My 30th in Albufeira: A Holiday in Portugal with a Toddler!


During the third week of October, Suraj, Savya and I travelled to Algarve, Portugal. Suraj insisted we celebrate by 30th birthday in some way. We booked last minute (like, 3 days in advance) through Expedia and flew via RyanAir. We had warm weather and stayed at an all-inclusive resort called Hotel São Rafael Suites. 

Savya did showcase his frustration throughout our travels. Mostly because we woke him up at 4:00am as our flight was at 7:30am through Stansted. Not sure whether or not there would be a fridge for milk, we bought Cow & Gate toddler milk for him at Boots past security. He was very angry while on the plane as he was tired and wanted to run around, but fell asleep just before the flight took off.  

He definitely had a few meltdowns here and there, but that’s to be expected from a super active 18 month old who isn’t used to traveling and refuses to nap. He refused to eat anything almost we attempted to feed him, possibly because the food really wasn’t that good. Luckily, banana yogurt and porridge are on the list of things he doesn’t mind me feeding him. Anything else though? MELTDOWN. Like on Friday night. Mummy had at least 3 glasses of wine to deal with the stress.

RESORT:

WHAT I LIKED:

  1. The staff was excellent. Any issue was immediately responded to.
  2. The room was lovely. It also had a “bar” area setup with a fridge. Best thing? We could close it off with doors so little one couldn’t get to it. 
  3. Savya’s first mattress was terrible as I could feel the springs through the top. He was not comfortable so they switched it out immediately. The second was much more satisfactory. The level of courtesy by house staff was also exemplary.
  4. Housekeeping brought extra towels, extra pillows, and even dish soap on request to clean Savya’s bottles. Their phone was a little confusing to work, though.
  5. Being an all-inclusive resort, we hardly had to leave to find our needs attended to. We could take as much water from downstairs as needed. Anything off the menu only needed to be asked for (bananas, milk, etc). 
  6. Many types of food were available at the dining hall, and food was almost always available. Grilled foods, salad, meat, fish, pastas, and a huge amount of desserts. The almond pie was probably the best dessert there.
  7. The A La Carte restaurant had delicious food. If you stay for 3 nights you have one dinner at the restaurant included with your stay. We enjoyed our last dinner there, which was a nice way to end our stay. 
  8. Amazing spa with sauna, steam room, showers, lockers – and all very clean. I had a great massage there which left me feeling rested and rejuvenated.
  9. The indoor pool was nice and warm. 
  10. When we bought top-shelf alcohol and were disappointed by the standard small serving, the staff accommodated and poured us some more just to make sure we didn’t leave terribly dissatisfied.

DISLIKES:

  1. I was super annoyed at the blatant attempts to cut down on costs. 
  2. The bathroom was cramped and lack of lighting made the washroom feel very shabby. The part that really inconvenienced us was the lack of counter space. I can understand how shortening the counter space would save money. This just does absolutely nothing for guests but agitate us as where to put our toiletries. This means we had to put it on the ledge above the toilet and bidet. Gross. 
  3. The food, while great in amount and diverse, was incredibly mediocre in terms of flavour. We literally only enjoyed a handful of things. For example, they served grilled fish without properly cleaning it. I found the scales to be in fact on my fish and there were guts on the inside. It wasn’t even seasoned. Needless to say, I let them take it away. 
  4. There was nothing Savya really liked, and there’s only so much chicken and chips I could allow him to eat. I was thankful we brought Savya’s prepackaged food and snacks as a fail-safe. Bananas and yogurt always made him very happy. 
  5. Coffee was always weak and served lukewarm. Only tea available was Lipton. Mediocre. 
  6. Toys and supplies in the kids club were well worn and broken. Staff were very nice though!

POOLS:

  1. There were 3 outdoor pools and 1 indoor pool. 
  2. The kiddie pool was freezing, so as  most parents, we took our aquatic experience indoors. 
  3. The indoor pool required wearing of a swim cap. Savya loved swimming and splashing about. We took advantage of the spa and indoor swimming pool every day. 

WHEN TRAVELING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN:

  1. If you need to take any baby milk or foods with you, get it from Boots after you go through security. This way you don’t have to fuss about any food or liquid you may have. You can either request it up to 5 days in advance or swing by to pick it up. I’d suggest reserving ahead of time to play it safe. 
  2. I highly suggest downloading shows and movies your children enjoy onto your device before traveling, as download strength viewing licenses can restrict them can be compromised. Try using the Amazon Prime app and BBC Kids iPlayer app before leaving England. Check to make sure the videos do not expire before your intended departure date. 
  3. Dress your children in loose, comfortable clothing and in layers. Tight clothes may be cute and stylish, but nothing says disaster like a diaper that’s squeezed out poop and pee everywhere thanks to constricting garments. Take my advice and have them wear spandex, leggings, loose fitting trousers or shorts. So much easier to prevent messes than to deal with cleaning them up later on. Layers are important as airplanes can either be cold or warmer than the outside weather. 
  4. Pack your toddlers favourite foods and snacks and make sure they are always on hand. In the case of a meltdown, this may be the thin line between sanity and insanity for all. 
  5. Bring paracetamol for everyone. Yes, everyone. I pulled my neck on day 1 and damn, did I wish I had packed that paracetamol! Ended up buying it at a chemist when we visited the town. 
  6. Take familiar and comforting items from home, like their favourite toy, book, or blanket. Bringing a few of Savya’s favourite books, his blanket and teddy provided respite when he needed reassurance of comfort and familiarity.

The resort was decent enough, I suppose. We did enjoy our stay in Portugal, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend NAU hotels and resorts, nor do I think we will return. It seems to cater to most British who are looking to travel abroad, but if was nice to see one or two other families who were POC from England. 

That’s all! 

Have any tips for traveling with little ones? Feel free to share! I’d love to know for a more successful vacation next time.

Xoxo.