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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