Hello! This is the first of my blog posts that I will be doing about “Travelling with Children”. A few years ago our family bit the bullet and did a European family holiday. It was an amazing adventure and I thought I’d start a series of posts about our time away and share some of our stories and hopefully tips and ideas for any other families wishing to go on their own adventure.
So I’ll start at the start…
Well that was it – whatever it took we were going!
And … if we were going to spend the kind of money it takes to get a family of five to Europe we figured we might as well make the most of it and have a proper holiday. We allowed eight weeks – this was all the time we could afford to be away from Australia for. We also wanted to be able to spend reasonably substantial periods of time in one place rather than flitting around in a whirlwind. So we had to prioritise. Of course, that’s not easy because we wanted to go everywhere. However in the end we decided on Spain, Portugal, France and the U.K. This was do-able by car, which was our preferred way of getting about.
We had a time frame of about six months, from making the decision to go, to the wedding date. I can’t stress enough how important it is to book and plan everything before you go when travelling with a young family (especially when that family is not your standard two adults, two children – that third child always throws things). And by planning I mean your transportation, accommodation, sights you’ll be visiting, the lot.
We flew direct from Brisbane to Madrid with a two hour stop over in Dubai. It is a gruelling 22 hour flight. We chose Emirates which was neither great nor awful. My first word of warning when travelling with young children : do everyone a favour and have a stop over for at least a couple of nights to break the flight up.
I thought I’d made the right decision by getting it all over and done with in the one overnight flight but boy was I wrong. Stupidly I thought if we started our trip at 9pm the kids would get on the plane, fall instantly asleep and sleep through the flight to arrive bright and cheery in Dubai. I couldn’t have got it more wrong. We got on our flight and once we’d calmed middle child from her hysterical breakdown, they started serving dinner. What a drawn out affair that was. Started at about 11.00pm and finally settled back down at around 1.00am. They’d filled the kids with sweets (and I’m talking chocolate bars, mousse and other sugar-laden treats) so along came another meltdown.
Another decision I’d made that in retrospect wasn’t too smart was to seat our family of five at the back of the plane where there is a little more room to spread out. What I didn’t factor in was the constant stream of passengers using the bathroom. Oh my Lordy! It was relentless. This, it turned out, was also a great place for people to gather for a chat. The lights were only turned out for a few hours on this leg – the rest of the trip was filled with activity. Food seemed to be served constantly.
So by the time we arrived at Dubai Airport some 16 hours later we’d had little or no sleep and everyone was tired and grumpy. Luckily the next leg to Madrid was relatively short – seven hours. This was a day time flight and therefore no chance of sleep whatsoever.
|Looking deceivingly fresh at Dubai Airport – no expense spared in this place!|
We arrived in Madrid at around 2.00pm and the first thing that hit us when we got through customs was the cigarette smoke! The air reeked. Tough new anti-smoking laws had just been introduced in Spain but that didn’t seem to bother the Spanish too much.
|We met up with the extended family at Madrid Airport. We were quite a force!|
As a large family there were too many of us to hire a taxi in the queue at the airport so we had to go to the help desk at the airport to organise a larger taxi bus. Fortunately for us this was no more expensive than a standard cab and because of the economic down turn a cab from the airport to our accommodation was quite reasonably priced – so much better than dealing with buses or trains.
Our pre-booked accommodation was an apartment in the Salamanca district. I’d booked almost all of our accommodation in self-contained apartments. It is honestly the way to go. Value for money, you can cook your own meals, much larger than a hotel room and the only requirement for most places is a two to three night minimum stay. Anyway more about that in later posts.
So we booked into the Aparthotel Ramon de la Cruz 41. There are loads of similar accommodations like this through places like booking.com (which is where I booked this one) but if we ever went back I would be tempted to stay here again. Close to great public transport. Walking distance to the Retiro Park. Lovely leafy suburb. Close to fabulous restaurants and great shopping. Little supermarkets just around the corner. Free WiFi included, which when you are travelling is so important. The price was around $250 / night which we thought was a great price for such a large apartment in Madrid so close to everything. For a smaller apartment for two adults and two children the price is much cheaper again.
|The Aparthotel Ramon de la Cruz 41|
|Our lovely leafy street|
The apartment itself was SO spacious. Basically two of the smaller apartment rooms joined to make one giant family apartment. Kitchen, dining, lounge area, two bathrooms, separate kid’s bedroom area (there own apartment really). I was quite disappointed we’d only booked two nights. You could really settle here long term. Anyway two nights is all we scheduled so we made the most of our stay.
|Quite a large workable kitchen|
|The kids in their own kid-zone! Everywhere we stayed they created a kid-zone – even made up a song about it! They are such dags.|
My next post will be about our two days in Madrid. What are the essentials to see? What to do with your kids? Where to eat? Negotiating public transport?
Do you have any stories about travelling with kids? How did everyone cope? Would you do it again? I know I would – in a flash!