It’s always a bit intimidating when you’re planning to visit another country where not only do you not know where to stay, what to do, places to visit, but they also speak another language. Personally, I like to do a lot of research because I most definitely don’t want to end up lost and somewhere not safe–especially if my family is with me.
I’d always wanted to visit Spain ever since I was a kid–I don’t know why… maybe perhaps because my grandfather was Spanish and my parents never got around to taking us there. So, last November while researching Cordoba for something else, it dawned on me that there wouldn’t be the perfect time to visit Spain and I just had to make it happen if I truly wanted to go. The problem was where to start because it wasn’t as simple as purchasing a plane ticket.
I looked up some tours. Not only did they cost a small fortune for a family of four, but I’d also have to buy the plane tickets separately, which as you know don’t come cheap either. Suddenly the tours didn’t look all that attractive anymore. Then my creativity kicked in, and here’s what I did.
How to tour Spain like a pro
- Check out AAA Vacations. Look at their tours and packages and select the destination of your choice. In my case I selected Europe.
- From the list of tours displayed next, pick the one that speaks to your heart. I selected Spanish Wonder because it visited the cities that were on my list.
- Click on the Get Itinerary and Pricing, and voilà! This is exactly what you want. Now, keep in mind you’re not booking the tour with AAA. No. This just gives you the detailed itinerary day by day. It tells you the cities they’ll visit with the tour and the hotels they’ll stay at. This is ALL you need to book your own vacation through your own means without breaking the bank, and most importantly without getting lost in a country you don’t know. Additionally, this will allow you to book your vacation when it best suits your schedule, visit the cities you want at your own pace and it gives you the flexibility to add on to your list other activities the AAA tour doesn’t offer but that you want to do.
- Next, book your flight. If you’re on a budget, you can look up deals through Vayama. However, only book through them if you are 100% certain your plans won’t change. And as soon as you get your confirmation, be sure to check it against the airline’s website to make sure all is right. Otherwise, just book the plane tickets directly with the airline of your choice.
- Then, look up the hotels and compare their prices via their website and Expedia. Most of the time the hotels offer a better rate through their websites than what Expedia shows. Though, occasionally you’ll find a better deal through Expedia for the same exact hotel. But before you book any hotel, look up the reviews. This is extremely important as you want to ensure you’ll be centrally located to the places you want to go and that the place is safe. Reviews come in handy when booking. Then again, if you end up booking the same hotel AAA tours stay at, you know you’ll be pretty set. In the event the AAA tours hotel is booked, then look up other hotels in the same area. That’s what I did too, and it worked out for me as every single hotel I stayed at was in the center of all the action.
- Once you have your flight and hotels booked, then, look up tours for each of the cities you’re visiting. I recommend checking out TripAdvisor for this. You’ll find insightful reviews so that you know what you’re getting for your money and that they’re 100% reliable.
- Last, book your train tickets through Renfe. Tickets come on sale 90 days prior to the departure date. You’ll want to get these in advance as they get sold out. You won’t want to show up at the train station and not be able to go on to your next destination. Always choose Tourist when purchasing train tickets, and if you’re traveling with others, select Mesa–this is usually the best fare. If you’d like a cheaper option you can always look up the bus schedule, but I wouldn’t recommend it. When I booked my vacation, taking the bus seemed too complicated and it took longer to get to my destinations, so I crossed this out as an option immediately.
- Most hotels offer private transfers from the airport or train station to the hotel. I’d highly recommend that you do this, at least when you first get there for safety reasons. Once you become a bit familiar with the lay of the land, then on your return you can hire any taxi. Private transfers are usually about 10€ more than regular taxis, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.
Overall, as long as you follow the map on the AAA itinerary and you do as above mentioned, you will tour Spain like a pro. My biggest concern was getting lost and not knowing where to go or what to do. Now, I’m sitting back here smiling at how successfully I dragged my family through Spain like I’d been there before when it was the first time for all of us. I don’t know where our next adventure will take us, but this trick proved to work perfectly fine.