Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Trip To Barcelona, Spain

My International Travel Adventure

My International Travel Adventure, Barcelona, Spain- Over The Apple Tree

This past fall my family went to Barcelona, Spain! This was mine and my kid's first international trip ever! Here are some tips, ideas, and observations that you may find helpful if you're planning a European vacation.

Stuff to bring(besides the basics)
  • Power Adapter I got two of these off of Amazon. These are great for charging our devices with the USB ports.
  • International Driver's Permit Obviously you know you have to have a passport, but if you plan on renting a car, some countries require a driving permit as well. It's not hard to get, just take your passport, 2 passport photos and license to a local AAA office, fill out the application and pay $20. 
  • Money Chances are, you'll need cash at some point. We were getting picked up at the airport by a driver from the apartment rental company. We had to pay him cash. After that long day of travel we didn't want to worry about changing money in a crowded airport or finding an ATM, so we got Euros from our own bank before we left. They don't keep it on hand and had to order it. Keep in mind, it could take a few days if you want to do this.
  • Phone Lanyard This is not completely necessary, but since I plan to take lots of photos with my phone, I thought it might come in handy. Before you make fun of me, here's my thoughts...Barcelona is known for the pick-pockets, I'm going to be moving my phone in and out of my bag or pockets a lot. Dropping, breaking, getting robbed of my new phone would suck! It doesn't have to be around your neck, can be wrapped around the wrist, tied to bag strap or belt loop. There are all different kinds of these on Ebay  Why did I use my phone instead of my fancy schmancy camera? I didn't want to carry it, my phone has a pretty high-quality camera and I have it set up so my photos automatically back up online AND add geotags. 

  • RFID-Blocking Waist/Neck Stash Nothing says tourist more than sporting one of these pouches. Luckily, these are made to tuck under your clothing. We picked ours up at AAA when we were getting our driving permits, but they sell the exact same one at Target! Now before you think it will never happen to you, my husband's card got scanned at our layover in Detroit and the bank called to alert us of charges and had to cancel the card! Bring more than one credit card!
  • Cross Body Bag We plan to walk a lot! I needed a good, comfortable, secure bag to carry daily. I found mine at G.H. Bass & CO, however, this particular one isn't available anymore
  • Travel Pillow OMG, it's a long flight!
  • Audio Splitter for headphones. Two people can watch the same movie together on one device, great for little kids. Thank God our airline had individual monitors loaded with movies and games so we didn't end up using this. I watched so many movies! Obviously, for the love of God, do not forget headphones! I love to read and I brought books, but I was so tired I couldn't think straight.

Don't forget to...
  • Stop your mail. You can put a hold on your mail until you get back
  • Make arrangements for your pets
  • Make hard copies and email yourself digital copies of your travel documents and IDs just in case. If they're in your email, even if you lose your phone, you can still access them.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you're traveling, otherwise, they may freeze your cards for possible fraudulent activity. Most companies you can do this online fast.
  • Call your cell phone company and get a temporary international plan. You do not want to get hit with those roaming charges! At&t charges $10 a day and only if you use your phone. For the kid's phones, I turned on the international plan just in case, but then I manually switched off their data and then I had them keep it on airplane mode.
  • Start thinking about where you want to go once you get there. Flag the places on Google Maps and make sure to download the map of the area where you're going. Then you'll be able to view it on your phone even if you don't have signal. What in the world would we do without technology?! Barcelona has city wide wifi!! It's a little spotty, but really convenient.

Barcelona Spain, Over The Apple TreeBarcelona, Spain, Over The Apple Tree

My International Travel Adventure Barcelona, Spain- Over The Apple Tree

Here are some observations that I found interesting and maybe a little helpful.
These people keep LATE hours! We were told in a restaurant that the chef didn't even get there till 9 pm. We went out one night at 11:30 and there were families out walking and playing at the park with toddlers and babies!

People eat lots of fresh, nonprocessed food. The grocery store is considerably smaller than our grocery stores because they don't sell as much crap food as we do in the US. There are separate shops for certain things. Bakeries for fresh bread, butchers for meat, tobacco stores if you want cigarettes, pharmacies on every other corner. 

They dress conservatively. Around here I could run to the grocery store in my plaid PJ pants or workout clothes and no one would look twice at me. Nope, not the same there. People dress casual but nice. No athletic clothes unless you're actually exercising. They wear sneakers but think Converse or Vans style. And while we're on that subject, I can't stress enough the need for comfortable, supportive shoes. If you're in a city like we were, you'll be walking...a lot! We averaged about 10 miles a day!

Lots of bikes, motorcycles, and scooters. Everyone drives small hatchback cars. Apparently, the rules of the road for motorcycles and scooters are optional. They drive between the lanes of traffic and go through red lights if it's all clear. Pretty unnerving as a pedestrian!

Barcelona, Spain, Over The Apple Tree

So many people are multilingual. It's pretty impressive and also makes me feel like I need to step up my game. I heard the gate agent in Paris switch between 4 languages in less than a minute!
Prices...What you think about the cost of goods, depends on where you come from. I found prices comparable to where I live outside of Denver. 

No too big on tipping. So people do tip, a little. Wait staff get paid an hourly wage and don't depend on tips like they do here. There isn't a rush for you to eat and get out. They want you to enjoy yourself. In one restaurant, my husband asked for the bill and the owner(who was also our server) told him to relax, don't be in a hurry. He brought us tea and baklava.

Our apartment had an induction stove. I had to look up on YouTube how that worked! Is it better than gas or electric? I don't know. Seeing differences like this, the electric outlets, metric system, eggs, and milk on the shelves instead of in coolers, makes me wonder...if there's a better way to do something, why doesn't everyone adopt it?

Safety...I know I mentioned pick-pockets earlier but overall, Barcelona is very safe. All the locals told us how safe it is. In fact, my husband was out front talking to a shop owner from across the street. There were police sirens and a commotion going on down at the corner. The shop owner tells him, "That never happens, let's go check it out." As he's walking away from his shop, my husband asks him if he should stay to watch it. the shop owner says "Nah, it's fine, no one will do anything."

Barcelona, Spain, Over The Apple TreeBarcelona, Spain, Over The Apple Tree

Do you need to speak Spainsh? You're in a different country, they speak a different language. While you could definitely get by not speaking fluent Spanish, it wouldn't hurt to know some basic phrases. Barcelona is a tourist city and many people speak English, but you can't assume that everyone will be able to accommodate you. Luckily my husband is fluent in Spanish. I know enough to survive. I can read a menu fairly well in Spanish, but my kids were struggling. A few restaurants had English menus available, just ask.

Getting around...you can walk plenty of places but don't be afraid to use the metro. It's cheap and really easy to figure out. 

I have so much more info I could pass along, but that would take forever! Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I'll try to answer anything I can!

Barcelona, Spain, Over The Apple Tree

Barcelona, Spain, Over The Apple Tree

Me going to Barcelona once does not make me an expert world traveler. We researched for months before we left, everything from where to go, to what to wear so we don't look all touristy and dorky. Check out YouTube! There are endless travel vloggers that have tons of great tips, recommendations for must-try foods, restaurants, shopping, and tourist sites. International plane tickets can be more affordable than you think. Start watching the ticket prices and don't be afraid to go for it if you get a great deal!

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