If I could go back to Spain tomorrow, I would. Absolutely no questions asked. That said, I would probably spend the rest of the day planning my trip. I love to plan trips. I know that a vacation won’t last forever and that there are always more things to do and see in the place I go than I can ever possibly cram into one trip, so I try to lay out a plan before I go.
Some people like to travel with no plans and just let the trip happen, and others like to plan trips down to the last second of every day. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. When I’m visiting a new city, I like to get a general idea of the things that I want to do in that city and then let the rest of the trip happen. I can always decide not to do something that I had planned on doing. But making sure that I have a general idea of the things I want to do helps me to not get overwhelmed by options, and make sure I don’t miss any of the major sites. Once you cover the basics of your trip to Spain, you can get into the really fun stuff! I’ll cover the basics today, and next week I will cover some fun things to see and do!
When planning your trip to Spain the first thing you need to do is decide which city, or cities, you will visit. I can recommend Barcelona, but there are other great cities to visit as well, such as Madrid, Seville, Granada, and Valencia. I like to use Trip Advisor when planning trips to get ideas of things to do and to see reviews. Sometimes, I even find really fun places that are definitely not among the main tourist destinations (like the Bobsled track in Prague- remind me to tell you about it sometime).
Next, you need to book your flight and find a place to stay! Flights can get expensive, so I’d recommend checking multiple airports for the best options, and making sure to check European budget airlines and trains! If, for example, you’re planning a trip to Madrid, check the flights into Barcelona as well. It might work out cheaper to fly to Barcelona, and then take a budget airline, or the train to Madrid. Depending on how flexible you are, you could even check flights into London, or other major European cities, and then plan to take a budget airline to your final destination. Just make sure to double check airports. A lot of the budget airlines don’t fly out of the major international airports, but instead fly out of smaller airports, further outside of the city.
When looking at places to stay, the options are endless. If you want to stay in a nice hotel they are usually easy to find simply by searching for them, especially if you have a hotel chain of choice. If you are looking for hostels, Hostel World is a great site, with reviews and maps, and you can even book directly through the site. If you have a group, sometimes the best way to stay is to rent an apartment. Using sites like House Trip.com will allow you to find an apartment in your destination. Apartments can really save a group money because you will have access to a kitchen, and can choose to eat more meals at “home.” It will also give you a more secure home base than a hostel might.
Once you get to Spain, there are a few other things you need to be aware of.
First, Spain uses the Euro. If you are reading this from the USA, that means your dollar wont go quite as far. Try to exchange money at a bank, or by using an ATM. Most ATMs have “English” buttons and the exchange rate you get will be significantly better than what you will get at the airport, or from a tourist-focused exchange booth.
Second, the Spanish eat dinner late. Or, at least, late for Americans. It is pretty typical for dinner to start at 8pm or later in Spain with drinks, dessert, and fun continuing late into the night. Plan your meals and snacks accordingly. Sarah and I didn’t plan well one day and ended up explaining to a woman at a restaurant we walked into that yes, we were there to eat.
Finally, if you are visiting the Catalonia region of Spain, people speak Catalan in addition to Spanish. You will see signs that are most definitely not in Spanish, but don’t worry, everyone speaks Spanish too.
If you have any trip planning questions drop me a line in the comments! I will be happy to help! Next Tuesday I will be giving you some ideas of things to do and see on your trip to Spain!