Saturday, April 7, 2018

Planning a Trip to Spain with Kids

Our nephews (9 and 10) attend a school where literacy skills are taught in English, but several other subjects, including math and science, are taught in Spanish.

It's a joy to see the boys use their skills. In 2016, they slipped unselfconsciously into Spanish when speaking with a server from Spain in our Edinburgh hotel.

In 2019, my partner and I will travel with our nephews and their parents to Spain. The trip will broaden our nephews' horizons, and provide them with practical opportunities to develop their Spanish. It will also be a fun, family vacation.

For me, it takes a mental change of gears to imagine a kid-friendly trip to Spain. During the past few days I've had the rather pleasant task researching seaside towns where we would begin and end the trip.

We'll fly in and out of Malaga, a town in southern Spain:
  • It can be reached in two flight segments from Minneapolis
  • It's a good starting point to explore the Andalusia area where we will spend all our time in Spain. 
  • It's on the Mediterranean, which means we can start and end our trip beside the sea.
I explored four seaside towns where we could stay.
Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro
Downtown Malaga is a short train ride from the airport. From the train station we would then walk to our hotel. (We'll have backpacks.)

The challenge was finding a place where we could kick back and relax. Malaga is not a relaxing city.

Up on a hill beside a castle, there is a lovely Parador. Paradors are comfortable, often historic hotels belonging to a government-sponsored chain.

I stayed one night at the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro.
I decided this hotel would not work for our trip.

We would have to hop on a bus to get to a beach, which would dampen our spontaneity.

As is customary in Spain, the restaurant did not open until 8:00 p.m. for dinner. There was no nearby cafe where we could address the needs of hungry boys.

Torremolenos has been given a bad rap. In the 1970's it was a destination for cheap package vacations. This Monty Python sketch shows the kind of scorn that was thrown at the Costa del Sol:

I decided to visit Torremolenos anyway. It's a short train journey from Malaga, and it has miles of beaches. The town was perfectly pleasant, but the vibe seemed to be day-trippy. It seemed too built-up, but I wasn't finding a hotel where I would want us all to stay.

Nerja, a fast bus ride from Malaga, hit the sweet spot. The town has everything we need. Plus, we get views of mountains and countryside.

I decided to recommend we spend our first four nights in Nerja. We can take a scheduled bus to Granada where we can explore the Alhambra, then return to Nerja the same day.

I had no doubt which hotel we should choose: the Nerja Parador, right next to the Mediterranean.
Beach, in front of the hotel. There's an elevator for the faint-hearted.
I took a bus from Malaga for the 45-minute ride to Marbella.

My first impression was of a town for real people. There were kids coming home from school, and playgrounds clearly for the inhabitants. The boys will have opportunities to play with local kids.
Skateboard park.
Long sections of the promenade did not have commercial activity. Palm trees and other lush vegetation lined paths. At the marina, I learned about chartering a fishing boat. The boys love to fish.

I'm recommending we decompress for a couple nights in Marbella at the end of our trip.

Towards the end of the trip I'd like us to visit the vertiginous town of Ronda. From Ronda we can get to Marbella by bus. Malaga Airport is a 30-minute bus ride from Marbella.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Amy, I'm excited too, and looking forward to seeing Andalusia through the eyes of the boys.

  2. Thank you for the research! The Mediterranean coast is a wonderful introduction, a small but significant part of Spain from what I can see of your photos.

  3. Why was Eric Idle called "Mr. Smoketoomuch?" I wonder...Brilliant sketch. Thanks for remembering the reference to Torremolinos!