Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > Spain Itinerary & Trains - Need Help!

Spain Itinerary & Trains - Need Help!


Nov 16th, 2011, 01:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 87
Spain Itinerary & Trains - Need Help!

Booked air for Spain – arrive Madrid 06/01/12, leave Barcelona 06/16/12, trying to plan how to spend 15 wonderful days between. Can you help with 3 areas? (Note: American dates – month first!)

1. Interested in Roman history in Spain. If we can only visit one ... Empuries (Costa Brava) or Tarragona (Costa Daurada)? (Merida is not on tentative itinerary)? Suggestions?

2. Taking lots of trains. Am nervous about traveling with luggage (large rolling duffel & carryon each).
* Is there assistance boarding, where is luggage stored, and is it secure? On Swiss train in 2005, bags were piled at the front of the car under a mountain of other bags. We could barely get ours on & off when changing trains.
* Renfe web says 20 kg combined allowed for each person’s bags, less than is permitted for checked bag on flight from US, so our combined bags will be over. Is the 20 kg limit enforced? Do they charge more or not let you board?
* Comments on 3 classes of tix: tourist, “butaca” or club? Mostly concerned about trips with bags. Any advantage to ticketing up?

3. Itinerary critique? One specific question is whether to do switch Cordoba to 2 nites & Granada to 1 nite.
06/01 Arrive Madrid.
06/01 – 06/04 Madrid & day trips via Renfe to Segovia & Toledo (limited time in
06/04 Renfe train Madrid-Seville (late afternoon / early evening) *
06/05 & 06/06 Seville
06/06 Renfe train Seville-Cordoba (late afternoon / early evening)
06/07 Cordoba
06/07 Renfe train to Cordoba-Granada (late afternoon / early evening)
06/08 & 06/09 Granada
06/09 late flight (21:55) Granda-Barcelona, via Vueling
06/10 - 06/12 Barcelona **
06/13 Tarragona & possibly Cambrils (day trip via Renfe)
06/14 Montserrat and/or Cadaques, Empurides, Tossa Del Mar (not sure how – train,
bus, car rental or guide with car)
06/15 Extra day – as needed for Barcelona, beach day, or whatever we must do before
returning home
06/16 Return from Barcelona
* No good rail connections Madrid-Granada. To avoid long trips / changing trains, best bet seems to be Seville, then Cordoba, then Granada. Considered Cordoba as day trip from Seville, but then Seville-Granada becomes a 5 hour evening trip with train change in Cordoba. Flow seems best Madrid-Seville-Cordoba-Granada.
** may do a day trip Mon if too many Barcelona museums/sites closed

Thanks for your tips/ suggestions / and yes, even harsh criticism.
burnhamski is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 01:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,499
I am trying to think why Renfe would care about the weight. I think it has something to do the luggage x-ray process. Once done with that no one cares about the luggage weight.

Many of your questions would be immaterial if you can reduce the amount of luggage. Is this not an option? Besides train logistics, you also have to deal with luggage from stations to your hotels. Some hotels require going up stairs to get to the registration, and again stairs to reach the room, so the pay off reducing the luggage extends all through your trip.
greg is online now  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 35
I do not remember anyone ever weighting our bags and we had full sized suitcases. The Renfe site is like futures trading. The prices change constently and the price of different trains to the same place can be very different. I was able to find preferente one some train for less than the tourist class on the train that left an hour earlier. Check prices often. It was much better, decent food, a waiter and help with luggage.
Chicagofan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 02:29 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,340
Sheeyoot, I don't remember anyplace for renfe to check bag weight at Chamartin. At Atocha, that may be different.

Skip Segovia, spend the extra day in Madrid and wander the area from the Cervantes statue and Plaza d'Espana to the Palace to the Opera area to the Mercado San Miguel. Segovia was underwhelming, to say the least.

Toledo is worth the day trip.
BigRuss is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 03:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 87
Thanks for luggage trips - always plan for less, but end up with more. Happy to hear they aren't checking every bag for weight. Where do you actually store bags on the train?

Chicagofan - Is "preferente" the top level ticket? I see only turista, butaca & club. Sounds like you recommend ticketing up from turista. If there's some additional service (and not jsut a bigger seat!), sounds good to me

BigRuss - Thanks for tip on Segovia. Travel books make me not want to go everywhere. Skipping Segovia for extra time in Madrid may be very good change. Thanks.
burnhamski is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,041
I'll try to respond to your questions:

1) I've never been to Empuries but I did spend 2 nights in Tarragona and loved it! It's well connnected by train to Barcelona

2) I wouldn't sweat the luggage weight. I have traveled extensively through Spain on train with my large bags (a lifelong affliction with overpacking) and never had an issue. If your train is at the beginning of the particular line I'd just arrive early so you have time to get your bags on board and stow away without disrupting other passengers. For most train lines (other than the regionals) there is a section for luggage (too large to put overhead) at the end of each section.

As for the class of service turista is very good. There are benefits to preferante and club (meal service if during meal time, less seats (more room) and access to a lounge at the train stations (where they have them). But I generally opt for turista unless I can score a very good web fare or the ride is exceptionally long.

3) Itinerary suggestions:

If I understand correctly you have planned:

Madrid (3 nights)- daytrips to Toledo & Segovia
Sevilla (2 nights)
Cordoba (1 night)
Granada (2 nights)
Barcelona (7 nights)

Personally I'd tweak a bit. I assume the trip is very heavy on Barcelona due to your interest in Roman history. 15 nights seems like alot but you're covering alot of geography in 2 weeks.

First of all I'd at the very least add 2 nights to Sevilla, taking one from Barcelona and also one from Cordoba. I'd visit Cordoba as a daytrip between Madrid and Sevilla. You can store your bags at the bus station directly across the street from the train station so there's no backtracking involved. This gives you more time in Sevilla, less unpacking and may also leave time for a visit to Italica, roman ruins just outside of Sevilla.

Another option I'd consider is eliminating Madrid entirely from this trip (save for another trip). You only have 3 days for Madrid, and 2 daytrips. Your first day will likely be jetlagged so as you did mention you're not going to have much time in Madrid anyways. This would give you 3 additional days which you could use in a variety of ways. For example, spend a couple of nights in Jerez, Malaga, Cadiz, the white villages (you'd really need a car to explore the white villages though), Ubeda, Priego (which is easy by bus between Cordoba & Granada) etc... and taking your original itinerary and add a night to Cordoba so you avoid a 1-nighter.
CathyM is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 16th, 2011, 08:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Sorry, but it's a bit rushed for me... If you're interested in Roman ruins, and maybe a few Phoenician, who predated the Romans, and have only 15 days, then I would stick with Catalunya. There's more than enough to keep you busy for two weeks.

Other than that, there is a newly opened Roman village in the Ribera del Douro region, the Banos de Valdearados, where you can sample great wine and Roman ruins for at least a couple of days.
Robert2533 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 12:46 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 543
There is no doubt there are weight restrictions per traveler advised on RENFE's website. However, there is no practice of checking and I agree with CathyM'S 2) on the subject.
WomBatt is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 01:59 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,471
The luggage area on the AVE train has very small luggage racks that will not hold many oversized USA suitcases. It is more geared to oversized carry-ons. A friend and I commented this last trip and wondered where numerous people with "normal " sized luggage would even put it.if there were several people on the train with larger bags, It only holds a few bags. very strange design in my opinion.

Assuming all AVE trains are the same. this was the VLC-MAD route.
lincasanova is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 07:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 87
Thanks for comments/suggestions.

1. Only one comment on Tarragaon vs. Empuries? (Tarragona 1 / Empuries 0)

2. Sounds like overweight bags will not be a problem on Renfe trains. Not so clear on whether to look at turista class or if higher classes would be better with large bags. Chicago fan says “…and help with bags” about “preferente.” Does anyone else have experience with the other ticket classes & if so, any advice on what ticket class we should try for?

3. Itinerary NOT so easy. We know we arrive @ Madrid and leave from Barcelona. One suggestion was to skip day trip to Segovia & add a day in Madrid. CathyM, you had a lot of thoughtful & detailed suggestions, including skipping Madrid entirely. I thought we should spend a day or two there, and use it as base for day trips to Toledo & Segovia. Do you think I should skip Madrid and those day trips, and go directly from Madrid to Sevilla?

Am still trying to juggle Sevilla / Cordoba / Granada. I had them tentatively as 2 days, 1 day, 2 days. When there is so much we will not see, is it worth adding 2 days and staying 4 days total in Sevilla? Is there enough there to give up 2 days elsewhere? Also, CathyM, regarding Cordoba vs. Granada, do you think 1 day in Cordoba & 2 in Granada is ok, or how would you change?

Thanks to all who have gone before me, and share their experience and advice!
burnhamski is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 10:18 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 978
ozgirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 11:46 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,471
many people just spend a few hours in Córdoba if they do not have more time.. as the MAIN in interest is the Mezquita.
lincasanova is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 17th, 2011, 11:51 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,471
The AVE trains are comfortable in any class. I would feel fine in any of them. However, sometimes preferente class is cheaper than tourist because there is a webfare available.. so you decide. with each class upgrade you do receive more than a seat, as mentioned, PLUS the advantage of having a private serviced VIP waiting lounge at departure, which is a nice addition. If you drink alcohol, the price difference in some cases is almost worth it as all drinks are included in the upgraded fares, and you can ask for almost anything from cava ( Spanish bubbly) to brandy. You will also receive an airline type meal or snack depending on the hour .
lincasanova is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2011, 12:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 543

You appear to be without a guide to the RENFE website and likely discounted tickets - http://tiny.cc/0gpnv - concise. Additionally this - http://tiny.cc/5ynb6 - covering all known trials and tribulations.
WomBatt is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2011, 05:51 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 87
Thanks, lincasanova - 1 day is apparently plenty for Cordoba. 2 days for Granada? Do you also think I need to add a day or two to Sevilla if I can? Any thoughts on whether Segovia is worth a day trip from Madrid or not? Still struggling with the idea of skipping Madrid & day trips in order to add to Sevilla.

Wombatt, thanks much for that link to TA page on Renfe. First link didn't work, but 2nd one...Wow – lots of good info! As to class, there doesn’t seem to be many advantages to the “preferente” over “turista” other than wider seats & better food (not important for our mostly short trips). If we don’t get more space to store bags, or help with bags, I guess either class will do. I’ll try for the 62 days out to get best web fare (good advice for someone planning now for June!).
burnhamski is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 18th, 2011, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,471
If you need assistance to board the train Renfe has a service for the handicapped or those feeling they need assistance. Not sure why stations have done away with porters. Nowadays people sure could use the work.
lincasanova is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:53 AM.