Trav­el­ing to the Azores with babies or young chil­dren I. part: How to pre­pare for an Azorean hol­i­day?

The biggest part of Fre­quently Asked Ques­tions about the Azores and São Miguel in par­tic­u­lar is related to trav­el­ing with babies and / or small chil­dren. Since I am unfor­tu­nately not very well versed in this top­ic I could not really answer these ques­tions. Until now that is, because a friend of mine (who is also the moth­er of a beau­ti­ful baby) gathered all the inform­a­tion she could find on this top­ic and I com­pleted what she wrote with my exper­i­ences from meet­ing and doing guided tours with fam­il­ies. So first of all thanks to Kati for the great work, and we hope you will like this series of art­icles we pre­pared on this top­ic and are look­ing for­ward to your hope­fully pos­it­ive feed­back.

The fre­quently asked ques­tions about trav­el­ing with babies or young chil­dren to the Azores have been split into the fol­low­ing 3 main top­ics:

Part 1 – Gen­er­al inform­a­tion about trav­el­ing to the Azores (Which air­line to fly with? How long should the hol­i­day be? What kind of accom­mod­a­tion should we con­sider? What to pack for the baby? Should we rent a car?)

Part 2 – Where to shop and eat out with chil­dren, espe­cially if they have food intol­er­ance?

Part 3 – Top 10 list of what to do with chil­dren on São Miguel island

This post cov­ers Part 1, and the oth­er 2 top­ics will be dis­cussed in an addi­tion­al two posts.

First and fore­most I would like to men­tion that based on my exper­i­ence the good people of São Miguel love chil­dren and have a very pos­it­ive atti­tude towards fam­il­ies. The second thing is – what actu­ally really sur­prised me – that there are not too many play­grounds on the island. Des­pite recent devel­op­ments in the last few years where mod­ern play­grounds have been installed São Miguel still has sig­ni­fic­antly less play­grounds than what you usu­ally find in Europe. How­ever, I am glad to report that Fai­al has much more play­grounds than São Miguel.

HOW TO PLAN A FAMILY TRIP TO THE AZORES?

FLIGHTS

A while back I wrote a blog art­icle titled HOW TO GET TO THE AZORES which cov­ers the basics. When trav­el­ing with chil­dren from Hun­gary I would def­in­itely recom­mend fly­ing with TAP Por­tugal Air­line. By fly­ing with the same air­line fam­il­ies can pur­chase a tick­et con­tain­ing all legs of the jour­ney  – be it Bud­apest to Pon­ta Del­gada, or Bud­apest to Ter­ceira. This means lar­ger pieces of lug­gage can be checked in all the way to the final des­tin­a­tion, which is a huge plus com­pared to fly­ing with a com­bin­a­tion of low-cost air­lines. But the major bene­fit of fly­ing with the same air­line all the way is that con­nect­ing flights might wait for the pas­sen­gers in case of a delay and if not, pas­sen­gers are booked auto­mat­ic­ally on the next avail­able flight. This allows for a very com­fort­able and relaxed jour­ney.

If you are not depart­ing from Bud­apest, you might even be able to book a dir­ect flight to São Miguel or to Ter­ceira. You can fly to São Miguel dir­ectly from Boston, New York, Oak­land, Toronto, Montreal, Lon­don, and even more cit­ies dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­day sea­son. When trav­el­ing with small chil­dren you might con­sider book­ing an overnight flight which they hope­fully sleep through.

Please make sure to check the airline’s policy about trav­el­ing with chil­dren, the applic­able lug­gage allow­ance includ­ing the trans­port options for stroller, car seat, or (hik­ing) car­ri­er. For example there are air­lines which allow you to bring the car seat into the cab­in (but only car seat makes approved by the FAA (USA) or the CE (EU) and in case the baby has a child tick­et – mean­ing they have their own seat). We have col­lec­ted the infant (< 2 years) and chil­dren (2 to 11 years) travel policy pages for your con­veni­ence: TAP Por­tugal Air­line, SATA / Azores Air­lines, Delta, WizzAir, Ryanair.

DURATION OF YOUR STAY

On most blogs you can read that 4 – 5 days are enough to dis­cov­er São Miguel island. Per­son­ally, I strongly dis­agree. Espe­cially when a fam­ily is trav­el­ing with small chil­dren 4 – 5 days are not even enough to quiet down from the work stress and the daily grind. I think you need to spend at least 7 – 8 days on the island, and an extra 1 – 2 days if you are trav­el­ing with chil­dren so that the entire fam­ily can bene­fit from the tran­quil­ity eman­at­ing from the island. Most of those 4 – 5 days would be spent with feed­ing and naps when you are trav­el­ing with babies and tod­dlers espe­cially. So please con­sider this rule of thumb and add 1 – 2 days to your stay. Tak­ing your time and dis­cov­er­ing the island calmly and at a slower pace will reward you with a won­der­ful, stress-free hol­i­day,

I have proof-read the travel plans of a lot of fam­il­ies before their Azorean hol­i­day and I have seen many people doing very detailed plan­ning, a tight sched­ule with all the view­points, events, and activ­it­ies. Of course I do encour­age that every­one pre­pares for their hol­i­day and checks out a few import­ant facts before­hand, but even the ever chan­ging weath­er of the Azores makes keep­ing a strict sched­ule impossible.  Moreover, hav­ing a plan and the fam­ily not being able to keep up res­ults in unne­ces­sary ten­sion.

COMMON MISTAKE: under­es­tim­at­ing the size of the Azores islands and time required to dis­cov­er them.

ACCOMMODATION

Please con­sider the fol­low­ing points when choos­ing your accom­mod­a­tion.

  1. THE MOST COMFORTABLE OPTION FOR A FAMILY IS PROBABLY TO RENT AN APARTMENT OR (PART OF) A HOUSE

By rent­ing an apart­ment or a house, you can enjoy all the com­forts of a home for the price of a hotel. If you let them know in advance the host can make sure the prop­erty is equipped with a baby bed (or at least a travel cot) and a high­chair. Anoth­er huge bene­fit of rent­ing an apart­ment or a house is that it comes with a fully equipped kit­chen, which allows you to pre­pare suit­able meals for the chil­dren. Self cater­ing also means sav­ing money. The gen­er­al feed­back I heard is that hol­i­day rent­al prop­er­ties are very clean and com­fort­able. The only prob­lem might be the pres­ence of efflor­es­cence on the walls and a few bugs in Pon­ta Del­gada or near oth­er big ports. How­ever, please note that there are no dan­ger­ous anim­als on the island (no pois­on­ous snakes or spiders, etc.).

  1. IF YOUR CHILD HAS FOOD INTOLERANCE, YOU MIGHT WANT TO OPT FOR A HOTEL

Most hotels on the island are ready to take dif­fer­ent food intol­er­ances or aller­gies into account. Please ask / let them know in advance so they can pre­pare. By choos­ing a hotel with half (or full) board you don’t need to start your hol­i­day by look­ing for spe­cial ingredi­ents upon your arrival. Moreover, find­ing some of these products is by no means an easy feat, but we are here to help you in the next part of this series of art­icles.

2. AN ACCOMMODATION WITH A POOL MEANS A GREAT BUILT-IN ACTIVITY

Espe­cially in the peak sea­son it might be nice for the entire fam­ily to cool down in a pool every after­noon. An accom­mod­a­tion with a pool means you can get “home” quick when the chil­dren had enough fun in the water. Going to the pool might also be a great activ­ity on days when the weath­er is not that great.

3. CONVENIENT PARKING IS IMPORTANT (WHEN YOU ARE RENTING A CAR)

Park­ing might be a chal­lenge in the peak sea­son, so an accom­mod­a­tion which offers nearby or in-house park­ing might be bene­fi­cial. Hav­ing a park­ing spot nearby is very import­ant and prac­tic­al (espe­cially when you need to carry a sleep­ing child from the car to his or her bed). In case you need to use a park­ing meter, in this blog post you can find out how they work.

GETTING AROUND

There are two main options to get around the island with chil­dren: rent­ing a car and per­son­al­ized guided tours (which includes trans­port­a­tion).

Rent­ing a car is def­in­itely the easi­est way of get­ting around with chil­dren. It is a very com­fort­ing thought that should the need arise you can get in the car and drive back to your accom­mod­a­tion. Fam­il­ies stay­ing in Pon­ta Del­gada can save one  (or two, maybe even three) days of car rent­al fee if they don’t pick up the rent­al car at the air­port imme­di­ately, but opt for pick­ing it up in down­town Pon­ta Del­gada after they have dis­covered the city on foot.

You must not for­get about car seats if you are rent­ing a car. You can rent a car seat from the car rent­al com­pany (for 5 – 10 EUR a day), but it is import­ant to let the rent­al com­pany know when you reserve the car. If the air­line lug­gage policy allows you can bring the car seat from home – and either check it in, or have your baby sit in it dur­ing the flight (please note that this is only pos­sible if you have pur­chased a tick­et with seat reser­va­tion for your child). This way you can ensure that the seat is per­fect for your chil­drens’ needs. If you are plan­ning to rent a car seat for a longer peri­od of time (and don’t bring your own seat from home) you might con­sider buy­ing a new one in a hyper­mar­ket.

Anoth­er way to get around the island – espe­cially if you have slightly older chil­dren – is to book per­son­al­ized guided tours. This way – thanks to the loc­al know-how and the exper­i­ence of your tour guide – you can see more in less time, and also see places you might have oth­er­wise missed. In this case it is recom­men­ded that you stay in or around Pon­ta Del­gada. Here you can book Eden Azores private guided tours, if you would like.

ON THE ROAD

Always have a change of clothes and shoes in the car for the entire fam­ily. In case you get caught in a sud­den down­pour it is nice to have a set of dry clothes and shoes wait­ing in the car.

The beau­ti­ful scen­ic roads of the Azores are long and wind­ing, and you want to make sure to be pre­pared if your chil­dren are prone to car sick­ness. Bring car sick­ness pills, acupres­sure wrist­bands, whatever works for your chil­dren at home and a few dis­pos­able barf bags and a roll of paper tow­els just to be on the safe side.

It is para­mount that you respect the road rules and driv­ing reg­u­la­tions. Please make sure you only park your car at des­ig­nated park­ing spots and nev­er stop the car on the road­side, because the view is so tempt­ing. Vis­it the view­points to take beau­ti­ful pho­tos and don’t put your fam­ily in danger. The max­im­um speed lim­it on the motor­way is 110 km/h.

Get informed about where the pet­rol sta­tions are loc­ated. There aren’t too many (30) pet­rol sta­tions on the island so you might want to refuel whenev­er you see one. You cer­tainly don’t want to be stuck on the road­side with hungry and tired chil­dren scream­ing on the back­seat. On this web­site you can find the loc­a­tion of all gas sta­tions on Sao Miguel

Char­ging elec­tric cars. Since last year Sao Miguel boasts 3 EV (Elec­tric Vehicle) char­ging sta­tions (estação de car­rega­mento de veícu­los elétri­cos) loc­ated in the three biggest cit­ies (Pon­ta Del­gada, Lagoa, Vila Franca do Campo). Accord­ing to elec­tric mobil­ity devel­op­ment plans there will be a grand total of 26 char­ging sta­tions alto­geth­er on all the islands of the Azores archipelago. This means you can also opt for rent­ing an elec­tric car to leave a smal­ler CO2 foot­print. Unfor­tu­nately I have not tried the char­ging sta­tions yet, so I can­not tell you about my exper­i­ences. How­ever, should you rent an elec­tric car it is recom­men­ded you stay in or around the above men­tioned 3 cit­ies so you can charge the car in the even­ing (or you look for an accom­mod­a­tion which has a home EV char­ger).

PACKING LIST

The fol­low­ing list con­tains a few very import­ant items that you might want to bring with you when trav­el­ing with a baby or small chil­dren.

  • Rain jack­et or rain cov­er for the chil­dren. It might rain dur­ing the day, but mostly in the even­ings, even in the sum­mer sea­son. Be pre­pared.
  • Sun­screen and hat. Is an abso­lute must for chil­dren and grown-ups alike, when they are out­doors in the sum­mer. The UV radi­ation is very high.
  • UV tent. If you are plan­ning to spend lots of time on the beach, a UV tent might come very handy. You can pick one up in the Dec­ath­lon in Pon­ta Del­gada.
  • Water­proof pic­nic blanket. You can use it on the beach and on your hikes when the baby needs a break or when the fam­ily makes a pic­nic.
  • Wet­suit. Recom­men­ded espe­cially for young­er chil­dren plan­ning to swim in the ocean.
  • Beach san­dals, water shoes. The vol­can­ic grey sand on the beaches of the Azores can get very hot in the sum­mer, and vol­can­ic rocks have sharp edges. Water shoes are a must, espe­cially if you are plan­ning to swim at Pon­ta da Fer­rar­ia.
  • Car­ri­er. If you plan on hik­ing on the island (which is quite likely, oth­er­wise you would not have chosen Azores as your des­tin­a­tion) it might be worth invest­ing in a prop­er baby car­ri­er. Good hik­ing car­ri­ers tend to be very expens­ive, but if your fam­ily does a lot of hik­ing it jus­ti­fies the high cost. If your fam­ily does not usu­ally hike, ask around – maybe you can bor­row one from friends. If the baby car­ri­er has a rain cov­er, make sure to bring it, too.
  • Play mat and toys. On the Azores most houses and apart­ments have tile floors and no car­pets, there­fore it is essen­tial that you bring a play mat for your child who is crawl­ing or play­ing on the floor so they don’t get cold.

SHOPPING

The biggest shop­ping facil­ity on São Miguel island, the Parque Atlantico Shop­ping Cen­ter is loc­ated in Pon­ta Del­gada. Here you can cer­tainly buy most things you need for a baby or a tod­dler. In big­ger cit­ies on the island you can find Con­tin­ente stores, the loc­al gro­cery chain. There is an Eden Azores blog post which describes all major gro­cery chains you can find on the island, includ­ing a Google map pin­point­ing all gro­cery stores.

Moreover, there is also a Dec­ath­lon in Pon­ta Del­gada where you can buy sports equip­ment, swim­ming goggles, bathing suits, life wests, UV tent, etc. If you already know in advance what you will need you can also shop online and pick the items up upon arrival (Click and Col­lect). This way you can save a lot of valu­able hol­i­day time.

Gen­er­al advice: shop in the big­ger cit­ies, because smal­ler cit­ies might have lim­ited sup­plies and / or only a lim­ited sor­ti­ment avail­able.

You can find out more about trav­el­ing to the Azores with babies and small chil­dren in two upcom­ing art­icles. As already men­tioned at the begin­ning of this post, the 2nd part focuses on food shop­ping and eat­ing out for fam­il­ies where the chil­dren have some kind of food-intolerance; the 3rd install­ment will list the top 10 to dos with chil­dren on São Miguel island.

If you found this art­icle use­ful, please let us know here in the com­ments or on the Eden Azores Face­book page. Feed­back is very import­ant, as it helps us to under­stand how import­ant a cer­tain top­ic is for You so we know what to focus on when writ­ing new art­icles.

If you are curi­ous about trav­el­ing to the Azores in gen­er­al, or would like to learn new things about this beau­ti­ful des­tin­a­tion, or just want to get the latest update on what is going on in the archipelago – you can find us on Face­book and on Ins­tagram.

If you would like to find out about avail­able guided tours, dis­counts, and oth­er VIP inform­a­tion you are wel­come to join the Eden Azores Closed Group on Face­book (in Hun­gari­an).

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