Here we walk you through an example of planning and researching trips through Portugal and Spain.
Planning & Research Goals
you want to go
want to see and do
transportation, travel time
Estimated number of nights
at each location
Determining the best travel
This first step is extremely
important and you should spend as
much time as necessary to be sure
you have found the locations
you want to visit, the best
travel routes and are aware
of all there is to see and
do. The more time you
take, the better off you will be, so don't rush through this step.
You don't want to take your
trip and return home to find you
missed something extremely important at
a site you were visiting or
another site close by.
The diagram below
shows the interactive process of
Trip Planning & Research.
Determine locations based on activities
You will be
researching locations and activities to
create a list of possible places to
visit along with activities at those
note of transportation options, travel
times and in some cases the cost to
travel between locations. Once you have
solidified a list of locations and activities,
you will use your best guess to
determine the amount of time required at each location.
Some locations may be
considered day-trips, while others
will require an overnight stay or a stay
of several nights.
When you are
considering a trip, the sky is the limit. We are using Portugal and Spain in this example. Start by listing
every location of interest. Research
sites by reading, watching videos
and using the internet.
Search for things such as 'popular Spanish destinations',
'Spanish castles', 'medieval towns of
Portugal', etc. When you find
something that interests you, write the
location down and make note of the
site or activity. At this
point, don't be concerned with the
cost or transportation between
locations. Later in the
process, when you have gathered more
information, you will be able to
make more informed decisions on the
locations you will actually visit
and ones you will remove.
Map of Portugal & Spain
begin writing down the
locations you are
considering to visit, it's important to
write them in the general proximity to the actual
locations on the map.
This will give you a
representation of their
geographical position and
direction of travel. (See
the first handwritten page
Portugal & Spain
Sites of interest and activities
Once you have
listed your locations of interest,
make note of the sites
and activities for each location.
You can write them down next to each
location on your handwritten map but
a better idea may be to list them on
a separate piece of paper as your
map will more than likely become
very congested as you begin
connecting locations and adding
travel information in the next step.
research should also include
If applicable, accommodation
(makes sure you
can easily reach your
accommodations from your arrival
point, that it's convenient
to your planned sites and
activities and it fits your travel budget)
- If you
are traveling by train, note the
arrival and departure locations
arriving by car, note parking areas
Connecting the dots - travel mode, time
step, you will draw lines connecting
the logical possibilities of travel
internet search to find travel
information between your locations such
as 'Madrid to Toledo'. Along each
line of travel, make
note of the travel mode, time and cost
if necessary. For example,
along the line connecting Madrid to
Toledo line write:
research in Step 2, you should have
made note that the train arrival
point in Toledo is below the town
and requires a somewhat long uphill
walk or a taxi ride to the city
Having this single high-level
and comprehensive view
of your locations with travel times allows you to quickly see
travel options at a glance allowing you
to more easily refine your routes.
You will be able to make decisions
on when to
backtrack through a location to get
to your next destination rather than
going directly from your current
location. In some cases, it
may actually be quicker to backtrack to
a place that has a high speed train rather than making multiple
connections or taking a slow city train
from your current location.
You may see that travel between two
points does not makes sense by train
or bus due to the duration and that
flying is your best option.
between points may only be available
by bus so you need to consider the
time. If you plan on traveling
by car, plan on $100/day average for
car rental with full insurance
coverage. It may make sense to
pick up a car in one location and
drop it off in another but there may
be additional fees for this.
See our tips page on
Automobiles and other
You may find that you plan to stay several nights in one location, while at other locations you may only stay a single night. You may choose to depart early in the morning for a daytrip to a new location, returning to your original location or on to a new location in the evening. The important thing to remember is to maintain a good balance of location-time verses travel-time.
Utilizing our Travel Planner, you can easily see a breakdown of your travel time for your entire trip as well as the amount of time you will spend at each location. As you are planning your trip, consider the location, sites and travel time to determine if it's worth taking the time to get there.
I our example below, we were thinking about traveling to the Olite Castle as it looked very interesting and would be a fun place to explore. This would have been a day trip from Zaragoza requiring us to travel
approximately 4 hours round trip total, just to see the castle. We decided a better use of our time would be to stay in Zaragoza, rather than spend an additional 4 hours traveling.
There are always exceptions. There are times when the site outweighs the travel time to get there, such as going to see the Taj Mahal in Agra India. You may travel several hours in a single day just to see it, but it's something you don't want to miss.
How long to stay
Once you have solidified your trip
itinerary and are happy
with all you plan to see and do, it's
time to estimate the amount of time
required at each location to accomplish
your activities. This is where you
must use your best guess or judgment. At some
locations you may want to relax and take
your time while at others you may want
to only spend a few hours and then be on
your way. It's important to
remember not to rush but to take time
enjoy where you are and what you are
arrival time and the length of time
required to travel to your next
destination to determine the amount
of time to stay. For
example, if you arrive in the
morning and have all day to explore, you
may only want to stay a single night. If
you arrive late in the evening, you may
need to stay two nights so that you have
a full day to explore. If you plan
on arriving at your next location by
a specific time, this may limit the
amount of time you have at the
length of stay at each location will
give you an idea of how many days
will be required for your trip and
any adjustments you need to make.
The Trip Planner
When you are
satisfied with your trip, you can being
transferring your information to the
Portugal & Spain
(click each page to the
right for a larger view)
As this example shows our
handwritten planning notes, please
excuse our misspelling of Gibraltar.
Locations, Travel Mode
and Travel Time
Our initial page to the right may not look
pretty but is serves a
valuable purpose as it shows all the locations in Portugal and
Spain we were considering visiting. It also shows the travel time and travel mode between each location allowing us to get a bird's eye view of destination possibilities.
have been drawn connecting
potential travel routes
between locations along with
notes on the travel times
(Google was used to find the
If no mode of travel is
listed, it's assumed to be
by train; otherwise it will
be noted as fly, bus, etc.
Looking at the travel time
and researching the
different locations, we
decided to eliminate some
locations due to the length
of time required for travel
or similarities with other
locations we planned to visit. For
example, although we would have liked
to see Olite Castle, we
crossed it off our list due
to the travel time required to get there and back from Zaragoza. It
would take about 4 hours for the round-trip journey and we felt it would be more relaxing and time better spent if we stayed in Zaragoza.
Splitting the Trip
We initially thought of taking a single trip to cover both Portugal and Spain, but after researching, determined we would need a minimum of four weeks and probably more to accomplish everything we wanted to see and do. We wanted to keep our trip to 2-3 weeks, so decided to come up with a way to take one trip that would cover Portugal and a little of Spain, while a second future trip would cover additional parts of Spain.
We first looked at splitting Spain vertically to visit locations to the left of Madrid, including Portugal. We would save locations to the right of Madrid for a future trip. This split did not work out logically when it came to transportation as there would have been a lot of backtracking through Madrid. Splitting the trip at Seville horizontally made more sense as we could eliminate backtracking in favor of a more circular route to locations South of Seville. On a future trip to Madrid, we would have shorter travel times between locations North of Madrid. We also work out a plan to take a more circular route North of Madrid, ending up in Barcelona to catch a flight back to London.
We could now visit Portugal from Porto to Lisbon in a single trip before departing Lisbon on a flight to Seville Spain. We would visit locations South of Seville, including a trip to Tangier Morocco before returning to Spain then on to Gibraltar where we would catch a flight back to London.
Trip to Portugal and Spain to the South
We will fly into London and stay the night before taking a train to Stansted Airport for a flight to Porto. From Porto, we will travel by train to Lisbon and later take a flight to Seville. We will visit Tangier and then Gibraltar before flying back to London Heathrow and returning home. We have several other stops in between the major locations where we will travel by train, bas, car and ferry.
Approximately 17 Nights depending on options
Home -> London (1 Night) -> (45m Train) -> Stansted -> (2.5h Flight) Porto (3 Nights)
Porto -> (3h Train) -> Lisbon (5 Nights)
-Day Trip to Sintra
-Day Trip via car: Obidos, Nazare, Fatima & Bathalha (Approx. 9h)
Lisbon -> (1h Flight) -> Seville (3 Nights)
-Day Trip to Cordoba (45m Train)
Seville -> (3.5h Train) ->
Tarifa -> (45m Ferry) -> Tangier (2 Nights)
Tangier -> (45m Ferry) -> Tarifa -> (1.5h Train) -> Algecires -> (1.5h Bus) -> Gibraltar (2 Nights)
Gibraltar -> (3h Flight) -> London (0-1 Nights) -> Return Home
that Gibraltar is actually
in the UK, not Spain.
Flights from Gibraltar are
direct and inexpensive back
Trip to Madrid and the North
This shows a possible trip where we would arrive in Madrid. We would travel to several locations North of Madrid before ending in Barcelona for a flight back to the UK. At this point, we have not researched our activities, so we have not indicated the number of nights we may stay at each location.
The Trip Planner showing locations from Madrid to Barcelona, returning to London and then home.