Travelling to the Azores with a baby

As we were planning for our first family vacation with our 9 month-old to the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, Portugal, I searched the internet for whatever information I could find about travelling to this destination with a baby. Unfortunately, my searches came up short.

Now that we are back from our vacation and I have collected the information first hand, I wanted to share it in hopes that I could help another family out. So here is what you need to know about travelling to Sao Miguel with a baby as well as some of my tips and recommendations:

The Flight

  1. Fly direct if you can. For us, this was one of our criteria when choosing a travel destination now that we are flying with a baby. We absolutely wanted a direct flight. For my fellow Montreal, Canadians, you can find direct flights with the Azores airlines on Thursdays only. On other days, expect a stop in Toronto.
  2. The flight is relatively short. The flight was 5h15 minutes. Not too long and very do-able with a baby.
  3. Opt for an overnight flight. Like any new mom taking a flight with her baby for the first time, I was terrified that my daughter would cry the entire way and disturb everyone on the plane. But the exact opposite happened. With the lights dimmed and her being exhausted from her day, she slept the entire flight, both there and back.

Lodging

  1. Rent an apartment. We rented an apartment through Airbnb (www.airbnb.ca) and it was a very positive experience. An apartment offers all the conveniences of home, within the same price range (or less) as renting a hotel. Our host set us up with a crib and high chair, so we didn’t need to worry about bringing these from home. Also, having all appliances at our disposal, we were able to have some meals at the apartment, which was not only super convenient with a baby, but it also cut our costs.
  2. Choose a central location. Sao Miguel is a relatively small island (even though it is the biggest island in the Azores). This means that all the main sites are easily accessible by car and are a relatively short drive away if you are centrally located. We opted to stay in Sao Roque, which is a 15 min drive from the airport. This turned out to be a great decision. Not only were we close to the airport, but we were also close to the city center of Ponta Delgada, we had a nice beach across the street from our apartment, a grocery store and restaurants close by, and most of the sites were within a 45 minute drive. The farthest sites were about an hour and thirty minutes away. Tip: although the sites were close by, plan extra time to get to where you want to go because there are lookout points everywhere and they are almost all worth the stop.

Car rental

  1. Rent a car. It is really the only way to get around. Unless, you are open to guided tours. However, with a baby, we wanted the convenience and freedom of knowing we could head back to the apartment on a whim if we needed to.
  2. Car rental is very affordable. Compared to other destinations in which we have rented a car, car rentals in the Azores is a fraction of the price. Make sure you have the proper car insurance coverage before you leave. If you don’t, plan on purchasing it.
  3. You can rent a car seat for baby. It costed us only 6$ per day. But don’t expect the same standards as back home. The seats are old with very little padding, they are front facing, and the safety standards are questionable at the least. That being said, you can always opt to bring your own car seat from home if you prefer. Should I have a do-over, I would likely bring my seat from home.

Baby food and necessities, and some inconveniences

  1. You can find everything you need for baby at the local convenience store. If you’re worried about finding baby food, formula, diapers, wipes, etc, don’t be. They have everything you need at the Continente Modelo, the local big chain grocery store, and the quality standards are the same as here in North America. However, don’t expect to find the same brands. They have their local labels.
  2. There are no change tables in restaurants or public bathrooms. At least not the ones we went to. We often ended up changing diapers in the back seat of the car.
  3. There are no high chairs in restaurants. Again, at least not the restaurants we went to. I can’t speak for the others. We solved this problem by simply using our baby stroller as her high chair. However, if you prefer, you can also purchase the Baby’s Journey High Chair Pad. It is inexpensive, compact and will fit on most chairs.

 My recommendations

  1. Invest in a proper baby carrier. If you plan on hiking and walking the trails (I’m assuming you are because if you are not, I question why you have chosen the Azores as your travel destination), purchase a hiking baby carrier. It made carrying baby easy on daddy and our baby was comfortable and oh so happy in there as she was propped up high enough to see over daddy’s shoulder and take in the sites too! Warning: Hiking baby carriers can be quite pricey (they generally range from $150 to $400), however are worth the investment if you are a regular hiker. If you are not, you may want to consider borrowing one from a friend (this is what we did), or buying one second-hand. The carrier we were using was the Kelty Pathfinder Child Carrier, but an older edition. We loved it and so did our daughter. Note: we were not charged an oversized baggage fee at the airport for the carrier, but know that this could happen.
  2. Foresee travelling for a few more days than you would without baby. Most blogs you will read about visiting Sao Miguel will tell you that you can see the island in four days. We left for 7 days considering we had our daughter with us. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have stayed 10 days. My daughter did NOT nap in the car. So a few days in, we had to slow our pace to accommodate our daughter’s naps. Between the time change and nap skipping, she was exhausted by day three. If I had to do it again, I would have planned a longer stay and left after her morning naps.
  3. Bring a baby UV tent. If you plan on spending some time at the beach, a baby UV tent is a must. We purchased the Babymoov Anti-UV Tent and loved it. It was small enough to pack in our suitcase, but spacious enough for baby once open. Setting it up was super easy as it pops right open when you take it out of the case.
  4. A waterproof blanket will come in handy. We purchased a waterproof picnic blanket and it proved to be very useful (Lightspeed Outdoor Waterproof Blanket). We used it on the beach and on our hikes when baby needed a break or when we took a time out for lunch. Because it was waterproof, dirt and debris from the ground would just fall right off and was easy to clean. It also folded up into a compact bag.
  5. Visiting the island is essentially free! With the exception of certain parks that will cost you up to 3 euros per person, all the other sites are free. It cost us almost nothing to visit the island.
  6. Price of food and groceries. Expect the prices to be comparable to North American prices, but in Euros.

Last but not least:

Enjoy the incredible landscapes and scenery this island has to offer. From the volcanic mountains to the endless ocean, there is beauty everywhere you look.

Well, that sums it up. Should you have any question or need any additional information, feel free to comment below or contact me by email and I will be happy to help.

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14 thoughts on “Travelling to the Azores with a baby

  1. Alexandra Thuotte

    Bonjour, nous regardons pour partir cet été à la découverte des Açores avec nos 3 enfants de 11 mois, 4 ans et 5 ans. Ce sera tout un défi et votre site nous sera d’une grande aide, un gros merci. Lors de votre séjour, avez-vous pris le temps de visiter d’autres îles et si oui, lesquelles? Nous y serons 4-5 semaines, est-ce que c’est trop pour seulement Sao Miguel car les déplacements ne seront pas si simples? On se demandait si nous resterions seulement sur cette iles et rester à 2 endroits différents par exemple ou tenter de découvrir un autre île. Merci encore et désolée pour le français, j’espère que vous le comprenez…
    Alexandra

    1. Bonjour Alexandra,
      Wow! J’admire votre courage de partir avec trois enfants en bas âge! Nous avons fait le choix de seulement visiter Sao Miguel étant donné la durée de notre voyage (1 semaine). Avoir eux plus de temps, on aurait songé à voir d’autres îles. On a rencontré des familles qui sont rester un mois à Sao Miguel, mais personnellement, je pense que deux semaines serait en masse de temps pour faire le tour de l’île. Mais il faut dire qu’on l’a fait à trois et non à cinq. J’imaginerais qu’avec trois enfants, la vitesse à laquelle vous visiterez sera sûrement différent. Si j’étais à votre place, je crois que je considérerais la possibilité de voir une deuxième île. J’espère que ceci vous éclaire un peu! Si vous avez d’autres questions, n’hésitez pas. Bon voyage!

  2. Kim

    Hello! Currently planning a trip in April with my babe who will be 6 months. Is there any chance that pools are accessible then? And are there any gentler hot springs that we could take him with us to? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Kim,

      So exciting! We had a pool available to us in the apartment building that we were staying at. I am assuming that there are other pools around but, to be honest, I don’t know. As for the hot springs, we went to Caldeira Velha only. There are 2 hot springs there: 1 was less hot than the other. The cooler one would probably be fine for a child, but I’m not sure for a baby. We opted not to bring our daughter in. There may be other more suitable hot springs, but I am not aware of them. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Jena

    Hi! Thanks for sharing about your trip! We are headed there in August with our son who will be 15 months. What hikes do you recommend? Did you travel to any of the other islands? Did you find there were certain activities / attractions you couldn’t do because you had a baby with you? What was the weather like when you were there? Sounds like you were there in July? Were the people friendly? Did you feel safe traveling with your baby? Were there a lot of people who spoke English there? Thanks for any additional information!

    1. Lisa

      Hi Jena!Most of the articles you read on Sao Miguel will tell you that you can visit the island in 4 days. I believe this is true if you don’t have children. We left for a week and it was perfect to visit the island. Had we had more time, we would have considered seeing another island. As for the Hikes, you MUST go to Sete Cidades (Miradouro da Lagoa do Canario)! It is breathtaking. Lagoa de Congro, Lagoa Das Furnas, Parques dos Caldeiros were also very nice. What is nice about the sites is that, for the most part, you can choose to hike or not. Most sites are accessible by a short walk or easy hike, while there are alternate routes that you can take for an extra challenge. They have maps at the sites that tell you which trails you can take, how long they will take and their level of difficulty. This was extremely helpful with a child! Also, there are view points (Miradouro) everywhere in Sao Miguel. Some of the most beautiful views we saw were on our way to our destinations. Literally on the side of the road! We would regularly stop to take in the sites. Plan time for this in your travel. Some of the sites we did not do because we had our baby with us were the thermal baths. Although we went to Caldeira Velha, hubby and I took turns going into the baths, but we opted not to put baby in as we felt it was too hot (she was 9 months at the time). We didn’t go to Parque Terra Nostra and Ponca da Dona Beija for this same reason. But note, that some families went and brought their children. There is a spectacular hike down the mountain to Lagoa do Fogo, but it was quite steep and we didn’t feel comfortable doing it with the baby, so we opted to drive as close as possible instead. We went in the month of April and the weather was between 17 and 25 degrees. The mornings were cool and it would be the warmest in late afternoon. So bring layers! We had nice weather, no rain. We only went swimming a couple of times. The ocean water is on the cool side. The people there are friendly and we felt very safe. In the more touristic areas you may find people who speak English, but for the most part they were hard to come by. Language was definitely a barrier, especially when in the smaller villages. But we managed to be understood and learned a few key words to get by. I hope this helps and happy travels!

  4. Alyssa Schager

    Thank you for your feedback. We plan on using a hiking carrier for our 2 year old son. I’m wondering if we can rent one there or if we need to pack it.

    1. Lisa

      I never looked into renting one, but would be surprised if that was a possibility. I would recommend bringing your own.

  5. Amy

    Hi Lisa, thank you for sharing your experience on your trip! We’re planning to go with our five month old and was wondering if it is worth bringing a travel stroller for the trip? Are there a lot of cobblestone/uneven roads in the city? We’ll be bringing a baby carrier as well. Thanks!

    1. Lisa

      Hi Amy,

      We brought ours. It was practical to have at the airport, when we went for supper (she ate in there most of the time as high chairs were not readily available), and when walking in the city. The rest of the time, we used the hiking baby carrier. She loved it in there! My daughter always hated the regular baby carriers so it was never an option for us, but if it was I think I would have considered leaving the stroller at home.

      As for the roads, in Ponta Delgada, there are sidewalks, however in the smaller streets and in smaller towns, expect either no sidewalks or cobblestone.

      Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip.

  6. Nicole Rahim

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for writing this blog. We have been thinking of going in September but part of me felt a little intimidated to travel with a little one. Your blog is so helpful and now I’m excited to book our trip. Do you recall the Air Bnb that you stayed at? I like the idea of being across from the beach and having a pool.

    Did you bring diapers/formula for the entire trip? Or did you just bring enough for the flight and buy all that stuff there?

    Thanks,

    Nicole

    1. Lisa

      Hi Nicole,

      I’m so happy you found my article helpful! Here is the link to the listing of the Airbnb I stayed at. I highly recommend it!

      I did bring enough diapers and formula for the entire trip just because I was more comfortable using products my daughter was already used to then trying new ones, especially for the formula. However, you definitely can find both of need be, just don’t expect to find the same brands as back home.

      Have an amazing trip!

      1. Nicole

        Thanks Lisa for the reply. I don’t see the link for the Air Bnb would you mind sending it again? Thanks

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