5 reasons why families should travel to Spain: Madrid, Barcelona and beyond
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There’s no shortage of appealing destinations to choose from when planning your next family vacation in Europe. Spain is one of the most popular, and for good reason. It’s an accessible, relatively affordable European country with many points hotels, a variety of attractions that kids, teens and adults can enjoy, and a laid-back, family-friendly culture.
Whether it’s Madrid, Barcelona, Seville or beyond, the whole family can enjoy diverse landscapes, distinct cultural traditions, delicious local cuisine, world-class art, traditional music and warm hospitality.
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There are few countries where babies and children are amicably welcomed at restaurants and even bars. It’s not unusual to see a baby fast asleep in a stroller at a bar in Madrid, a family of five strolling a local square at midnight or children running around an outdoor restaurant terrace in Andalusia. Many locals live in small apartments, so it’s normal for children to be out of their homes and socializing alongside parents at bars, restaurants, parks and squares. Locals will rarely blink an eye when your toddler has a tantrum at a museum, and some will even dote on your little ones, too.
When traveling abroad, it’s normal for children to get cranky — differences in meals and bedtimes are an adjustment — and Spanish locals understand. They expect kids to act like kids, making it a very easygoing place to be when the whole family is adapting to a time change or not familiar with the language.
Spain has many activities and attractions specifically geared toward children, and kids are welcome at many adult-catered activities, too. Whether it be a special family guided tour at Madrid’s Museo del Prado, an afternoon exploring medieval castles in Castilla de la Mancha, checking out Moorish palaces in Andalusia or visiting one of Spain’s sunny beaches (there are more than 3,000!) kids are not only welcomed but encouraged to enjoy Spain’s best tourist attractions.
Now that the dollar and euro are almost equal it’s even more affordable to visit Spain, or any other country that uses the euro for that matter. Spain lends itself extremely well to traveling on a budget. Prices vary from place to place but, generally, the cost of a meal at a sit-down restaurant can be as low as $11 and a glass of wine or beer around $2-$3.
The cost of living in large cities like Madrid and Barcelona is approximately 50% less than New York City and Los Angeles. While staying in hotels and vacation rentals isn’t necessarily like living like a local, accommodation is fairly affordable. Visitors can find family-friendly rentals for as low as $75 a night in some locations, and between $100 and $150 per night in larger cities or tourist areas.
Tips for families on a budget traveling to Spain
Tips for saving money in Spain include taking advantage of menu del dia — daily lunch menus that typically include three-course meals and a drink like water, soda or wine/beer. These menus are hearty and filling, typically priced between $9 and $20 depending on the city and restaurant. Other ways to save money in Spain include visiting in the low season (November, January-March) or shoulder season (May/October), staying in a vacation rental to save money on meals and utilizing Spain’s public transport. The country’s metro systems and city buses are clean, safe and easy to navigate.
Points hotels and vacation rentals
Whether you have a stash of Marriott points or you want a three-bedroom vacation rental, Spain has an array of options for families. Madrid alone has more than 20 different Marriott hotels (the Spanish AC hotel chain is owned by Marriott), as well as Hilton, IHG, Radisson and Hyatt options.
Travelers can find points hotels all over the country, from the Sheraton Fuerteventura on the Canary Islands to the Higueron Hotel Malaga (part of Hilton’s Curio Collection) to the luxurious family suites at 7Pines, a Destination by Hyatt property in Ibiza.
It’s true that Europe is notorious for not allowing more than two travelers per hotel room, but there are exceptions. For example, the Westin Palace, Madrid can sleep up to four travelers in some of its suites and Le Meridien Barcelona offers a family suite for four. Properties like the Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid, the Sheraton La Caleta in Tenerife as well as more economical options, such as the AC hotel brand, all have options for families to stay in the same room, too.
Travelers should note that there is a surfeit of Airbnb properties and vacation rentals for families throughout the country and many are very reasonably priced.
Accessibility and an award chart sweet spot
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines all fly to destinations in Spain like Madrid and Barcelona from various U.S. hubs. United, in particular, is launching new routes to destinations that U.S. travelers may not have previously considered, such as Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Tenerife South Airport (TFS) in the Canary Islands, starting June 9, and from Newark to Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) in the Balearic Islands, starting June 2. Both routes operate thrice weekly.
Iberia is another Oneworld airline that offers nonstop flights to Spain from U.S. hubs like New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Miami International Airport (MIA), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). One of the best possible ways to use points for your family to get to Spain is to use 34,000 Avios one-way to fly between Chicago (ORD) and Madrid (MAD) in business class. Keep in mind that this fare is only available on off-peak dates on Iberia’s peak/off-peak calendar.
If you don’t have enough Avios for a business-class ticket, consider using the Pay with Avios & Money option, which can make business-class tickets more affordable. You will use fewer Avios and spend some cash, but it won’t cost nearly as much as a regular business-class ticket.
It’s also worth noting that each Iberia flight usually only has a maximum of two business-class seats available when solely using Avios, though the airline sometimes opens up more at the last minute. If you can’t find enough business-class availability, economy seats run as low as 17,000 Avios on the ORD-MAD route in economy, one-way on off-peak dates. Taxes and fees on these tickets are relatively low, too.
Whether you’re looking for a city break filled with cultural activities for your family, a relaxing beach vacation, a nature-inspired getaway to the mountains or a road trip through beautiful villages and wine regions, Spain has it all.
The northern regions of Spain like Asturias, Cantabria and Galicia are cooler, rainier, greener and relatively untouched by international tourism. The best way to explore these areas is by car. A road trip through the Picos de Europa mountain range or along the Galician coastline provides plenty of opportunities to camp and hike surrounded by picturesque natural landscapes. Wherever you go, you’ll enjoy delicious regional cuisine from fresh seafood to fabada bean stews to locally cultivated sidra, an alcoholic cider.
Barcelona’s easygoing vibe will be a hit with the whole family. Explore family-friendly sites like the mountain of Montjuic, the whimsical Parc Guell and the iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral, and when the kids get tired, it’s beach time. And that doesn’t necessarily mean getting all sandy. Renting bikes or scooters and cruising down the beach promenade is a fun way to enjoy that Catalonian sunshine.
With miles upon miles of sandy coastline, beach-loving families will be in sand and sunshine heaven along Spain’s Mediterranean coast. From Catalonia’s rugged Costa Brava to the white-sand beaches of Valencia and Alicante along the Costa Blanca to the Andalusian Costa del Sol, Spain’s entire east coast sits on the shores of the glittering Mediterranean.
Rich in natural beauty and packed with cultural treasures, Andalusia has it all. There are historical gems like Seville, Granada and Cordoba, the glitzy beaches and marina of cosmopolitan Marbella and whitewashed hilltop villages and towns like Ronda and Jaen. Andalusia is perfect for families that want to hit the beach but who also want to uncover more of Spain’s history and traditions, which fuse Moorish and Christian influences.
Madrid often surprises visitors with its incredible art, thriving foodie scene and beautiful cobblestone streets. It’s perfect for families that want to sample traditional cuisine, explore stately parks, visit world-renowned museums and experience the energetic spirit of Spain’s capital day and night. You may be surprised at just how much the whole family loves Madrid.
From the Balearic islands like Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca to Spain’s underrated Canary Islands, travelers seeking a family-friendly island retreat with sandy beaches and mountain hikes are spoiled for choice. And don’t forget about some of the country’s lesser-known gems, such as the Islas Cies off the coast of Galicia or Tabarca off the coast of Alicante.
For adventurous families, the medieval hubs of the Extremadura region, such as Trujillo and Merida, reward with educational and exciting pursuits for the whole family.
The fabled land of Don Quijote, Castilla de la Mancha is home to numerous castles and historic towns like Toledo and Cuenca. Farther south, Almeria’s sands are more remote and relatively quiet, especially during shoulder season. Children are even welcomed on winery tours in Spain’s renowned Rioja and Ribera regions.
If your family is all about lounging on the beach, or prefers to experience world-class art, hike through forests and mountains or engage in cultural activities like watching flamenco or touring palaces, Spain has myriad options. Spain’s family-oriented culture ensures you and your children — regardless if you’re an LGBTQ family, have a few boisterous teenagers or a colicky baby — will feel welcome on your vacation.
Featured photo of Ronda, Spain, by James O’Neil/Getty Images.
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