Family Trip to Madrid

My husband, Bobby, doesn’t know this, but a couple of years ago he lost his official vote in helping plan what our family does for vacation.  He shouldn’t be surprised, considering the last time he proposed and planned a vacation, THIS happened: 

However, this year, was the year he found redemption.  Since our oldest, Blake, was a baby (almost 9 years) we have been talking about (dreaming about) spending a summer somewhere else and just living life there.  We would talk about it incessantly in private, discussing what would make for the perfect scenario. What cities could work? What scenarios wouldn’t work at all? How old would the kids have to be?  Some of the fundamental conclusions we came to were: 

  • Time: For us it had to be at least two weeks up to one month.  We want to be in another city and really get the feel for what it’s like to live there and we felt this time period would accomplish that.  
  • Kids Age: We wanted our youngest, Tristan, to be at least 4-5.  We wanted to be able to send the kids to camp. We feel more comfortable sending the kids to a new environment knowing they will be able to clearly communicate what had gone on in the day.  Also didn’t want them to be so young that they would forget this experience entirely.
  • Language: the first time we do this (we hope for more), it had to be a place we felt comfortable speaking the language.  English is preferred but it could be Spanish, as we are both fluentish. We definitely wanted to be able to handle any situation that arose. [This really helped us narrow it down.]
  • Camp: There had to be a camp that all three kids could attend and wasn’t too pricey.  I wanted to live somewhere else, not referee my children all day in another city.
  • Work: I can write from anywhere, but Bobby.  Luckily he had started a business that allows him to work remotely from anywhere.  
  • Location:  After an RV I realized real quick that city life, is the life for me. Also we wanted to be able to have access to great food, grocery stores, gyms, and culture.  No offense to smaller cities, but a girl’s gotta eat.

Back to Bobby’s Redemption Story.  This past January, Bobby came home and had found the key to making all of our discussions and dreams come true.  He found a camp the kids could attend in Madrid. This hits two of our requirements.   After all the talks and all of the day-dreaming, it was time to put up. We had never been to Madrid, were we really going to do this? Hell yes! So we booked it! 

It was one of those things that I was so excited for, but also could not believe was happening.  We had three kids, our lives are chaos personified, how was this going to work?  How would our kids take the news?

Our kids were not thrilled. Blake is already old enough to say things like “you’re making me leave my friends for the whole summer?”

Dylan was saying things like “But I don’t want to learn Spanish on my vacation!”

Tristan’s concerns were along the lines of, “how many toys can I bring? But won’t the toys that stay behind miss me?”

We had a few big talks leading up to the departure. Easing nerves about taking such a long flight (their first), about how long we were going to be away, and how it is ok to feel sad or that they are going to miss their friends and family. If you are considering a trip like this, I would definitely have a plan about how to talk to them about it and give them space to express their concerns. As much as this was our dream, we definitely wanted it to be something they could be excited about as well.

It’s hard to believe that we are 14 days into this incredible adventure. The kids transitioned so well! Tristan however has asked to FaceTime his toys, and asks how I think his Colossal T-Rex is doing almost every day.

I’m so happy to share with you some of the details of how we made this happen: 

Camp

We are in Madrid for 4 weeks, and decided to send the kids for the last 3 weeks we would be here.  We spent the first week battling jet lag, and spending time together being tourists. This also let the kids get used to this new city and way of life before sending them to meet all these new people.  The first day they were nervous, but the teachers were all so sweet and patient. My kids literally ran to camp on Day 2 they were so excited to go back. 

The camp we found for the kids is called LAE Kids. It’s run by a lovely woman, Natasha, and she helped guide us through the process.   It’s a family based camp where the emphasis is on fun, immersive Spanish and getting messy whenever possible.   The children are a mix of nationalities from all around the world. We decided on a language camp, because for being children of Cuban descent, our kids could barely string together a sentence in Spanish.  This camp appealed even more because besides learning Spanish, the kids would meet different kids from all over, and do different activities like science experiments, art, and more daily.  

Apartment

After finding the camp, we researched the best areas to stay in Madrid.   Then we took that list and tried to find a place on Air BNB that was walking distance to the camp but still in a good neighborhood.  

The camp also had a relocation department. They recommended a few apartments, but saved us with their extremely helpful advice, FIND AN APARTMENT THAT HAS AC.  I would also suggest an apartment with a washing machine.  

There were some great options (another perk to bigger city).  In a long term rental you also get better pricing, and are able to negotiate somewhat with the owner.  Our rental so far has been amazing. The location is fairly central, and walking distance to a lot of great food and to Parque Retiro which is a park similar to Central Park in New York, and covered in trees making it about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city.  

Transportation and Getting Around

A lot of walking is done in this city.  I mean having lived here for two weeks, and seeing the amount of bread that is fed to you at each meal, I get it.  Cigarettes and walking seem to be huge here. Diet of champions. 

  • Walking is a great easy way to get around the city.  For the most part you can find a great restaurant, pharmacy, supermarket, fruit stand, or really anything within walking distance.  If you want to start venturing out, there are so many options here.  
  • Taxi: There are taxi lanes on most major streets, and it has not been difficult at all to grab one when you need it.  They do accept credit cards. 
  • Uber: Uber works and is just around the same price as the taxis. 
  • Subway: we have been using the subway almost daily and the kids love it.  They are in excellent condition, and I would dare even say clean. We had one mishap where we ended up going the wrong way (for a long time), but besides that it’s been really straight-forward and easy to get around with.