Our First European Family Trip: Part 1

A Spanish Christmas Vacation Turned Neighborhood Scouting Adventure

Part #1: The Prep

We've been wanting to take a family vacation to Europe for a while.  There are just so many places to visit, a great deal or a new exciting location always seemed to keep us from it.  But early 2022 we made the decision to finally pack our bags for Spain.  So that was it, it was decided .... Spain for Christmas 2022!  So exciting, especially since by then we had already been discussing the serious transition to move there permanently.  Ray and I were excited to share Spain with the kids.

I started the search and did my usual, Travelocity is my  current favorite online site and of course our personal friend and travel agent, Sheila with Carefree Romantic Vacations (but don't let the name full you, she does WAY more than just romantic get-a-ways and has helped this busy momma plan several family vacations - just the BEST!).   When searching for vacations for families, I have really relied on Sheila and Travelocity, as well as AirBNB .  When the kids were younger, just getting two hotel rooms because we are five people was annoying, so renting an AirBNB was great - especially if I searched for one with a kitchen and laundry!  Being able to cook a meal or two at the rental gave us more flexibility to spend more money on excursions and have fun out ... not just eating at restaurants.  When using the travel sites to search for flights, I use the 'vacation bundle'.  This allows me to see if I can get the flights AND a place to stay ..... spoiler alert, when you bundle, you generally get a better deal.  AND, the reason I personally like Travelocity more these days is that I don't actually have to search for a hotel/room for the whole time of our flights - meaning, I can say I only need a room for part of my vacation and they will still give me some bundle pricing and we're not stuck in the same city for the whole vacation.  It totally helps and most of the other sites do NOT do this option.

So there I was, back in March 2022 and just doing some searches so that I could get a feel of how much it was going to cost me to get all five of us to Spain for Christmas and boom.... Travelocity came through with a great deal for a flight and room (apartment) rental for about $600 (US) each.  That was roundtrip from LAX and four nights in Barcelona once we land.  The perfect price and a great amount of time to settle in after a long flight overseas and adjust to the time change a bit and even be tourist in Barcelona before moving on to our next destinations.  Goal = see as much of Spain as possible in just over two weeks time.

Being the good geographer that I am, I promptly went to my local AAA office and got the country map of Spain and we pinned it to the TV room wall.  Ordered a few small touristy books and even printed the train maps so we could start plotting out an efficient route.  Brooklyn & I got some push pins and started marking places as 'Please Visit' or 'Possibly Move Here'.    We were starting to make some progress ....then, boom....

Ray had a great conversation with his boss and wouldn't you know it?  Apparently his company was planning to open an office in Valencia SPAIN!  And it definitely went in our favor.   If he was willing to work and help from there for a while, then it would be easier for us to go through this international process.  So, um yeah... We can live in Valencia for a while!  So pretty much overnight, we went from planning a 2+ week vacation all over most of Spain to try and see what city/region we might like the most, to spending pretty much that entire 2+ weeks in Valencia, trying to narrow down actual neighborhoods!

So, we're just about ready to head  out!  We are still flying in to Barcelona, and still get to play tourists there for the few days on our travel bundle, then off we go.  Taking the train and heading down the coast to Valencia and trying to pop around to a few different neighborhoods and check out as much as we can.   Visiting a place as a prospective NEIGHBORHOOD is going to be completely different.  Where is the school for Ethan & Brooklyn?  Can I walk to most everything?   We'll need to be checking things out as if we live there AND still try and have some vacation fun at the same time.

It shouldn't be hard though, Valencia looks absolutely amazing and I have no doubt that we will find a few areas that entice us to live.  Have you been to Valencia, Spain?   If you were moving, what are some neighborhood checklist must-haves that YOU would be looking for? 

Stephanie Carnes December 12, 2022
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