This past summer we decided to take a BIG trip to Portugal. An amazing little country with so much to do and see. Planning this trip took a bit of time but was well worth it.
Planning starting about 11 months prior. This was a trip we planned with friends and family. The goal was to sight see, visit family and have a good time and that is exactly what we did. Lucky for us our kids were a little older (5 & 7) and it made somethings a little easier. While the kids didn’t value a lot the history yet they loved seeing their grandparents and having friends along to share in the fun. We were able to do everything from playing on playscape on the beach to participating in a Medieval festival on the grounds of a real castle. And for us adults, we were able to do fun things like wine taste and watch the kids play while we sipped cocktails and beer on the beach. There were moments of relaxation and moments of complete meltdowns but it was all worth it. And the memories we all took will last us a life time.
Let me get started on how we went about our trip and provide some tips and tricks along the way.
As I mentioned earlier I started planning this about 11 months prior. A simple image from my sister-in-law on Facebook of the beautiful beaches of Nazaré Portugal turn into we should take a trip. Soon other friends of our showed interest and before we knew it we were searching for locations and houses to rent for a group of about 20. The excitement was through the roof as some of us live 3000 miles away from each other and we hadn’t all been reunited in a couple of years.
When beginning our research we started with beaches that we had heard of and thought would be a great destination. We ultimately decided to make our destination the Algarve. Primarily because it’s a very big European tourist destination and we could find large housing a little easier. Plus they had lots to do outside of the beach should we feel like we needed more. To find our house rental we searched sites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. What I found was that Homeaway had a lot more options but they appeared to be agencies. Since I’m a bit of a sceptic I didn’t like the idea of working through an agency. Plus I found that the homes that were advertised as amiable suddenly weren’t when I’d make a request. After a few tries I started feeling like agencies where advertising homes the get people to contact them and then offering something else. I don’t like that and it sent big red flags to me. So for those reasons and some others I personally preferred to go direct through the owner. For this reason we ended up booking a home through Airbnb. We ended up with a home in Lagos, Portugal called “Casa de mos.” It was the perfect place for 5 families and all our kids. The house came equipped with everything we needed (well it could have used a few extra towels and maybe some dish soap,) it had a bbq and a pool. The Pool was shallow so for those of us with older kids, we could feel at east. And the yard was amazing to play on. Oh and lets not forget the incredible play room with a foosball table and a pool table. The older boys (aka “the husbands”) spent many nights enjoying this room. The location was was very close to several good beaches, grocery stores and restaurants. Everything you could need on a trip with kids.
Once the house was booked we then independently started looking for flights. Now we live about 5,500+ miles or 9,000 km from Portugal so our international flights were expected to be a bit expensive. With some research and some team effort from the group we ended up with amazing tickets and we flew business class. Yes ladies and gents you read correctly “business class.” I have never flown business nor do we have that kind of money but when you look hard enough and try some different things you too can pull this off. By following “The Points Guys“on Facebook we learned about an amazing deal through AARP. You only needed to sign up on a particular dat and the offer would apply. The offer was for anyone despite age. He also provided amazing information regarding which credit card to use while traveling. We were able to earn 50,000 points and earn enough throughout the year and on our trip to get another free trip. It was amazing.
Ok ok, now onto the fun stuff. Prior to this trip it was important that I did a little bit of work and planning ahead of time even though I’d been to the country so any times. It seems that when I don’t preplan trying to figure things out while on vacation just becomes way too stressful. Especially if you have limited access to wifi, which we did for 7 days of our trip. I planned days with activities and some days without to give us some freedom. But in addition I brought extra possible options just in case.
We started out visiting family in a little town just outside of Batalha Monastery. So we always stop and spend some time to visit the monastery grounds. The plaza out side has delicious cafes and restaurants. You can enjoy your coffee and the kids can have a great time running around or trying to catch Pokémon. Yes it was a Pokémon stop. If you think your kids will tolerate a tour, I’d recommend it. My kids are way to active and would never last so I didn’t bother with it this time around. However if we ever go again with they are a little older, we will for sure do the tour. The architecture and details are just incredible. If you pop into the chapel area which is free you can get a little taste for it. Aside from he monastery the best part about this area/town is that there is an amazing park Jardim Dos Infantes – Batalha just a few blocks behind the monastery. Its a great place for the kids to play on jungle gyms and mini golf. It’s always quiet and removed from too many tourists so it’s perfect. There are lots of places to stay in Batalha. While we didn’t actually stay in a hotel my parents did and they really loved Hotel Mestre Afonso Domingues. It’s in the same plaza as the monastery so you can walk to everything and the prices were really affordable even at the last minute.
While spending time in this part of Portugal we made a quick stope to Nazaré. This is one of the biggest tourist stops in Portugal and globally one of the best surf destinations. It’s a great place to grab a freshly squeezed lemonade or orange juice and a “bola de berlim” (essentially a donut with delicious cream filling) that walk the beach and site see. You can take a tram to the top of the cliff sides for some amazing views or walk the side walk and enjoy some people watching. In the summer there are sometimes concerts on the beach and jumpy houses to entertain the kids. A really amazing place to stop and enjoy vacation.
After spending some time in the Central Coast area of Portugal we made our way up North to a little city known as the little Venice of Portugal aka Aveiro.
The next part of our journey I will talk about the beautiful beaches and city of Aveiro, the breath taking Douro Valley and our journey back South to visiting castles and the most southern region of Portugal, the Algarve. Follow me for my next post & part 2.
To be continued…