Portugal with kids: Essential Travel Info
The Algarve, the southern coastal region of Portugal, is blessed with sunshine all year around but it is hot and busy in the high summer months. My favorite time to visit this region is in spring when the warm days and blue skies are a treat for anyone traveling from more northerly places and the whole area is blissfully crowd-free.
How to Get There:
You’ll find direct flights to Lisbon from many US cities. Within Europe low cost carriers such as Ryanair, Air Berlin and EasyJet fly directly into Faro.
Overall Rating: There’s no two ways about it, Portugal is cheap compared to other European countries, this makes it a great choice for families.
Accommodation: There are plenty of hotels, condo complexes, house and apartment rentals available at all price ranges in Portugal. For Spring travel we’ve been able to get larger properties at steeply discounted rates for the week around the Easter holiday.
Food: Eating out can be expensive. When we stay in Portugal we mostly cook in – always a budget-friendly tactic – and eat out at one of the great local fish restaurants just a couple of times as a vacation treat.
Transport: The easiest way to get around is to rent a car which you should book in advance (for best prices) and pick up at Faro airport. There are tolls on major routes (north to Lisbon, for example) but not on the new, multi-lane highway which tracks the coast from Faro to Sagres. On our last visit, we traveled by bus which was surprisingly easy and very reasonably priced.
Entertainment: If you plan to visit the Algarve, even in April, you will spend time on the beaches which are free (yay!). You can also take a jeep safari-style tour to traditional villages and learn how cork is made from the native cork trees – even my then six-year-old enjoyed this day-long activity. Again, you can take advantage of price discounts if you visit in the Spring. The lack of crowds means that you’ll have pretty towns like Lagos almost to yourself. Wander around and breathe in the depth of history in the 14th-century walls.
Portugal may be the weakest Euro-area economy but it’s still in Europe. This means that you can expect family-friendly features such as high chairs and changing tables in restaurants as with anywhere else in Europe. Many hotels and resorts have family-sized room and on-site programs for children. Diapers, formula and baby food are widely available in supermarkets which are mostly found on the outskirts of major towns or in shopping malls. A sturdy stroller will be fine on older cobblestone streets but many small towns will not have sidewalks. One bonus of being a popular tourist destination is that restaurants offer plenty of kid-friendly food choices – with menus available in English.
Recommended guidebook: Lonely Planet Portugal.