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Would LOVE Your Input About My 2-Week Itinerary (With Young Kids) for Portugal for May 2022!

Hello travel experts! After learning through you fine folks that I was trying to pack in too much into my schedule, I went back to the drawing board, revised my itinerary and would love your new input! I am traveling with my spouse and two kids (ages 2 and 5) to Portugal in May 2022. We're flying in and out of Lisbon (already booked). We like gardens, castles, architecture, kid-friendly activities and some relaxation/beach time. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or input. Feel free to tell me if I'm still trying to pack in too much! I'm really grateful for any and all input!

Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon @ 8:00 a.m. Drop off bags and explore.
Day 2: Lisbon
Day 3: Lisbon
Day 4: Day trip by train to Evora. Pick up car at night or early next morning.
Day 5: Sintra. Drive to Sintra and park car at hotel with free parking. Get 1-2 sites in.
Day 6: Sintra. Get 1-2 more sites in. Drive 30 mins to Mafra and sleep there. [Is Mafra a good place to stay?]
Day 7: Mafra + Obidos + Alcobaca. Sleep in Sao Martinho da Porto.
Day 8: Sao Martinho da Porto beach day. Sleep there.
Day 9: Batalha + Tomar. Sleep in Tomar.
Day 10: Coimbra. Drive 1 hour to Coimbra and spend day there. Sleep there.
Day 11: Porto. Drive 1 hour to Porto.
Day 12: Porto
Day 13: Porto + drive back to Lisbon airport area hotel in early evening. Sleep there.
Day 14: Fly out of Lisbon airport at 10:45 am.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
1179 posts

You have way too many hotel changes IMO. Especially with young children. I, personally, would eliminate all your one night stays. It takes time to check in and out of hotels and I find one night stays give me about the same amount of time in a place as a day trip would have.

São Martinho do Porto is a pretty central town (and great for children). You can easily visit Obidos, Alcobaça and Batalha from there. The palace in Mafra is pretty amazing but it’s so large I can’t see children doing the tour justice. If you want to stay in that area, Ericeira is much better and very close. But, I would skip that stop and go on to São Martinho.

FYI - even though the beach in São Martinho is great for kids, the water will be way too cold to actually go in.

Posted by
4690 posts

I count 7 hotel changes in 14 days. Yikes, especially with small kids.

Posted by
8625 posts

Day 4: Day trip by train to Evora. Pick up car at night or early next morning.

I would pick car up in the morning. Not have the cost of overnight parking, nor the risk of damage.

Day 6: Sintra. Get 1-2 more sites in. Drive 30 mins to Mafra and sleep there.

Seems it would be simpler to drive the 30 minutes back rather than do a check out-check in cycle

I didn't do the map research to see where all the towns are, but it might be more efficient to employ a 'hub and spoke' strategy. Stay in a centralized place and go out and back and not have as many hotel changes.

If you were touring Indiana would you sleep in 7-8 locations, or use a 'clustering' strategy to limit the number of hotel changes?

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback so far. I realize it does appear to be more of a road trip type vacation than the "home base" type vacation. I'm trying to minimize time backtracking while driving, but after reviewing agree it would be better with a few home bases, so I've consolidated (and can consolidate more if you have suggestions on how to do it!).

A few questions:

  1. Do you know if any of the areas where we're stopping are known for car break-ins? For the road trip part, we'll have luggage in our car and don't want to have our stuff stolen. There are cities in the US (e.g., San Francisco) where you're almost guaranteed to have your car window broken and luggage stolen if left in the car.
  2. Is Sao Martinho da Porto the best central option for Day 7 - 9? Is Nazare better? I've heard mixed reviews about it.
  3. Is it better to just have a full-day bus tour of Sintra/Cascais from Lisbon v. spending the 2 days/1 night there?

This has us sleeping 2-4 nights in every location, except for Coimbra/Busacco Palace (and that is mainly for my two girls to sleep in a palace - I expect they will revert to calling themselves Elsa and Ann) and the last night where we need to be by the airport.

New itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon @ 8:00 a.m. Drop off bags and explore. [Lodging #1]
Day 2: Lisbon
Day 3: Lisbon
Day 4: Day trip by train to Evora. Pick up car early next morning.
Day 5: Sintra. Drive to Sintra and park car at hotel with free parking. Get 1-2 sites in. Sleep in Sintra. [Lodging #2]
Day 6: Sintra. Get 1-2 more sites in. Sleep in Sintra.
Day 7: Mafra + Obidos (not sure if we'll do both). Sleep in Sao Martinho da Porto. [Lodging #3]
Day 8: Sao Martinho da Porto and surrounding area (Tomar/Alcobaça/Batalha). Sleep there.
Day 9: Sao Martinho da Porto and surrounding area (Tomar/Alcobaça/Batalha). Sleep there.
Day 10: Coimbra. Drive 1 hour to Coimbra and spend day there. Sleep there at Busacco Palace. [Lodging #4]
Day 11: Explore Busacco Palace. Drive 1 hour to Porto and checkin. [Lodging #5]
Day 12: Porto
Day 13: Porto + drive back to Lisbon airport area hotel in early evening. Sleep there.
Day 14: Fly out of Lisbon airport at 10:45 am.

Posted by
4690 posts

A bus tour with a 2 year old? No way.

I still count 6 different hotels in 14 days.

Why go to the beach when you can’t swim in the water?

Posted by
7 posts

@Emily - the bus tour in Sintra is where a tour bus takes you from attraction to attraction so you don't have to deal with logistics. There is also a tour guide. For example: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g189158-d11455790-Sintra_and_Cascais_Small_Group_Tour_from_Lisbon-Lisbon_Lisbon_District_Central_Por.html

Fair point re the beach day...so in the revised portion, I am instead using Sao Martinho as a central base to explore Alcohaca, Tomar, Batalha, etc. We may go to the beach, but only for an hour or so (e.g., build sand castles, chase the water, etc.)

Posted by
149 posts

I've never been to Portugal, so I can't offer in-depth advice, but wanted to throw this out there.

Have you considered just going to Porto on the first day? You and especially the kids are going to be exhausted from the flight. Arrival day is almost always a wasted day anyways, so why not just go to the train station and grab a train to Porto? Maybe the kids (or you!) can grab a quick nap on the way. You could arrive early to mid-afternoon, meaning there's a greater chance your room will be ready for you. Lunch and a stroll and an early dinner and then early to bed for everyone. This would also eliminate one hotel change. Then, just do your itinerary in reverse.

I also wonder about staying in Sintra for two nights. Others who have been can correct me, but rome2rio lists it as a 25 minute bus ride from Lisbon, and bahn.de has a 40 minute train ride. You know your kids best, but I wonder if it isn't better to stay in Lisbon longer, and then make a day trip or two to Sintra.

Finally, you may have already done this - but try to find one or two playgrounds in each location you visit, and have those in your back pocket for an afternoon or morning activity, or in case of meltdowns.

Posted by
2713 posts

I looked at your revised itinerary, and it's ok. I have not been to Porto and some of the other places mentioned, so my comments are mainly for Lisbon and Sintra.

First, I always suggest ENDING your trip in your departure city. If you have round trip tickets, like you do, this means that upon arrival you immediately head to a different city. For you, you round trip from Lisbon, so can you switch it so your Lisbon nights are at the end. Maybe head for Porto first and work your way south. Or just get to Sintra (see next point) or Coimbra, work from there and finish in Lisbon. End with your nights in Lisbon, this avoids the airport hotel change and gives you a GOOD last day of your trip, not one filled with transit and airport areas.

Second..Sintra. Get other opinions on this, but I don't think it warrants overnights. I wasn't totally impressed and would pick 2 priority sights, add a day to Lisbon, and do it as a day trip. The palaces are interesting, but the town is small and obviously filled with day visitors. It's a nice town, but...it just doesn't seem like the best choice for overnights when other places are IMO more interesting. Again, not everyone agrees with that.

Posted by
22 posts

Following as I am in the beginning stages of planning a trip with our 2 and 4yo for this fall! Please post a trip report when you return. Did you consider going south to beaches where the kids would be able to swim?

Posted by
226 posts

I like Mira’s idea of ending in departure city. Also Sintra has a couple of. Major spots can be done in a day trip. (Maybe you need more time with kids. daily hotel changes is taxing.)

Posted by
7 posts

@Mike - we did consider going to Algarve, but don't have enough time to fit it in. As a number of the helpful folks on this forum pointed out, the water is too cold in May to really enjoy the beach, plus I understand it gets quite windy. We decided to sub in Sao Martinho da Porto for a beach afternoon (or a day trip elsewhere) since it has a very sheltered cove/beach that is perfect for kids.

I'll post my thoughts and experiences after my trip!

Posted by
1289 posts

Alexis, I agree with you about the beach. Even our grandchildren are grown so by experience I know that your children will need some place to run freely and get all their energy out. Relief for children and parents!