Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Where To Lay Your Head on Holiday - Touring Tuesday

On previous holidays we stayed in hotels because Matt had oodles & oodles of hotel points that made our stays cheap or even free.  Now that the points are gone, we decided to rent apartments on our trip to Lisbon & Barcelona.  

It was the best thing we ever did.

Renting an apartment afforded us the opportunity to choose exactly where we wanted to stay.  We could be out of the city center or right in the middle of the action.  We had a kitchen to have breakfast each morning and even made a few dinners.  On the days we spent a little too much time together, we appreciated the space in the apartment have our own space.  I say that with the most love and adoration for my family possible.  

The apartment in Lisbon was nestled in a neighborhood just two streets from the busy restaurants of the Barrio Alto.  The kids slept on the pull out sofa, which was actually more comfortable than I anticipated.  It had sliding doors that we used to separate our bed from the kids at night.  The apartment building had a shared garden in the back and an amazing view from the Juliet balcony.   

In Barcelona, our apartment was in the heart of the action in La Rambla and right across the street from La Boqueria Market.  This apartment did not have a separate room between adults and the kids, but that was not a huge problem as the kids were exhausted at the end of the night.  This apartment had a washing machine, which we made use of so we didn't have to pack as many clothes for our carry-on suitcases.

Be an informed consumer when booking an apartment.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be picky about your location and think about what you want to get out of your vacation.  Your goal might be to relax in the peace of the country.  That choice might limit your access to cafes and markets.  Small towns might close up shop on certain days of the week (Sunday is typical).  Or as in the case of some European cities, shopkeepers head to the beach for the month of August.  If you plan ahead to do a big grocery run you will be fine.  Alternately, staying in the heart of the city can be loud until the wee hours of the morning.  Check out reviews of the apartment as former guests will leave comments about the noise.
  • Check the description to ensure the apartment comes equipped with basic kitchen tools if you plan to do some cooking.  Typically you'll get pots, pans, silverware, and dishes.  We lucked out in both apartments with a Nespresso machine.  Don't expect to cook a huge Sunday roast on the two burner stove, but you can certainly get by with a basic meal. 
  • The apartment might provide small amounts of dish soap, dishwasher tablets, and dishtowels.  I like to pick up a small package of napkins and paper towels at the grocery store, too.
  • You will not get daily replenishment of shampoo, body wash, or fresh towels as you would in a hotel.  Each apartment has a cleaning schedule, which is usually every three days.
  • If you purchase toiletries at your destination, be aware of the bottle size.  Airlines restrict bottle sizes to 100ml if you plan to fly with them beyond your apartment stay.
  • Be sure to bring a few reusable grocery bags along as the shops will charge you a few cents/pence/crowns/yen for bags.

Enjoy your apartment rental, you will get to live like the locals!

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