Vilamoura, Portugal - The perfect place for a first time family holiday

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Vilamoura, Portugal - The perfect place for a first time family holiday


Vilamoura, Portugal, with its modern marina, golden beaches and almost guaranteed sunshine in October. The perfect place for my wife and I to enjoy our first sun holiday with our 14 month old daughter and my mother in law. A toddler and an in-law – what could possibly go wrong? Very little actually.

All parents will know there is one thing other parents love to do – give advice on parenting issues. “Make sure you go on holidays before they start walking” “Make sure you give them a big feed/bottle before you go on the plane so they will sleep”. If all new parents were to listen to this advise, they would be forgiven for thinking its too much hassle, lets never go on a sun holiday with a toddler. For this precise reason, we had decided against a sun holiday for 2017, but as August 2017 arrived and Mr Sunshine had all but briefly said hello a few months earlier, we bite the bullet and booked five days in Vilamoura. This would be our first visit to Vilamoura and we had heard that it was one of the more expensive resorts in the Algarve, but it was 25 minutes from Faro Airport and with a return flight at 07.05am, we decided this added expense would be worth it for the proximity to the airport.

Living in Claremorris, Ireland West Airport was always going to be our preferred airport on this side of the water and I was pleasantly surprised to find flights for us all at a very reasonable price with Ryanair. For anyone living in the Northwest and even further afield, the attraction of the airport is clear. Easy to get to by car, long term parking a 100 metre walk from the terminal and you are always checked in and through security in a very short time. 

What is it about packing for Holidays? Why do you always bring far too much? Convincing yourself I might wear this or it could be chilly in the evenings so I better bring warmer clothes for then. The first obstacle of this trip was getting the car packed. In my wisdom, I had booked a check in case for each of the three adults travelling. That meant we had three checked in cases, three carry on cases and we were also bringing a buggy for the toddler. For once, going on a flight, we were not trying to pack as much as possible onto our carry on bags. We had a case each to check in, we had SPACE. Too much space as it turned out, because we packed everything bar the kitchen sink. I have a 2012 Volkswagon Passat The Passat comes with a spacious boot that has a generous 565 litres of capacity. That’s bigger than the 540 litres in the Mondeo and the 467 litres in the Honda Accord but smaller than the boot in both the Skoda Superb and the Mazda 6(thanks But even at 565 litres I could not fit all our luggage in the boot(Lesson learnt – Pack what you need and then put half of it back in your wardrobe, you wont wear it)

What is it everyone remembers about going on a sun holiday? That blast of heat you get when you step off that plane. You think “Sunshine, Heat, where have you been all my life? “Fortunately for us, the two and a bit hour flight had passed relatively incident free. There was a tantrum when I refused to give her any more sucky sweets but my mother in law assured me she would behave for the rest of the holiday. So where was I? Ah yes, sunshine, heat, where have you been all my life. Yes, even though it was mid October, the temperature in Faro was in the region of 26 degrees Celsius. We had left a damp and dreary 12 degrees in Mayo and in just over two hours we had blue skies and sunshine.  I could feel the vitamin D surging through my veins.

We had rented a Villa in Vilamoura. It was a traditional old style villa, dark inside, with old style furnishings but we weren’t going to be spending time inside. The villa was all about the private pool. With a villa, we all had our own bedrooms including mammy in law and Toddler. The marina was a ten minute walk away and the local supermercado was five minutes.. The big plus of vilamoura for anyone travelling with a toddler is the terrain is relatively flat(for any of the parts we visited anyways). This makes pushing a buggy a bit more manageable.

My first impression of the marina area was very positive. The U shaped Marina is the main tourist area in vilamoura. Bars, Restaurants and some shops  surround the marina and line the walkway from one end to the other(roughly half a kilometer in distance) Most  of the bars and restaurants have seating inside or outside, out on the decking, above the water itself ,which is really nice.

The majority of our days were spent having a morning stroll around the marina, returning to the villa for some lunch and R&R and then heading back to the marina in the evening for some dinner. We did not take part in many activities while in Vilamoura (apart from a bicycle ride one day) but there seems to be few options available to those looking for activities – Golf seems to be vilamouras main activity but you can also take part in boat trips, there is parasailing at the beach and the resort also has a Casino for those looking for some night time activities.

Would I recommend Vilamoura as a travel destination. Yes. There are lots of restaurants to choose from, the locals are friendly and not very pushy when trying to get you into their establishment. The marina and surrounding area is toddler and buggy friendly. Of the five days we were there, we had clear blue skies and temperatures of 26 degrees for three. The remaining two were breezy and cloudy but still in the region of 23 degrees. It certainly beats the typical dreary weather in ireland in October.

Holiday blog by John Walsh