Portugal has been regarded as one of the best countries to visit this year, yet it has never gained the popularity afforded by its next-door neighbor, Spain. I had a quick visit to Porto many years before, and longed to return and explore more of this vibrant country. This year we chose Lisbon as our Thanksgiving extended long weekend destination and had a wonderful time, even with less than perfect rainy weather. Why visit Portugal?
We start planning our Thanksgiving trips at least 6 months ahead. Flights out of our home airport are very expensive during the holidays, so that is the best way to get a good deal to the destination we want to visit. This time we got a great fare to Amsterdam, so we decided to hop on a budget airline to Lisbon. Vueling had a flight within 2 hours of our arrival, so we booked that well in advance to get a cheap fare. When booking connections with a budget airline, make sure to follow these steps.
Our flight with Vueling was on time and fulfilled our expectations. We did not have any problems with boarding or in-flight services. Be aware that leg room is quite small. However, our return flight with Transavia was delayed 2 hours. No announcements were made in the terminal. For this delay, we requested and received compensation according to EU regulation 261/2004. Flight was otherwise uneventful.
Getting there from the airport
On arrival to Lisbon, we followed the signs to the metro. There are automated ticket machines, however, a pin is required for credit cards. In any case, we wanted to get small change for our newly acquired euros, so we went to a ticket agent to purchase the tickets. Usually the line will also be shorter. The red line conveniently serves the airport and connects with the yellow, blue and green lines. There is not much space for bags, so this might not be the best option if you are traveling with big bags.
Where to stay
Based on the length of our stay, budget and planned day trips, we chose the Hotel Fenix Garden at Marques Pombal. The hotel is located across the monument and Marques Pombal metro stop (yellow and blue lines), next to the Hotel Fenix Lisboa on a side street. Rossio station is a 15min walk. Rooms were spacious and modern. The big win was the included breakfast. A great variety of hot and cold options were available to suit all tastes. Most surprisingly, there was a selection of champagne and wine, something I’ve never seen in an included breakfast at this price point.
In Amsterdam, we decided to stay by the airport as we originally had an early morning flight. We are very familiar with Ibis hotels, so we chose the Ibis Budget Amsterdam Airport. Ibis hotels have 3 levels of service: Ibis (regular 2* hotel), Ibis Styles (family oriented, breakfast included) and Ibis Budget. The Ibis Budget hotels have a double bed with a single bed on top like a bunk bed. The glass shower and sink is literally in the bedroom, so make sure you are sharing with people very close to you! On the other hand, the toilet is separate and has a door.
For the most part, we love Ibis hotels as they are budget friendly and are always well-located. However, we were less than pleased with the service at this location, since it did not live up to the expectations of an airport hotel:
- You need to call for airport pick-up, and there are no courtesy phones at the airport.
- The airport shuttle stops running at 1am. There was no indication on the website.
- We missed the last shuttle as our flight was delayed, so we took a taxi, 18 euros for a 7 min ride.
- There is no luggage storage at the hotel. You will be told to leave your bags at the airport.
Trip Savings (per person)
- Airfare (round trip SJU-AMS-LIS) – saved $500 by booking a sale to AMS, then budget airline to LIS
- Hotel in Amsterdam – saved $25 by using a Hotels.com reward (free night)
- Activities, transportation and entrance fees – savings of over $220 compared to booking day tours
For a day by day account, continue reading our full guide here.