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How to Plan a Trip to Spain: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Plan a Trip to Spain: Step-by-Step Guide

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Dreaming of your first trip to Spain? Let me show you exactly how to plan a trip to Spain like a pro!
This post about how to plan a trip to Spain for the first time was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Ready to put your High School Spanish to the test and learn how to plan a trip to Spain?

It’s a fantastic choice! Spain is the home of tapas, flamenco dancing, wine regions, colorful architecture by Gaudí or the Moors, and some of the best beaches in the world.

But if you’re planning your very first trip to Spain, you need to make a lot of decisions before you can sip sangria in the sun.

Where are you going to go? When is the best time to go? And what are all the top things to do in Spain that you simply cannot miss but don’t know what they are yet?!

This is an easy Spain trip planner that you can follow as you navigate your way through the Spain travel planning process. It’s super simple to follow and includes all the essential info and insider tips you need to have a fantastic Spanish vacation!

14-Step Guide on How to Plan a Trip to Spain

Step 1: Check Your Passport and Visa Requirements for Spain

If you’re visiting Spain for the first time, you might not be aware of your visa and passport requirements. 

Most US passport holders will need at least six months left on their passport. Spain is one of the 27 countries in the Schengen Area, so most Americans can apply online for an ETIAS visa waiver to travel there as a tourist.

How to Apply for a US Passport for a Baby or Child, tips featured by top US travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland: Learn how to get a passport for a child (or baby) with these 8 easy steps. You’ll even find some secret, expert tips to help expedite the application process
Make sure your passport has at least 6 months left on it before it expires.

This will allow you to spend 90 days within a 180-day period in any of these 27 countries in the European Union.

Note that you won’t be able to apply for a visa waiver without knowing the address of your first accommodation in Spain. It’s just good practice to check your passport information first in case you have to apply for a new one.

Step 2: Figure out the Length of Your Trip to Spain

Your next task when going through the steps of how to plan a Spain trip is to decide how much time you want (or are able) to spend in Spain.

Colorful yellow and orange houses and Eiffel Bridge, Old fish stalls, reflected in water river Onyar, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Church of Sant Feliu and Saint Mary Cathedral at background.
If you want to travel outside of Madrid and Barcelona, add more days to your trip!

Most people have to consider vacation allowances with their jobs, family commitments, budget constraints, and school breaks. This is an easy step because it’s often decided for you!

Long-haul vacations should be five days at the minimum, but 10 days or two weeks in Spain is ideal. 

Step 3: Research the Best Time to Travel to Spain

Figuring out the best time to travel to Spain depends on the climate, festivals, and popular travel seasons. 

Northern Spain (Galicia, Basque Country, etc.) has a generally cooler and wetter climate than Southern Spain (Andalucía).

Summer in Southern Spain can be dangerously hot (over 104°F/40°C every day). On the flip side, it’s the perfect place for a winter break.

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Consider both the time of year and the climate before booking your trip to Spain.

Easter is always a special time to travel to Southern Spain with lots of religious festivals and celebrations. La Tomatina in Valencia and The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona are two other popular festivals you may want to check out.

To strike a balance between climate, affordability, and crowds, travel in Spain’s shoulder seasons. These are from April – June and September – October. 

But if you’re planning a family trip to Spain and you have school-age kids, you’ll have some restrictions on the times you can travel.

At least you have the information to make an informed decision about what you can expect when traveling in Spain at certain times of the year!

Step 4: Choose Your Spain Destinations

Alright, let’s get to the fun part of Spain trip planning and choose where you want to go in Spain!

Some of the best cities to visit in Spain for first-timers include Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Palma de Majorca, and Granada.

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Barcelona is one of our favorite cities in Spain!

They all have busy international airports with the best infrastructure for tourists as well as lots of cultural and fun activities.

Plus, they all have lots of fun day trips you can take while using these cities as a base.

If you’re planning a 7-days in Spain itinerary or a 10-day trip to Spain, city-hop or road trip around a whole region! You could easily see the best of Catalonia in seven days or Andalucía in 10 days.

Step 5: Create a Budget for Your Spanish Vacation

The cost of a trip to Spain depends on a lot of factors. Your travel style (budget, comfort, or luxury), who you are traveling with, the length of your trip, and the time of year will affect how much you will spend.

Travel budget concept. Travel money savings in a glass jar with compass, passport and aircraft toy on world map
Make sure to set aside a travel emergency budget.

Not including flights, most guides agree that a family of four spends the equivalent of $1,000 per week on a trip to Spain.

Want to know how to plan a trip to Spain on a budget? Beaches cost nothing! 

Book as much as you can (flights, accommodation, etc.) months ahead of time for cheaper deals. Stay in short-term rental accommodation outside of historic centers so you can cook some of your own meals.

Step 6: Book Your Flights to Spain

When planning a vacation to Spain from the US, it helps to be aware of which airports offer direct flights to Spain.

Traveling on a Budget: 25 Cheap Travel Tips Every Family Should Know About featured by top US family travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland
We use Google Flights to track cheaper airfare.

New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Dallas offer direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. Some also offer direct flights to more seasonal Spanish destinations like Seville, Granada, and Valencia.

Spain is an incredibly popular destination for Europeans traveling from colder climates like the UK and Scandinavia.

So if you can’t find direct flights from your local airport, you can often fly to another European city that offers good connections.

Step 7: Plan Your Spanish Vacation Itinerary

How to plan a trip to Spain itinerary will depend on where in Spain you’re going! Here are some suggestions and tips for popular Spanish destinations:

  • How to plan a trip to Barcelona – Book the top attraction, La Sagrada Família, in advance and visit the other attractions (Barcelona Cathedral, Park Güell) earlier in the day to avoid crowds. Don’t miss Mount Tibadabo’s amusement park!
  • How to plan a trip to Madrid – Take a walking tour of the top sites and plan lots of day trips. Toledo and Castilla La Mancha (Don Quixote Country) are both great.
  • How to plan a trip to Andalucía – Plan a city-hopping trip to big cities like Granada, Málaga, and Seville so you can take day trips to Rhonda, Córdoba, and Cádiz.
  • How to plan a trip to the Balearic Islands – Pick one of the main cities or towns as a base and enjoy cultural activities, beaches, and outdoor sports all over the island.

Use this Spain travel planner as a guide to make your own trip itinerary, but keep it flexible. 

Do as the Spanish do and leave a few hours free in the afternoon to take a siesta.

Step 8: Book Accommodation in Spain

From villas to resorts, hotels, guesthouses, and short-term rental apartments, you will find a range of accommodation options in Spain!

Here are our favorite kid-friendly hotels in Madrid and Barcelona.

Check out these best Madrid hotels for families visiting Spain with kids recommended by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Madrid, Spain cityscape above Gran Via shopping street.
There are tons of places to stay in Madrid!

Some regions in Spain, but not all, charge a nightly per-person tourist tax up to a maximum of seven nights. These regions are Barcelona, the wider Catalonia region, and the Balearic Islands. 

The amount varies depending on region and style of accommodation. For example, tourists staying in the Balearic Islands during the low season will only pay around €0.25 per night. 

But if you’re staying in a five-star hotel in Barcelona, you’ll pay more than €5 per night.

Step 9: Book Transport or Rent a Car

If you’re traveling to a few different destinations in Spain, you will need to book transport. Two of the best options are bus and rental car.

Spain does have a good intercity rail network, but only for major cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Buses are the way most locals travel around Spain, but it’s understandable if you’d rather not travel by bus if you have big suitcases!

Renting a car is best for traveling around more rural areas like Andalucía.

Step 10: Purchase Attraction Tickets and Plan Activities

You’ve spent a lot of time creating your dream Spain itinerary so you need to make sure you turn that dream into a reality.

Avoid standing in long lines to the busiest attractions in Spain in the baking heat by booking tickets ahead of time.

Image of Part of the facade of Sagrada Familia in summer, Barcelona, Spain
Sagrada Familia is one of the most iconic Barcelona attractions.

These are landmarks like the Alhambra in Granada and La Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Alternatively, book guided tours so you can skip the lines too.

Plan cultural activities for the appropriate part of Spain that you’re visiting. You wouldn’t watch a rodeo in New York City, so don’t book a flamenco show in Madrid! Flamenco originates in Southern Spain and Valencia is the best place to taste paella.

Luckily, you can find great tapas restaurants everywhere. Note that small plates are called ‘pintxos’ in northern Spain, not tapas.

Step 11: Get Travel Insurance for Your Trip to Spain

Most travel insurance providers recommend getting travel insurance just after you book your flights. This means you can claim at any point during the planning process as well as when you’re on your trip.

But travel insurance covers much more than just canceled plans and stolen belongings, it covers any emergency healthcare you need abroad. As long as you take out a policy before your trip, your most valuable asset (your health) will be covered.

Check if you get travel insurance as part of your credit card benefits.

Step 12: Figure out Phone, Credit Card, and Currency

Organizing your money when you travel is easier than ever as you can use your credit card for the majority of purchases. Just make sure you have a travel-friendly credit card and aren’t getting hit with high exchange fees!

Euro money: closeup of banknotes and coins
It’s always helpful to get some Euros in cash.

Bring some euros to carry with you for the few occurrences where you can’t pay with a card, as there are still some vendors in Spain that prefer cash.

It’s a good idea to get an eSIM so that you have data during your trip to Spain. Some cafes and attractions have WiFi, but not all and the quality is inconsistent. 

If you’re planning a trip to Spain and Portugal, make sure you get data coverage in both countries.

Step 13: Watch Movies and Read Books Set in Spain

Once you’ve completed most of the planning for your Spain vacation, you can spend the rest of your time watching movies and reading books set in Spain. This will make you feel even more excited for your trip!

Some recommendations are Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, Don Quixote

by Miguel de Cervantes, and the movie The Way (2010).

Step 14: Go To Spain!

Once you’ve finished planning your trip to Spain, all you need to do now is pack and go.

Stay safe and healthy in the Spanish sun by staying in the shade as much as you can and drinking plenty of water. You didn’t plan a trip to Spain to get heatstroke!

Planning a Trip to Spain FAQs

How do I prepare for a trip to Spain?

There are some easy things you can do to get to grips with how to prepare for a trip to Spain before you go. 

Prepare to eat a little later than you do back home and learn a few handy Spanish phrases. Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes and light, sweat-wicking clothing. 

How much is a trip to Spain?

The exact cost of a trip to Spain is dependent on lots of factors: your travel style and budget, when you travel, and how many people you are traveling with.

But there are a few average costs you can use as a guideline. Trip.com states that a round-trip economy flight from the US to Spain costs $500 to $1,500 depending on where you’re located and some other factors.

Budget Your Trip states that the average couple on a week-long trip to Spain spends around $2,286 in total.

How much money do I need to take to Spain for a week?

The Spanish government states that all international tourists should be able to prove that they have €100 (or the equivalent) for every day of their trip. 

It’s very, very unlikely that you will actually have to prove this! But it’s important to be aware of this rule.

Statista states that international tourists spend approximately €162 per day in Spain, but you could easily spend more or less than this depending on your travel style.

How To Plan a Trip to Spain Wrap Up

It couldn’t be easier to learn how to plan a trip to Spain with the right guide.

You won’t make the mistake of not booking Alhambra tickets in advance, or seeing a flamenco show in Madrid.

All that’s left do to is pack your Spanish phrasebook and high-SPF sunscreen!

Looking for more Spain travel resources? Check out my top Madrid travel tips, things to do in Barcelona with kids, Barcelona travel tips, day trips from Madrid by train, Barcelona day trips, things to do in Madrid with kids, Europe travel tips, Seville tourist attractions, day trips from Benidorm, and Mallorca travel tips!

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