Travelling is fun and one of my favourite things to do. But if you don’t have somewhere suitable to stay, it can become a total nightmare.
I’m a self confessed ‘home bird’. When we're travelling, I need to have somewhere that feels inviting and relaxing. Whether it’s a hotel room or a long term rental, accommodation is always one of the most important aspects of planning a trip to me. When we were deciding on where to stay for our time in Portugal, we really wanted to find somewhere perfect.
Going through IVF is hard enough, so the least we could do is have someplace great to stay.
Coimbra is a beautiful city, south of Porto and where our clinic, Ferticentro is located. There were so many options for accommodation that it was hard to narrow it down.
Hotel vs Apartment:
One of my pet peeves with hotels is not catering to families travelling with young children. Yes, a large family room might have the space for you all to sleep in it, but what about when the baby goes to bed at 7pm. What do you and your partner do then? It’s so much easier to stay in a place that has at least two rooms so the baby can go to bed and then you can have your dinner and relax for the evening. A lot of hotels don’t seem to understand this. However we did find a few options that have ‘suites’ with two rooms in them.
Hotel Dona Ines was a great option at the very reasonable rate of €80 per night for a suite, plus breakfast and parking.
Most clinics you go to abroad will have partnerships with local hotels and they are usually able to arrange the accommodation for you if you prefer. Ferticentro were able to arrange hotel accommodation for us, but in the end we decided to find an apartment.
Pinheiro de Coja:
In the end we decided that Air B+B was going to be the best option. The online marketplace/hospitality service has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Prices can be similar to a hotel, but can work out much better value if you are able to do your own cooking. We’ve definitely been more comfortable in long term stays when staying in a house or apartment.
We found Sara’s place in Pinheiro De Coja, which is approx 40 minutes from Coimbra. While it was a little bit further from the clinic than we would have liked, it was perfect for what we needed. And very reasonable rates starting at €65 a night.
Here are some things to bear in mind when booking an apartment or house for your stay:
City vs Country We definitely prefer to stay a bit out of the city when travelling. It’s great to be able to go for day trips, but when you want to relax in the quiet, there is nothing better than absolute silence with only the sheep and birds for noise. Most mornings I’ve been taking Ava out for a long walk. Really is there anything better than all that fresh air?
Heating When travelling in Portugal and other parts of Europe, it’s important to note that many places do not have central heating. As we arrived after a particularly cold spell, it could have been disastrous. However Sara kindly gave us two heaters, plus unlimited wood for the fire stove. We used them for the first couple of days, and then for most of our time here, the weather has really improved.
Quiet I think you sometimes underestimate the importance of quiet. For us, we like to be able to go to bed without listening to crazy parties or constant traffic. It’s been super quiet here, with the exception of some dogs barking from time to time.
Wifi Some people like to be ‘cut off’ from the world but I find it very important to have good wifi. Especially when staying for an extended period and if you need to work on a laptop. Or if there is no TV and you want to use Netflix or other streaming services. Some places advertise as having Wifi and then it’s ‘not working’ when you get there. Always double check!
Animals Lots of home have dogs and other animals. If you are scared or allergic, you’d better check beforehand. Sara has 2 dogs, which is fine with us, but definitely something to bear in mind, especially travelling with young children.
Bath Seems like such a small thing, but it’s important for us to have a bath where we stay. At home, Ava gets a bath most nights. She loves it and it’s part of her normal routine. Showers aren’t as fun for toddlers and it’s great at the end of a long day to let her play for a half hour in the bubbles.
Kitchen We both love to cook and have always preferred to do our own cooking rather than eat out. Having a stove, fridge and microwave makes a huge difference. We feel better because we aren’t eating out for 3 weeks, plus it’s much better financially. It gives us all a sense of being at home.
Playtime Ava is usually up and ready to play at 7am. So we need places to explore. There is only so much tv you can watch! Literally outside our door is a big playground, a basketball court and a trampoline. There’s also a pool table, a sand box and a swimming pool. Although we came out of season so the pool isn’t in use at the minute. There’s also loads of nature trails and plenty of small villages to explore nearby.
Those are my tips for when booking a place to stay. Hope they are helpful! And in case you forgot from previous posts, here are a few reminders about renting a car abroad….
We always bring Ava’s car seat with us when travelling. It is free to bring a child’s car seat, no matter what airline you use. We always stuff extra nappies and blankets into the bag with the car seat too, so we get a bit of extra space for free. You save money not renting one from a car rental company as they usually charge extortionate fees, plus they will probably give you a car seat that’s not necessarily the safest. We brought Ava’s Joie Spin 360 Extended Rear Facing car seat with us.
Your own car insurance, travel insurance and credit card usually cover the cost of any accidents you might have. So we always decline the optional extra insurance. They try to scare you, but trust me, you're insured!
Happy booking and happy travelling!