On the way to Barcelona!

I'm not actually on my way to Barcelona but I did recently come from there and I guess this is a good time to start blogging about my adventures there as well as test the blogger app for IOS.

First of all, I was going to be alone thus I needed to determine what I would be doing, where I would be eating and how much money I would need. I'm lucky in that I know several people who have visited Barcelona in the last year. They told me to estimate maybe 30 euros per person per meal. In retrospect, that's only if you plan on eating at pricey establishments. You can get a decent bowl of pasta and a drink for less than 10 euros at a coffee shop but I digress.

I believe I can sum up my planning into three steps which is research, schedule and have fun.

Step 1: Research
I started out planning for my trip by visiting TripAdvisor, which is a travel site for booking tours and hotels. Not only that but it also has a forum where members can ask each other questions about recent or future travels and tips. I also visited the Lonely Planet and Wiki Travel sites to research as much information as possible for my trip. You can spend hours doing research so I made sure I took notes using Evernote. I used Evernote because I have the app on my computer, my IPhone and my IPad. It syncs and is easy to access from whichever device I choose.

More apps to download would be Tripit and Stay.com which allowed me to organize all the places I wanted to go to and schedule them accordingly. Tripit even allows you to forward your e-mail reservations to your account and it will build your itinerary accordingly. Stay.com will allow you to input locations and it had an offline map so that you could navigate via GPS even without a data connection on your smartphone.

Read and scour the internet for tips and reviews of the places you want to visit. Keep on saving the respective sites for each tourist site. Take note of when these sites are open, when they are closed and when they have free entrance fees for the public. There are also some tourist cards you can purchase that allows you to visit several sites for a one time fee.

Most importantly, please check the weather forecast. I was going there in winter and am thankful that my sister lent me winter gear. In the tropics, nobody needs long underwear but in Barcelona in Februrary it was so cold and I would wear double layers plus a winter jacket, scarf and leather gloves. Yes, I looked absolutely fabulous wearing my winter clothing but it was freezing!

Step 2: Schedule
Hubby was going to be attending the conference the entire day for the next several days but I would not let that stop me from going around one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Using Google Maps and research I was able to locate where each tourist spot was and decide which were close together. A friend suggested I take a Hop-on Hop-off tour that would allow me to visit several spots in one day by utilizing a bus. You can find this tour on Viator. This was a new concept for me but I enjoyed it immensely as it allowed me to take my time at the tourist spots knowing that I would always have transportation to get to the next one. I guess the best tip my brother gave me was to also plan where I was going to eat since there were some restaurants that were quite good and near some tourist spots.

Thus, each day I had an itinerary on my Tripit account so that I knew where I'd be going. By scheduling my visits to tourist sites I would also be able to purchase tickets ahead of time and avoid the lines. I was able to purchase tickets to several museums such as the Museum of the History of Cataluna and the Museum d'Art Nacional. I also was able to skip the lines at Sagrada Familia since I had purchased tickets to a guided tour. Plus, I knew which subway lines to take and which stations to get on and off.  Prioritize which site you want to visit. You might not be able to go to all of them.

Step 3: Have fun
You might think that I've taken this whole trip planning too far and that it is quite rigid. What I did was plan for the first few days but I always left room in my day to do something unexpected. I guess it was also good that I had more than a week in Barcelona so that I didn't have to rush myself. I choose a certain location for each day and made sure I was able to utilize my prepaid tickets. However after that, I allowed myself to wander around and even have dinner with friends who were there at the same time. I also mingled with hubby near the latter part of the trip and his office mates also had ideas on where to go.

I'd like to think I was able to balance spontaneity with planning on this trip. I had an amazing time and I'll hopefully get the chance for more blog posts this week.


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