Tips for travelling with children to Spain

29 Aug

We just got back from 25 day trip to Spain! Matilda and Mateo had an amazing time playing with our family in Spain.

Traveling with the kids was grueling. Heck, just driving to JFK is hard enough but then we had to endure an 8 hour flight to Barcelona (thank you Delta for the free upgrade to Business Class!) with Mateo who is the world’s worst flyer. I think if it were not for the fact that we were in the air, they would have kicked us off the plane! Parents, don’t try to fly a long haul flight with your child on your lap. Its a terrible idea. Spend the money and buy your kid a ticket!

Here is my commentary on things that helped us survive the trip. Your experience in Spain may vary :).

There are some really super child friendly things about Spain that I appreciated. Spaniards are generally loud, so they don’t get upset when kids make noise. Many Spanish streets are closed to cars, so kids can play in the street. Restaurants often have open spaces next to them (or playgrounds) so you can let your kids run wild while you enjoy your meal (until 1 AM). And the beaches are amazing. The Mediterranean is far warmer than the Atlantic and the waves are gentler.

I was fairly well prepared for the trip. I tried to bring what I needed instead of buying it in Spain. Generally, I have observed, its difficult to buy things in Spain. The stores are closed on  from 1:30-5pm and on Sundays. And the stores are generally poorly stocked in small towns. And the prices of nearly everything except fruits and vegetables are much higher. If you are in Spain and need to buy hard to find things, try to locate the “chino” which is a general store operated by Chinese people.

Essential things that I packed:

  1. A portable DVD player was indispensable. Its exhausting to entertain kids all day (and all night when they have jet lag and don’t want to sleep). The DVD player really helped to keep the kids quiet at mealtimes, or at bedtime. We got a Portable DVD Player and to extend the battery life we got an Energizer Rechargeable Power Pack. I also bought kid size headphones. For DVDs I had Dora, Barney, Baby Einstein and Toy Story.
  2. I bought a pack of 16 Squinkies as an incentive for good behavior. If Matilda was well behaved, she got one Squinkie every night as a prize.
  3. Sunblock. They have sunblock in Spain, but the products we have in the USA seem to be way better. You have to try Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunblock Continuous Spray. Its a spray on sunblock that dries instantly and is not greasy. The spray is great, you don’t even have to rub it in.  Then for the face, we used Sunblock Stick.
  4. Refillable water bottles. Again, they have them in Spain, but the ones that I got here were way better. Tommee Tippee Explora cup is my new favorite toddler cup. Its like the kind of cups that you get at Starbucks for your coffee, but for kids, and leakproof.
  5. Bug spray. In Spain, there is something that they call a “mosquito tigre” which is a yellow striped, non-noturnal mosquito. I tried Natrapel which is a non DEET spray (it uses picaridin). I sprayed it on the window screens and window frames and it kept the bugs away. It smells good too!
  6. Insulated cooler bag. Ever notice that kids never want to eat at mealtimes, but then complain of hunger a little later? I carried food with me at all times.
  7. Zip lock bags and Tupperware. Believe it or not, when Spaniards make a sandwich to eat later, they wrap it in a napkin. You get a lot of puzzled looks when you explain why its useful to have tupperware or sandwich bags. They generally never eat on the go and taking your leftover food away from a restaurant is unheard of. Ziplock bags are hard to find in Spain. I carried ziplock bags with me all the time so I could wrap up leftovers, carry snacks and put dirty/wet clothes away.
  8. Water shoes (aka aqua socks). Its a good idea to get these for the whole family. Your beach may not have sand, but pebbles. They hurt your feet. On the plus side, its cleaner.

Being away from home for so long was hard. I ended up spending a ton of money to make life easier:

  1. Its traumatizing for the kids to be away from their things. We packed some things from home, but we ended up getting the kids many new toys. I am a big fan of the Imaginarium stores that are all over Barcelona. I also liked the Abacus stores, which are stationary stores (papelerias) that sell crafts, markers, notebooks and educational toys.
  2. Matilda really wanted to have her own sleeping space and was unhappy about having to sleep on a sofa or share the bed with us. We bought each kid a little inflatable bed and sleeping bag.
  3. We also bought collapsible boxes to store clothes and toys (kind of like these, available at the “chino” store). Each kid had their own box to hide their things. For Pablo and I, it was easier to use the boxes than it was to have to open the suitcase everyday. Also, opening a suitcase for 25 days straight is just plain unpleasant.
  4. I went to the supermarket to get foods that are familiar to the kids. As far as Asian foods go, I was able to find soy sauce, but not sesame oil.  Some supermarkets had ramen noodles.
  5. We ended up buying another stroller. Even thought Matilda does not use a stroller at home, she needed one for the trip. Believe it or not, the cheapest, crappiest umbrella stroller we could find cost 50 Euro! (around $70)

Useless things that I packed:

  • My kindle – I never got more than 5 minutes to myself to read.
  • My ipod – We used it a bit in the car, but I never really had time to listen to music by myself.
  • Video camera –  We were too busy trying to keep everyone happy to actually shoot video! I used the video function on my camera instead.
  • My sneakers and exercise gear – again, who has the time to exercise?

Like this post? Please visit my new blog www.spanishfavorites.com where I post about things and places that I love about Spain!

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