Just about right after we returned from our Spain and France 2016 trip, I was right back into vacation planning mode. Alyce submits her vacation requests for the year in October, so we had to think quickly.
We knew (or at least were pretty sure….) that James would be starting at St. Pius for pre-K3 in the fall of 2017. Pulling him out of school for a 2-3 week vacation just as he was getting settled in a new school would not be a good idea. I knew we would have to shift our Fall vacation timeline to late Spring/early Summer at some point, and it turned out that 2017 would be the year to do it.
I only seriously considered European destinations. Southern hemisphere destinations were in the winter season and/or were too far away. Asia was too far away as well.
Portugal has been on my radar for a while, and we had really enjoyed the parts of Spain we just visited. It didn’t take too much research to narrow it down to those areas, but the actual itinerary involved a lot more planning.
But first, we had to settle on the length. Initially, we were looking at two weeks. Alyce was able to get 3 weeks off in a row again, but she was not yet convinced. Fortunately, Samantha – who was very helpful on our last trip and James loves – was again available to join us. That (plus the proposed itinerary) helped get Alyce on board with 3 weeks.
On what was to be our third international trip with James, I think I was finally getting pretty good at planning things that would keep everyone happy. James loves parks and is turning into quite the beach bum. As a result, Alyce likes places that are close to beaches/parks and that she feels comfortable walking too by just herself and James.
Of course we still love to eat out, walk around, try new wines, etc. I think that I had found places that combined all the options we were looking for.
One complication remained: booking business class (preferably) award flights for 4 people 6 months from departure – aka not so early that you get the first award seats released, but generally too far out for closer to departure award seat releases.
I looked at a couple airlines, but ended up back with Iberia for the flight over. Iberia uses married award segments, and flying to obscure airports like Santiago de Compostela (SCQ) actually helps your cause. Iberia award availability can also vary day to day, so checking a time or two each day can increase your odds of finding space. Eventually I did.
For the flight back, we just needed 3 seats because Sam would be meeting another of our cousins doing a law school summer semester abroad in Europe. The brand new LHR-MSY route had 3 business class seats and we could get to London easily from Madrid. Our first and last stops were set, now I just had to allocate days and pick the remaining stops. My thought process and the itinerary ended up like this:
A’ Coruna – 4 Nights
I found A’ Coruna by just browsing the Northwestern coast of Spain on google maps. Further research compared it to a lesser known San Sebastian, which we loved. There was easy beach access, and plenty of Tapas bars and restaurants to try out. I found a great vacation rental that overlooked one of the beaches for a very reasonable price.