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madrid-paris-barcelona with tween and teens

Hi. My husband and I are traveling to Madrid with our two kids (10 and 13) from May 25 to June 8. It is their first time in Europe and we want to see as much as possible, and include Paris and Barcelona, even if it's for a couple of days. Our tickets are round trip to and from Madrid. How would you recommend to organize our schedule? The train to Paris takes too long (around nine hours) and I am not sure if it's better to go to Barcelona first and then Paris.

Posted by
5578 posts

First thing I would do is to take a clear-eyed look at how much usable time you actually have, before deciding on how to split up your time. How exactly are you counting those days? Are you leaving home on May 25 or arriving in Madrid on May 25? Flying in from far away? If so, don't count your arrival day as usable time - especially with 2 kids in tow. Same question for the return date. You will need to spend your last night in Madrid. Depending on how you count, you might have as little as 11 days. That is not much to slice up between such distant locations. You would be blowing past some of Europe's best destinations (within striking distance of Madrid).

Paris is great, but you burn a day getting there and another day getting back - and on a trip that so short, you are really trading away a lot of opportunities for that. You might consider limiting your trip to Spain this time around. With just 10-12 days, you're only going to scratch the surface of Spain and will be missing a lot.

Posted by
3683 posts

Since you have committed to a round trip to and from Madrid, you have lost a major chance of efficient travel. Now you face a lot of back-tracking and time loss. Ideally you could use a multi-city search function to fly into Paris and home from Madrid (or perhaps Barcelona). It would probably be a cheaper route too, considering what it costs to do the long ride to and from Paris. Sorry.

I like the Barcelona-Paris train, and it can be shorter than your estimate if you eliminate any changes.

But you need to fly at least one way. To see the possibilities for short hops,

Posted by
21721 posts

Personally, with young kids, I would save Paris for another trip. Just too far and too hard to get to. Since you are in Spain take advantage of what Spain has to offer especially for the kids. I would focus on Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and Granada. The kids would love the Alhambra and the Mezquita in Cordoba. You need to min your travel distances.

The only way I would include Paris would be if you were using open jaw tickets flying home from Paris. Only then would it make some sense -- but not a lot.

Posted by
48 posts

I agree with Frank. You are surrounded by incredible sites in southern Spain, why take a day to go to Paris and a day to return. Paris is for a trip to France. You are not giving up anything by staying in Spain, the museums are great, food wonderful, shopping is cheaper than France. The kids will love the old forts and castle feel to Spain. Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, plus any short day trips and you have some wonderful places to go.

Posted by
3826 posts

Also, end May-early June is the best time to visit most of Spain, before it gets too hot. I would use the opportunity to make the most of it! Paris climate is more forgiving, overall.

Posted by
1198 posts

Hi Lola, we travel with our kids and have been to each of these places and I agree that adding Paris would just make the trip less fun. Just getting to and from Paris will take a full day from the time you have, and that's just travel time. We loved Spain. There is so much more to do than just the big cities. We were there for a month last summer and can't wait to go back. If you are dead-set on adding Paris, my kids loved the Catacombs and of course the Eiffel tower. The Louvre was too big and crowded for them to appreciate but they liked the d'Orsay. North of Barcelona in Figueres, they liked the Dali museum. I think focusing on immersing more in one culture and hustling less to cover more ground across countries would be more fun

Posted by
1268 posts

Help me help you.
Please replace the word "see" with "experience".
Please travel at the pace of your kids.
Madrid - Barcelona - Paris......... lions, tigers and bears.
Madrid is one of Europe's largest cities with a small old town tourist zone. The predominent tourist attractions revolve around world class museums.
Barcelona is a huge menu of various opportunities, including the chance to dip yourselves into the Med while spending some relaxing time at a beach.
I wonder whom is driving the need to include Paris in this journey? Paris logistically is not a natural fit into this itinerary.
Renting two bedroom apartments for at least four nights per destination. The expense is minimal compared to hotels, offers room for all to spread out, a kitchen for small meals and a friendly breakfast.
Focus upon creating a journey filled wonderful memories.
Reduce travel stress by minimizing days of travel transfers.
You are traveling in peak tourist season and crowds do have an imoact upon enjoyment.
My favorite song lyrics include..... "slow down you move to fast, you got to make the moment last."
I recommend five days in Madrid with two day trips and seven days in Barcelona with two day trips and at least a half day at the Barcelona beach. Hey! Sometime during this vacation you need to spend some time relaxing!
Safe travels!

Posted by
7124 posts

25. Arrive Madrid (3 nts)
26. Madrid
27. Day to Toledo
28. Train to Barcelona (4 nts)
29. Barcelona
30. Barcelona
31. Barcelona
1. Fly to Granada (2 nts)
2. Alhambra
3. Train to Sevilla (4 nts)
4. Sevilla
5. Day to Cordoba for the Mezquita
6. Sevilla
7. Train to Madrid (1 nt)
8. Depart Madrid

Posted by
21070 posts

I always recommend that folks who might go to Andalucía during potentially hot months go to the website and check out the actual, day-by-day, historical temperatures over their planned travel period for the last three years; five years would be better. I suspect last year was unusually hot--at least I hope so: The first three days of June 2019 had high temperatures of 97F, 100F and 97F.

Edited to add the link to the website.

Posted by
504 posts

I agree that you should postpone Paris for the next trip. Traveling with kids is always slower than doing it alone. Those 2 days you loose by traveling to Paris will be better spent sightseeing in Spain. I would suggest that you train to Cordoba the day you arrive in Madrid. Make Cordova you home base to visit Granada and Sevilla. Or you could stay in Sevilla and Granada and visit Cordova from Sevilla. Fly to Barcelona and put all your days in Madrid towards the end to minimize travel days.
The end of May/beginning of June will be hot in central/southern Spain (been there, done that). Maybe others can tell you what attractions would interest a 10 and 13 year old.

Posted by
2650 posts

May 25 to June 8

Would that be 2020? Saying so because I am not sure you can travel to Europe that early. I mean, the French government for example, announced restrictions for any non-EU resident coming into France: and I am sure it'll be similar in Spain -albeit with all the chaotic decision-making of the Spanish government I am not sure right now (sorry!)

update oh, I see this is a post initially from February, not sure whether @lolastareyes has already adjusted her plans to the new reality and has cancelled the trip.