Some of my favourite memories as a child are from my travels with my family. My mother had us on a plane traveling all over the world before the age of one. By the time I was 10, I had more stamps in my passport than someone three times my age. Being exposed to different cultures, food and language helped to make me the rounded individual I am today. I knew very early on, if I was lucky enough to have a child, I would do the same thing for them.
I’ve been an Aeroplan member since 2003. For years I had only been accumulating miles through booked airline travel and gas purchase. What a rookie mistake! When I was pregnant with Maxie I discovered there are endless opportunities to earn more miles to help get me one step closer to my goal – taking my family on our first vacation abroad. If you were following my pregnancy earlier on this year, you may remember my nursery tour which was brought to life by purchases from Aeroplan’s retail partners on their eStore. An online hub where you an shop from so many of your favourite retailers and earn miles on all your purchases. Believe it or not, I actually earned miles on all the big purchases and decor items for Maxie’s room. As an added bonus, we racked up extra miles over the last two years on groceries, date night dinners and just about everything in between using Réjean’s TD Aeroplan Visa Card.
The Destination – Barcelona, Spain
Choosing a destination for our first family trip was no easy feat. With wanderlust permeating through my veins ever since I had to stop traveling after 34 weeks pregnant, I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of destinations we had to choose from. A wise person once told me, “A vacation with a baby is not a vacation. It’s a change of scenery!” Hearing that deterred me from a beach vacay this time around, knowing that I wouldn’t able to spend countless hours on the beach in a half induced piña colada coma. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to visit a city in Europe neither one of us had traveled to before. While most new parents think about a potential language barrier, time changes and travel time being an issue; we made that the least of our worries. We only wanted to make sure our destination had a great ‘walk-score’ because we wanted to explore the area mostly by foot. After much deliberation, we finally decided on Barcelona, Spain. It’s a baby friendly European city known for their food, art, historical sites and shopping. The winter time, although mild, is considered low season for this tourist friendly city, so traveling during December meant we were able to avoid crowds and line-ups while sightseeing.
How We Traveled – Life As A New Family of Three
Traveling with a newborn for the first time is one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever experienced. I was stressed throughout the entire planning process but my anxiety reached a whole new level about a week from our departure. Questions like; “Will I be that person who has a baby that screams and cries during the flight?”. “Should we bring a car seat along?“. “Is our stroller going to be suitable for travel?“. “What about her diapers? Should we bring them along or purchase when we arrive?”. “Can we travel with pre-pumped breastmilk?” “Will the restaurants we want to go to be child and stroller friendly?”. I am telling you, the list of questions were endless and at one point I got so overwhelmed, I wanted to cry and cancel the whole thing. Thankfully, my circle of savvy traveling friends with kids got me to settle down and ensured me that everything would be alright. Our game plan was to travel as lean as possible. Pack only the essentials and anything else we felt we absolutely needed, we would just get it while we were there. I’m thinking about doing a separate post where I share what worked and didn’t in regards to traveling with Maxie, in hopes to give other new mums the confidence to board a plane early with their littles.
Our Barça Accommodations in Dreta D’Eixample
Without a doubt, we knew that the only way this trip was going to happen was if we stayed in an AirB&B. Having an apartment that gave us access to some of the things we have at home; laundry, kitchen etc just made me feel more comfortable. We were even able to query for properties that are “baby/child friendly”, and those properties were willing to provide a crib upon request. Plus, Euro hotel rooms are notoriously small and claustrophobic, so the AirB&B option gave us the space we needed. The challenging part was determine which area of the city to stay in. If we were traveling sans baby, I would have wanted to stay in the Gothic Quarter or El Borne but the amount of noise and foot traffic late at night was a slight concern. Consequently, we chose to stay in the Dreta d’Eixample (Right Extension) area, which was recommended by my dear friend Diala. The neighbourhood is home to Barcelona’s high end shopping streets, wide open plaza and footpaths, tons of Gaudi’s work and popular areas like Passieg de Gràcia, Casa Mila and Casa Calvet. We couldn’t have chosen a better hood to call home for the week. Personally, I would recommend the area to anyone and actually have to a couple friends and followers looking to travel there in the new year. Clean, trendy, easy access to taxis/public transportation plus close to amazing restaurants, galleries and some of the best shopping Barcelona has to offer – all within walking distance may I add. Here’s a sneak peek inside our humble abode on a quiet side street called Carrer de Diptacio in Dreta d’Eixample:
What To See & Do in Barcelona With a Baby (or Without)
I truly thought eight days in Barça would be more than enough, leaving us with a couple days off just to rest but turns out, we actually ran out of time and didn’t get to cross everything off our list. When I put a request out for Barcelona recommendations on my IG stories before we left, we received an outpour of messages of every nook and cranny we should explore. After day one we quickly realized that having Maxwell along with us was not going to cramp our style at all. There are babies EVERYWHERE in Barça. I’m pretty sure 1 in 3 adult pedestrians were pushing a stroller. And that’s not all. In North America, we have a tendency to say our lives revolve around our kids schedule but in Europe it is the other way around. They believe their lifestyle should not have to change just because you have children. So it is very typical to see parents with young babies dining at restaurants past 10pm, shopping on Passieg de Gràcia late on a weekday evening and hitting up art galleries and museums. We decided to follow suit and take Maxwell to the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, Parc Montjucïc, countless museums, galleries, rests etc and she did a lot of her napping on the go. This easy going lifestyle meant that almost everywhere was stroller accessible and baby friendly, so we never felt like we were missing out on anything while we were there. However, there are a lot of stairs in this city for some reason at a couple of historic sites so if you’re traveling with a baby, you may want to think about bringing a baby carrier.
- Gothic Quarter – You cannot go to Barça and miss this historic area so full of character. The narrow streets, the Barcelona Cathedral, tiny shops, cafes and museums, it is one of the most popular spots in the city. That being said, if you are looking to take photos, you better make sure you have an early start before the tourists all come flocking in around 9/10am.
- Arc de Triomf
- La Boquiera Market – I was obsessed with this marche and went three times during our visit. Arguably the best market in the world with rows upon rows of controlled stalls selling everything from the tastiest meats, seafood, chocolates, candies, seasonings, fruit, veggies, fresh juices and the infamous jamón in a cone – all locally made.
- Christopher Columbus Monument
- La Ramblas – a 1.2km pedestrian street lined with restaurants, cafes and shops starting at Plaça de Catalunya and ending at Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
- The Sagrada Familia – The largest Roman Catholic Church in the world designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. If you decide go, make sure to book your tickets advance and show up on time as they are strict. Also, the rooftop views are spectacular and worth the extra $.
- Parc Güell – an expansive park composed of gardens and architectural elements created and designed by Antoni Gaudi. Built between 1900 and 1914, the park was officially open to the public 26 years later. In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudi”.
- Picasso Museum
- Parc Montjuïc – home to the 1992 Olympic Games in addition to museums, art galleries, Poble Espanyol (artisans’ village), and The ‘Magic Fountain’ that famously has a spectacular light show at night. You can get to Montjuïc by taxi, foot if your fit and adventurous, which Maxie and I attempted during a cab strike. Not easy as the hills are quite steep or by the cable car, our mode of transport on our second attempt to the top.
- Passeig de Gràcia – One of the major avenues and known for the best shopping in Barcelona. Also, has some of Barcelona’s most celebrated pieces of architecture; such as Casa Baillo and Casa Milá (La Pedrera).
Where to Eat & Drink
- 7 Portes – arguably has the best paella in the city. Cool trivia, this spot opened back in 1836 and got its name from the seven doors that leads into the restaurant. Pablo Picasso also used to eat here in his day.
- Firebug – Just on the outskirts of Eixample, we stumbled on this spot on our very last night and was not disappointed. A small space that serves large size tapas and sharing plates that are so delicious not matter how full you are, you will be hard pressed to order more. Plus the drinks are amazing, even the virgin cocktails.
- Flax & Kale – perfect for lunch and brunch. The superfood bowl and cold pressed juices I would recommend but pancakes and pasta dishes are also fantastic.
- Bar del Pla
- The Green Spot
- El National – Ok, so this may be somewhat of a tourist spot and located just off Passieg de Gràcia but the set-up is pretty cool and something you should experience once. It appears to look like a flea market from the outside but once you’re through the doors you step inside a large gallery space that contains 4 bars and 4 restaurants comprising a very unique gastronomical Barcelona experience.
- The W Hotel – Even if you’re not staying at this hotel during your time in the city, you MUST eat and drink in one of their restaurants. The property is located on the beach and the views are phenomenal.
- Granja Petitbo
- Bar Cañete
- EL Passatge del Mur Muri – One of the best squid paella’s I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant doesn’t open until after 8pm for dinner but the hotel also has a cozy lobby bar with great drinks and you can also order the full dinner menu from there if 8pm is too late for your dinner start time.
With the new year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about what destination you would like to check off your bucket list next. Whatever your travel plans are, with Aeroplan you can get there. Pro Tip #1: Think outside the box when it comes to earning your miles. As an Aeroplan member you can accumulate miles on hotel stays, car rentals, retail purchases, insurance, banking (credit cards), even online when you shop your favourite retailers like Sephora, Apple, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay, and so much more on the eStore. Need help devising a plan on how to make your travel dreams a reality? Tell Aeroplan what your plan is for your miles. Pro Tip #2: Tell Aeroplan what your plan is for your miles and they will help you get there. All you have to do is enter a few details pertaining to your goals here and you will be provided with a detailed plan.
I couldn’t think of a more better way to close out such a big year for us than this trip to Spain. I am so proud that we are exposing Maxwell to travel at such an early age and I do hope that she adopts our love of seeing the world. Thank you Aeroplan for being apart of this very special moment. I am already planning our next #TravelWithMaxie adventure. In the meantime, stay tuned for a forthcoming post with tips on how to travel stress free with your baby!
This post is sponsored by Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own.