Andalusia Spain with Kids - Family Travel Guide
Spain is located on the extreme side of southwestern Europe and shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal. It a country full of history, culture and beautiful vistas. Traveling to Spain with kids can be a wonderful experience. The scenery varies dramatically between coastal towns, vibrant cities, dramatic views, miles of fields and snow capped mountains. Spain is one of the more affordable European countries but it does not skimp on experiences. The country is famous for its musical culture, strong identity and long complex history. The Andalusia area on Spain’s Southern Coast is a favorite for long term family travel. Here are some of our best Spain Travel Tips including 10 epic road trips and itineraries for visiting beautiful Andalusia Spain.
We started our Spanish Journey by flying in to Lisbon and then driving to the Andalusia area of Spain. We chose the lovely town of Olvera for our home base. From Olvera the rest of the area was easily explored on day trips. Although I wish we stayed overnight in Cordoba and we did take a weekend break in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We spend $700 on our white villa for about 6 weeks in January. Our second major expense was the car rental. Food was affordable and we didn’t spend much on activities – just strolling around was very enjoyable.
Fitz 5 Related Articles on our Family Travel Trip to Spain
Spain Family Travel Tips
Why travel to Andalusia Spain with kids for Family Travel?
Spain is affordable, easy to travel and will reward you with a wide variety of experiences for your family travels. It’s generally safe and our family felt very comfortable walking around the streets. Traveling to Spain with kids is a low stress and great vacation. Wandering the streets of Spanish towns you’ll find yourself submersed in the culture and surroundings. The views are outstanding. You’re surrounded by so much history that your kids (and you) are sure to learn a thing or too.
Spain’s history is a complicated one. It’s history is full of tales of exploration, badly behaving royals, a persistent struggle for cultural uniqueness, and several often violent struggles between religions. This struggle between religions and cultures has left a unique mark on Spanish culture and architecture. This blending of Moorish and Christian styles is Spain’s alone.
When to Go?
If you can pick any time to spend in Spain, go for shoulder seasons. I would avoid mid-summer, it’s just terribly hot (there is a reason all the towns are white). We went in February. Most of the time it was lovely but we did have some chilly days and used our heater. Easter can be a big deal if you want to go during a festival. We stayed through Mardi Gras … oops I mean Carnival (date varies) and really enjoyed the carnival atmosphere.
Travel Concerns for Americans
Spain is part of the Schengen group of countries (mostly EU countries). What this means it that as an American you can stay up to 90 days out of 180 days total for all of these countries. So if you spent 30 days in Copenhagen, you can stay up to 60 in Spain then you have to get out or face being banned from the EU (that just sounds like a really bad thing). We jumped up to Ireland when our time was up.
How to get there
Affordable flights to Europe (and especially between European Cities) are becoming easier to find. Consider flying in to Seville, Madrid, Barcelona or even Lisbon (4 hours from Seville). I found flights in to Lisbon to be the most economical as well as a great addition to our trip.
How to get around
Renting a car is probably the easiest way to explore Spain. You can, however, take a train or the bus. If you want to take a side trip to Morocco consider a ferry.
Where to Stay
Spain has a great variety of choices when looking for lodging. We stayed in an AirBnB in Olvera Spain for $700 for the month. If you have time to stay a month or longer the cost can be very affordable. I also looked at VRBO and found both sites to be very comparable. FaceBook groups like worldschoolers Andalusia can be a great resource for fabulous lodging (and connections). Spain can also make a great area to rent a camper van and explore. We try to stay a month to save money. For shorted trips hotels may make a better option.
What to Eat
Spain has a completely different internal clock. People don’t generally eat breakfast (except for may be a coffee and danish). Lunch is around 2pm and dinner is around 10 pm. Most stores will close between 2-4 pm for siesta (or basically family time). We could not make this work for our schedule so we just ate breakfast at our rental and packed a lunch (usually fresh bread, cheese, and fruit). Occasionally we’d get a tapa mid afternoon then we’d eat dinner at home. If you easily transition into the Spanish time schedule – great but if not, you still won’t starve. Finding food the kids would eat was also generally easy.
Spain is famous for its Tapas (or small appetizer portions). Since this is our favorite way to eat at home we fell right into the snacking lifestyle. Ask the waiter what’s best and enjoy – each cafe will usually have a specialty. Most of the cafes are open air and I just loved enjoying lovely dishes while the kids played nearby. My favorite drink in Andalusia was the tinto de verano which translates to “red wine of summer.” This drink is a mixture of local red wine and lemon-aid. I may have gotten a few strange looks for requesting it in the middle or winter but … it was worth it. It’s a recipe that’s easy to replicate and I now frequently make it at home.
To tip in Spain we generally just rounded up. Tips are not expected in most places but rounding up is appreciated. We occasionally would round up to the next euro. Some of the higher end restaurants may have service included or you may leave a 5-10 % tip. Also don’t expect your server to hover. European eating is not rushed. You will need to ask your server to bring the bill otherwise you may be there all afternoon. Many times we had to politely find our server inside when our kids were getting ready to move on.
How much do things cost?
Spain is very affordable. Our rental was $700 for the month. We bought food in the local stores which was less than the states. Restaurants were also less than the states (but not by a lot since the Euro did not do us many favors). Attractions are comparable to what we pay in the US. A traffic ticket was $100 cash on the spot – oops, got lost and made a U-turn at a bad time. Wine is cheaper (and better). The best place to buy groceries were from the morning drivers. Each truck had a different honk for bread, vegetables and propane. The days we got our timing right (and bravery) we’d step outside our rental when we heard the honks and would get a bag of fresh bread or veggies for about $2 – it was fabulous.
How’s the Internet / Cell Service?
Our internet and cell phone situation is very first on our list of – “what we would do better next time.” Our daily routine would let us explore in the morning then my husband would log in to work from 2-10 pm for his US company. We were staying in the little town of Olvera, Spain. It was not uncommon for our house internet to go down and it was very slow compared to US standards. We had a difficult time with it. Our cell phones could have been a good back-up plan but our timing did not seem to always work to get the best service (plus we were often being cheap). Next time we’re going to do our research better and be more prepared with back-up solutions when the main internet is down. I’d say this one of the major fixes we could have made to make a big difference in this part of our trip.
What to wear
Short answer: Layers and light, comfortable clothing.
We lost my son’s clothing in the Copenhagen airport just prior to this trip. We bought him 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts and 5 pairs of underwear and he was great for the next 2 months. I found that when we packed less our stress level was less. We were more mobile and could adjust easier.
Summer is Southern Spain is hot so very light weight clothing is best. We also found that very few places have driers. You will need to hang up your clothes to dry so quick dry clothes that don’t wrinkle are a great choice. Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes for hikes and biking and a more stylish pair that will not hurt after walking up and down hills. Walking around the towns and cities is one of my favorite things to do in Spain and you will do a lot of it. Go for stylish comfort.
In winter, I like layers. Comfortable and stylish light weight pants (or hiking pants for outdoor days), a base under shirt (bring short and long sleeve) and a light jacket. I did bring a long-john layer which we did occasionally wear but not often. Thin layers are best (and dry better with hanging up).
Family Travel Photos from Andalusia Spain
It’s hard to get a bad photo in such a beautiful country. Here are some of my favorites from our time in Spain.
Things to Do in Andalusia Spain for Families
Explore a Beautiful Spanish City
Explore a city or town. Spain has a wide variety of lovely cities and towns – all with their unique personality My favorite thing to do in Spain is to stroll the alleys in these wonderful cities and towns. Be sure to put your walking shoes on. My hubby lost quite a bit of weight trekking up and down the hills of our little town.
Visit the sites
The churches, palaces, castles and monasteries of Spain are fabulous. These historical structures have been well preserved and can make such an immersive experience. They’re so beautiful that history can be fun for anyone.
Spain has some wonderful well-maintained biking trails.
Get your Foodie on
Spain’s tapas are famous. Spain comes alive after dusk. Right after dusk can be the best time to enjoy the Spanish atmosphere. Families and friends hang out and kids play in the streets until well after 10pm.
Soak in some Music and a Show.
Most areas of Spain are immersed in music. It was not uncommon for us to be strolling and just happen apun a group at dinner at a cafe, stringing a guitar while the kids played soccer in a nearby courtyard. If you’re in Seville a Flamenco show is a must. The dancing is very passionate and the music is fabulous.
Go to a Playground
Playgrounds are everywhere in Spain. Most days we loved strolling playground to playground. This also helped our kids find other kids to play with. Without so many playgrounds our travel experience would not have been nearly as good.
Festivals and Events
Easter can be a very popular time to visit. Many cities have their own special celebrations. Carnival is also a good choice. The most popular celebration on the mainland is Cadiz but we found lovely celebrations in Malaga and our home base Olvera.
How to World-school in Spain
I like to try and immerse ourselves in the culture when we travel as well as visiting most of the typical sites. Many of the cities and towns will have churches and palaces that make fabulous history lessons. You can also find Spanish immersion classes in most towns. I highly recommend joining the World-school Andalusia Facebook group if you’re spending time in the Andalusia area. This group is a fabulous resource and a great way to make lifelong friends.
Articles and Blog Posts on Spain
10 Fabulous Itineraries for an Epic Road Trip through Southern Spain Andalusia in Southern Spain is one of the most popular areas of Spain to explore for good reason. Andalusia is full of history, culture, and amazing vistas. A road trip to...read more
Olvera Spain - Family Travel with Kids Olvera, Spain is a wonderful small city in the Andalusia area of Spain. Olvera is one of the beautiful Pueblo Blancos. These white washed cities have the feeling of a wedding train tumbling down a hill. Other...read more
One Day in Seville Spain with Kids Seville is a city that is fun to get lost in. It's a beautiful city and has its own special magic. It's a wonderful choice for both family and long-term travel. How to Get to Seville and Travel Around Seville Seville has...read more
Carnival in Olvera Spain with Kids Most of our stay in Andalusia we called Olvera, Spain our home. We took several day trips from Olvera to explore but we decided to skip our planned trip to Cadiz for Carnival. We were just too tired and needed a travel break. Luckily...read more
How to Plan the Best Family Day Trip to Cordoba Spain Day with Kids My kids (especially my son) loved Cordoba, Spain and we did too. It's still one of my favorite cities. Cordoba is about 2 hours from our home base in Andalusia - Olvera, Spain. The drive from...read more
Skiing in Spain - Sierra Nevada Ski in Sierra Nevada Spain Skiing in Sierra Nevada Spain in the Andalusia area of Spain is a wonderful addition to any winter trip to Spain. Andalusia is a beautiful area rich in history, activities and culture. Generally...read more
Our Day Trip to Beautiful Ronda, Spain - with Kids Ronda was my inspiration city for this part of our trip to Spain. It's a beautiful, white town built on the side of a cliff with lots of small wondering lanes to get lost in - and the views ... amazing. It's a...read more
Carnival in Malaga with Kids We love Carnival (or Mardi Gras as we call it in the Southern US). Since we moved to Colorado we’ve been in serious withdrawals. Luckily for us, Spain has Carnival and also lucky for us it was a great place to take the kids. We...read more
Family Travel to Gibraltar Gibraltar has been really high on our wish list of places to visit and since it was only 2 1/2 hours from our house for the month – why not. Gibraltar is actually part of the UK not Spain and it takes it’s British roots seriously. It’s...read more
On our way to Gibraltar we decided to take a little beach detour. We stopped at the seaside town of Estepona. We grabbed a quick lunch at a great McDonald's. When we are home we probably eat at McDonald's twice a year. However, when you have a car full of hungry kids,...read more
Where to go in Spain for Family Travel
The Most Popular Areas of Spain for Travel
Each of Spain’s regions have different customs, food, festivals and even languages. For our trip, we chose to stick with Andalusia for the culture, beach and those beautiful white washed towns.
Andalusia is the Southern Coast of Spain and in my opinion (obviously because that’s where we went) is one of the best areas to spend a Spanish vacation. The area offers wonderful culturally rich and historic towns and cities, super fun beaches, skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, beautiful white washed towns that tumble down hills and miles and miles of scenic vineyards and olive groves.
Some of the best cities to visit are:
Seville is the capital of Andalusia and the third largest city in Spain. It is famous for it;s wonderful small streets and the classic flamenco dance. Seville’s Gothic Cathedral is the main attraction of that city. Seville is home to some amazing historical attractions. The top 3 attractions include the Royal Alcazar de Seville (a wonderful palace built by a Christian King on a Moorish fortress). If this palace looks familiar to Game of Throne fans there is a good reason. This grounds are huge and it’s absolutely beautiful. If you have time, spend a full day. Buy your tickets ahead of time or face a long line (that you can skip if you pay for a guide – English guides are available.
Seville is also home to the Cathedral de Seville which is not only an amazing structure it also houses the remains of Christopher Columbus. The first time we went, the church was closed for a private function so we went back and I’m glad we did. This beautiful church definitely goes in to my do not miss pile.
When you’re in Seville you also must see the Plaza de Espana. This is such a wonderful area to explore and relax. The day we went an entertainer was blowing bubbles for the kids who just had a blast. This area hosts several festivals and is such an iconic location.
Cordoba is probably our favorite city in Spain. The kids (and parents too) just loved the Mezquita de Cordoba. This is the most unique place I’ve ever been. It’s basically as if a large Christian church wizard of oz’d itself into the middle of an architecturally amazing mosque. The kids called the mosque the candy-cane mosque but thankfully they didn’t lick anything.
The street and atmosphere of Cordoba was also one of our favorites. We did a day trip but I highly recommend giving this wonderful city more time.
Granada is another Andalusia city that’s full of character and history. The Alhambra that sits at the top of the city and is great to explore. Our favorite part? – It’s about 30 minutes to the Sierra Nevada ski resort.
Ronda and the White Washed Towns
A little inland from the coast of Andalusia you’ll find some of the most beautiful white washed towns. We stayed in Olvera but there are several that are just as pretty. Regardless of which ones you visit I highly recommend spending a day (or more) in Ronda. It’s just beautiful especially with it’s famous “new bridge.”
Malaga and the Costa de Sol
Malaga is one of the larger cities on the Costa de Sol (Spain’s south coast). This area is full of beaches that are lined with playgrounds, cafe’s, boardwalks and other activities that encourage you to stroll the day away. Malaga and the surrounding area would make a great base for a long term stay.
Side trip to Gabraltar and Morocco
Gibraltar is not in Spain (it’s English) but it’s also really, really close and is a super fun day trip. Enjoy crossing the border (and airport), British atmosphere (fish in chips and phone booths), wonderful views (you can see Africa from here) and … the apes (so cute – just don’t get bit). Morocco is just a ferry away.
The Rest of Spain
There are many other very popular areas that would make a great long term family travel trip in Spain. I’ll have to get to those later 🙂
Please feel free to search through all of our Family Travel to Spain Resources. We enjoyed 6 weeks in Andalusia starting in Jan 2017 through mid February as part of our year long family travel gap year.
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Where to learn more about Andalusia Spain
Want to learn more about this area of Spain? We loved watching Rick Steves shows on the area. We learned a lot, it helped with planning and the kids were really excited about seeing places they first learned about on the videos.