We had a bunch of great reasons to pick up our lives and move to Denmark – the fantastic position at LEGO, the opportunity to experience life abroad, all the herring and licorice you can eat, and of course, the chance to travel a lot! Everything in Europe is so close, and there’s so much to see, so we are hoping to pack in as much as possible!
Shortly after we got settled in here, B and I hopped on ryanair.com – Europe’s low-fares airline – to see which flights were available during Christmas week. We only had a few choices left out of Billund, given the late date: London, Málaga, and Tenerife.
I spent Christmas break in London 20 years ago with my family, and remember it as very dark and cold – so, not much different than Billund. We had no idea where the other two places were, so after checking Google Maps, we learned that Málaga is on the Costa Del Sur in southern Spain. Easy decision! (Tenerife is in the Canary Islands, which could have also been a lovely time, but we are more interested in cities and sightseeing than lazing around the beach for a week – though we managed to do that too!)
After booking the flights, we spent a lot of time doing research online (mainly TripAdvisor forums, Google Maps, and Yelp) to plan our itinerary so that we could see as much as possible during the week. Andalusia – the southern region of Spain – encompasses many fascinating sights and cities, including Granada, Seville, Gibraltar, Málaga and the Costa Del Sur, Cádiz, and a tiny little town called Ronda (friends on Facebook told us about that one), but we knew we wouldn’t be able to do it all – especially with two kids in tow.
We are also pretty leery of pre-planned tours – we prefer freedom and spontaneity, even if it means more work and uncertainty, plus we don’t like the whole herding-around-thing with 70 other people, getting on-and-off a bus all day long. (We did a Mediterranean cruise in 2011 for our 5th anniversary and had a wonderful time on our own – we saw way more of Malta in one day than you could have done with several of the ship excursions back-to-back!)
- Lodging: We chose to split our time between hotels and AirBnB, which we’d never used before – partially to save some money, but also just for the experience.
- Transportation: We also didn’t want the hassle of a car (parking, gas, insurance), so there was a lot of planning and research to figure out how we would get from point to point.
- Christmas: Another big challenge was also to figure out where to stay on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, since many places in Spain shut down for the holiday so that everyone can stay at home with their families. A lovely idea, but we didn’t want to be stuck somewhere for almost two days with not many options.
After we chose our itinerary, we found places to stay via AirBnB and Yelp. It really helps to know what you want to do in each city first, and how you’re going to get around. Then you can choose apartments and hotels by cross-referencing locations via Google Maps to ensure that you are going to be staying in the right places, without spending a fortune on buses or taxis. We did really well in this respect.
Here’s what we planned out:
- Day 1: Fly into Málaga and stay at an AirBnB apartment near the bus stop and city center.
- Day 2: Take a bus from Málaga to Granada and stay at an AirBnB apartment in the city center for two days. Explore the city.
- Day 3: Explore Granada and visit the Alhambra, a 14th-century Moorish palace.
- Day 4 (Christmas Eve): Return to Málaga via bus, then take a train to the beach town of Torremolinos. Stay at a hotel on the beach for the remainder of the week.
- Day 5 (Christmas Day): Downtime on the beach!
- Day 6: Day trip to Ronda via bus, back to Torremolinos by evening.
- Day 7: More time in Málaga or on the beach.
- Day 8: Fly back home to Denmark!
I know that sounds like a lot of work and planning – that’s what travel agents are for – but this sort of thing is fun for me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like 100 years ago – or even 50 years ago – without the Internet, maps, GPS, Google Translate, Rick Steves, and a world’s worth of helpful fellow travelers eager to share their knowledge and experience on Facebook and forums. I’d love to read some classic travel memoirs to find out. For now, though, it’s time to write our own!
Please share your own travel planning tips and tricks below!