11 cities in 17 days? Please help with Spain itinerary

Hi there guys. I'm going to spain in october with my husband and our baby which will be then a 5 month old. It's our first trip to spain and we want to cover so much! I really wanted to get a taste of both south and north, as well as Madrid and Barcelona. But I do realized this is a little bit rushy and since it's our first trip with an infant I wanted some input from you guys. We are really open to any type of experience, our favorite in trips is experiencing culture and traditions. But we also like all the other aspects of traveling and are open to everything.

This is the itinerary that I would love to be able to do but wanted to here what's you'll opinion on it:

We are flying in and out of Madrid. But the first day we get there early morning. So I thought we could go ahead and get a flight to Barcelona and start the trip from there and end the trip in madrid since our going back flight is also in the morning. We have 17 days with the first travel day (getting to madrid in the morning) and without the going back day.

Barcelona - 4 days with day trip to Monteserrat

Bilbao - 3 days with day trip to San Sebastian

Seville - 4 days, day trips to cordoba and ronda

Granada - 2 days

Madrid - 4 days with day trips to toledo and segovia

We would take flights from Madrid-Barcelona, Barcelona-Bilbao, and Bilbao-Seville

Bus from Seville to Granada

And take use the train when going from Granada to Madrid

Do you think this is doable?

would rather stay in San Sebastian or Bilbao when doing that area?

Any suggestions on how to make this itinerary perhaps flow better?

Any suggestions very welcomed!!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1240 posts

I'm sure you'll have a great trip no matter where you choose to go. We visited northern Spain (including Madrid, Toledo on a daytrip, Segovia on a 2-day side trip, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Girona, and Barcelona this past November. Ten years earlier we visited Spain (and a little of Portugal) but confined ourselves to Andalusia (including Granada and Seville). There's still a lot we didn't come near to seeing in those 2 trips. For us, Spain's big enough that we didn't try to cover north and south (or east and west) over a 3 week timeframe. We didn't have a child, but that may or may not influence your travel times and needs.

This also may not be a factor for you, but when we flew Vueling Air, it was MUCH cheaper to fly from Bilbao to Granada than the other way around. Also, we took a train from Madrid to Bilbao, saw the Guggenheim Museum, then picked up a rental car to drive to San Sebastian (expensive and not necessarily convenient underground parking garages in San S.) for our time there. We drove back to Bilbao for 1 night before our flight to Barcelona/Girona. Both Bilbao and San S. offer great opportunities to mingle with locals (including during tapas at night) and their old towns are both wonderful. As we were there in November, the San S. beach wasn't a factor, but that might be for you. We also really enjoyed the aquarium in San S. (including the 360-degree tunnel of fish), which other visitors' kids also liked, but no one that day had a child quite that young.

Also, you'll encounter plenty of cobbled streets and sidewalks in Spain. Don't know if you're planning on taking a stroller, but carrying your 5-month-old a lot of places might work best for all of you. Also, remember that airport security and check-in procedures will occupy part of your transit time between destinations, so some of your days in towns could be shorter than others.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
792 posts

Maybe you could start out with a weekend trip with the baby someplace closer to home ? Just for practice ?? Things with an infant seemed to take twice as long ... although lots of people seem to be traveling abroad with infants/toddlers. (You have the baby's passport already ??)
Or for a later trip, consider a cruise with on-board child care -- worked for me with a 6-month-old.

Have a great trip !!

Posted by afralarissa
5 posts

Yes, we are in process with the passport. We have recently taken a weekend trip closer to home. It went great except the packing. hahaha I really have to work on that if are gonna be moving around so much I don't want to be carrying to much stuff around. Will def consider a cruise next time. Thank you!!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1240 posts

Hi Again-glad if some of my previous info was helpful, but I just reread it and realized I had a major typo in that message. We actually flew from Bilbao to Barcelona, which was MUCH cheaper than if we'd flown from San Sebastian to Barcelona, and I think we also checked pricing for Barcelona to Bilbao, but not sure now. Granada should not have been mentioned in the same sentence as Bilbao ;-). Sorry if the original message wasn't quite what I'd meant to say. Buen viaje!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

You have four intra-city movement days and six day trips, a few longish. That's traveling more than half the time you'll be gone.

Check with the kid. He might put you up for adoption when you get home -- if not before.

I like the north best by a long shot, but it's out on the end of the stick and a candidate for the chopping block. Bilbao trumps San Sebastian except for food. Optionally you could keep Vizcaya and Gipuzkoa and chunk Catalonia which is also a bit past the edge of the world in your case.

Sticking with your sequence, the flow is about as good as you can get.

Posted by afralarissa
5 posts

Cyn, thank you for taking the time to comment and to make the correction.

Ed, got a good laugh from your post. Thank you for that and for the suggestions. I am considering leaving the north out all together but with an aching heart. Trying to put the little one on the same page with us regarding traveling but it may be a bit too early.

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
1107 posts

Suggest you check c a r e f u l l y the excess luggage fees on the airlines....traveling with an infant will require much more luggage space than you can imagine. Of course, you should be able to purchase the disposable necessities there and not carry all from the states, but you do not want to be landing at the airport and have the first stop to be a nursery supply store.

I would look at train travel where possible....even if it means cutting out some of the places, as the train travel with a child should not be as much of a difficulty.

Also, a child on a weekend trip is one thing, but on an extended trip as you have outlined will be a completely different matter. Slow down, for the sake of the child and yourselves..both father and mother.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8340 posts

I agree with HJ - you need to plan to do less. Even as an adult person, traveling for that many days (with that much changing of locations) can be exhausting. Your baby might have some difficulty making the adjustment to a new time zone, and you could be in for some messed up sleep until it all gets sorted, so you might not have as much energy to do and see things as you might have right now. Luggage will be a big issue for you. Cheap strollers aren't good on cobbled streets or uneven ground. How do you plan to get to Montserrat from Barcelona? Or your day trips from Seville to Cordoba and Ronda? If you rent a car, you will need a carseat for the baby. If it were me, I would leave out the northern leg this time. You can always go back.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1240 posts

One last deal - if you keep Madrid>Barcelona in the plans, did you look at a fast TGV train as an option, rather than flying? Also, after the terrorist train attacks a few years ago, Spain puts train travelers' luggage thru a securinty screening - before boarding, you feed your bags thru an X-ray machine, but don't have to remove shoes, belts, etc., and don't have to worry about fitting tiny bottles into a Zip-loc baggie.

Edit: Thanks, Douglas for your note below - indeed I should've said AVE train :-) Also, our Madrid>Bilbao train was a little over 5 hours last November (with newly fallen snow outside on the hillsides), but a pleasant trip.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3180 posts

It seems a lot for only 17 days, especially as you have numerous daytrips planned too. Add in a baby and it seems almost overwhelming. But that is me and one thing you may find is that daytrips fall by the wayside if it gets to be too much. In that sense at least, your itinerary has some flexibility. Budget airlines are VERY strict about baggage restrictions. You will almost for sure wind up paying quite a bit more in baggage fees with a baby along, so factor that in. Taking the highspeed AVE (in Spain it is the AVE, TGV is French) would probably make your commutes easier than flying. But Bilboa is not yet connected by AVE and so it is about a 6 hour train ride from Madrid if I recall correctly.

It is also a shame that you already have your flights books in and out of Madrid. You would have been better served and it would have been cheaper to fly open jaw (AKA multi-city). It might even still be worth it to try and change the tickets; it might still cost less, be more time efficient and less hassle. For example, you could fly into Barcelona, then flight to Bilboa, then flight to Sevilla, then AVE to Madrid. Or better, skip Bilboa this time and take the AVE direct between Barcelona and Sevilla. In that scenario, you'd avoid airplanes altogether. Train tickets can be had very cheap direct from the renfe website if purchased in advance. Try buying 60-90 days ahead to get those rates (up to 60% off).

Another option if you skipped AndalucĂ­a would be to rent a car in Barcelona and drive to and through Catalonia and Basque regions. Then drop it off in Madrid. You'd see a lot of areas in those regions that most North Americans don't.

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1420 posts

My opinion on a few points:
Montserrat could be cut from your plans to give you a more relaxed time in Barcelona. There are many sights there and in the surrounding area that are far more interesting than Montserrat.
Nether Bilbao nor S.Sebastian is sufficiently interesting to warrant devoting three days to them when your time is so limited.
You might consider staying over in Cordoba. Day-tripping brings its own kind of exhaustion.
We always find ourselves with some sights left unseen. It often takes longer to get places than we thought. Also, we do get tired; and sometimes, we'll just throw the towel in and say enough for today. I imagine that with an infant, that will be even more the case.

Posted by Enric
Barcelona (Catalonia)
317 posts

I suppose it must be a cross cultural thing, but I will never understand what's the thrill of some visitors of doing so much mileage and seeing practically nothing of the places you visit, is this a "ticking-the-box" thing only? It reminds me to very funny 1960s comedy, "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium", LOL!

Anyway, I totally disagree with some of the posters in that you can 'visit' that many places in such a short time -not if you really want to enjoy the sites a tiny bit. Aside from the packing/unpacking and going to/from airports, train stations, settling in your next accommodation and getting your bearings etc. moving around too much with a 5 months' old is not such a joy either.

So, make choices... but my advice is to limit it to 3 cities tops. And gosh, of course do include some escapades, they're all well worth: Montserrat, Sitges or La Costa Brava if in Barcelona, Toledo or Segovia if in Madrid, etc... there's where you really soak the country.

If I had to choose I'd do Barcelona (duh!), Madrid and then either Seville (or Granada) in southern Spain OR Donostia -a.k.a. San Sebastian- in the Basc Country, north of Spain -but not both. Six days in each including escapades in each region is a good balance. Not that this is enough of course, in Barcelona for example -which is my turf!- you could be a month visiting new things either in the city or the region every day without repeating once. But six days will at least give you a good chance to know each one of the regions you finally choose to visit.

Posted by afralarissa
5 posts

Hi Everyone,

I really really really appreciate all the suggestions and comments on this thread. I'm sorry it took me a while to answer but I've had little time the past week to work on the trip. But I'm back on it.

After reading all the comments I've decided to cut Bilbao and San Sebastian out of the trip. I'm considering adding those days to Barcelona or somewhere in the South. Suggestions welcomed.

I'm also gonna have the day trips planned, but will leave a flexibility as to if we feel up to them or not when we are actually there depending on how the baby and ourselves are doing.

As for the Madrid in and outbound, I realize now that it would be a much better option coming in through Barcelona, but we are flying out of the middle east, and to Madrid it will be a 6 hour straight flight. To Barcelona, we would have to get connection flights and with the shortest layover it would take us at least double the time to get to Barcelona. So even with the second flight from Madrid to Barcelona I thought that would be a better option for the baby. God knows... will see if I made the right choice. I got the cheapest fare, which means there are no changes allowed.

I will look into all the train route and day trips suggestions!

Thank you so much again, and more suggestions are welcomed.

Larissa

Posted by Enric
Barcelona (Catalonia)
317 posts

Hi Larissa
Which sort of activities are you in for? and which don't? for the part of Barcelona there are lots of things to do but it's important to know what are your interests in order to zero in a handful of them only that you can do in such a short stay.

Posted by howelldvm
7 posts

Wow! You are an ambitious traveler, especially with a 5-month old. Consider an afternoon on the beach in Barcelona or Sitges or a few days on the Costa Brava . I've found that my kids, no matter what their age, love digging on the beach. ( As do the adults ). Also, due to baggage and rough streets I would recommend a good backpack for your baby if you don't already have one. My kids much preferred the backpack to the stroller and it's much easier to navigate crowds and rough roads. Good luck!

Posted by Stephen
Dolores, CO
13 posts

Why 3 days in Bilbao? I would definitely say stay in San Sebastian and visit Bilbao to see the Museum. There is good bus service, only about an hours ride.

We did approximately the trip you are suggesting 2 years ago in 18 days, but we skipped Barcelona and we still had a pretty full plate. We rented a car in Sevilla and drove through the hill towns to Granada. BTW, Ronda is not an easy day trip from Seville, 128 kilometers.

I would skip Segovia, definitely take the AVE train to Toledo, spend the night there if you can.

The high speed train (AVE) to Barcelona from Madrid is worth considering, goes city center to city center, saves all the airport transfers (unless you're planning on just continuing on to Barcelona from Madrid airport (whew! lot of flying at one time).

There is a night train (Trenhotel) from Barcelona to Granada. It's not cheap, but it saves a night in a hotel and a day's travel.

How about: Barcelona -> Granada->Cordoba (1 night)->Sevilla (3 nights)->Madrid->Toledo->Madrid-.San Sebastian/Bilbao->Madrid. This skips Ronda (not to big a deal) but is still a pretty ambitious journey.

Posted by Shane
Singapore, Singapore
39 posts

Let me share some of my experiences with travelling with an infant. I went on a 3 week holiday in France with my then 11 month old baby in 2013 and then more recently to Australia for 2 weeks in March 2014 when my child was about 1.5 years old.

  • Take things slowly. You will not see as much as you would like. Schedule your itinerary with optional day trips. Removing Bilbao and San Sebastian was a good decision. Monteserrat should be optional as well and if you do decide to go, it'll take almost 1 whole day. With 4 days, I think there's much to see in Barcelona itself. Consider open-jaw tickets, my trip planning to Spain in 2015 has us flying into Barcelona and departing from Malaga airport. I haven't been to Madrid, but depending on your likes/dislikes, Toledo and Segovia should be optional as well.
  • Dinners - Be prepared to eat alone. My wife had to step out a few times, mostly due to baby crying - refusing to behave in restaurants, wanted to sleep, getting cranky, etc. Of course I took turns with my wife.. you can forget dining in Michelin star restaurants.
  • Book hotels with fridges provided - there was this time when my wife had to leave expressed milk bottles outside the room on the window ledge at Rocamadour because there was no fridge in the room. Thankfully it was quite cold during that year in May (2013). Learnt my lesson and in Australia, I made sure all hotel rooms provided fridge. Good to store groceries to cook for the little one.
  • If your itinerary allows it, I prefer driving to taking trains/planes. You can stash your baby stuff, stroller in the car and have access to them whenever you wish to.
  • You would imagine it's easier to travel when they are older. It was actually tiring. My child loves to run around and I had a good workout while in Australia. The number of times I had to run after her, or pick her up and put her down, or pick her up when she didn't want to and she struggled in my arms while I tried to restrain her, etc etc.

Looking back, I will not hesitate to re-do the trips to France and Australia with my child. We realized we couldn't go as fast but then we made many fond memories. So much so that we are already in the early stages of planning for a trip to Spain in 2015.