This August my family and I are making like the Europeans and heading on vacation! We have booked three weeks in sunny Portugal, and I will of course be writing about it along the way!
Our Travel Philosophy
Since this family never met a road trip it didn't like, we are not simply visiting Lisbon or soaking up the sun in the Algarve. Nope, we have an epic (well, as epic as three weeks can be) journey planned, with stops in both expected and maybe not so expected places.
My husband and I planned out the itinerary and have booked all of the accommodations and transportation ourselves, rather than working with a travel agency. We rather enjoy the planning process, and like to be able to see a place at our own pace.
Traveling with children requires extra consideration, and traveling with a child who is gluten free also takes some advance planning. Our kids are two and six, so while we still want to see some of the big sights the country has to offer, we also have to be realistic about what our kids will find interesting too.
My husband and I firmly believe that kids benefit from experiencing local culture and food, as well as from learning about the history in a way that makes sense to them. So while we probably won't hit up every museum in town, exploring castles, bridges, towers, and gardens are perfect for engaging the imagination of a young child. We talk about each destination before we arrive, and sometimes ask our oldest what he would really like to see, and then make a point of going there first.
True to our own style of traveling, we will be staying in a mix of accommodation types. We have AirBnB apartments booked in Porto and Lisbon. We really like AirBnBs in bigger cities because they are often less expensive than hotels, and give us more room as a family. An entire apartment is always more comfortable than a hotel room, particularly when staying in a city for more than a night or two. It also allows us to save on food because we can cook at least some of our own meals, which is also an easy way to ensure that he can always have something safe to eat.
We are staying in a small hotel in Sintra, where the location and the charm of the hotels are the main draw. In Evora, we are staying in one of the famous Portuguese Pousadas, which are typically historically significant buildings (such as former monasteries) which have been converted into luxury hotels.
In the Algarve we chose a self-catering apartment in a complex with a shared pool and that is just a few minutes from the beach. We like the idea of being close enough to the beach to walk, but not so close that the noise at night from the bars and restaurants keep the kids up. Also, a pool was a necessity because sometimes a whole day at the beach is too much for young kids, and a pool can be a nice compromise.
Our Travel Itinierary
Our three weeks look something like this:
1- Porto: We arrive in Porto and spend a few nights in an AirBnB apartment before catching the train to Evora.
2- Evora: We are spending most of our stay here in a Pousada that was a former convent. I'm excited to explore this historically significant city as well as to spend some time relaxing with the kids by the hotel pool.
3- Luz: Train to the Algarve. We are spending four nights in an apartment in Luz, which is close to Lagos but not right in the thick of things. The plan is to take a break and just relax at the pool or on the beach.
4- Lisbon: Train to Lisbon. We are spending another four nights here in an AirBnB apartment in the Alfama district. There are a few sites I absolutely want to see, but much of our time will be dedicated to simply exploring this fascinating city.
5- Sintra: Train to Sintra. Most guidebooks say that Sintra is an easy daytrip from Lisbon, but with two small children we decided to spend two days and two nights instead of just one. Sintra is in a hilly area as well, which can sometimes be problematic for my carsick-prone youngest, so we may have to spread out our sightseeing for his sake.
6- Porto: Train to Porto. Back where we began! We are spending a few nights here again before we fly back to Paris to give the kids a bit of a break before leaving. Also, I'm hoping to be able to get a daytrip to Braga in, but if we can't, we'll save it for next time!
We have an ambitious itinerary, but we feel it allows us to experience a taste of almost each region of the country. Traveling with children is different from traveling with adults only, and we had to take into consideration travel times and the ability to add in downtime along the way. Also, our youngest sometimes has motion sickness, so we try to limit long bus rides or drives up and down hilly patches of terrain.
I will be writing about our trip as it happens, as well as posting a few articles up before and after. Our grand adventure starts the first week of August. I would love for you to follow along!
***Update: The original version of this post included two other destinations, but we decided to spend a bit more time in fewer places rather than race from location to location. I'm still pretty excited though!
Have you been to Portugal? Do you have any tips or recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!