Travel with kids isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it!
When an Englishman (or woman!) is looking for easily accessible sea, sand and sunshine, Spain is a relatively common choice of destination. And I confess, in the last few years I seem to have got into the habit of making an annual pilgrimage to this amazing country too. So let’s have a bit of a look at why it is that this haven on the Mediterranean Coast is such an appealing place to recharge your batteries.
Spain is, quite simply, an easy place to visit. It has hugely reliable good weather (a big plus to those of us who live amidst frequent drizzle!), a warm and calm sea to swim in, and lots to see and do and experience. And cost-wise it is certainly more affordable than many other destinations across Europe.
I do probably need to point out here, though, there are two types of Spain from an foreign point of view. The Spain that belongs to the Spaniards, and the parts of Spain that now seem to belong to the foreigners. It’s worth knowing, so that you can decide what works best for you, and what type of Spain you’re looking to experience.
Firstly, let’s look at expat Spain. Along a stretch of the Spanish coast, especially areas along the Costa Blanca, you will find what I can only describe as “The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in Spain”. Imagine England with minimal rainfall and perpetual heat. It exists. If you love the idea of visiting Paddy’s Pub and watching the footie, or enjoying karaoke evenings hosted by Bob & Shirley, where you don’t need to know a word of Spanish or have any tolerance for foreign food, this is for you.
It’s certainly welcoming and friendly, and is a real mix of the population found in The UK. Is it only filled with Brits? No – of course there is a mix of folks, but if you speak to two people, chances are one of them will emanate from British shores.
Apart from holiday makers, this has also become an area filled with Spanish new build apartment complexes inhabited by ex-pats who have decided to move or retire to the sunshine. You can spot them from a mile away, usually by their very tanned and somewhat leathered skin caused by compensating for years of lousy weather by laying in the sun and baking their skin to a deep shade of amber.
The other Spain is, well, Spanish! A proud and dynamic people, with flashing eyes and tempers, dark, brooding good looks and light and humorous approaches to life, the Spanish are a great bunch of people with a long and proud history of exploration and achievement. The pace of their language reveals the pace at which they think and react. They often have their hearts on their sleeves, and faces that reflect the personalities inside.
The rhythm of this country, with it’s siesta lifestyle, but with restaurants, markets and entertainment open each night until the early hours, their life and their days are paced differently. It’s a day that would suit night owls like myself brilliantly! It takes some getting used to seeing little children sitting down at midnight to their evening meal, but with a bit of luck those little folk might wake up at a more sensible time in the morning!
So what are the biggest benefits of Spain when it comes to choosing a destination for a family holiday? Spain is, in my opinion, one of the most child-friendly countries to visit. The beaches tend to be beautiful, with many of them having lifeguards and great food and drink facilities. The water is relatively warm to swim in, and if you have never swum in the Mediterranean Sea, you are in for a treat.
There are beachfront funfairs everywhere! With rides from carousels to roller coasters, bumper cars to jumping castles and everything in between, they will keep most age groups really happy! They also tend to have plenty of food stalls of every description, and importantly, prices tend to be very reasonable.
Markets. It seems like every town and every village has a regular market where you can buy a range of astonishing products at very good prices. If you want a self-catering holiday with lots of fresh, healthy Mediterranean produce, this is where to shop for your groceries. My absolute favourite part of Spanish eating is probably the easy home catering for delicious meals using great fresh ingredients.
Restaurants are incredibly good with children, and there is no time where children are not seen in quantity in restaurants. As I mentioned earlier, this Spanish lifestyle finds families going for walks, or out for a meal, or going to the fairs at times when most people expect young children to be tucked up in bed, but of course the afternoon siesta and the cooler evenings make this a fabulous place to be able to spend fun nights out engaged in family-friendly fun.
Promenading along some of the beautiful coastal areas is an activity taken quite seriously. They tend to be the perfect places for kids to have some fun on their scooters and bicycles, or walking along with mum and dad with an ice cream in their hands. They tend to be lined with shops and restaurants that will tempt you in with lovely smells, or interesting displays.
There are some fabulous theme parks and water parks in Spain, and the fabulous weather tends to make it relatively predictable that you’ll be able to enjoy them to the full. Catering to all sorts of clients, you are bound to find one near you that is suitable for the ages in your family.
Most of the hotels assume you are likely to be there with children, and are suitably equipped with everything you may need and loads of space to play. Children’s pools are the norm, and staff are always ready to make a fuss of your children. They truly are a nation who value families!
There are museums galore, and castles and ruins punctuate the stark landscape. I’m not sure how best to get across the general atmosphere of Spain, except by saying that it is very real. It’s a hard working, hard playing country that still emanates a sense of relaxation that life is turning out exactly the way that nature intended.
My family and I have enjoyed Spain as a holiday destination, even as the ages of my children progress and their interests change. It is a place close to all of our hearts, and one that we will continue to visit often for a great holiday!
Dr. Jane Cox
Jane is a mom of two (Rachel, 21 and Declan, 18), step-mum to Louise, and grandma to two boys and four girls. She was the founder and managing editor of Mums at Work magazine in South Africa which she ran before returning to live in the UK. Today she is best known as an international speaker, coach, and author (“The Dr Jane Cox Fast-Forward Framework” and “Eleven Letters To Change Your Life”), and her coaching company has offices in the UK, Europe, the USA, the Caribbean, and South Africa
You can read more about her at www.drjanecox.co.uk