

You cannot expect this place to be a palace for 14€ per day. In fact, this looks pretty good.

I'm a rentor and I expect to collect a little more than what you want. I charge roughly 168 € per person/week in the high season. But, we don't include any mold.

blackduff is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Did you contact the owner or caretaker of the house with your complaints? I would have done.
I have never had a problem with renting houses and cottages for varying sized groups anywhere in the UK or mainland Europe, through an agency or direct from the owner. If I had found the property to be as bad as you say I would most certainly have put in a complaint on day one and made it clear it was unacceptable. I see there is a terrible review of the house on Trip Advisor dating from last year, and a rebuff from the owners. Maybe you should have done a bit more research into the house?
hetismij is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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There's a terrible review of the house in tripadvisor with a reply from the owner. It's interesting reading.

kleeblatt is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:25 PM
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I've traveled in Europe for many years and have not recently encountered accommodations such as you described, though, of course, I've always gone with just one other person, so I haven't rented an apartment.

When I travel, I want comfort,and of course, cleanliness, but also charm--most certainly not Holiday Inn type accommodations. When I've traveled alone in the U.S., I have sometimes stayed at Motel 6, just because I've been too cheap to spend even $50 on a room, but on those trips, the purpose was simply to get from one place to another.

In Europe, on the other hand, I want to enjoy myself and enjoy my hotel. I don't want to share a bath, and I don't want to walk down the hall at three a.m. to find a toilet. I don't want to see spots on the carpet or flies in the breakfast room. I don't want to see mold or smell mystery smells.

This is not to say that I haven't roughed it. I've camped through Denmark, France and Spain in a U.S. Army shelter half that we held together with giant safety pins, I've camped through Italy, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Greece in a better tent, but it was no picnic either. That, however, was in my (relative) youth.

Years ago I stayed in some questionable pensions, but I think as people in general, not just Americans, have become more affluent, we expect more.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 12:26 PM
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While in general I would normally say you can't expect perfection in an older house (e.g. the water pressure issue), but the lack of sheets and mattresses does seem unacceptable (and rather surprising). Mould is bad, too. Disrepair is one thing, lack of cleanliness another.
Nonconformist is online now  

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