The secret to a successful family road trip all comes to down to a good car, perfect playlist, fun travelling companions, and a great plan.
With that in mind Family Traveller have teamed up with Avis to create a series of easy-going road trip itineraries designed to delight drivers, thrill backseat passengers, and make mile after mile of unforgettable memories.
Take the road from historic Porto to the beachy Algarve for a test drive.
What to see: Pont Dom-Luis; Torre dos Clérigos; Musée Soares dos Reis; Livraria Lello; Café Majestic; Muralha Fernandino; Viacaterina Shopping; Alfândega do Porto.
Direct flights from the UK to Porto take just over two hours. There’s no hanging around at the airport when you book with Avis, because Avis Preferred fast tracks you from counter to car in minutes. And the city centre is less than half-an-hour’s drive away. Porto grows on you slowly. But with just a day and night to explore, you want your base in historic Ribeira; the medieval heart of the city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Climb to the top of Torre dos Clérigos and take in the panoramic view from the top, it’s a great way to get your bearings fast. Then head to Livraria Lello. One of the oldest bookshops in the world, it’s gloriously grand and, more to the point for kids, it was J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for the library at Hogwarts.
Walk along the Douro riverbank and watch the traditional wooden sail boats at work on the water. Or, if you feel like moving a tiny bit faster, catch a tram and rattle around the Ribeira’s sights the old fashioned way.
What to see: Biblioteca Joanina; Fonta Nova; Portugal dos Pequenitos; Paço das Escolas; Coimbra Live Science Centre; Machado de Castra Museum; Choupal National Forest.
This drive is a chance to see another side of Portugal, away from its Atlantic coastline. The countryside is lovely, so you might want to take your time.
Coimbra has one of the world’s oldest universities, and traditional Portuguese Fado music was born here; don’t be too surprised to hear melancholy singing just about everywhere you go, especially in summer. The city was also Portugal’s medieval capital and hasn’t lost much original grandeur over the centuries.
Find a hotel in the central Almedina district, then walk through the historic quarter: it tumbles prettily downhill from the ancient university towards the River Mondego. Don’t forget to take kids to see Portugal dos Pequenitos, where miniature versions of all Portugal’s most famous sights have been made into a play park.
What to see: Sintra town; Castle of the Moors; Montserrat Estate; Sintra National Palace; Sintra Mountains; Cabo da Roca; Ursa Beach; Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
UNESCO World Heritage Sintra is Portugal’s most visited town and looks like the magical kingdom Disney wishes it was.
Younger children will love the fairy tale charm and roaming round century spanning history is surprisingly engaging for older kids. Soulful teens won’t be able to resist the high drama and romantic legends. Make sure you leave time for lunch in the town itself and don’t miss the Montserrat Estate.
Sintra is just over 30 minutes by road from the centre of Lisbon and the drive through Monte de la Lua is gorgeous. Leave in the late afternoon, and aim to arrive in the Portuguese capital with enough time to find your hotel before heading to Bairro Alto for dinner.
What to see: Torre de Belém; Padrão dos Descobrimentos; Mosteiro dos Jerónimos; Chiado Museum; Elevador Santa Justa; Praça do Comércio; Lisbon Story Centre; Museum of Puppetry.
Lisbon isn’t an urban sprawl and you can see lots on foot, so stop driving for the day and walk a little. Belém is a good start: it’s the waterfront district for Torre de Belém, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
If you can resist delectable custard tarts from Pastis de Belém, reward your strength with lunch at Mercado da Ribeira AKA Time Out Market. Then you’ve more than earned a few self-indulgent hours browsing the smart Chiado shopping district.
The restored waterfront district, east of April 25th road bridge, is good for restaurants in the evening.
What to see: Castelo de São Jorge; Tram 28; Lisbon Cathedral; Arco do Castelo; Muralha Moura; Mirador dos Portas do Sol; Porta do Mar.
First visit to Lisbon, or one of many? Alfama is always the district destined to steal your heart refusing to let you go. Spared from the city’s historic earthquakes, it has remained unchanged for centuries and the cobbled streets, steep staircases, charming Fado bars and tall, skinny buildings are mesmerising.
With kids in tow, start right at the top at Castelo de São Jorge. This medieval legend satisfies young adventurers completely, so you can enjoy a gentle walk back through Alfama without complaint. If little legs get too tired, hop on historic Tram 28, it’s the bright yellow one with the jingly bell.
Late afternoon’s the best time to climb aboard 47m high Elevador de Santa Justa and make the stately journey up into Bairro Alto. Then spend some time wandering the famously quaint streets and scouting out fantastic places for dinner: rooftop restaurants are the stars in this district.
What to see: Dolphin Cruises, Albufeira; Parque Aventura; Aqualand; Santa Bernarda Pirate Cruise; Burro Ville; Costa Vicente Natural Park; Slide & Splash; Benagil Cave.
The beachy bit of your road trip begins with one of those iconic drives where the skies become bluer, and the air gets warmer, the further south you travel. Amazingly, Lisbon’s a mere two and a half hours from The Algarve, so kids can be down on sand with plenty of playing time left, before the sun sets over the Atlantic.
Lively Vilamoura is one of the region’s best family resorts; nearby Praia da Falésia and Praia da Oura count as local beaches, and both Faro and Albufeira are less than 20 minutes drive away.