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My dream trip to Spain- In desperate need of help! =(

My dream trip to Spain- In desperate need of help! =(

Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 29
My dream trip to Spain- In desperate need of help! =(


I've been dying to go to Spain since I was in high school. I've always been in love with Spanish culture and the people, and I've made it my life's mission to make it there to travel.
I'm graduating from college this December and after all the trials and tribulations I've encountered my gift to myself is to finally visit Spain.

This brings me to my problem. My original idea was to book airline tickets for my boyfriend and I to visit in March/April 2013. I was thinking of flying into Madrid and taking buses/trains to the cities we would like to visit (toledo, seville, barcelona). Accommodation wise we were just going to find hostels along the way.

I was then introduced to the idea of using a tour package, where all the flights, accommodations, some meals, and several tours are included. This sounded great and better money wise. However the more I researched the more I found that EVERY company has terrible reviews.

This is where I'm completely exasperated.
1) I'm unsure which would be the best financially, seeing as I'm the typical "broke college" student I'm not exactly blessed with wealth.
2) I'm worried that by booking with a travel company I may be making a bad decision.
3) grrrrrrrrrrr!

I am looking for any and all guidance. I don't want this trip to be a waste of time and money. So any advice anyone has would be greatly appreciated. I'm young and not very experienced with traveling outside of the USA.

Thank you!!
SimplyRachel is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 2,672
You will be much happier and have a more economical and flexible trip if you do the planning yourself. You are so looking forward to Spain and planning is often half the fun of a trip. I would forget the tour idea and do the arranging yourself.
mamcalice is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 48,360
Plan your own trip. It will be cheaper and better. It takes time and determination, but heck, you have this forum and the internet at your disposal - some of us back in the 1980s had nothing like the resources young people have today. Get guide books, look at maps, call hotels or B&Bs...do it yourself.
StCirq is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I'm with mamcalice - plan it yourself! You'll see more of what you want to see, spend less time seeing things that aren't your highest priorities, and have some unique adventures.

BTW, you might want to consider limiting your trip to no more than 2 of the 3 areas you hope to visit - Madrid+, Sevilla+, and Barcelona+. There is SO much to see in each area that you can easily spend several weeks in each just skimming the surface. And if you do limit yourself to just 1 or 2 of these areas, you'll probably save money on transportation.

Whatever you choose, I'm sure you'll enjoy it - it is wonderful! (And congrats on your graduation!)
kja is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:52 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,522
Tours are not the way to go IMO. You are too regimented. My suggestion would be
1. find the best ticket price to Madrid

2. find a decent hostal in the center

3. do a hop on hop off.. to get your bearings 1 ticket...1/2 afternoon and 1/2 next morning
4. out of Madrid trips..bus to where ever. check out any young people discounts.
5. overnight train or bus to Barcelona to save room rent
6. repeat #3 and #4 and fly home from there

Your trip will in no way be a waste of time and/or $. the ambiance of Spain will leave you gobsmacked and your experiences will be an adventure. Wander,absorb, drink cava, wine, eat tapas, people warch and enjoy!!!
amer_can is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 06:55 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,522
Oh yes, travel light, have layers and a scarf/pashima, Keep your eye on your stuff at all times. No need to dress up at all. Just don't look shabby with holey jeans and scruffy packs.
amer_can is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 07:00 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 29
Oh my gosh, thank you all so much for your help so far.

StCirq you are completely correct I am very lucky to have the internet, this forum to help me plan, and of course all of you!

I'm just very nervous, and I think this is what it making this process "scary to me". I have been working hard for this and I want to make sure it is a success. I am nearly fluent in Spanish but I do get embarrassed when speaking it. So I know I will be able to communicate at least fairly well.

Does anyone know if it is simple to book/board a train/bus from town to town?

I think I would like to do 3-4 days in Madrid, either a day trip or a night in Toledo, and then 3-4 days in Barcelona. Seeing as it is rather expensive to fly into Madrid and leave from Barcelona I think I would end up taking a return bus to Madrid a couple days prior to departure.

Also, the tours of the cities, any advice on those?

Thank you so much!

Also, if anyone has any places they suggest I stop please let me know!

Again, thank you ALL!
SimplyRachel is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 07:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 438
It shouldn't be a lot more to fly to fly into one city and out of the other - be sure you are checking the "multi-city" option rather than checking the prices of two one way tickets.

Try this site to find the lowest airfare possible price over the 30 day period you are interested in for the range of days you are interested in: 10 - 14 days. Try different airports near you as well - just learn your airport codes and then plug in those as options, it will figure out the cheapest fare (as of today, of course).

davispeets is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 07:20 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 26,390
Yes, you will find it easy to get trains and buses from town to town. You are wise to learn the langauge and will find that people will be happy to help you since you've made the effort. Don't be nervous about it. You'll find many people will be patient.

Will you really need a tour of the cities? You seem like you could plan your own tour.

What are your specific interest? Yes, you'll want to see the sights but what else are you interested in?

Tell us what you think Spain will be like? What is it about Spanish culture?

Are you more interested in art; Dali, Miro, Picasso? Or Greco?
Will you be leaning more towards the great cathedrals?
LSky is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 07:26 PM
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I love art and history. I'm also a huge foodie, and a photographer by hobby.

I would like to photograph the beautiful architecture and of course visit some museums, gardens, etc. I don't really know what all Spain has to offer, and would hate to miss something important or interesting. I'm sure I will however since 14 days or less in an entire country will never be long enough.

I'm very glad to hear that public transportation is user friendly for the novice traveler such as myself!

Thank you so much for the assistance with the flight tickets, I will definitely look into that. The sites I've looked at thus far with using the multi city option have been around the mid 900's.

For travelling in march/april I'm not exactly sure what a GOOD deal is.
SimplyRachel is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 08:48 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Too early to be buying tickets. Best fares seem to be about two to three months out. I seem to get the best fares for September by buying in July. But, I do watch starting earlier in the year.
joannyc is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 08:53 PM
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FYI.... My round trip ticket from JFK to MAD leaving in Sept and returning in Oct was $725.
joannyc is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2012, 09:12 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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I spent 3 weeks in Spain a couple of years ago & found Maribel's guide very useful.

Agree with the DIY mantra - you have the time to do a rough ( or detailed, if that's your thing) plan, costings for accommodation & fares. Going at your own speed allows you the flexibility to stay when & where the whim takes you.

I travelled alone, met up with friends in Madrid & Granada, used trains & buses. Initially had a glitch booking Renfe on my Visa, but my hotel soon sorted it out for me.

Temps late March- mid April varied between short sleeves & multi layers with down jacket. I remember only one day of rain, and even the coldest days weren't uncomfortably so.
A couple of days in Granada were almost summery.

With the caveat that I've only been to Spain once, and didn't go to Barcelona or Seville; I really enjoyed each of the places I went. Salamanca & Toledo I did as day trips from Madrid. Cordoba, an overnighter from Granada.

I did the hop-on/hop-off bus in Madrid & Granada - I find them a good orientation & choose places to investigate later. Rejecting the temptation to hop off before completing the circuit is often hard, but I find it pays dividends.

Tapas & Racions are a good way to eat interestingly & well without spending a fortune.

Good on you for learning Spanish, I only had a very meager vocab, yet found people very generous & patient. And a whole lot of people whose English was superb.

Have fun - it's a beautiful & fascinating country & I can't wait to go back.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2012, 02:23 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
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If you're into art, history and keen on photography, then Barcelona is a must. It's a fantastic city with all of the above in abundance.

The hop on hop off buses work on a daily basis, costing around €18 euros for one day and €24 for a two day ticket. If you only bu a one day, it is for the day you purchase it only, not for 24 hours so be careful. Barcelona is very walkable, apart from the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell which are a little out of town.

The weather in March/April will be roughly similar in both Madrid and Barcelona at around 60 during the day. Barcelona will be a little warmer in the evenings by a degree or two at around mid 40's. So, not beach or pool weather. April will be a couple of degrees up on March.

Most people on Fodor's prefer independent travel and will steer you towards the same as would I. You can certainly do atrip more economically that you organise yourself, than a tour. Don't be afraid of bargaining with hotels, via e-mail, as they won't be full at the end of Winter/start of Spring. It all depends on your budget for what appears to be a 10 day trip.

If you give us a clue, then maybe we can help more.
Rubicund is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2012, 03:41 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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The week before March 19th is full of activities for Las Fallas. www.lasfallas.com

It makes a nice triangle Madrid-Valecnia-Barcelona. Good trains between them as well as buses.

However, depending on how ling your trip is, I would try to add Sevilla.

You can fly cheaply between there and Barcelona or Valencia usually. There is also now a high speed train from Sevilla to Valencia. You could look into the train pass twww.renfe.com offers for foreigners.
lincasanova is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2012, 03:42 AM
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wow. sorry for all the typos.
lincasanova is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2012, 04:25 AM
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Here are three great value hostals in the most central location in Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla (private bathroom, tv, safe, 24 h desk etc).
Madrid, La Perla Asturiana, some 50€ for a double/night in March-April: http://www.booking.com/hotel/es/la-p...FeR4cAodkjcAhw

Barcelona, Hostal Orleans, some 50-60€ for a double: http://www.booking.com/hotel/es/host...FTJ2cAodb0QAMw

Sevilla, Hostal Museo, some 50€ for a double: http://www.booking.com/hotel/es/host...FeR4cAodkjcAhw

With booking.com you don't pay before arrival (and you can see all the guest reviews!), but availability can be a problem. Therefore it's often best to book directly on the Hotel website:
Madrid: http://www.perlaasturiana.com/
Barcelona: http://www.hostalorleans.com/
Sevilla: http://www.hostalmuseo.com/

To save much money, do as the Spanish and have your main meal at lunchtime. Then most local restaurants serve a three course lunch Menu del día with drinks inkcluded for some 8-12€.

In Madrid there are several such places in the area just north of Calle Mayor some 200 meters behind your hotel. I love Casa Marta: http://gastronomyblog.com/2010/07/01/casa-marta-madrid/

In Sevilla you'll find several great options almost on your doorstep. Bodegón Alfonso XII is 50 meters down the street: http://sevilla.salir.com/bodegon_alf...alfonso_xii_33

Just returned from Barcelona and stayed in Hostal Orleans. Next door Bar Restaurante Navia is a friendly place serving perfectly fine food at low prices, open almost 24/7. Groups of friends drop by even after midnight for having a huge meal as do many police officers. I can also highly recommend l'Aribau in Carrer d'Aribau, 3. On a corner close to the impressive university (from 1450). Here businesspeople and academics drop in for a three course lunch for 8,60€ (before 14, 9,60€ after 14h). Salad or today's soup, grilled meat or fish with poatatoes/vegetables and dessert. Excellent place! http://barcelona.salir.com/laribau

And if you want some days by the sea, go to charming Nerja just east of Málaga. Here you can stay in traditional and seafront Hostal Mena with terrace and sea-view for some 40€ for a double. Have stayed here several times. AND: Free tapas to choose with every drink (some 1,50€) in the bar area in almost every bar in Nerja. Several fabulous places serving excellent and filling tapas of all kinds, grilled meat, sausages, fish, salads, stews etc. etc. Normal to go from place to place. A delicious five course meal with drinks will then set you back some 8-10€. Also lots of places serving a three course lunch with drinks included for some 7-10€.
Hostal Mena: http://www.hostalmena.es/hostal/eng/
Photo of Nerja: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2622/...de6a8146_o.jpg

Updated guides on
Madrid: http://www.esmadrid.com/en/portal.do
Barcelona: http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/
Sevilla: http://www.exploreseville.com/
Nerja: http://www.nerjatoday.com/

Madrid has got several world class art museums, The Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza etc (The so called Paseo del Arte).

FREE ENTRANCE to Prado Monday to Saturday from 18.00 a 20.00h and Sundays between 17.00 and 19.00h

Free entrance to Reina Sofía Monday to Friday from 19:00 a 21:00, Saturday from 14:30 to 21:00 and Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00

The temepartures start to rise at this time of year. In the South (Sevilla, Nerja etc) the statistics for the past 16 years for weeks around the turn of March/April says daily highs at 65-74F, average 7 hours sun pr. day and rainfall once a week.

For Barcelona in the North, the statistics say highs 58-66F and six hours sun pr.day and rainfall once a week.

And be aware that Semana Santa/Holy Week is celebrated between March 24 and 31 next year. It's huge all over Spain, and especially in Andalucía. Could be an experience for life, but be prepared! Sevilla has got one of the most intense and famous easter celebrations in the world. The streets in the center are packed almost 24/7 and hotel prices rise considerably. http://www.euroresidentes.com/Fiestas/semana_santa.htm
kimhe is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2012, 08:40 AM
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Posts: 29
Oh my gosh! Thank you all so much for the replies and I do apologize for taking such a length of time to respond. I've been caught up with school as it's coming to a close.

I've made my decision that I am 100% planning this on my own and will not be using a travel company. I've started looking into multiple city flights so that I may fly into Madrid and leave from Barcelona. I couldn't be more excited. I'm hoping that flights will start to drop and I can find some deals once my date of departure gets closer.

I cannot thank you all enough for the help you've given me, and the confidence as well.

I will be looking into Maribel's guide and a couple others that were suggested to me.

a few of you have asked what my budget is, I honestly am trying to stay at or under 3,000. This includes flight, food, accomodations, and spending money for gifts/souvenirs.

As far as accomodations go I was thinking hostels most of the time.

I do have a couple questions though.

For 1-2 nights I would like to stay at a hotel with a sea view. I don't know which city would be the best for this, but I was hoping to do this as a romantic couple days for my boyfriend and I. I know it will be much more expensive, and I'm okay with that. Does anyone have any hotels/cities they could recommend?

I also was thinking about doing a day trip into morrocco. Any recommendations on the best way to do that?

again thank you all so much! I'm truly grateful!
SimplyRachel is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2012, 08:55 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 7,952
I would push trip into more April, less March, just so I could be sure of warmer weather( will not be hot). I can totally recommend that from Barcelona you take the bus ( Sarfa) and go to Tossa De Mar for two days, stay at the Capri Hotel, ask for the top floor balcony room with a view. The view will blow your mind, it is breathtaking. Tossa is a very small town, right on a cove, with a 13 century fortress on hillside overlooking it. Google for images of Tossa De Mar.
The Capri hotel is family run, they are SO nice, and the rooms , while basic were great. Simple breakfast included in the price of room.
We spend 5 days there this summer, after 20 days of major city touring, Amsterdam, Paris and Nice, then this was a breath of fresh air, so beautiful, the town is so clean,, the people so nice. Really, check it out.
Most hotels do not open till march so I found it hard to book a room in jan, but managed to for our summer visit.

I guarantee this will be a much needed romantic break. I could actually go on and on about this place. We had never been to Spain before and loved it, but for us, Tossa beat Barcelona hands down. We felt so safe and relaxed in Tossa.

We simply took the bus from airport to the Estacio Nord( the north bus station) walked in, and purchased tickets to Tossa, we got on a bus right away, just good timing, but they go about every hour or hour and a half. The views were nice to enjoy on bus ride. Can't remember cost, think it was about 15 euros. Ride was an hour and a half.
justineparis is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2012, 09:34 AM
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Oh my! Tossa de Mar is stunning! I looked at the Capri Hotel and it looks fabulous! Thank you so much for this suggestion!
SimplyRachel is offline  

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