So you want to travel. You have endless ideas about the corners of the globe which interest you, inspire and fascinate you. But where do you begin? With a culturally immersive trip to Thailand? A cosmopolitan city break in Italy? An exhilarating road trip across the States?
As you scroll through your Instagram feed, see the latest addition to Lonely Planet’s twitter feed and read numerous posts from DLV, write a list. Make a record of everything you see which catches your eye – this will save you from trying to remember when it comes to booking the holiday. Include places you want to experience, the cultures you wish to immerse yourself in and even the local delicacies you want to taste in a traditional street-side cafe. You’re then all set to go.
For the sake of clear example, the rest of this piece will assume you’ve decided upon a 7 day trip to Spain’s most cultural metropolis, Barcelona.
It’s January – the ideal time to start planning your adventure. Not only do you have plenty of time to plan and organise your itinerary but you can grab some notably cheaper flights in the new year sales. If you take one thing from this piece; as you’re following the steps below, keep a record of everything researched and booked, this enables you to fit everything in and is a useful way to best utilize every minute spent in your destination. (We recommend a Word or Excel document – Download a template here)
Step 1: Book your flights. Without these you’ll be going nowhere!
There are literally dozens of website offering you easy flight comparisons. However our favourite is cheapflights.co.uk. The simple, bold interface of this site not only provides you with clarity, but maximum search control. The flight filter enables you to reduce flights depending on your preferred departure time, the flights duration and any specific airline preference you may have, amongst many other things and as the name of the website suggests, there are tonnes of affordable flights available. When searching on 16th January, we found return flights for as little as £88 (Sat 2/7 – Sat 9/7 – LGW/BCN).
Once your flights are booked, arrange your airport transfers. If driving to the airport we recommend Purple Parking for Gatwick or Heathrow, whilst Pink Elephant is your best bet if flying from Stansted. If you won’t be driving then National Express offer frequent, affordable coach travel to all major UK airports.
When it comes to the other end, arriving at Barcelona El Prat offers you a wealth of options. The Aerobus travels directly from both terminals, providing direct, air-conditioned transport directly to Plaza de Catalyuna in the heart of Barcelona. Once booked, be sure to add the flights and transfers to your itinerary, including departure, arrival and travel times.
Plaza de Catalyuna is also home to the hub of the Barcelona metro system enabling fast and frequent travel across all corners of the city. Click here for the full network map.
Step 2: Select your base. Important, even if you’re always out exploring!
Your accommodation preferences will undoubtedly be guided by your budget, and who you’re going with. Barcelona offers a wealth of options when it comes to accommodation and there’s something to suit all. If you’re a hotel type of person we suggest using Hotels.com. If your budget is tighter, or will be travelling alone so fancy something a bit more sociable, there is many hostels in the centre of the city which pose as excellent bases for your discoveries. We suggest using Hostelworld to find one that suits you – (We love Casa Gracia, a small, modern ‘poshtel’ right in the centre!) However if you’re travelling with a large group of friends or family, apartments are the way to go, and with House Trip offering literally hundreds of Barcelona apartments, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Step 3: Select your must-do’s. Don’t miss out on a thing.
This, along with step 4 is the part you need to spend most time on. These are what will make your trip memorable and ensure you get the most from your trip. Barcelona is an excellent choice if you like discovering historic, cultural locations brimming with artistic flare. The world renound Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous unfinished cathedral is a must-see. Whilst other Gaudi works including Casa Batllo and Park Guell are also worth a visit, with the later offering breathtaking views over the whole city. Get to know what there is to do, and what you’d like to experience and use this to form an efficient itinerary to enter into the template. This way, you’ll find more time to do all the things you want to do.
Step 4: Research surrounding areas. Detour from the tourist trail.
As DLV highlights so effectively, beauty is everywhere – you just have to find it. And so whilst the former mentioned attractions are stunning, cultural hotspots, it pays to venture away from the tourist hubs and range further afield. Due to Barcelona’s location, it’s only a 2hr drive to the French border where the gems of Toulouse and Montpellier are then only another 2hrs, making them ideal for a full-day adventure. (Check out RailEurope for train tickets). If you’re feeling really adventurous, there is also a 7-time weekly ferry crossing over to the island of Palma, ideal for a night away from the hustle of Barcelona
Step 5: Review your Itinerary. Does it all work out?
Once you’re finished planning the trip, set aside time to review your itinerary, making sure you’ve managed to fit everything in, that you’ve balanced your activities out appropriately, ensuring you don’t have any dead periods of time and that you won’t get too tired.
Step 6: Final Preparations. Don’t forget a thing.
It may go without saying, but a few days before you leave for the airport, ensure you have your passport, foreign currency and appropriate SIM card. This will create a stress-free persona and the opportunity to clear your head of worry before you embark on your discovery. In addition to the obvious, there are also a number of other items we at Creating Minutes suggest you purchase prior to your trip. These can be found in DLV’s 5 Must-Have Travel Accessories.
We hope you’re now aware of the importance of note taking and subsequent itinerary planning to create more time for the things you love. You may now even feel inspired to visit the cultural gem of Barcelona!