driving to Portugal from UK with kids in tow... anyone ever done it?

(261 Posts)
sammyjayneex Sun 29-Nov-15 15:18:46

It's all in the title really. Just wondering if anyone has ever done it. DH has been invited to a family wedding In Portugal (Lisbon) and wants us all to go. He doesn't want to fly because of all the fiasco that comes with flying for example... Luggage allowance and all the extra costs, the flight tickets cost so much for 4 children and 2 adults and trying to keep children quiet and occupied on a plane ect and also because it's just after Christmas and the wedding was announced last minute it's going to be difficult to get flights at short notice. Also he said it's an experience because kids will get to see parts of France and we will spend the day in Spain on the way back and sleep over there. He also wants to do something special as it's our daughters 5th birthday on the 29th December.

Now I'm worried about it all. He's said he's thought it through and has every bit of the trip planned. I don't want to say no because I never went on any trips and never went abroad when I was a kid and I want my kids to experience things. He said we will be getting the ferry at Dover and we will sleep over in small hotels on the way and one of them will be in France. On the way back we will stay in a hotel in Spain too. Accommodation in Portugal is being sorted out by his family.

It's a long journey but I'm prepared to do it for my kids and we will make lots of preparations and make regular stops. He doesn't mind driving and has drove to London and back on the same day ( picking his family up at airport). Has anyone ever done it and how was it?

We have had a lot of problems recently and I'm actually surprised he's suggested us all to go.

Is it a stupid thing to do?

I told my mum and she said its sounds exciting and will be fun for the kids if planned properly and their dad has said she's welcome to come along ( if she can contribute to her hotel costs ect). if she can get time off work and it's extra help for us with kids. ( he has a 7 seater car)
She likes the idea of coming too.

It's actually cheaper adding it all up than going by flight and with us sharing the cost too.

So has anyone got any tips or ideas I would be grateful.

nuttybananas Sun 29-Nov-15 15:42:22

Since dd was born we have done lengthy European road trips involving one or 2 night stays.
The key for us is flexibility - we don't pre book hotels so we aren't on a schedule (other than the ferry we're booked on). It means that a 15 minute toilet stop can become a 2 hour stop because theres a good kids playground and the weather is nice. so we don't get stressed if we then hit an unexpected traffic jam or roadworks which can further delay us.
When dd is asleep we keep moving rather than stop and wake her up, if that's over a typical meal break then we snack in the car.
We don't eat big heavy meals but we do try to have something 'proper' at least once a day. generally find european service stations have better meal options than uk (we do more belgium/Germany though not suee if that applies in france/spain) we travel with fairly boring snacks that are less messy - crumbs are easy to clean up but no chocolate/yoghurt/sticky sweets. We like bread sticks, nut mixes, mini cheddar biscuits, grapes, apples, and drink water rather than too many sticky juices.
hope some of that helps

Blu Sun 29-Nov-15 16:02:44

Has he added in the road tolls, insuring the car to drive in Europe and all the hotel costs? The road tolls are expensive, driving down through France.

Tbh I am surprised it works out cheaper than a Sale seat on EasyJet or Ryan Air or another low cost airline if you don't need to take more than one checked bag between you plus your hand luggage. But I suppose with 4 kids it does.

Do you live miles from Dover, so adding a long stint either side on this country?

Personally I do not enjoy long car journeys, and especially as the days will be so short / dark evenings at this time of year. And I am amazed that someone who worries about keeping kids occupied on a very short flight thinks that long days strapped in a car seat will be better!

But I admit I am a bit wimpy about these long drives and plenty of people do it every summer.

How many days on all will you have for the round trip?

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 29-Nov-15 19:24:29

How many driving days are being allowed both for the drive to and from Lisbon?.

TBH I would rather fly with your children to Lisbon instead; have you seen how far south Lisbon actually is on a map?. Its a heck of a drive there and back through France and Spain. Road tolls in France and Spain are costly.

R0nJ0n Sun 29-Nov-15 19:36:30

We did it a couple of years ago, two five year olds, one baby and three adults. DH and I (and DD) do a lot of long European and US road trips though so it wasn't out of the ordinary for us.

In car entertainment for the children really makes a difference. We have a portable DVD player and over the years have amassed a big children's DVD library, mostly via eBay and charity shops. We also always fill a box with things for DD to do, mostly puzzle books and note books for drawing and colouring in and she has a lap tray for this. She also always travels with her own pillow, both in the car and on flights, it does seem to help her comfort.

We take a cool box and refill it with drinks and food on route. we usually have bread, cold meats, cheese, fruit and crisps in the box and stop at picnic areas for quick meals. If you're doing this don't forget knives for spreading and chopping, a chopping board and some kitchen wipes for "washing up" after.

People often balk at the idea of long road trips, but if you're prepared they're fine.

BanburyBun Sun 29-Nov-15 19:41:07

We've driven from the UK to Faro twice in two years with 3 DS and the dog - they were quite young when we did it (11,9,5 last time) Fastest trip took 3 days as we wanted to get there for a family event but that was hard work, it was far more enjoyable taking a few days and breaking it up - and you get to see a bit more of France and Spain. We stayed at campsites with swimming pool / other facilities so that the boys could expend some energy. We planned roughly where to stop but didn't pre book
We had DVD player, story tapes and gameboys to help entertain them in the car. Also played a lot of I Spy etc! We had some great times and I would do it again - in fact planning to next year but the two eldest are 20 and 18 so little chance of them coming!

SwedishEdith Sun 29-Nov-15 19:47:31

I wouldn't do it from Calais. I'd look at getting the ferry to either Santander (but that's not cheap and will be rough at that time of year) or St Malo. You can easily drive to Biarritz in a day from there. I love long car journeys but I'm not sure kids do.

Where in the UK are you if you mention driving to London and back in a day as unusual?

cuntycowfacemonkey Sun 29-Nov-15 19:52:14

Sounds like my idea of hell and definately can't see how it will be cheaper. Flights to Faro in January are pretty cheap and if you fly with ryanair for example you can take 10kg of hand luggage each for free plus a rucksack sized back each. We did this and it was more than enough for a week away.

cestlavielife Sun 29-Nov-15 19:52:47

I used to dio lomdon to n spain. In summer fine. You can stop . play in good service areas playgrounds woods. Head off autoroute etc. maybe go coastal route.

In winter no. It will be wet windy cold. Its mid winter !! Short daylight hours. Stops in service stations dashing thru rain.

Seeing wet and windy towns. Not v pleasant.

Also if you are 4 kids 2 adults you will need 2 hotel rooms . Plus a third if another adult.

He is being unrealistic.
Adding in hotel costs tolls petrol it won't be much cheaper...

In summer you could get ferry to bilbao and drive down thru Spain.

Do it on summer first but west France and thru Portugal in winter is not going to be lovely sunny stops for picnics.

Mellifera Sun 29-Nov-15 19:57:14

We drove to Greece this summer, but we were away for most of the summer holidays. Had a great time, it was fun, and it was very, very expensive.

Doing it for a few days sounds mad. Anything under 3 weeks at the actual holiday destination would be torture for me.

Lweji Sun 29-Nov-15 20:00:15

I've done the long trip but with no kids.
When we moved back we came by car with ds and the cat (!), but we took the ferry to Santander from Portsmouth. We relaxed in the evening and managed to get to the north of Portugal well in time for dinner. Then the trip to Lisbon takes about 5 hours tops.
DS was 5 then.

cestlavielife Sun 29-Nov-15 20:00:26

Look at the December weather averages for the towns you will pass through. It's going to be cold and probably wet. Not fun .

In summer yes sure. Can be an adventure. In winter no way.

Lweji Sun 29-Nov-15 20:03:53

That was April, btw.

Also remember that it gets dark early in December.

sammyjayneex Sun 29-Nov-15 20:43:09

The wedding is in December so can't rearrange the trip. The main reasons for driving is having our own space in the car, not getting stressed trying to fit luggage in bags and not having enough room and having to make do with very little. With 4 kids and 2 adults (just counting me and DH and kids here) will need lots of things. The trip altogether will be 9 days. The other reasons are that we get to see more things whilst we can, (Spain and France). Having no car whilst there meaning we would have some difficulty getting around and having to rely on the transport over there. Also we can't get flights on the cheapest deals for the days we wanted and we would miss the wedding. Like I said the wedding is short notice.

I dunno what to think now.....

cestlavielife Sun 29-Nov-15 22:05:43

Lisbon transport is fine . Is it in Lisbon itself ? Look at train tickets incl overnight ?

What sight seeing will you do in the cold/ wet/ rain en route ? In the short daylight hours ? In between cities you have hours of driving with not much to see as it will be cold and windy/wet. In summer yes stop at coaSt. Stop at small french towns. Nice. Winter _ forget it.

How much do you go out sight seeing in uk in winter ?

It's late notice for a late December wedding. If too expensive to fly then just h can go and you all go in summer when yes you can make a journey of it.

cestlavielife Sun 29-Nov-15 22:11:02

Cities are fine in winter but the countryside and service stations en route are not a bundle of fun. Plus there may be severe rain storms. If you had already done the journey it in summer and knew what you were in for you could make informed choice but it just sounds madness to make your first long trip there in mid winter. Find the money to fly and have a great time in Lisbon. Save the road trip for spring or summer.

Lweji Sun 29-Nov-15 22:40:24

Don't worry too much about the countryside roads. You'll find yourself mostly in motorways anyway. But much less chance for sightseeing.
I'd definitely take the ferry if there are available spaces and save on the French bit of the journey. The kids would enjoy it.
If you go to bed early and start at sun rise each morning you can enjoy it a bit.
TBH December is not too bad for storms, although you could get snow en route. If you do come by car, make sure your car is prepared for the possibility of snow or ice.

Lisbon is ok for sightseeing around Christmas. It will be cold, but not UK cold. There is quite a lot you can do indoors with the children and there's outside animation as well.

Costacoffeeplease Sun 29-Nov-15 22:49:05

My husband drives from the Algarve to the uk and back regularly - every 6 weeks on average - but he gets the ferry from Santander/Bilbao. I don't think there's much point in driving through France this time of year and 9 days for the round trip is pushing it a bit

You don't need a car in Lisbon, in fact it will probably be easier without one - I think I'd fly and do the drive when the weather is a bit more reliable

Lweji Sun 29-Nov-15 23:02:51

I've just checked the flight costs and they are quite steep. I can see why you are thinking of travelling by car. But the overnight ferries may be full for the dates you want.
You'd have to come before Christmas.

It's fine to drive in Lisbon. Parking is not as bad as in London. But you can also leave the car at home and use public transport or taxis (probably cheaper than the full single ticket price for the whole family for short trips).

Blu Mon 30-Nov-15 05:04:10

Can you get trains to Lisbon, I wonder ?

Jenijena Mon 30-Nov-15 05:35:14

There's a site - via Michelin - that will calculate the road costs. Just looked at Birmingham (totally random non London city)-Lisbon and its $122 Euro in tolls each way, and 26 hours driving.

I've done Italy and back several times, but I can't say I'd fancy your journey in 9 days. 52 hours in a car over nine days would be nearly six hours a day, and presumably you'll spend a couple of days not driving?

Lweji Mon 30-Nov-15 07:41:35

You could get trains, but I'm not sure it would be that much better with the necessary connections and the cost. And the issue of availability.

poocatcherchampion Mon 30-Nov-15 07:51:01

I think it basic all boils down to how adventurous you are as a family.

I think it sounds great fun but am experienced in camping and long journeys and quite familiar witg western Europe. If you are not and like things to follow a pre made plan you may hate it!!

Other alternative I'd get childcare and fly with just dh? Only since yoy mentioned you are working on your relationship - perhaps a break together would be good?

80sWaistcoat Mon 30-Nov-15 07:52:49

Be prepared for the ferry to be grim this time of year, lots of sea sickness tablets.

Ohthepressure Mon 30-Nov-15 07:56:46

How much luggage would you get in a 7 seater with 7 people in it? I wouldn't have thought you'd have much room to spare, and you'd need to pack food for the trip in case your travels coincide with weekends, evening arrivals in small villages and general Xmas closures in what will be pretty bleak towns on midwinter.

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