Help a New Solo Traveler on her trip to Spain

by brian on February 10, 2010

Alisha from SoSauce read the “No Debt World Travel” e-book.
After reading it she invited me out to lunch because she had some more questions.
Me, not ever turning down a free meal, gladly traded a few hours for hot food and travel talk.
After talking to her I came to a few realizations.
The book is not just for round the world travel. Alicia is going to Spain for two weeks and many of the concepts familiar to round the world travelers like hostels and overnight flights are applicable to her.
Everyone wants to save money and hostels are the main way to save, if you’re not Couchsurfing or staying with family and friends.
Alisha, grinning cause she knows she heading out town soon enough

IMAG0280 Help a New Solo Traveler on her trip to Spain
The other thing I realized: No matter how much you know, someone else knows nothing. Don’t assume everyone knows what you know.

One of Alisha questions: Do hostels have alarm clocks? No.
The experienced traveler among you may say, ‘C’mon man! EVERYONE knows hostels don’t have alarm clocks!’
No, every one doesn’t. Your “common” knowledge could be someone else’s brilliant insight. Always be willing to share, no matter how small you think the fact is.
She’s going to Spain and plans on visiting – Barcelona, Madrid, and San Sebastian – all in 10 days.

Not impossible, but it is going to take a lot of planning to make everything happen smoothly.

Some of the things I suggested in between bites of a fantastic burrito are:

**Alisha is nervous about Couchsurfing, but is more than willing to save money by using hostels. I also told her this is a great way to make friends and find out about places to go and things to eat that she might not have known about.

**She may want to consider getting a red-eye out of New York. The flight may be cheaper and she can sleep on the plane and arrive in Spain in the morning and not waste a day. She’ll hit the ground running.

**She’ll want to try all the options for airplane tickets and also look at flying WITHIN Spain. Since she has a limited about of time, it may be easier and the total costs is not all that much more expenisve then just a round trip between Spain and the US.
Maybe the buses or trains within Spain to get between cities would be worthwhile to explore, to save on security line time and airport aggravation.
Using Kayak.com‘s multi-city trip function, you can plan a multi-city plane ticket all in one window. I advised her to play with the order of the cities, the times of day, and the dates to get the best price.

kayak alisha gif Help a New Solo Traveler on her trip to Spain

**She should get the plane ticket asap, because she’ll be going in the May/June time frame. As soon as she knows what days she is flying, book the hostels immediately. Hostels in Europe ESPECIALLY on the weekends in the spring and summer fill up fast. You don’t want to be in your 3rd or 4th choice of hostel because you didn’t move fast enough.

**Alisha was going to take 2 carry-ons for 10 days. Don’t do it!
Considering the amount of things she is trying to do in 10 days, she is going to wish she never brought along TWO carry-ons. I told her to look for hostels with laundry machines or Laundromats close by. No one cares if you wore the same shirt two days ago. You’ll be less stressed about trying to pack and then drag around everything to the next stop.
And get a backpack. 24L should be more than enough for a week and still be a carry-on. Holding onto a rolling carry-on with wheels means more chance of it being lost or stolen. If it is on your back you can’t lose it.
This is her first solo trip abroad, so please give her your best ideas on Spain, flights, hostels or any general encouragement you can to make this the best possible trip for her.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

QLittle* February 10, 2010 at 8:01 PM

Hi Alisha
IXNAY the 2 bags. I lived a comedy sketch with all the things I attempted to bring on my round the world trip. I ended up sending 5 boxes from my first destination. A year later and I really only wore a couple of outfits and one pair of shoes. With a backpack, everything is easy on and easy off, especially on the trains. Another word: pickpockets! A friend that had too much baggage had a young woman snatch her watch, she turned around and waved it at her knowing my friend would not leave her bags to chase her. You want to be able to be agile and quick and with a backpack, it moves with your body.

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QLittle* February 10, 2010 at 8:08 PM

I also have a daypack that I use as my purse that never leaves my body. In it I keep, my travel documents, money, my camera and my inexpensive jewelry. If my backpack is stolen, I can still carry on with my trip having a great time.
Also, join couchsurfing.org, hopitalityclub.org and virtualtourist.com. Even if you don't do a homestay, many people will show you around their city or meet for a meal and offer some cultural exchange. I know I will do more when I am with someone, so I arrange to meet someone so I get first hand knowledge from someone who knows the area.

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Adam February 11, 2010 at 12:10 AM

One of the best hostels I stayed in was in Spain. It was in Barcelona (sorry, I don't remember the name!) and the staff were so friendly and helpful. Definitely stay in a hostel in Spain.

Also, take the trains to get from city to city. They're efficient. On my train from Madrid to Barcelona I met a very large Italian family (there must have been 15 of them) who I chatted with on the ride up. When I ran into them outside of Casa Mila we got to catch up on our visits so far.

Other suggestion would be to just hang out in some of the plazas – maybe drinking a beer, or if you make a friend, share a paella. Delicious!

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Jade February 11, 2010 at 12:18 AM

I completely agree with the backpack idea and also bringing a smaller bag that can fold up inside your backpack but if you buy things, food, or whatever you have the option for more storage. Good luck, have fun- I loved Spain, esp. Madrid.

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Suzanne February 11, 2010 at 4:28 PM

I live in Barcelona. Ok first up. Traveling BCN-Madrid pr vice versa via train is hugely expensive now that the route is only serviced by the AVE (a high-speed train). Try booking ahead (www.renfe.es) for good deals or instead book a flight with http://www.vueling.com,but sooner the better (they have a 'sale' on now). Only bring one carry on! European flights will only let you take ONE carry on on these days, unless you want to pay an extra and hefty fee. There's only bus connections between Madrid/BCN and San Sebastian but they are cheap and you can get a ticket when here.
oh yes, and do be aware of pickpockets. Have fun!

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brian February 12, 2010 at 5:54 PM

@QLittle*
I stressed the fact about pickpockets, especially in Barcelona. I like the backpack just for that reason, to keep your hands free.

@Adam
I stayed in the Barcelona Mar hostel right off of Las Ramblas. Decent place, free breakfast, centrally located.

@Jade
Alisha, Jade agrees. Backpack!

@Suzanne
So the airlines are forcing you to take ONE carry-on or you're going to be paying a surcharge. Thanks Suzanne.

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Liz February 15, 2010 at 5:18 AM

Hi Alisha,

Good luck and have fun on your adventure in Spain! Just a few more tips from my many travels there: I'd definitely recommend taking buses between cities. Might take a little longer, but in Spain they are cleaner, cheaper, and more comfortable than trains in my experience. They tend to fill up a bit faster than you would expect, so go to the station and reserve your ticket a day or two before you want to travel. Hostels in San Sebastian fill up quite quickly in the summer season, but it's a wonderful town worth the visit. I used the hostelworld website to book my hostel (Kaixo Backpackers) last time I visited. For saving cash on food, be sure to eat lots of tapas – know as pintxos in San Sebastian. Plenty of delicious little bites means you never need to have a sit-down dinner. Often, in the evenings there you will find people handing out fliers for bars, often promising your first drink for free, or buy one get one free. In Barcelona, avoid eating anywhere on Las Ramblas (way over-priced) with one big exception – the Boqueria market. Outstanding covered food market when you can put together a great picnic lunch of fruit, fresh salads and made-to-order tapas.

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Stephen February 16, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Solid advice. Pack light. Pack light. Pack light. And couchsurf!

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brian February 16, 2010 at 12:54 PM

@Liz
Agree with everything you say. The market is fantastic. The food there is so colorful and fresh. You can buy items there and cook it yourself.

@Stephen
Pack light is right. If there is nothing else Alisha will take away from this is to not overpack and do not take two carry-ons. I can only imagine the headaches.

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Hostels Nest Valencia April 14, 2010 at 11:23 PM

Hi Alisha!
I´d also recommend you to stay in hostels whenever you´re in Spain! It´s a lot less expensive as in many countries of Europe, and (at least in the Nest hostels, where I work) it´s worth, you can make a lot of friends – specially in high season!
Wish you all the best!
szilard

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