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Itinerary Help!

Happy Tuesday!

My family and I are leaving for Spain in a few days. Unfortunately, life has been a bit hectic, and I have neglected planning for this trip. My original itinerary was as follows:

Days 1-4: Sevilla
Days 5-6: Valencia
Days 7-9: Barcelona

We fly into Madrid at 8:30 am on day one - should we store our bags at the train station and do a little exploring, or head on to Sevilla? My accommodations in Sevilla are non-refundable at this point and we must check in by 8pm. On European trips we usually can all power through until about 10pm, and will rest on the train, so we are accounting for jet lag.

Would you recommend renting a car once in Sevilla? I know that we would like to visit Cordoba during our time there, but I don't really have anything else planned (seriously, I have dropped the ball entirely on this trip).

My main concern at this point is the two days in Valencia. When planning this trip I was very excited to visit Valencia and I guess I was in denial at just how far away it is from Sevilla. I can get those rooms refunded. Would you skip Valencia in favor of another stop on the way to Barcelona? We fly home from Barcelona.

Thank you for any help or suggestions you can offer! I really appreciate any and all positive feedback :)

Posted by
241 posts

I’m also leaving for Spain next week and have been several times. You’re going to love it!! I’m also flying into Madrid in the morning. I’d recommend going straight to Sevilla from Santa Justa station. You can buy tickets once you get to the station. You don’t need a car in Sevilla, unless you want to visit the hill towns. Córdoba is very easy to get to via train. Try to make sure to book an Avant train to Córdoba since they’re cheaper than the AVE trains and just as fast.

I’m traveling from Valencia to Sevilla on this trip, but that’s because I’m trying to kill time on New Year’s Day, when everything will be closed. In your case, it might be better to cancel Valencia and replace it with Madrid, where you can see sights in the city, or take a trip to Segovia or Toledo. Another option would be to just add the Valencia days to Barcelona. There’s plenty to see there obviously.

Don’t worry, anything you do in Spain is going to be fantastic!! You can’t mess it up that bad!! I’ve been to Spain several times and loved everything. I’m happy to help with any questions.

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you Bill! It sounds like we are actually going to be there at the exact same time. I am going to shoot you a private message if you don't mind :)

Posted by
2169 posts

Let's lay out the facts, you have to be in 2 places - Sevilla and Barcelona, assuming you have only 8 nights at your disposal? I would just focus on those two cities, don't try to cram in a third large city into your already very limited time, else this will turn into a marathon race lol! Though I think it's fine to stow your luggage in Madrid and maybe visit the Prado for a few hrs, before heading south. Know that your first day is potentially going to be a very long day.

The geographic flow of the trip is also a bit tricky, start middle, head south, then backtrack all the way north, you'll find the distances in Spain are not so close as one would think. However flying low cost will help you in this situation, and save you some precious time.

I have no idea of your interests so the day trips I penciled in are just my personal choices. Bottom line this is how I would arrange your itinerary:

Fly in to Madrid
Stow luggage & visit the Prado Museum
AVE Train to
Sevilla (4 nights) - day trips to Cordoba and/or Pueblos Blancos
Fly low cost to
Barcelona (4 nights) - day trip to Girona
Fly out of Barcelona

I'm not sure about your exact dates, but I also assume you are not aware that there are a number of days of potential closures in Spain due to the holidays (which affect restaurants/shops/even some tourist sights):

Dec 24 - Nochebuena

Dec 25 - Christmas Day

Dec 26 - Dia de San Esteban (in Barcelona/Catalonia)

Jan 1 - New Year's Day

Posted by
1237 posts

You can fly from Seville to Valencia. Though at this late stage it might be getting expensive (and some flights be full). Equally, most cheap rail tickets are probably in short supply now (including your other journeys). If you go by train then you don't really have much time in Valencia - effectively just an evening and one full day. Valencia is delightful, but as you note it takes you on a bit of an excursion. An obvious alternative would be Madrid - but, again, I don't know how dear accommodation would be this late. Another alternative would be extend your time in Sevilla by two days if possible and consider a second day-trip to the coast (though this isn't really the best time of year), or Jerez or, best, more time in the city itself.

You don't need a car in Sevilla. Indeed it would be a pain. If your only plan is a day-trip Cordoba then do that by rail. There is more than enough in Seville to fill the rest of your time.

Posted by
18736 posts

Carlos basically stole my post. Your original plan shortchanged Seville, given your interest in Cordoba, and especially Barcelona.

There is no value in having a car on this trip unless you want to rent one for a day to head down to the white villages, in which case you should explore driving times on ViaMichelin.com. But I'd choose Cordoba instead. You'd then have a choice between spending a night in Cordoba and heading on to Barcelona by train or treating Cordoba as a day-trip from Seville and possibly flying to Barcelona. Check both fares; you're buying quite late, so all the bargains may be gone.

Do NOT wait to buy your Madrid-Seville train tickets at Atocha Station. If you are unable to use the ticket-vending machines (some folks have issues with their credit cards), you could spend hours in line at the staffed counter. It was 3 hours for me in April, and I'd expect the holiday season to be about as bad. Buy your ticket at the airport train station. The trains do sometimes sell out, so that's another reason you can't afford to wait to buy your ticket until you're ready to step on a late train.

Posted by
46 posts

This is great information. Thank you all!

On the train from Madrid to Sevilla - if my flight lands at 8:30 am what time should I book our train tickets to Sevilla? Does anyone have an opinion on airport train vs. taxi to the Madrid AVE station?

Posted by
1237 posts

You say a few days - when does that mean? For example many Madrid to Sevilla trains on Friday or Saturday are already sold out. At this point the important thing is to book a train. If you are landing at 0830 at T4, then I'd assume you might be at Madrid Atocha well before 1100. Taxi (fixed fare) will give you more flexibility, especially if not landing at T4 (or others for the slower metro).

Just to belabour the point, sorry, on Saturday there are only two fast services left with any seats available that fit your needs. There's a lot more choice on Thursday - but most of the cheap fares have gone. I'd plan based on your arrival day.

Posted by
18736 posts

But if the transatlantic flight is delayed and they miss the train they are booked on, they could have quite a long wait if a lot of the afternoon trains are already sold out. I think it would be more prudent to build in a substantial time buffer, planning to kill time in Madrid if the transatlantic flight lands on time.

Posted by
1237 posts

Acraven - true, but they need to be in Seville before 8pm. And they'll need to get from Sevilla SJ to their accommodation, which will take time too. They don't have a lot of wriggle room when trains are selling out if arriving on Friday or Saturday.

Posted by
18736 posts

You're right; I was falling into the trap of thinking just about time on the train, which is less than 3 hours, but trains can be late, and then there's the getting-to-the-lodgings part; Seville isn't small and there's traffic to deal with. I would certainly not want to plan on taking the last train that would (reasonably for sure) get me there on time, which I guess would be the last departure before 1700, which looks like 1630 on weekdays. So, being conservative, I would be looking at the 1600 (if not sold out), then the 1500 and the 1505. The latter is a bit slower and requires a transfer in Cordoba.

Well, in truth, I wouldn't want to hang around that long on arrival day myself; I'd be looking for a bed.

Posted by
46 posts

Ok I will add some clarification - we DO arrive on a Saturday (Dec 28) so I’m working on trains now. I’ve never had to prebook train travel from the airport (usually just buy tickets when we land) so it’s good to know I should do it now. Does anyone know if Madrid station has a place to store large luggage? We will have three large bags. I’m thinking to maybe have lunch in Madrid and take an early afternoon train to Sevilla, just to be safe and avoid any stress over a delayed flight. We do fly nonstop from ATL but you never know.

I know our geography seems weird but we saved SO much money booking this way and Sevilla and Barcelona were musts for me.

I’m leaning toward scrapping Valencia in favor of either two nights in Madrid OR one night in Cordoba and on to Barcelona. I’m sad because I very much wanted to see Valencia. We leave Sevilla in January 1 and I hear lots of things are closed and it’s a good day to travel. Any thoughts on that are appreciated!

You all have been so helpful in my time of need! We travel a ton, but this just really sneaked up on me and I feel like I’m missing the mark with our itinerary but I know it will ALL be great once there!!

Posted by
18736 posts

Folks have reported luggage storage at Atocha Station, but that website alludes specifically to lockers, and I don't know from personal observation whether there is a staffed counter there. This 5-year-old TripAdvisor thread has some additional information.

Situations can change, however, so I'd want to travel with more-current information at my fingertips. If you Google luggage storage Atocha Station, you'll get multiple hits for places outside but near Atocha. One of those can be your back-up plan.

Your maneuverability will be improved if you don't travel with a bunch of large bags. They are awkward to maneuver up the shallow, narrow steps onto the train, and train aisles are also narrow. You will not be able to put large bags above your seats, and space on the luggage racks will be at a premium on nearly-full or full trains during the holiday season. Edited to add: Sorry, I just re-read the original post in full, and I see that you're very experienced travelers, so you no the score about large bags on trains already.

Posted by
241 posts

There is a manned luggage storage office in Atocha. It’s near the main exits where the big garden is. You have to scan your luggage like at an airport and then the lockers are self service. It’s very easy to find and use.

Posted by
1237 posts

You can look up main station facilities on Adif ( the people who mainly run the permanent way and other rail infrastructure). Here's the link for Madrid - Atocha and it does have left luggage lockers (called "consignas"), the prices & location are in the link:

http://www.adif.es/es_ES/infraestructuras/estaciones/60000/servicios_000009.shtml

I know I've banged on about this but don't wait to buy your train tickets for 28/12. I was concerned you were arriving in the next day or so. But even after Christmas the services are getting sold out (it's Christmas after all).

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you all very much - plans are beginning to take shape nicely. I did book train tickets from Madrid to Sevilla. I used train line to make the booking but was not able to choose seats. I also had to book the 17:00 train but I have contacted our hotel to let them know we will be a little late arriving and I think that will be ok.

What website do you all use to book train tickets? I would like to be able to preselect seats as my kids are with me.

Posted by
18736 posts

I used Renfe.com to buy a ticket earlier this year. It's a bit tricky because the English sales process switches to Spanish part-way through. I had no problem with my credit card after notifying the issuer in advance of my plans to use a Spanish website. However, some people do have trouble when using their US cards. The usual back-up plan is to use trainline.

I have never used trainline myself, so I don't know why you couldn't select a seat. Are there no car number and seat number on the tickets? If the system chose the seats for you, I believe they would normally be together unless there were only scattered singles and pairs available.

Posted by
153 posts

Try Petrabax if you are in the states. Much easier IMHO.