An NYC native, journalist Mara Hoberman lives in Paris with her husband and adorable toddler, who is already an experienced world traveler. She recently went to Barcelona for the first time as a family and wanted to experience the city from a local perspective (and have the conveniences of home) by staying in an apartment instead of a hotel. We connected her to one of our favorite home rental companies, Oasis Collections, and you can read all about her journey below.
Planning the trip
Traveling to a European city for the first time since my son was born, I knew we needed an apartment rather than a hotel. A pre-baby fan of Airbnb, I quickly became frustrated when the site’s “family friendly” filter didn’t necessarily turn up apartments equipped with a bathtub, high chair, or crib. I was equally disappointed by the lackluster options that appeared with a quick Google search for “Barcelona family apartment rentals.”
I realized what I was looking for might not be so easy to find: baby-friendly accommodations with the style and amenities of a luxury hotel (toiletries, crisp sheets, fluffy towels, and a concierge, please!)
…Enter Oasis Collections: an apartment rental service that provides posh accommodations, customized amenities (like a stocked fridge, gym membership, or baby gear), and a guest experience team dedicated to making travelers (of all ages) feel at home while exploring a new city.
Before we arrived
The apartments listed on Oasis’s website range from basic to spectacular. Some have more character than others (ours had an exposed brick wall, wooden ceiling beams, and several small balconies looking out onto a cute tree-lined street), but all feature modern décor and new bathrooms and kitchens. I got in touch regarding a reservation for a two-bedroom apartment in Barcelona and was immediately connected to a local guest experience specialist who was informative, attentive, and reassuring. My practical questions about the apartment (Where could we park the stroller? Did they have plastic dishes? Was there a washing machine? Is the street noisy at night) and about Barcelona in general (Do taxis have car seats? Can you bring a stroller on the funicular up to Montjuïc? Where are the best playgrounds? Is it possible to eat dinner out before 9pm?) were answered enthusiastically and in timely manner.
We ended up booking the Mila Revolucio, a stylish two bedroom apartment in Gràcia.
As soon as I booked, Oasis’s guest experience specialist sent me a brief on-line questionnaire. As I responded to a few friendly questions (What is your favorite midnight snack?), I could tell Oasis was going to take good care of us and personalize our Barcelona experience as much as possible. Equally careful attention was paid to our family-travel needs as well as our vacation desires (for us: beach and parks, good food, and local culture.) Our guest experience specialist organized a crib, high chair, and baby bath, booked dinner reservations, and recommended museum exhibitions and performances that would appeal to the whole family.
In advance of our arrival, Oasis provided an interactive Google map of the neighborhood where we would be staying (Gràcia) pre-loaded with pharmacies, ATMs, cafés, markets, and metro stations along with a curated list of family-friendly restaurants and activities in the area. Checking out the links during the week leading up to our trip, I began to relax. I grew more excited and less apprehensive as our departure date approached. My vacation fantasy of watching my 18-month old son explore Gaudi’s magnificent Parc Güell and toddling through winding streets in the Barri Gotic, now also included tapas in hip (high-chair equipped!) restaurants.
Barcelona here we come!
Arrival: When we arrived at our apartment in Gràcia, we were greeted in person and given a quick, but thorough overview of the apartment and the neighborhood. A welcome gift basket on the dining room table of our sunny apartment was thoughtfully personalized and included cava, craft beer made by local gastronomic hero Ferran Adrià, Gaudi inspired chocolates, fresh flowers and a gift basket of toys. It was a warm welcome for all of us after a long trip.
Experience: Although I did not choose the apartment based on neighborhood, Oasis promised that Gràcia—which is north of Eixample, mid-way between Parc Güell and the top of Las Ramblas—as one of the most family-friendly areas in Barcelona. They were so right. We fell in love with Gràcia’s bohemian enclave as much for its small crooked streets and picturesque car-free plazas (most of which have small playgrounds and casual outdoor cafes that stay open all day) as for its hip tapas bars and trendy boutiques. Our apartment was walking distance from many of Barcelona’s most famous sites including Gaudi’s glorious, still-unfinished, Sagrada Familia church and two of his most impressive Modernist buildings: Casa Batilo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera). A quick metro ride took us down to the old city and the beach or up to Montjuïc and the Miro museum. No matter what, after a long day of sightseeing, we were always happy to come home to Gràcia.
Oasis provided a list of “family-friendly” restaurants, but I soon found that practically everywhere we went Barcelonans love kids! Unlike my experience in Paris where waiters frown at the sight of a stroller and roll their eyes if I ask for a high chair, in Barcelona they smiled, pinched Julian’s little cheeks and seated us graciously.
Pros and Cons
Though each Oasis apartment is different, some pros of our rental included:
- An elevator that fit a small stroller.
- Not much breakable in the apartment.
- Heavy blinds on the windows (for naps.)
- Crib, high chair, baby bath, plastic bowls, plates and cutlery provided upon request
- As with any travel experience, there were some hiccups: Our kitchen had nice new appliances, but was otherwise completely bare; without cooking staples like olive oil or salt. Those who plan to dine in (cook or even self-cater) should consider taking advantage of Oasis’s shopping service. With their “Kitchen Kit” upgrade, just sent a grocery list in advance and Oasis will have everything stocked upon your arrival. (Similarly, a “Toiletry Kit” upgrade is also available.)
- Our apartment did not have an automatic coffee maker. Bleary eyed after a rough night’s sleep, I struggled with the Italian press on the induction stove our first morning and was wishing for a quick and easy Nespresso machine.
- If “vacation” to you means not having to make the bed or do the dishes, upgrade for a package that includes housekeeping.
The takeaway is anything you anticipate needing or wanting, ask!
Editor's Note: Oasis has apartments around the globe, and we're crushing on lots of them, including this cute one where Courtney Adamo of Babyccino Kids stayed in Buenos Aires. Contact our bookings department if you want to try them out for your next trip.