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Summer in spain - I would like advice on planning

I'm planning a family trip to Spain for summer 2013. The idea is July and August + a week with wife + 7 & 9 year old boys.
I've done some basic research, but not much at this point. Although airfares are best to Barcelona, it looks like short-term apt rental prices are much better in Malaga, and so I am considering using Malaga as a 'home base', but maybe arriving at Barcelona, and renting a car. I read on this board that the drive from Barcelona to Malaga is long and boring, so I'm thinking to make it indirect with stops and make it more interesting, manageable drives of no more than 4 hours each: For example: Barcelona - Valencia - Madrid - Merida - Seville - Malaga We are very flexible at this point and I am open to anything. I'd like to keep the boys happy, so they don't make things miserable for us, keep things reasonably priced, and see 'must-see' places if possible as this is probably once in a lifetime for us. I am really looking for itinerary advice, things for family to enjoy together, and comments about whether Malaga is too far removed to be a good home base. Tips, pointers, and advice will be very appreciated!!!

Posted by
984 posts

I am also confused by 'July and August + a week' - if nine weeks - outstanding! 'Malaga is too far removed to be a good home base.' - presuming you mean the city, removed from where? Malaga is a good public transport hub gives you the coast east and west. Granada is not less than one a half and not greater than two hours by bus, if you want a long day trip, many take a day trip to Ronda by bus or tour the pueblos blancos, easier with a hire car. Cordoba is less than an hour each way by train. And I have not started on places most on this board will have not heard of. And, yes it is going to be hot, so do consider the north. 'Tips, pointers, and advice' - do they have libraries where you are?

Posted by
11507 posts

Mark,, just spent a week in Spain this late July. It was so hot, I mean roasting hot, that I think you would be wise to plan some beach time , not just city touring for the kids.
You could rent a car in Barcelona and tour the Costa Brava, we loved Tossa De Mar,, and the coast is dotted with little towns etc to visit. We didn't get to Girona( which is not on coast but easy drive away) but have heard its very nice too.

Posted by
2400 posts

Can't remember how long flight was from Newark to Barcelona, maybe seven hours. It will be long day for your kids getting to airport about 3 hours prior to flight, then seven hours on plane so when you arrive in Spain, even though am sure they will be sleeping a little bit on plane, would not consider getting car and driving four more hours, even for adults that seems like too much. Suggest try for rental apartment in Barcelona for maybe four days before moving on, there is a lot for kids to see, beach, The Ramblas with the birds, rabbits for sale, the street performers so they will be good for a couple of days. We rented apartment half block off The Ramblas and was great.

Posted by
692 posts

Mark, have you considered the North of Spain?
the weather is quite nice, and a lot of outdoors activities that your boys might enjoy. Lots of beaches and mountains, we were just there this summer and really enjoyed it, went from San Sebastian to Cangas de Onis.

Posted by
7 posts

To clarify, when I say July & August + a week I mean the whole time the kids are out of school, or around 70 days, so I'm talking about a substantial amount of time there. My wife and I work for ourselves and can do so from anywhere, so as long as there is an internet connection we are very flexible, and it will be a sort of working vacation but with plenty of free time... With such a long trip things can add up and become very expensive, so I'd be looking for inexpensive places to stay, things to do, etc. I would expect that we'd spend a good amount of time at the beach, but also would want to get in visits to key cities/places since we have a lot of time. We go away pretty much all summer every summer, but usually to the Poconos, PA or to Florida where my in-laws have a house that we can stay free. Time goes a lot quicker than you would think for such a long period and when we don't plan things, as we sometimes don't, the days just fly by uneventfully, so for a special/expensive trip like this, I want to be sure to have at least a rough itinerary planned out. I imagine a rental car for such a long period will be very expensive, and maybe we'd just rent a car on and off to save money...

Posted by
3696 posts

If you are used to spending time in Fl.n the summer you will probably be ok in Spain. I have stayed in Malaga and had a great time and have a friend who lives there and she loves it. I would probably use it as a base as it is not terribly touristy and within easy drive of lots of places. If you are looking for something more budget friendly you might try the southern coast of Portugal. there are some great beach towns there and it was very beautiful. Easy drive from Spain. You could also do an exotic excursion to Morocco. A few favorite towns there are Chefchouen and Assilah... very interesting.

Posted by
160 posts

Hi Mark, Just came back from a week in Barcelona and a week in Madrid with 12 and 16 yr old boys. We did our first "Europe" trip when our boys were 8 and 12 and it was to London. It was a great "first" trip as the language was not a problem and there is a lot of cool things for kids- castles, The Eye and of course, Harry Potter! Although Spain was awesome, I would have found it challenging when me kids were that age. The beach is great but the waves are REALLY big and you will really have to watch your kids. I still don't know if my kids could do an "all beach" vacation. Musuems are awesome but not sure how much your kids will get out of it. Lots of fish on the menu... not good for my kids :) and really need to speak at least some Spanish, especially in Madrid. Toledo was a favorite as that's where they make the swords for the bull fighters. Not trying to burst your bubble just sharing my experience :). I would try homeaway.com and VRBO.com for vacation rentals through owners.
We have "swapped" houses for all our trips- England, Italy and Spain and have foud it an incredible experience and the only way we could afford to go!

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks Michelle, My wife is fluent in spanish, and I speak fairly well, so the language won't be a problem. One of the reasons we chose Spain is we want the kids to learn spanish, and a couple months in spain should help. We plan to have them take spanish lessons during this school year, as unfortunately we never spoke to them in spanish as babies. We try from time to time, but get a lot of fight back from them when we do.. It's good to know about the waves at the beach, since that doesn't sound good. For some reason I'd thought that Malaga was a calm beach. I am definitely also concerned about city visits since I agree that there is only so much 'culture' a 7 & 9 year old can take, and they can make things miserable for us if they are 'bored' too often, but I think they can tolerate some churches and museums since they find ways to keep themselves entertained, and we can hopefully work in a park or playground type visit before or after a museum or other site visit. I'm trying to start to plan a rough itinerary that can keep both parents and kids happy.

Posted by
160 posts

I was speaking of the beaches in Barcelona Mark- sorry for the confusion. Did not go to Malaga so I can not say. Great that you both speak the language! This will help immensely in Madrid, not as much in Barcelona as they mostly speak Catalan and I don't know about the others :). Before we went to London, I took my boys to the Museum of Fine Ats in Boston for a "trial" run :). Not sure where you are in NY but if you are near NYC this would be a great way to guage their attention span for museums/cathedrals.
Good luck- looking forward to seeing how your trip progresses :)!

Posted by
45 posts

Something that has helped me traveling with a 9 year old was to give him guidebooks and books on the area and let him pick out places that he would like to visit. We were in Finland for a month and then to Paris for a week and he made the entire itinerary for Paris (after I told him where I wanted to go). He scheduled museum visits after checking the hours and closed days. He even picked out restaurants. He didn't get bored a bit since it was HIS trip too.

Posted by
7 posts

Hey Claire, That sounds like a really good idea! Thank you! I think I'll give it a try. I can go over things with him and it could be a good learning experience for him to help plan, read maps, etc. I'm sure my 7 year old will also want to get involved if he sees that his brother is, and I'm sure it changes how they'll look at things
if they are involved in the decisions.. Not sure what will come of it, but I'll see what happens...

Posted by
160 posts

We did that as well and they liked feeling involved. Something else we did was give them each a disposable camera (or several in your case :) to take their own pictures. I bought an album for each when they returned. They really got into it. Now they just steal the "real" camera :).
If they're into soccer, the stadium tour is pretty cool. We did it in Madrid and they do a really good job keeping things entertaining. You might be there to catch a game which would be real experience, providing of course they like sports and are soccer fans!

Posted by
792 posts

Hi Mark, I've taken my family (including two kids) to Europe for two long European trips in the summer months. Last summer we went to Italy for 4 weeks followed by two weeks in England and then back in 2009 we spent two weeks in Spain and four weeks in France. The way we make these trips less expensive is by "home exchange", where you actually swap your home with people (and oftentimes cars as well). We have had three wonderful home exchange experiences (Spain, France, and England). If you are in a position to offer up your home for an exchange I highly recommend it. The website I use is www.homeforexchange.com I am currently looking for a home exchange in Provence for three weeks next summer. Note: we loved Spain, but it is very hot in the summer. We benefited from an in-ground swimming pool that came with the home exchange in Andalucia. We learned to live like locals and go out early, lounge by the pool midday and then go out again in the evening until late (in Spain, dinner is served very late in restaurants).

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the advice Michelle and Kerry, I own a couple vacation rental properties, and so once in the past I had the idea, with the consent of my wife, to rent out my own home while we were away on vacation (for cash, not exchange) We unfortunately had a bad experience, the guests were disrespectful and left our house in a very bad condition. This really put off my wife, who said "never again" I am registered with a couple home exchange websites, and I assume it would be different to exchange your home for another, because guests would have more incentive to be respectful, since you'd also be in their home. The idea appeals to me, especially if we could get a car out of it, since we'd save a lot of money. However, my wife seems adamant to not have strangers in our house again, so it probably won't happen, unless I could convince her to change her mind.

Posted by
44 posts

Hi Mark, We took both our kids at ages 7 and 9 to Spain and Portugal one summer (not as long a trip as you are doing). They loved Seville (Alcazar for the boy and flamingo dance show for the girl), Granada (Alhambra), and stayed a night in Rhonda at the top of a hill which both loved. Another BIG hit on that trip was Salema for a couple days in Portugal- you must stay there to really get the feel of the village; the beach was GREAT and an early morning short walk down the hill to watch the fishermen unload was especially enjoyed by my son. Least favorite city for them was Madrid. Both enjoyed Barcelona (but not the beaches). Great day trip for them was the speedy ferry to Morocco for a day. This was more than 10 years ago so keep that in mind, but we mainly mixed it up with cultural activities, parks, beaches, historic sites et. I also bought the green guides for these trips when they were younger and "told stories" from them about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The stories could get a bit gory with all the battles but they loved seeing where these things took place (a jousting match that left the head of a an opponent at the "this" very spot) but the effect was that history became alive for them and they were much more interested in seeing some of the historic and cultural sights.
The oldest is now a senior in college in Washington DC majoring in International Affairs with minors in Sociocultural Anthropology and Chinese and she has traveled through 27 countries and just returned from living for a year in China, backpacking all over between classes...my point? You never know how much these trips impact them and it all started right here on this website. So excited for you and your family!

Posted by
44 posts

Oops..just realized that it wasn't Rhonda but Arcos de la Frontera! Also...watch your side mirrors - VERY narrow entrance to the hilltop town.