Please sign in to post.

Advice on an Extended Stay

Hi All,
My daughter is in Seville, Spain for the year as a student and the family wants to visit. We are going to travel from Dec. 12-Jan 13 and will have four persons (myself, wife, and two teenage sons) for the whole trip. My mother and adult son will visit the first two weeks and my son and his girlfriend the last three weeks (they will be in and out of Seville). I am the only one who has been to Europe (Germany and countries to the east).

At the most we will have seven persons with us. We will definitely be in Seville for the holidays as my daughter's host family invited us to grandmas.

Questions:
1. Should we use Seville as a base and rent a flat for the month (my thought)? Or instead start in Madrid for a week, Seville and day trips for two weeks, and end with a week in Barcelona?

  1. Rent a vehicle for that many persons or is rail/flying better and rent only when needed?

  2. Is it worth it to fly TAPS and add three or four nights in Lisbon on the way there (the tickets cost $300-400 more)?

Thanks in advance.

With Regards,

Joel & Family

Posted by
18897 posts

I like Lisbon, but these days every time you add a country to your itinerary, it creates extra worry about entry restrictions, testing requirements, etc. There's a great deal more to Portugal than Lisbon, and you will have absolutely no trouble filling your time in Spain, so I'd leave Lisbon for a later trip.

I'm more bothered by chilly weather and lack of sunshine than most people, so I'll be the one to tell you that Barcelona is usually warmer in the winter than Madrid. There are climate-summary charts in the Wikipedia entries for all major cities. If you're interested in more than monthly averages--which I would be--you can go to timeanddate.com for actual, historical, day-by-day weather statistics. Do check multiple years, because weather can vary a lot.

There are many interesting sights in Seville, and there are some very good day-trips as well: Cordoba (worth more than one day), Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Carmona, Arcos de la Frontera. Still, a month there would not be what I'd do. I especially like Barcelona and the historic city of Girona. Madrid isn't my favorite aside from the art museums, but it has Spain's best set of side-trips, Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca and Cuenca being among them.

The fast trains on the main line in Spain will whisk you between major cities very, very fast. However, if you decide to spend some of your time in Barcelona, check out multi-city flights, into Seville and home from Barcelona. That might even be cheaper than a round-trip to Seville.

Edited to add: Rick's lists of top sights in Spain's major tourist cities can be found on this website: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/spain. Chose one of the cities or regions and then click on "At a Glance".

Rick's videos can be watched here: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the advice.

Portugal is definitely out as I agree it should be its own trip and did not think of the current health issues/complications with the ports of entry. Also thanks for the suggestions of cities/locales and many of them are on our list.

My biggest concern about a lot of rail is traveling with 5-9 persons will be costly via rail. Does anyone have experience with rail versus rental cars/van when you have that many persons?

We will definitely be hitting Madrid and Barcelona, but once again the variable number of persons makes a choice of home base with added hotel stays when out of Seville versus changing venues is hard to determine in advance. I do get a very big discount for booking a flat for the month.

Thanks again.

Posted by
18897 posts

I'm a solo traveler and have never rented a car in Europe, but these are some of the considerations I'm aware of either from personal experience or reading the forum:

  • Significant discounts on train tickets are available if you buy tickets soon after they go on sale for your travel dates. The cheapest tickets may be non-refundable/non-changeable, so check the current rules; I think Elige tickets can be modified but am not sure. In addition, there are some less expensive trains about as fast as the AVEs but with maximum prices considerably lower than AVE maximums. Check out the fares on Renfe.com for tomorrow (those will mostly be the maximum you would pay) and then the same fares for the second week of December (for which discounts will probably be available). I don't think they have the full schedule loaded for later dates. I acknowledge that buying tickets in advance is a lot riskier during COVID times unless the tickets are refundable, and I don't know the current Renfe rules; like many in the travel industry, they have adjusted their refund policy.

  • For Seville-Madrid and Madrid-Barcelona the train will be much, much faster than driving. For Seville the difference is from 2 hr. 30 min. (fastest train) to 5 hr. 19 min. (fastest driving route suggested by ViaMichelin.com). The driving-time estimate may be optimistic; it definitely doesn't cover time for stops, traffic delays, navigational errors or looking for parking. When traveling by train you can take lunch with you, potentially a significant time saver.

  • Parking can be difficult to find and very costly in the central part of a major city, and the car would be useless for city sightseeing. You may find yourself paying a bit more for lodging that offers proximity to parking, an extra expense you wouldn't have if you didn't need to worry about the car.

  • The cost of no-deductible car insurance (or CDW) can really drive up the total cost of a rental; investigate your current coverage, decide whether you'll need to augment that for travel in Europe, and be sure you get an accurate rental-cost figure. I've read comments from travelers about the insurance doubling the cost of the rental (not specifically in Spain); that could really throw off the comparative-cost analysis. I know there are cheaper options than paying for coverage at the rental-car counter; AmEx seems to have a very good deal, but I don't have an AmEx card and don't know the details.

  • Anyone who rents a car is warned not to leave anything at all visible in the car when it is parked and not to open the trunk to stash things in it after arriving at a parking space. How large a vehicle will you need to accommodate your family and all the luggage? Gas is a lot more expensive in Europe.

  • While not necessarily the cheapest lodging option, having a month-long rental in Seville would offer flexibility to all your family members and ease the planning burden. Everyone in Spain on the same date wouldn't necessarily have to be in the same city. When folks start pricing airline tickets, some of them may encounter the same situation I did in 2019: Flying into Madrid was about $500 cheaper than flying into Seville. For me Barcelona is about the same price as Madrid. Having that apartment available for anyone who needs it could be pretty valuable, even if we are past the extremely high number of flight cancelations we're currently experiencing.