Our upcoming trip to France reminds me that I never posted about last year’s trip to Spain. (I wasn’t yet blogging back then.) My daughter was only 15 months old when we went. What were we thinking?! Actually other than a couple days of jet lag, I have no real complaints. Here are my recommendations based on our trip.
Do your research!
We learned a lot about Spain before our first trip there. We used guide books and videos from the library as well as websites like About.com. That website was a great resource with a wealth of information! I’m sure there are other great ones out there too. Our research helped us make better plans in order to maximize our time abroad. We only had 7 days of actual sightseeing in Spain, so our itinerary was a little rushed. We tried to help this by narrowing our visit to only three cities; Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia.
Rent an apartment away from tourist spots.
We wanted to get an authentic feel for Spain, so we rented an apartment in each city. I loved seeing and talking to the locals in their natural surroundings. I also felt safer in the little neighborhoods than I did whenever we were in a tourist-centric area because of all the pick-pockets. My daughter really enjoyed watching the kids play soccer in the little square behind our apartment while we shared a gelato from the nearby gelateria. I don’t think we could’ve had the same experience if we’d stayed at a hotel. I researched the different neighborhoods of the city and then booked ahead of time with Friendly Rentals and Booking.com. The apartments were great! We had a bit of a snafoo in one apartment (I don’t remember which) where they didn’t have a crib ready for us, but they quickly took care of it.
Add some kid-friendly destinations to each day’s itinerary.
We mixed in some of the following spots to give Pooky a chance to stretch her legs and imagination.
This is a very touristy spot! Watch your belongings closely! My mother-in-law’s purse was stolen here. It was a hiccup in our trip, but we recovered and were able to enjoy the rest of our visit – we were very diligent about our belongings after that.
While walking from one tourist destination to another, we strolled through Parc de Ciutadella and saw a lot of street performers. Pooky enjoyed these giant bubbles this man was making. This was a great opportunity for her to get out of the stroller.
This chocolate museum is a great place for kids! Pooky was really too young to appreciate much of it, but she could touch anything she wanted to. It was very interactive. And the tour ended in the chocolate shop where we all enjoyed some amazing truffles and hot chocolate!
This indoor farmer’s market in Valencia had an amazing array of foods and spices! It was a feast for the senses! Pooky tried a passionfruit smoothie here and couldn’t get enough of it!
This aquarium in Valencia, Spain is the largest in Europe, and it is amazing! Pooky was in awe the whole time we were there!
Don’t underestimate the importance of the stroller!
A couple months before our trip, I bought an umbrella stroller thinking that would be easiest for traversing cosmopolitan cities and getting on and off various forms of public transportation. Well, I had that little stroller for about two weeks before I decided I hated it! I found it uncomfortable to lean so far over to hold the low handles. I was always kicking the wheels while walking behind it. There was no storage basket, it didn’t recline, and the sun shade was a joke. So I began research for a stroller that would be a middle ground between a light-weight umbrella stroller and a bulky meets-all-your-needs kind of stroller. I settled on the Chicco Echo. It was relatively inexpensive, light enough to carry around when necessary, and reclines all the way down, which came in very handy on our long days of sight-seeing. A reclining stroller meant we could visit more grown-up sites like the Museo del Prado during Pooky’s naptime.
Decide about transportation ahead of time.
In planning for this trip, we kept coming across strong recommendations against renting a car while in Spain. I’m so glad we took that advice…it would’ve been a nightmare, and since we weren’t planning any trips out to the countryside, we had no need for a car. That also meant we didn’t need to lug around a car seat. Pooky wasn’t old enough to have her own seat on the plane, so no need for the car seat there either. (She actually got a baby cot on that transatlantic flight which was a life-saver.) So we became familiar with the public transportation options:
We did a TON of walking. There was so much to see everywhere, we didn’t even realize how much we’d walked (until later).
We took the subway to get around Barcelona.
We got around Valencia using their city bus system.
We used the high speed train to get from one city to the next. It wasn’t cheap, but it was fast and convenient. And it gave Pooky a chance to stretch her legs.
Just do it!
So many people can’t believe we took a toddler on a trip to Europe. I know a lot of people who would be afraid of doing so. Don’t be! We love to travel, and we want our daughter to be a part of that. It’s not always smooth sailing, but with some advance planning, and room for flexibility, the experience is soooo worth it!
So what did I leave out? Still wondering about traveling with young kids? Shoot me your questions, and I’ll answer them as best I can.
What tips do you have for traveling to Europe with kids? We’re about to do it again, only this time it’ll be with a hard-to-contain 2 yr old. Suggestions welcome!