Author Topic: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?  (Read 3530 times)

haflander

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Hi there. I'm super bored at work today so I've come to pose a very premature traveling question.

My SO and I booked tickets for a flight to Madrid in April 2020. Major shout-out to Scott's Cheap Flights...roundtrip tickets were 270 each. We also got tickets to Lima for the same price this May only 60ish days in advance. Bonus: I get access to SCF for free through a friend, so I don't even have to pay the 50ish per year :)

Our flight arrives in Madrid on a Monday morning and leaves late Tuesday morning of the next week. So, eight full days.

My ? is where in Iberia would you recommend for two people who have never been there? Each of us has been to Europe separately, but neither of us has been to Spain or Portugal. Obviously the three biggies are Madrid, Barcelona, and Lisbon. Other mid-sized cities that I've heard of and would consider are Leon/Oviedo, Bilbao, Valencia, Ibiza, Cartagena, Granada/Malaga, Seville/Gibraltar, and Porto. I'm thinking our options are two locations with plenty of time in each, or three locations with a moderate amount of time in each. I definitely would not want to stretch to four locations or four hotels. As we are flying in and out of Madrid, it would be easy to spend time there. However, there is plenty of time on travel days to go to/come back from somewhere else, so Madrid doesn't HAVE to be one of the three.

Other factors that may matter...we are 20-somethings and not married (yet). I'll primarily look for Airbnbs in whatever cities we choose. I speak a tiny bit of Spanish, but I'm guessing Texan/Mexican Spanish is very different than Spanish Spanish :) We enjoy big cities as well as country and off-the-beaten-path places. On our last big trip to Peru, she enjoyed the big city and art of Lima but I enjoyed the ruins and history and mountains of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and obviously Machu Picchu. So, we do have one big trip under our belt and would feel fine planning and organizing another. We would enjoy art/history museums and beach time. I scheduled this trip for April instead of May to possibly see a big soccer game such as Real Madrid, Atletico, or FC Barcelona. If we can't swing that, then seeing one of the teams of a mid-sized city instead would be almost as fun anyway.  A castle would be awesome, I've never done one in Europe before. Maybe some fun nightlife too.

All of the above are just stuff we enjoy but I wouldn't say any of them is a must. If summarizing, we just like to do the typical touristy places. Of course, safety is a minor concern. Not enough to sit at home, but enough to...choose destinations carefully. I've read that traveling by train/plane between cities in Iberia is pretty simple/cheap.

Thanks in advance.

terran

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2019, 08:28:01 PM »
I didn't much enjoy Madrid, so I would probably not spend much time there, but others may feel differently.

Getting from Spain to Portugal isn't as fast/easy as you might think given the proximity, so we flew, but with the amount of time you have I would probably just stay in Spain.

Barcelona and Seville would both be high on my list and should be easy and fast train connections from Madrid, but they're in opposite directions, so you might pick one or the other and add some other destinations in that direction.

SemiChemE

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2019, 11:21:59 PM »
Last December I traveled with my parents to Lisbon for 3 days, we then took the night train to Madrid, where we stayed one night, seeing the Prado and the Palacio Real, and then continued on to Barcelona, where we met up with my sister's family for 4 days.  It was a great trip. 

Three days was plenty of time to see most of the sites of Lisbon proper.  We especially enjoyed Dinner and a Fado Show at Parreirinha de Alfama (http://www.parreirinhadealfama.com/en/?home).  The various Miradouros (lookout points) throughout the city of 7 hills are spectacular.  There are also a bunch of great sea food restaurants along the Rua das Portas de Santo Antao.  Unfortunately, we did not have time for any day trips, as I would have liked to see the Palaces at Sintra.

We stayed at the Hotel Convento do Salvador, which though somewhat no-frills, is clean and in an excellent location.  I would recommend it. You can probably find a cheaper AirBnB, but I think it was worth having a professional English-speaking staff, who could provide directions and recommendations on things to see and local restaurants.

The night train to Madrid was an interesting experience.  We booked a sleeper car.  It wasn't exactly cheap, but considering we got both transportation and lodgings for the night, it wasn't too outrageous either.  It was really nice to arrive in Madrid fully rested and not lose much time to traveling.  However, while a single night on the train was totally fine, I'm not sure I would want to do it twice in the same week.  So, that may limit your options for making a round trip from Madrid to Lisbon.  Further, for a couple such as yourself, you probably wouldn't want to rent a full car, which requires buying 4 tickets.  You can buy single tickets and book a birth in a "shared" car, but those are segregated by gender, so you and your SO may have to be separated.

We didn't have much time in Madrid, so we only saw the Prado Museum and the Palacio Real, both of which are excellent and highly recommended.  I'm sure there's a lot more to see.  We stayed at the Hotel Mediodia, which is within walking distance of the Prado and across the street from the main train station.  It was nicer than I expected given the quite reasonable price and prime location.

The train to Barcelona is fast, covering the distance in about 2 hours.  Tickets are quite reasonable if purchased well in advance, but prices climb rapidly (2-4x) as the departure date draws near.  Barcelona was the highlight of our trip.  Lots to see and do.  If you do go, make sure to make reservations in advance for a tour of la Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia.  I would also recommend studying "Las Meninas" in the Prado and then visiting the Picasso in Barcelona to see Picasso's take on this famous painting.

Hirondelle

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2019, 11:48:33 PM »
My recommendation would be Madrid + Barcelona. You don't have the time for much else. Next to Madrid there's the historic city of Toledo which you should definitely check out and would add an extra day to your Madrid itinary. Barcelona has the beach as well so if you get lucky with the weather you could spend an afternoon there.

If you want to add a 3rd city Valencia makes the most sense route-wise and is supposed to be a great place as well.

As you're going in April it won't be high season so if you're comfortable with it, don't stress booking everything in advance. Just go,  and decide spontaneously where you'll go on which day.

Regarding safety; stop worrying. Unless you go into dodgy neighbourhoods of big cities there's nothing to worry about. Just beware of pickpockets like in any big city.

Telecaster

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2019, 01:02:14 AM »
My recommendation would be Madrid + Barcelona. You don't have the time for much else. Next to Madrid there's the historic city of Toledo which you should definitely check out and would add an extra day to your Madrid itinary. Barcelona has the beach as well so if you get lucky with the weather you could spend an afternoon there.

^ Something like this.  I love Madrid.   It is an amazing city.  Eight days in Madrid with side trips to Aranjuez, Toledo, and Segovia and that's a full trip.  Add in Granada, Seville, and Barcelona and you are cutting it pretty thin.  Best make two trips out of it.

Samuel

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2019, 10:08:53 AM »
My recommendation would be Madrid + Barcelona. You don't have the time for much else. Next to Madrid there's the historic city of Toledo which you should definitely check out and would add an extra day to your Madrid itinary. Barcelona has the beach as well so if you get lucky with the weather you could spend an afternoon there.

^ Something like this.  I love Madrid.   It is an amazing city.  Eight days in Madrid with side trips to Aranjuez, Toledo, and Segovia and that's a full trip.  Add in Granada, Seville, and Barcelona and you are cutting it pretty thin.  Best make two trips out of it.

Yep, this. Portugal is great but make that a separate trip, and don't run yourself ragged trying to check off too many cities within Spain. Madrid (with a day trip or two) and Barcelona is perfect for 8 days, otherwise you're wasting too much time in transit (especially if you have to end up back in Madrid). Both are awesome cities with plenty to see and do. Hits all your criteria except perhaps nature and "off the beaten path".

If you can't see a game in person watching it in a bar with rowdy locals is a heck of a lot of fun too.

Catbert

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2019, 11:45:35 AM »
I have a trip to Lisbon and Madrid planned for September.  But mine is two weeks.  I wouldn't try to do both in a single week in large measure because of travel time between cities. The only train between Madrid and Lisbon is the 12 hour overnight discussed earlier in the thread.  While it's a not a long plane fight, you'll lose hours of vacation time at the airport both ways.  I'd either spend the week at Madrid with day trips or split between Madrid and Barcelona if you really need a second city.  Trains between those cities are shorter and more frequent.

Barcelona is a great city.  I spend 3 days there as part of a longer trip and want to go back.

I don't have my days planned for Lisbon/Madrid yet so I don't have specific recommendations of what to do. 




   

spaniard999

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2019, 12:04:48 PM »
Hi there.

Born and raised in Madrid. Mother from Valencia, father from Almeria.
Been in the US (Chicago) for the last 8 years.

Feel free to PM me if you need to.

April is a nice time to go. I would say Madrid is a must and there is so much to do around.
They mentioned Toledo which is my fav city EVER. I took my GF there last year and it blew her mind. Very medieval look, with a huge cathedral. Toledo is famous for the blacksmithing and swords built for superproductions in hollywood come from Toledo.

You may find lots of castles all around the country too.

I don't know what is your preference or what you like to do on vacation (beach and relax or historic tourism or hiking...)

My family uses for traveling an app called Home Exchange https://www.homeexchange.com/
We were just in LA around february and my parents are right now in Peru with the same app.
It's based on points that you make when you have hosts at your place and you use the points when you travel over.
Maybe something you want to take a look at because you end up expending almost nothing.
My family referral is https://www.homeexchange.com/?sponsorkey=351-517967-d276bc09 just in case anyone is interested.


turketron

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2019, 12:16:08 PM »
If you had longer I'd say go to San Sebastian- probably my favorite city I've ever been to. For 8 days, I'd echo what everyone else says and say hit up Madrid and the surrounding area (Toledo, Segovia, etc) and maybe Barcelona.

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2019, 01:05:58 PM »
Sounds like the general consensus is Madrid and Barcelona. I would be interested in some of the places listed around Madrid, such as Toledo. I definitely would want to go to Barcelona as well instead of only Madrid the whole time. Valencia would be a possibility as a third, and it's close to the other two. I know the gf really wants to go to Lisbon, and has mentioned it a few times. "If you're gonna go all the way there anyway, why not?" We have a lot of other world trips on our list, and we may never end up coming to Spain/Portugal ever again.

Our problem right now is we're both at the beginning of our careers. I don't feel comfortable taking two full weeks off of work, so that's why we settled on this timeline. I don't want any job to realize that things go fine when I'm not there...and that I'm unnecessary. Later in my career when I'm more established, sure. She is in a kinda holding pattern for her career trajectory right now. Right now she's in an hourly position that has turned out to be a dead end job, so we don't think she'll be there next spring. She's training to become a teacher, and we're not sure if she'll be doing a probationary teaching internship in the spring semester, or a small chance she'll be in the same job she has now, or we've talked about her waiting tables for a limited time as a bridge between now and teaching. Another reason we scheduled the trip for April is so she could build some trust if she was teaching, instead of taking off 7-10 days in January, right at the beginning of the semester. During the flight deal a month ago, flights were not yet scheduled for summer 2020, so that wasn't a possibility either. We ended up choosing just about the latest date that we could manage before a family wedding in May.

Later in life, I'd love to be able to spend 2/4/6 weeks on vacation, but it's just not a possibility right now, unfortunately.

Any other opinions?

MrSal

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2019, 08:12:42 PM »
Born and raised in Lisbon here.

I agree with others. 7-8 days for Lisbon+Madrid+Barcelona is too rushed. Either stay fully in Portugal - plenty to see and do and you wouldnt regret it at all - most people I know just want to move there that visit it. Or stick to Madrid-Barcelona ...all 3 is probably too much

Zamboni

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2019, 09:22:23 PM »
I'll be another vote for 2 locations for the length of time you have, 3 at the most.

It's fairly easy to get a cheap flight to Lisbon for a different trip, or you can take TAP Portugal another time and have up to a 3 day layover in Lisbon for no extra fee on the way to another destination. We flew in and out of Lisbon for a trip to Seville, so those could be grouped together on another trip.

My favorite part of our trip was driving between cities, honestly. There are big beautiful storks nesting with hatchlings in April/May. Almost every exit has some sort of small historic church or castle ruins on a hill you can go see if you feel like it. And we stopped in sleepy little towns for wine and some Iberian ham, olives, and cheese. Heck, I enjoy checking out what is for sale at the gas station quickie marts in other countries . . . although my credit card did get skimmed by the clerk at one of those, so be careful about that.

People say not to drive in Europe, but people don't know anything.

Hirondelle

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2019, 03:26:38 AM »

Our problem right now is we're both at the beginning of our careers. I don't feel comfortable taking two full weeks off of work, so that's why we settled on this timeline. I don't want any job to realize that things go fine when I'm not there...and that I'm unnecessary.


This sounds like you desperately need to spend some time in Europe. Uncomfortable taking more than 10 days off because things may run fine without you, that's alien to us :). 

Samuel

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2019, 03:29:23 PM »
Doing Madrid to Lisbon to Barcelona to Madrid in 7.5 days means 30% of your trip is going to be traveling to airports, in airports, or on airplanes. Why would you do that to yourselves? Do yourselves a favor and slow down a bit. Pick Barcelona or Lisbon to complement Madrid, but not both.

Personally, I'd do Portugal separately (cheap tickets to Lisbon pop up fairly regularly) and it's a shame to either get to Spain and skip Barcelona, or get to Lisbon and skip the coast, Porto, etc.

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2020, 03:19:57 PM »
Resurrecting my own old thread. We said we wouldn't do any real planning until 2020 with some important weddings (SO was maid of honor) and career (passing certification test to become a teacher) stuff going on the last few months. Basically, we're at the exact same place in terms of planning the trip. I get 5% off Airbnb for the next month, so I wanted to come back here to start thinking about it again.

I agree with most of you that said to try to keep it to two, and doing Madrid and choosing between Lisbon and Barcelona. Portugal could definitely be a future trip all on its own. Valencia could make sense between Madrid and Barcelona if we really want to do 3, but I agree that it feels too rushed. Toledo as at least a day trip will definitely happen.

@SemiChemE can you tell us more specifics about the trains? Names of the companies and rough price for both the one between Lisbon and Madrid (even the full car like you mentioned) and the one between Madrid and Barcelona? PM me if you're more comfortable with that. Much thanks!
@Catbert tell us all about your September trip! Spare no details :) thanks
@aalferez I will definitely PM you in the future.

Any others who missed the first time who want to add their .02?

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2020, 07:02:54 PM »
I havenít been to Portugal yet but Iím going there this year. I did a Spanish trip a couple years ago and loved it.  I would stay in Spain the whole time because itís amazing. This is the schedule I would do:
Monday: Madrid
Tuesday: Madrid
Wednesday: day trip to Toledo (as amazing as everyone has said)
Thursday: earliest train to Valencia (rent bikes for 2 days and ride everywhere, particularly through the river park)
Friday: Valencia
Saturday: early train to Barcelona (could stop at Sitges)
Sunday: Barcelona
Monday: day trip to Girona or another day in Barcelona, late flight to Madrid to fly home
Tuesday: Madrid for flight home

You can easily replace the trains with flights, but I love trains in Europe. When I travel like this I like to jam pack my holidays and get the most out of them, hotels mean nothing cause Iím just using them to sleep. I see as much as possible. I feel in 2 days you can tick off most highlights of a city. Try to work out what you want to see, go online and book. Barcelona is busy, try to skip queues with good planning. Valencia is an amazing mustachian city, not too big, not too small and bike friendly and gorgeous with an old part, an ultra modern part and a beach. I also loved Seville and Cadiz but you donít have time for that. Have fun!

SemiChemE

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2020, 10:47:40 PM »

@SemiChemE can you tell us more specifics about the trains? Names of the companies and rough price for both the one between Lisbon and Madrid (even the full car like you mentioned) and the one between Madrid and Barcelona? PM me if you're more comfortable with that. Much thanks!

The Spanish National Rail service is called RenFe (renfe.com).  You should be able to find information about schedules and fares on their site, but it's not particularly user-friendly.  Also, when we went, it did not support purchases from the U.S. 

Instead I used loco2.com, which did allow me to purchase tickets in advance from the U.S.  The Lisbon to Madrid night train (Trenhotel) cost roughly $250 for the private 4-Bed Sleeper car.  As I mentioned before, you can also purchase a Bed in a Shared Car for about $62.50, but those are segregated by gender.  I think you can get a regular seat for about $30. The train departs every night at around 9pm and arrives at 8:40 the next morning.

As for the Madrid to Barcelona train, trains depart every couple hours and prices vary widely with time of day.  You can usually get a cheaper fare if you book well in advance.  The ride is about 3 hrs.  I'm currently seeing fares ranging from $46 to $120 depending on departure time.  We were unsure of our plans, so we bought tickets at the station on the day of departure, but as a result we paid more than I had expected.  We also spent a lot of time waiting in line to purchase the tickets, so I'd definitely recommend purchasing in advance through loco2.com.

I had previously had very good experiences buying tickets at the station in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, so I assumed it would be painless in Spain as well, but I was mistaken. Mainly, because the Kiosks did not work with out of country Credit Cards and the ticket counter had limited hours and long lines. If you do wind up buying at the station, be sure to ask if there are any specials.  We ended up buying a 4-seat package for $20 less than it would have cost for 3 standard fare tickets.

The trains themselves were clean, comfortable and convenient.  They're definitely better than flying on EasyJet or the other discount European airlines. 

If you have any other questions, feel free to PM me.


Brother Esau

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2020, 06:17:05 AM »
We visited Portugal a few years ago and loved it. Spent 2 weeks between Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve (hotel in Lagos). Very affordable and the people were very nice.

grobinski

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2020, 06:51:43 AM »

Any others who missed the first time who want to add their .02?

DW and I did Barcelona, Madrid & Lisbon in 2016. We did it over 16 days and the pace was pretty good. We flew into BCN, out of LIS and took trains between (booked about 1 month in advance). The fast train BCN-MAD was Ä90pp and the "tren hotel" to Lisbon was Ä99pp for a private double sleeper compartment. We've done overnight trains on a few trips, this seems romantic but ultimately is more of a practicality. I would agree with others and advise against trying to go to/from Lisbon with just 8 days. It's a lovey city, but deserves a more leisurely pace IMO.

We did day trips to Montserrat from Barcelona and Toledo from Madrid. Both are highly recommended. If you do just one, make it Montserrat - it is a fun, easy day trip with a cog rail line, gorgeous scenery, and a nice change from big city action.

Sagrada Familia is amazing but is a busy place so it merits some attention to pre-book tickets and plan accordingly. If you're at all interested in architecture/art/design, do some research before you go to better appreciate this wonder. Here is a good introduction. https://youtu.be/ZnNwpmdWm1w   If you do get to Sagrada be sure to see the museum and workshops in the basement as they are as fascinating as the building itself. We missed Parque Guelph because we did not pre-book tickets, so if you want to see that, plan accordingly. The magic fountain in BCN is quite a spectacle and their museums are great.

The apt we rented in Madrid was lovely so I will share.  https://abnb.me/W57kUfje63  The Prado and other museums, the palace, the churches, the jamon, the tapas bars, etc... can easily fill weeks.


Barcelona has strict rental restrictions and my impression is that most Airbnb's are probably not actually legal. Lodging is spendy as a result.

When traveling we all want to see everything on our bucket lists:in my experience this can result in not really seeing the place itself at all. Do try to make time for a scroll through a park, a detour down an alley that isn't on your itinerary, or a leisurely 3 hour lunch at a sidewalk cafe. For us, getting a feel for a place always includes visiting a grocery store to see how the locals shop and to pick up supplies for picnic lunches which can reduce the occasional stress of finding the perfect place for lunch every day as well as keeping the budget somewhat mustachian.

Have fun planning and enjoy the trip!

Here is a map from our trip.
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1KEuKgbRPVstAaRsGaYn9PBT5uqI&usp=sharing
« Last Edit: February 15, 2020, 10:29:09 AM by grobinski »

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2020, 10:17:58 AM »
We have one way tickets to Porto in a few weeks. Spending 3 weeks in Portugal and then 2-3 in Spain. Can't wait!

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2020, 04:53:25 PM »
Thanks everyone. We have talked and decided to just do Madrid and Barcelona. I considered a third Spanish city like Seville or Zaragoza or taking a whole day to drive between Mardrid and Barcelona. After doing some research on all of these, I'm probably leaning against it.

I've looked at many of the things to do in Madrid. I'd really like to do Toledo for a half/whole day and see an Atletico game in person also. I haven't gotten around to researching Barcelona quite yet, I was pretty busy at work this week. We'll look at hotels and airbnbs after nailing down an itinerary and then we'll probably book the trains in advance also. I'm not sure if we'll have enough time to do a train back to Madrid before the flight out of Madrid at 11:00. Maybe I can look into switching the flight to go out of Barcelona if the cost wouldn't be too high. I'm not sure how realistic that is, especially considering we got a great deal on the tickets originally.

Another thing. I'm thinking of popping the ? on the vacation. I have a lot to do before then as far as ring shopping and all that, but I thought I would ask for proposal locations here if by any chance some of the Spanish locals on this thread know of a few. I'm sure it would be easy to check out online anyway. I'd really like a photographer to capture it, but I imagine that could be difficult to arrange before going there, all while keeping the whole thing on the DL. I posted my engagement ring situation on the recent thread about that if you're curious, but it's mostly unrelated:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/engagement-ring-110099/msg2559997/#msg2559997

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2020, 01:26:27 PM »
We are talking about dates and looking at hotels and airbnbs. I have a few more ?s as I've went along...

I'd really like to see a soccer/football game there. I did some research and people said the best way is to just buy a seat from the stadium in person or on the official team site a few days before the game. This makes me a little nervous to wait until the last minute. The game I'm looking at that would work with the schedule is Atletico. Is this really the best way to buy tickets?

I looked at the renfe site and entered the dates and the price is about 315 total for the two of us for a round trip between Madrid and Barcelona. That's with specific times that would work. 315 is a lot higher than I thought it would be. I looked at flights instead, and they are about 40 less total. Even if you consider the travel times as equal (wouldn't flights be faster even after accounting for lines and everything?), I'm wondering why the train is a better option. Another factor is that on the return we have to end up at the Madrid airport anyway, so if doing the train, it's also a metro ride with all the bags.
So...what am I missing here? It seems like flying is easier and cheaper, maybe faster too.

As far as hotels go, Madrid has a lot of cheap places, so it'll be easy. Barcelona is proving a lot more difficult, and we'll have to pay a lot more to get a lot less. So far, I am using airbnb (I have a coupin!) and expedia, which has worked well for us in the past.

frugaldrummer

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2020, 11:33:13 PM »
Loved Portugal! One of my favorite places Iíve ever been. Check out Sintra.

PoutineLover

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2020, 09:08:07 AM »
I went to Portugal/Spain for 3.5 weeks a few years back and loved all of it. We did Lisbon-Faro-Seville-Granada-Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona, with 2-3 nights per place. Agreed that in the time you have, you can't do all of it, so it's good that you're deciding not to do Portugal this time around. Definitely plan to go on another trip though, it's a beautiful place.
I didn't love Madrid, Valencia was nice but beachy and I don't know how fun that would be in April. Barcelona was my favourite of those for sure. The food, architecture, sights and cathedral were all great. Look into buses as well, might be much cheaper and for short distances like that there isn't a huge time difference between flying, train or busing. I stayed in hostels, which often have private rooms as well. Barcelona has a complicated relationship with Airbnb, so you might want to consider other options.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2020, 11:00:13 AM »
Thanks everyone. We have talked and decided to just do Madrid and Barcelona. I considered a third Spanish city like Seville or Zaragoza or taking a whole day to drive between Mardrid and Barcelona. After doing some research on all of these, I'm probably leaning against it.

I've looked at many of the things to do in Madrid. I'd really like to do Toledo for a half/whole day and see an Atletico game in person also. I haven't gotten around to researching Barcelona quite yet, I was pretty busy at work this week. We'll look at hotels and airbnbs after nailing down an itinerary and then we'll probably book the trains in advance also. I'm not sure if we'll have enough time to do a train back to Madrid before the flight out of Madrid at 11:00. Maybe I can look into switching the flight to go out of Barcelona if the cost wouldn't be too high. I'm not sure how realistic that is, especially considering we got a great deal on the tickets originally.

Another thing. I'm thinking of popping the ? on the vacation. I have a lot to do before then as far as ring shopping and all that, but I thought I would ask for proposal locations here if by any chance some of the Spanish locals on this thread know of a few. I'm sure it would be easy to check out online anyway. I'd really like a photographer to capture it, but I imagine that could be difficult to arrange before going there, all while keeping the whole thing on the DL. I posted my engagement ring situation on the recent thread about that if you're curious, but it's mostly unrelated:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/engagement-ring-110099/msg2559997/#msg2559997

Ok, that makes things easier. From Barcelona you can do day trips to Girona (never been but highly recommended) and Sitges. Remember to book all the popular stuff online in advance, skip the lines as much as possible.

As for train vs flying. I love trains in Europe, but the ones in Spain are a little annoying. You got some great advice above, so Iíd follow that. Double check those flights cause if itís the cheap airlines you might need to pay more for baggage. I like seeing the countryside and with trains you donít have to worry about delays. I donít remember the train being at the airport, thereís big stations around the city. What you also have to master is the metro/subway system. Itís not that difficult but you might want to read up on some tips. I was staying in Airbnb shares and the hosts helped me navigate. Iím sure TripAdvisor has something on it.

Give a lot of thought to the proposal. Itís hella romantic for sure, but it will always be meaningful too. Whatever place you pick will be special. Is it a place you want to revisit in 10 or 20 years? Also, from experience, itís a bit nerve wracking worrying about the proposal and not losing the ring and setting everything up. You might not want the extra stress. Consider having the most romantic trip you can for the whole trip, make it about you both and not something that needs to be a fb post or insta story. Just you two sharing an adventure. When you return think of a place special to you both, that will fit your story and make that your proposal place. You can always tie elements in from the trip, especially if it was romantic and not one that you fought about. Oh, and if you want romance and happiness, include her in every part of the trip planning. You can still arrange little romantic surprises before during and after.

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2020, 11:19:53 AM »
I looked at the renfe site and entered the dates and the price is about 315 total for the two of us for a round trip between Madrid and Barcelona. That's with specific times that would work. 315 is a lot higher than I thought it would be. I looked at flights instead, and they are about 40 less total. Even if you consider the travel times as equal (wouldn't flights be faster even after accounting for lines and everything?), I'm wondering why the train is a better option. Another factor is that on the return we have to end up at the Madrid airport anyway, so if doing the train, it's also a metro ride with all the bags.
So...what am I missing here? It seems like flying is easier and cheaper, maybe faster too.

Thanks @MrThatsDifferent Any thoughts on the above? I'd really like to figure this out in the next few days or over the weekend.

Also, I had a typo above. Flights were actually 140 cheaper, NOT 40.

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2020, 12:30:50 PM »
Whatever you do, don't miss Granada. The city is beautiful and Alhambra is mind blowing. We went to Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Granada a year ago. We spent a total of 10 days and had a blast. I want to go back again. I speak little Spanish but I used Google translate extensively and it worked very well. We flew from Barcelona to Seville and took buses from Seville to Cordoba and Granada. It was great. We were traveling with a 4 YO and she had a blast.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #27 on: February 27, 2020, 04:50:02 AM »
I looked at the renfe site and entered the dates and the price is about 315 total for the two of us for a round trip between Madrid and Barcelona. That's with specific times that would work. 315 is a lot higher than I thought it would be. I looked at flights instead, and they are about 40 less total. Even if you consider the travel times as equal (wouldn't flights be faster even after accounting for lines and everything?), I'm wondering why the train is a better option. Another factor is that on the return we have to end up at the Madrid airport anyway, so if doing the train, it's also a metro ride with all the bags.
So...what am I missing here? It seems like flying is easier and cheaper, maybe faster too.

Thanks @MrThatsDifferent Any thoughts on the above? I'd really like to figure this out in the next few days or over the weekend.

Also, I had a typo above. Flights were actually 140 cheaper, NOT 40.

Iím not sure. I tried this and saw r/t for $150 for 2 adults, but donít know your dates: https://raileurope.co.uk/en/journey/barcelona-madrid-ch6y9j?currency=USD&outbound=4d53df-3a5f0f&leg=outbound

haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2020, 11:54:16 AM »
Huh...checked out that rail europe site and prices were the same as the renfe site. Now I'm thinking it would be fun to do the train one way in the middle of the trip to see a little countryside and get the train experience, even though it's 25-30% more expensive. On the last day, flying would be much faster and easier, as that will be a looong day of travel and we need to be on time to catch the big flight over the pond.

As for the rest of the stuff, we're reserving airbnbs for now. We got one for Barcelona, as I had a 5% off coupin, which will save a big # as everything in Barca is quite expensive. We're looking at ones for Madrid and have a lot more choice there.

We're not really worried about CV as of right now. We're about 6 weeks out and the only thing that would change my mind is if there are big developments in Dallas, Atlanta, Madrid, or Barcelona. Obviously, something could happen when we're there, but we have no control over this. Personally, I don't think it would be so bad to be "trapped" somewhere else for a month. That's the best excuse to miss work ever! We don't have travel insurance, but the flight tickets were cheap. We would get $ or credit from the airline if flights were canceled...right? The only way CV is affecting our plans is that we're considering airbnbs with generous cancellation policies. My parents are "worried" about CV, but I think it's more about them being generally afraid of travel and the big scary world. CV is just the flavor of fear for this year...if it wasn't that, it would be something else with them.

We have another trip planned for late July and/or early August that's a cruise from Seattle to Alaska. That one is much more likely to be affected if the CV situation gets worse. The grandparents that were planning on going have already dropped out. Luckily, I heard they only lost a small deposit.

SemiChemE

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #29 on: March 07, 2020, 01:55:18 PM »
I looked at the renfe site and entered the dates and the price is about 315 total for the two of us for a round trip between Madrid and Barcelona. That's with specific times that would work. 315 is a lot higher than I thought it would be. I looked at flights instead, and they are about 40 less total. Even if you consider the travel times as equal (wouldn't flights be faster even after accounting for lines and everything?), I'm wondering why the train is a better option. Another factor is that on the return we have to end up at the Madrid airport anyway, so if doing the train, it's also a metro ride with all the bags.
So...what am I missing here? It seems like flying is easier and cheaper, maybe faster too.


If you're happy with the flight schedules and they really are $140 cheaper, go for it and don't look back!  I think travel times will be very comparable, when you factor in the extra time for baggage checks, security checks, and  baggage pickup for the flight.  The train will have larger seats, more leg room, more storage space for carry-on luggage, and more room to get up and move around, but it's not a terribly long flight, so putting up with a little extra discomfort may well be worth $140. 

Do pay attention to the terms of the flight.  Discount European airlines are notorious for charging extra for luggage (even carry-on items).  They also are commonly subject to last-minute gate changes and delays, so be on the alert and don't miss your flight!  Otherwise, have fun!  It sounds like a great trip.

Here's a little article on the European Discount Airlines:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/budget-flights

They are a great option, but you should go in with your eyes open.


haflander

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2020, 08:52:00 AM »
Sigh, canceled. We would have arrived there today. Getting a refund was pretty simple, as Delta canceled the flight. Airbnb was more complicated, and I had to settle for a 100% credit, which they wouldn't do under normal circumstances if a guest canceled.

Hoping this thread will help others think about and plan an Iberian vacation in the future, but it wasn't in the cards for us in spring 2020. If anything, this crisis has just made me want to travel even more in the future.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2020, 01:33:17 PM »
Sigh, canceled. We would have arrived there today. Getting a refund was pretty simple, as Delta canceled the flight. Airbnb was more complicated, and I had to settle for a 100% credit, which they wouldn't do under normal circumstances if a guest canceled.

Hoping this thread will help others think about and plan an Iberian vacation in the future, but it wasn't in the cards for us in spring 2020. If anything, this crisis has just made me want to travel even more in the future.

AIrbnb not refunding is really bad form. Thereís a pandemic, there are no flights, I canít imagine what Airbnbís excuses are for this but itís all pure greed. If theyíre holding your money in credit that means the people who you were going to rent with are getting nothing. So Airbnb is holding your money for what? Not compensations for hosts. They havenít delivered a service and you need your money more than they do. Iíd look to additional ways to get your money back (hell, what if this destroys the business and you lose your money altogether?). My strategies would be: polite letter requesting full refund; then a letter, requesting refund, while mentioning looking into legal action, and sharing the injustice online; investigating if your credit card company has insurance or the ability to file a claim for the money returned. Google options, there are some out there.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #32 on: April 20, 2020, 01:44:07 PM »
Oh and let them know youíre reaching out to media outlets for an updated story on how they arenít giving refunds: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/07/airbnb-guests-complain-its-hard-to-get-coronavirus-refunds.html

nippycrisp

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #33 on: April 20, 2020, 04:39:57 PM »
AirBnB is giving out refunds, according to their pretty reasonable stated policy. I canceled three of them two days ago. It took maybe five minutes to do. Just pull up the relevant state department screenshot and attach it. We were approved within four hours.

I'd recommend just following their instructions as a path of least resistance.

cash2001

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #34 on: April 20, 2020, 08:55:29 PM »
I agree that it is really easy to get refunds through airbnb, I was in Spain and had to get back to America ASAP. I called airbnb directly as soon as I got home and got my full refunds for 6-7 different accommodations within 5 minutes.

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Re: Vacay to Spain & Portugal...Madrid? Barcelona? Lisbon? Others?
« Reply #35 on: April 21, 2020, 11:30:58 AM »
@haflander, peep the past few pages of my journal for pics. SO and I went, we are spending 3 months in Portugal vs. our original plan. Most of the time has been in Lisbon and the surrounding area. Much better than back home (NYC metro area) to ride this whole thing out. Hope you make it here in the future, the place is incredible.