During our last family trip to Barcelona, we stayed in the most basic apartment—great location, but really bare bones. Our family doesn’t need too much during a vacation as we’re a pretty simple family, but as I tried to maneuver around the three-bedroom apartment, I realized there are certain nice-to-have items that make an apartment a five-star HomeAway place to stay. I realize landlords and property managers cannot control an apartment location or neighbor noise, but there are simple, yet inexpensive things, that make families feel welcome.
I forgo the housekeeping and room service option for more space and a kitchen and that comes with its own price tag. There are things as a guest I come to expect—clean sheets, enough towels, working lights and appliances, and of course, WiFi—but other touches that simply make sense if you were a guest in someone’s home.
1) Hooks to Hang Our Things
I’m talking the basic over-the-door or $10 wall hooks for coats, bags, hats, and purses. Families come with junk and having a place to hang them up makes a huge difference. Hooks in the bathroom are hugely helpful when four or five people are sharing one. Towels need to quickly dry and while the lovely European towel dryers/heaters are nice, sometimes having a hook helps separate the teen towels from the parental ones.
2) Paper Towels and Toilet Paper
We never stay long enough to use a whole roll of paper towels, and my guess is that’s the case with most people. But consider this, a roll of paper towels cost $1 when purchased in bulk. It makes me smile when we get to an apartment that thought enough with our sizable payment to throw in a $1 roll of paper towels.
Same on the toilet paper. It kills me to arrive in a new city and have one roll of toilet paper or an almost empty one. I’m not asking for an entire package although one apartment in Vienna had provided enough to last us the five days . . . 5 stars for them. If you know a family is staying in the apartment, give us a few extra rolls so we don’t have to run out the next day and buy more.
3) A Place to Put Toiletry Items
Some little shelf or cheap cart from IKEA (like this one) makes a difference when a whole family is sharing a bathroom. Between make up and hair products, everything begins to look like a mountain of mess after a few days. European bathrooms are small, but even a little shelf hanging on the wall to keep necessities is so welcome.
4) Enough Glassware, Dishes, Utensils for Guests
Our last two apartments had limited glassware. My guess is things broke along the way and no one took inventory. An apartment for four people should have at least four plates, glasses, cups, and silverware. Our last HomeAway said it could house up to eight people, and we had four glasses, three mugs and two wine glasses. We made it work, but it would have been nice to have at least four of everything.
5) A Trash Bin (and Bags)
We do what we can to reduce waste, but it’s unrealistic to think we’ll produce no trash. Providing both bins in the bathroom and the kitchen will help make our lives easier. Providing trash bags is even better. Need I really say more?
6) A Light to Read By
This was requested by my kids. We use vacation time, even in new cities, to read. We all need downtime with a book or prep time for the next day. Most of the time apartments will have a little lamp next to the bed, but not always.
7) A Few Washing Products
Certainly, I don’t need a fully stocked kitchen a bathroom, but a few items like dish soap, dishwasher detergent, hand soap (by the sink), and shampoo help keep things clean. We typically bring our own shampoo and soap, but it’s nice to have it available there in case you forget.
What are the little things that make for a five-star apartment?