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bkluvsNola Mar 4th, 2007 12:33 PM

Worried about late dinner times in Spain (for our toddler)
As I've been reading about the late eating times in Spain, I'm starting to get a little bit worried.

Personally, I'm totally okay with eating a light breakfast, giant lunch, small afternoon snack, and eating dinner late as Spaniards do. In fact, where I grew up in Louisiana, we had "dinner" at lunch and "supper" at dinnertime, where supper was usually just a sandwich or leftovers, and dinner (lunch) was a big feast followed by a nap. So I personally would have no qualms "fitting in" with Spain's customs.

However, I am worried about my toddler. First of all, he's in bed by 8:30 PM or 9:00 PM (at the latest), so there's no way we can wait until that late to give him dinner. He typically eats dinner at 5 or 6 PM, so by 8 PM he would be *very* whiny if he hadn't had dinner by then.

He typically eats lunch at around 12 noon to 1 PM, but he possibly could wait until 1:30 PM. Still, I heard Spaniards eat lunch at around 2-4 PM.

So, I'm thinking that we'll probably be going to dinner at tapas bars every day, since they may be the only thing open. Are there any other options? We don't like fast food restaurants and don't really want to eat in the hotel restaurant everyday.

As far as other customs in Spain, at least he'll be okay with Siesta time, as he takes a nap from 2 - 4 PM (LOL).

Any help is appreciated. Again, I want to stress that if it was just me and my wife, we'd have no problems following the local customs. However, our toddler is not respective of other cultures yet (LOL) - when he's hungry, he wants food immediately...

brando Mar 4th, 2007 12:50 PM

Feed your child at his/her normal time and give them some sugar so they stay up a little later then usual. They can snack as your eating your incredible meal and everyone is happy. You taking your child to europe you can't expect to keep your normal schedule. Granted try to keeep as close as possible, but, the flight alone is going to wreck them. Right!!

amyb Mar 4th, 2007 12:58 PM

There's no reason you can't eat your big/main meal at the 1:00-2:00 range and the either do tapas or a snack around 6-7 or whenever you toddler wants to eat. This is what I do when I travel alone, since I'm an early riser who doesn't want to sleep on a full stomach and also would rather not wait for a table at a restaurant at night. There wasn't a restaurant I wanted to try that didn't open midday, so I think you'll be all set.

kenderina Mar 4th, 2007 01:10 PM

Your toddler has a normal schedule for toddlers here (Spain) also (it doesn't mean that you can see a toddler with his parents later on restaurants but it's not the normal thing specially on workdays). And, very often, the toddler just don't eat anything or maybe just a dessert..because they have fed him (or her) first at home :)
Don't worry about it.

NeoPatrick Mar 4th, 2007 01:14 PM

Where do you live normally? Is Spain your only destination? This may seem a little weird. But 10:00 PM in Spain is 5 PM in the eastern US. What about keeping more to your home time (or split the difference? Certainly it will be easier for the toddler to adjust to that than changing his normal 5 PM dinner time at home to eating at 5 PM in Spain if it is actually noon at home. Why not sleep much later in the morning? Have breakfast at 11, lunch at 2:30 or 3, take his nap from 5 to 7, and then dinner at 9.
Who cares what time it is in Spain -- actually their later eating times mean they are closer to your "real times". So that could mean less adjusting than following your US times in Spain. And less adjustment back again when you come home.

lincasanova Mar 4th, 2007 02:03 PM

plenty of places to eat all day long in spain. you wouldnīt be taking your toddler to most table-clothed "restaurants" anyway.. so donīt fret.

if you are in big towns, there are even cafés in the large department store corte inglés with childrenīs menus, serving all day long, so you will be fine.

bkluvsNola Mar 4th, 2007 03:01 PM


That won't work for us as we'll be spending time before and after the Spain portion of our trip in Switzerland. My in-laws live in Switzerland so we will be eating at whatever time they eat.

By the way, we're on Central time, not Eastern, and we're definitely not sleeping in until noon (6 hours difference from CST/CDT) everyday just to keep our biological clocks.

bkluvsNola Mar 4th, 2007 03:08 PM


You mention that it's not common to have a toddler in a restaurant that late. Will we be totally out of place or will they just say "those silly American tourists"?

I'm also concerned that our toddler may get bored during the long meal if he's already eaten. He'll probably lap up the desert in no time and soon after he may get bored.

kenderina Mar 4th, 2007 03:45 PM

No, not out of place :) Just parents avoid it because toddlers, as you say, get bored. But it is for their own confort, not because there's any problem taking your child wherever you go :)

NeoPatrick Mar 4th, 2007 05:11 PM

Fair enough with the Switzerland point, fkluvsNola, but you kind of missed my point. You do realize, I trust, that your toddler is going to be 6 hours off schedule when you first get there if you try to go my local times as your schedule as if they were your home times. And when you come home, he's off by 6 hours again.
And maybe you missed the point about "split the difference" which in your case would mean do things 3 hours (by the hour) later than what you'd do at home, which in fact is still 3 hours earlier in actuality that at home, rather than do everything 6 hours earlier than at home, which is your plan.

bkluvsNola Mar 4th, 2007 07:40 PM


I didn't miss your point. If we weren't going to Switzerland (with the required time changes there due to in-laws) then maybe that (splitting the time difference) would be an option. But even splitting the hours (3 hours), that would mean breakfast at 10 or 11 AM, and honestly, I'd rather be out and about at that time. It will be in the summer, so the heat will be less in the morning and I'd rather be touring than sleeping in the morning or having a late breakfast.

I think your point deserves merit for creativity and works in theory, but I've never heard of anyone that's ever done that :)

By the way, would you have given the same advice if we were going to Australia? It would be much harder to split the difference there...

margyb Mar 4th, 2007 08:07 PM

I think you need to accept that traveling with a toddler is going to be very different than before! You may want to have an apartment so that you can eat some meals in. I think it will be very challenging to have long, late dinners at a restaurant unless your child is VERY tolerant! If it were me, I'd go out for lunch at casual spots where kids are welcome and then either pick up takeaway for dinner or eat in most of the time. Your idea for tapas bars might also work out well.

I've also found that some kids take a long time to adjust to the time change and can be up at all hours.

Good luck and have a great trip!

beaupeep Mar 4th, 2007 08:59 PM

I have a similar problem coming up - but it's my 76 year old mother! She and my sister are coming from Boston to visit my husband and me in first Paris and then here in Switzerland for the first time. My mother has always gotten up between 5:30 and 6 (fortunately I am an early riser like her so can keep her company for breakfast) and she normally goes to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 and has already told me that she has no intentions of going out to dinner at 8:00!

So we are just going to have our big meal of the day at lunch and then make something light for dinner. She can go to bed and the rest of us can stay up and chat....while sampling local wines.

scrb Mar 4th, 2007 09:39 PM

I'm interested in some takeaway from the Cortes Ingles too.

Would be great if they had stuff like Marks and Spencer in London.

Anyways, I hear that Cortes tries to charge credit card purchases by Americans in dollars using a much higher exchange rate than the credit card companies would charge if they charged in Euros?

Anyone deal with this?

Dukey Mar 5th, 2007 12:36 AM

You do not need to accept any charges in Dollars on your credit card.

Simply tell the clerk that you want the charges put through in the local currency (Euro). And don't let them tell you they don't know how to do this.

If they insist, write on the charge slip "local currency not offered" and tell them you plan to dispute the charge with your CC issuer once you return home.

eliza3 Mar 5th, 2007 03:11 AM

We spent two weeks in Seville at Xmas and never ate especially late. This was absolutely no problem although occasionally we were only with other tourists. From observation during that short time I think it is a bit of a myth that all Spanish people eat very late - maybe they do in summer. We have just moved to Spain so expect we will find out!

caroline_edinburgh Mar 5th, 2007 04:28 AM

We once travelled with friends with a toddler - she ate at her normal time & then slept in her pushchair beside us while we had dinner. Would that work for you ?

searcher48 Mar 5th, 2007 05:02 AM

I live in Spain we moved here when kids were 2 & 5. Eating in tourist Towns on the coast is no problem fast food open all day and we chose chinese often, they open earlier 6 - 7 pm and v cheap. In small inland villages it is more difficult(carry snacks and box drinks) find a place with room for toddler to runabout ie near beach or on pedestian street.then have stroller ready for sleeping in. get a good folding one with a reclining back and you can relax over the vino and coffee! Where are you going?

Mariarosa Mar 5th, 2007 05:36 AM

I understand your post very well as I have a toddler who has gone to bed at 6:30 - 7:30 PM since he was about 8 months old, so I always plan for meal times (when travelling in the Americas) ahead of time. I also would try to keep your child's schedule as much as possible. Some kids are more easygoing than others, but we found our child was NOT happy when things did not occur when he had come to expect them. We never adjusted nap times, meal times and bedtimes by more than 1 hour.

When we were last in Spain, if we had had a big lunch, we would "graze" all evening long, starting fairly early (7 PM). In the main towns (Madrid, Sevilla come immediately to mind), cafes that serve tapas were open continuously or opened early for after work drinks (which were accompanied by tapas). You can easily put a great meal together with some ham, cheese, croquettes, tortilla, shrimp, chorizo, etc. And when I've visited in late March/April you can sit outside because it's fairly warm and people watch over your tapas and wine. Note that no Spaniard would consider what I mentioned to be "dinner," but you'll be able to eat and you'll do so at a time that is convenient for you. Good luck and post when you return!

bkluvsNola Mar 5th, 2007 01:14 PM

Thanks everyone for the information. I feel a little more relaxed now.

We will be staying in Barcelona for a few days and then Salou on the coast. We plan to go to Montserrat the first day and then hit all the kid friendly attractions in Barcelona the next few days, and well as Port Aventura in Salou. Then spend the rest of the time on the beach.

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