Hello! We are back from our first family trip to Europe, and I hope my trip report will help others in their planning. It is long (I like to keep a detailed record for myself), so if it's too much information for you... then skip it.. :-)
First, a big THANK YOU to all of you who contribute to this forum! I learned so much when I was planning our trip to Spain; all of the good information and advice was SO helpful.
We traveled as a family of five: myself, husband, daughter (age 13), son (12), and my mother-in-law. My son is cognitively and physically disabled (side effects of epilepsy); he can walk -- slooowwwwly -- and tires easily, so we have a special needs stroller for him for when we go longer distances or need to move quickly. He is a social butterfly and loves to talk (constantly!) and eat, so he is a great travel companion.
Mom-in-law is 76 and crazy active; she takes regular Zumba classes at the gym. She has been a regular world traveler throughout her life, but her traveling companions (a group of wives with husbands who didn't like to travel) have aged more poorly than her, so they and she have not done any international trips for a few years. We invited her on this trip thinking it would be a win-win; she would see new places and we would have an extra set of adult hands to help with my son. It worked out... but not exactly as we expected. We didn't realize until a few days into the trip that all of her travels have been with tours, so she was completely unable to cope with independent travel. Navigating train stations, talking with taxi drivers, walking around town, even ordering from a menu were tasks she was not able to do on her own. We worked through it and still had a great time, but we had to adjust our expectations and help her more than we initially planned.
I had been to Spain twice before this trip; no one else in the family had ever been, although husband has been to Europe a couple of times before, so he is familiar with international travel. We decided on this trip 18 months ago. We had been feeling somewhat shell-shocked at the state of the world (politics, refugee crisis, divisiveness, etc., etc.). My husband got a raise at work, and we decided that we would use the money to travel to other countries so that our kids could learn that people are people everywhere. Our goal is one big trip each year (we'll see how the budget holds up!), and I picked Spain for this first trip thinking it would be a good "test drive" for traveling with my son, knowing that I was familiar with the country, could speak the language, and could hopefully navigate any unexpected barriers.
Trip planning was all on me, and I loved the whole process! I did check in with family as I moved through itinerary decisions, etc., but they were largely happy to go with the flow. I also had them all read up on location background, history, some travel guide excerpts, and watch Rick Steves' shows for the cities we visited. My daughter loved diving in to all the information; husband was good for short bursts; mom-in-law wasn't really interested in the research and just wanted to "see things."
Knowing that we are "slow travelers," I picked the following itinerary:
Toledo (2 nights)
Sevilla (3 nights), with day trip to Jerez de la Frontera
Granada (6 nights)
Madrid (1 night prior to flight home)
I've never warmed up to Sevilla in the past, and it wasn't on my original itinerary, but then I found out we would be in Spain during the April Fair. SOOOO..... Sevilla was added.