Planning an Extended Stay in Europe

Planning a trip is all about the details;  dates, times, connecting flights. Train tickets and packing lists and research galore. Planning to be away as long as we are (30 days in Spain) requires a lot of information and strategy.

How to plan an extended stay abroad

We’ve booked a 30 day trip to Malaga, Spain for February 2018. It’s a much longer trip than we usually take, but that’s by design, This time, we want it to feel more like we’re *living* in a place, not being tourists. It’s required a lot of knowledge and research.

Extended stay: Choosing flights – use points when possible

We’ve been saving our airline points for this trip. We collect Avios points on credit card purchases and know that there’s usually a twice-yearly offering of bonus points to convert Avios miles to British Airways points. While in years past the conversion option has been that you can get 50% more miles, this year it’s only 30%. While we’ve been planning this trip since the summer of 2017, it was only in mid -December that the point offering appeared. Since we depart Feb 6th, this is cutting it close for international travel bookings.

Either way, our points total has allowed us to pay cash for the tickets and use BA points to upgrade to business class seats, called Club World. We’re excited because this means our epicly long flights across the Atlantic will be in reclining seats that fold down to lie-flat beds.

What’s it really like to fly first class? We’ll tell you in an upcoming blog.

Extended stay: Choosing a neighbourhood – hang with locals

Our next order of business has been to book an apartment. After surfing Airbnb for months we already had a shortlist of about a dozen places that looked perfect for us. They were all around $2000 per month and their locations were all over the city. Now that we had dates it was time to narrow the search and research the neighbourhoods.

We want something in a walkable area as we’d be without a car or even bikes. We want a safe area with a good reputation but we also want something in the oldest part of the city so we can really get into the character and origin of the city.

We narrow the choices to La Malagueta, a historic neighbourhood around Malaga’s bull ring, the working class El Perchel with its historic market, artsy Soho and trendy La Merced with its bars, restaurants and public plaza.

After evaluating our criteria we choose a flat on the fifth floor of a building in Zona Centro near the river, close to the port, and with the Picasso Museum, park, famed Spanish department store El Corte Ingles and a grocery store and the market Atarazanas all within a short walk.

Extended stay: Choosing an apartment – what are your needs?

Since we’re trying to establish a real working existence here we want a place that has separate sleeping quarters, so studios are out. We also want table or desk space for two and a decently equipped kitchen so we can eat at home.

Also on our list of must-haves: good Wi-Fi and a bit of a view if possible. In the end, a place dubbed Apartmento Tauro has all of these things. It’s a small, but bright and sunny one-bedroom with a big kitchen, TV/sitting area with plush sofa, and a dining area that can double as work space. It’s also on the fifth floor with a small balcony that gives us a view of a public plaza below.

Will the photos do the real thing justice? We’ll find out and report back in a future blog..

Extended stay; Getting there – to plan or wing it?

On arrival from Canada our plan is to take a couple of days in the Spanish capital, Madrid, to see some sights. Then we’ll need to plan our trip to Malaga, likely via one of Spain’s reasonably priced and quick trains. Do we book a ticket in advance or buy one once we’re on the ground there? We’re not yet sure.

Extended stay: the Weather – what are you seeking?

In frigid Calgary, Canada, our hometown, it can drop to -25C in the winter. We’re sick and tired of the cold and the massive dumps of snow that are common. In choosing an extended stay city, we wanted a place that was going to be warm. Malaga’s February temps average about 18C, which isn’t tropical, but it is going to be a pleasant climate for us snowbirds. Folks living in hotter climes might seek a cooler environment, but either way, it’s worth researching the average monthly temperature and climate statistics for your chosen destination, so you don’t end up somewhere in monsoon season.

Our extended stay travel planning is chugging along. If you have questions for us, or can offer advice, we’d really appreciate it. What’s the city YOU’D chose for an extended stay? Post in comments below.