Camino Frances with kids

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Camino Frances – Puente de la Reina – 100 km to Logrono – 2013

In 2013 we hiked a section of the Camino de Santiago in Spain as our family holiday. A 10 day trail between Puente de la Reina and Logrono. Our children were then 7, 9 & 11. My wife and I carries 90% of all the gear, and the children simple wore a school backpack with their extra cloths and camp slippers. Leaving home on foot, we walked to the bus stop, took the bus to Amsterdam Central station and then the train via Paris, via Irun and finally the bus to Puente de la Reina. We had already got our Pilgrim passports in Holland, so could check into the local Refugio to roll out our sleeping bags and claim our first Camino beds. Each day we got up a little bit earlier as we discovered it was best to walk before the sun got too hot. We walked slowly, taking time to pick the flowers, play in the streams, and rest under the olive trees. Before noon we had already arrived at our next village, as we only walked 8km to 15km a day. After all it was a holiday and a daily swim had been promised back home. After having checked into the local Refugio, we would take our swimming gear with us and try to find the local swimming pool. This was usually within 1km and for 3,- euro pp we would spend the following 3 hours playing in the refreshing water. Then it was time to take a short rest or head into the village square and see if there was any local fiesta. Cold drinks, ice creams, free wifi, a sports paper for Dad, some Jamon Serrano, cold red wine and there were five very happy people. Spanish eat very late, so it was always a quest to find a cafe that served dinner before 20:00. The big ‘Menu del Dia’ filled us with the typical local dish, and it was time to head back and get some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be another 5am rise.

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Tips for walking the Camino with kids:

Just do it. Just go. Don’t ask your kids if they want to go on a long walk, the answer you already know. Make it an adventure instead of a walk. Don’t ever use the word ‘walk’ and bribe them with many ice creams ;-). They each get their own stamp book and collect stamps at every Refugio or Church. Every day is totally different. What also helps is a few days relaxing on the beach after you end your trail. And remember your kids will thank you big time when they are 30 year old. It’s all about planting the seed for the great outdoors.

Don’t walk too long, remember they’re kids and it’s supposed to be a holiday. We walked between 8km and 15km. There were families who walked 25km a day with kids, ands believe me, kids can easily handle it, but don’t push it, its got to be fun. We did 8 to 10 day trails. You can start where you want on the trail and stop where you want. You don’t have to reach Santiago, we didn’t as its very busy there.

Start early, if you start walking between 6am and 7am you’ll have quite some km without the blistering heat. It sounds very early, but all Pilgrims get up very early and go to bed before 9pm, so its something you adapt to very quick. Even the kids adapt very quick and it wasn’t an issue for them at all.

Have fun, stop to play a game and play in the streams or pick some flowers. Take many breaks in the shade, and drink lots of water. The kids each carried their own 300ml bottle which they frequently refilled along the trail.

Swim a lot: Find the local village swimming pool. It will only cost you 3,- euro pp and you’ll probably have the king sized pool to yourselves. If your walking the Camino del Norte, there’s a beach with a refreshing sea to dive into quite often.

Sleeping: Most Pilgrims sleep in ‘Refugios’, these are cheap, simple large dorms. You can also sleep at private Albergues or Pensions, which will have a bit more comfort and privacy. Usually we even got our own room as we were with such a big group (5). Pilgrim refugios are very cheap, between 5,- and 10,- euros pp. They are also very bare and simple (just as I like it). As you can’t always book ahead if your sleeping in the Pilgrim Refugios, you have to just go with the flow. Albergues you can Book ahead and this can be good to do if you are with a family. You’ll arrive early and you can claim your beds easily. We had 5 sleeping bags, which my wife and I carried. This is a must, you can’t do the Camino without sleeping bags, but buy thin light ones, as its very hot in Spain in the summer. There are very many refugios along the Camino Frances, about every 10 km you will find one, which makes it very flexible to change your plan.

Eating: It’s always a feast every day to eat in Spain. Especially if your hungry after a day on the trail. The kitchen isn’t high class, but it’s always great to order a ‘menu del dia’ for 10,- euro at the local Cafe or Bar. Walking with the 5 of us did mean eating out was always times five which did make the food quite expensive overall. It is also possible to cook at most Refugio’s and is often a lot of fun to eat together with the other pilgrims from many countries and of all ages.

Other children: We saw about 2 other families during our 10 day trail, we tried to introduce the children to one another, but it didn’t really work as the language barrier didn’t help.

Costs: It’s free! Well the hiking bit is. The Pilgrims paspoort will cost about 5,- euro pp, the sleeping will cost between 5,- to 10,- euros pp per night, and the food is about 20,- euros pp per day. Of course you can spend more, sleep in a pensions and eat fancy and even have your bags transported for you. You can use the ‘Luggage Courier Service’ which will transport your bags to your next sleeping destination every day. This costs around 8,- euro per pack per 25 km stage.

Links:

Camino Forum for all your questions: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/

Dutch Santiago Vereniging: https://www.santiago.nl/

‘Luggage Courier Service’: http://www.theroadtosantiago.com/sending-your-backpack-ahead.html 

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