We have not purchased tickets yet, but do you recommend flying into Madrid and flying out of Barcelona or vise versa or do we fly into Madrid and fly out of Madrid or fly to Barcelona and out of Barcelona. We will be flying from California perhaps sometime in between June and August once the ticket window period opens up. What is the best thing to do in regards to flights? since nothing is booked this will be our blank canvas. and yes I have posted here but this is strictly about our flights.
Know the price of returning by train to the first city, then if open-jaw is less or equal to the round trip plus train fare, you have your answer. Take note of the vacation time lost in returning to the first city, too. No wrong answer, it's your decision.
the cost is a bit of concern but we will be more concerned on time lost to return to the original city. if the flight difference is a few hundred dollars but it will be buying us more days then I rather do it open jaw
We almost always go open jaw (multi-city) and never find it more expensive especially when you factor in the cost of returning to the original city. Our most recent trip was into Amsterdam and home from Vienna. But it is always very easy to check out. Use any search engine, plugged in the RT and then open jaw and see what the price is. And, recently have found that two one-way tickets are cheaper that an open-jaw or RT. Airline ticket pricing is crazy so you need to check all angles.
PS Just did a quick check. Mid July, 2020, SF to Madrid and home from Barcelona -- $800-850; RT Madrid -- $700+. Did not check other options so this is just one example. You cannot get back to Madrid for $100 difference. By the way -- those are cheap prices for peak travel period and you should be jumping on them now.
Are you going anywhere else, or just Madrid/Barcelona, maybe with day trips from either city? If there is a 3rd city you are planning to visit, that could affect the order. If it's only Madrid and Barcelona, then I think either order is fine. Fly into one, take the train to the other, go home from there. Whichever option gives you the best price/timing.
If it is exactly even and you have to pick, I'd fly into Barcelona and home from Madrid. I think jet lag would be slightly easier to recover from in Barcelona. You can walk on the beach, spend a lot of time in parks, explore neighborhoods and look at architecture, and relax on your first day. You could do that in Madrid too (except the beach part), but your top highlights in Madrid will likely be art museums and the palace - things you won't get as much out of if jet lagged. But this is a pretty minor concern, so go with whichever flight option is easiest.
Airline tickets for next summer should already be available. Train tickets, no.
I bought a multi-city (formerly known as open-jaw) ticket for my 2016 trip to Spain, into Madrid and out of Barcelona. From my origin the mix-and-match approach cost little, if anything, extra. But Madrid and Barcelona are usually similarly priced as round-trip destinations from Washington DC.
We need to know whether you plan to visit other cities in addition to those two. It's best not to try to cram too many destinations into a trip. How many nights will you have in Spain (not counting the night on the plane)? In dividing up your nights, keep in mind that the arrival day is often a sleep-deprived, jetlagged haze and nearly useless for real sightseeing. I don't count that as a day at my destination. I figure anything I accomplish that day is a bonus. The other thing is that there are a lot of sights in Barcelona for which you'll want to buy tickets in advance. Otherwise, you will spend a great deal of time standing in very long lines and possibly not get in at all.
Note that southern Spain is likely to be punishingly hot in the summer, and Madrid won't necessarily be much better. Barcelona's temperatures are usually more moderate, but it is sometimes humid, in which case 82 F will feel a lot hotter than the number indicates. So for much of Spain, the earlier you can travel in June, the better. Alternatively, you could focus primarily on the northern stretch of Spain between Galicia (Santiago de Compostela, etc.) and the Basque Country (Bilbao and San Sebastian, etc.) That area tends to be cooler and damper than the rest of Spain in the summer.
We did exactly what you proposed, flew into Madrid and out of Barcelona and it worked perfectly. Don't try to cram too much into one trip, and IMO be sure to spend enough time in Madrid to enjoy that beautiful city. Many people don't care for Madrid that much, because they seem to think the only thing to do there is tour museums. NOT SO!!! There is much to do and it's an easy city to explore. It is easy to take day trips from both Madrid and Barcelona to get a flavor of other parts of Spain, so when you go back on your next trip, you can spend more time in other spots!!
To underline a key point: You must use a multi-destination search function to put together the itinerary. These are not a set of one-way tickets you arrange one at a time. You can experiment now, although waiting until the new year to purchase should be safe.
Thanks everyone for your input. I think the best thing for us to fly into Barcelona and fly out of Madrid. This will be a 3week long trip and we are not trying to cram too much. Time at the beach is very important to us as i had posted earlier on a different thread. we will be going around Spain and maybe just maybe include Gibraltar but that is up for another discussion. We are based in LA so flight from SF doesn't make sense. I totally understand the flight searches, have done many other overseas trips with multiple destinations. I will look in to the flights and see what works for us. Thank you soooo much for the input. As soon as I book the tickets I will return for your input on places to stay and train tickets. I want to use as much of the trains as possible as our kids love love riding in trains.