We recently traveled to Barcelona, in January 2015, so I wanted to share the information I found for how to plan a family trip to Barcelona, Spain on a budget, and in our case for under $1000! We stayed 3 nights, 2 of the nights we stayed in Barcelona and checked it out over 1.5 days and spent a day & night in Girona. It was plenty of time and we could’ve easily done it all in 2 days if needed. We are a family of 2 adults and 2 kids (14 & 11) because our oldest was back at college and not traveling with us. We did find that Barcelona is much more expensive than Rome, we did a trip as a family of 5 for under $1300 and that was with an extra person!
First & best advice is to be flexible! Have ideas of places you want to travel and when you see great deals, snag them! Also I recommend traveling off season as things are much cheaper and less crowded. Second is to do your research and plan things out, the less planned = more money spent. We traveled to Barcelona in mid-Janauary over the 3 day Martin Luther King weekend. American holidays are great times to travel!
Check airline sites often and think about when you can travel such as American holiday where you’ll have a 3 day weekend. I hadn’t planned on going to Barcelona, Spain in January BUT when I seen the tickets were €9,99-€14,99 each way I couldn’t pass it up! We flew round trip from Frankfurt Hahn to Girona, Spain for $120 for a family of 4!
Also watch for the rental car deals Ryan Air offers. We were offered one for €18 but upgraded to the €22 one to get 4 doors, sometimes its the little things 😉 Regardless €22 is amazing and cheaper than airport transfers AND it allows us the freedom to make stops along the way making the most of our trip. Even with gas & tolls it was a great deal.
Use booking.com and orbitz.com to find hotels or apartments and then try to use Orbitz.com to book. The reason for this is because you can use Ebates with orbitz and get 6.5% back! This is legit and I’ve been using it for years, if you don’t use Ebates and would like to sign up you can here. Then I also use an Orbitz coupon code, normally 15% off as well. So for my Barcelona apartment it was originally $175.53 but they had a 15% off code on Orbitz and I used my Orbucks as well. When you use Orbitz you get points to apply for a discount on future purchases. I went through the Ebates link, added in my promo code, and then added the apartment to check out. It will tell you if it’s eligible for the code or not. So I got 15% for the code, well as using my Orbitz points to save $9.03 AND 6.5% was sent to my Ebates account! A savings of $35 over booking via another site. Our total for the hotel for 2 nights was $146.39 for a 4 star apartment.
Also even if your hotel/apartment isn’t available on Orbitz or is really expensive, still check Ebates. I wanted to book Holiday Inn Express and it was way cheaper on it’s own site ($53) instead of on Orbitz ($130). So I checked Ebates and was able to use them for 2.5% back on the lower price ($53) just going through the HIE site. So shopping around helps!
Here’s how it looks broken down:
Apartment cost for 2 nights $158.37
Promo code discount -$23.76
Taxes & fees $17.16
Orbucks applied -$9.03
Ebates cash back $ 1.26
City room taxes to be paid upon arrival €3
Hotel in Girona for 1 night $46
Ebates cash back $2.42
Grand total for 3 nights $ which is not bad for the Barcelona area for a family of 4!
Also read the reviews to decide where to stay, I base my hotels selection off reviews and not just stars. We stayed at Eric Vokel Industria Suites in Barcelona, my review is HERE (LINK), and Holiday Inn Girona, my review HERE.
Train – You can take the train, but you have to take a taxi to get to the train station. Train ticket will run around €11,25/$12 per person. The taxi will be around €20/$21 to the train station.
Bus – You can use a shuttle bus but I’ve heard they aren’t a good choice if you have an early morning flight, so make sure you check that the times will work with your schedule. The cost is €15 for one way or €25 for round trip per person. So for our family it would’ve been €100/$105 and it was not available for our early morning flight. So not only was the rental car cheaper but more convienent as well.
Taxi – it’s possible but will cost you about €120 so probably only to be used in desperate times.
Rental Car – There are several companies you can use however we got an amazing deal booking with Firefly through RyanAir.
Here’s some info about the rental cars by Firefly that you can get for super cheap trough RyanAir. We rented the car for €22/$25 and I was wondering if there would be any ‘hidden’ charges. I did find that they do charge you an admin fee of €20/$22.70 BUT even with the admin fee our total rental was $47.70 which was still cheaper than taking a shuttle to Barcelona and back. Also you can purchase the insurance for €50 or you can have a €650 hold put on your credit card which we chose to do. Also if you want to add an additional driver it’s €20/day but I don’t generally drive so we just had Mr. B on it. Also they pre-charge you €60 for gas but they refund you what is left. We chose to fill up just before the airport for €10/$11.35 and got the full €60 refunded. So our total rental was $47.70 plus $11.35 in gas and the tolls which were $23.07 for a grand total of $81.12 which is still cheaper than the shuttle bus and allowed us freedom to make stops along the way.
Getting Around Barcelona
Metro – The metro is supposedly pretty efficient in Barcelona, however after our metro experience in Rome we didn’t even bother trying it. If you do use it do NOT buy the single trip ticket for €2,15 it is a rip off! Instead get the T10 card for €9.95 for 10 trips and it can be shared by your whole group, you and find more info here.
Taxi – These are also said to be reasonable and easy to use, our friends used one and all went well, we however did not. Rates start at €1,03-€1,30 per km and may have some supplemental fees, see link for more info.
Hop on Hop Off Bus – is a great idea for Barcelona because it’s so huge! The HOPO bus has 2 routes. There are 2 companies and they range from $26-29 per person for 1 day and offer a discount on the 2nd day. For 4 of us it was $103.09 for 1 day. They also offer free wi-fi which is great if you are traveling with teenagers who don’t appreciate sighting as much as you do 😉
Walking – free but know that Barcelona is very spread out so you’ll need some form of transportation to help you get around.
Attractions & Sights Costs
Make sure you do your research in this category! There are a TON of sights to chose from and all are pricey. We found the Barcelona sights to be overpriced, and after just sightseeing in Rome, pretty underwhelming. Yes, the sights are ‘good’ but compared to Rome not as nearly impressive and you have to pay a lot more. You get less bang for your buck in Barcelona for sure.
We loved using the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus because Barcelona is so huge! We had 2 pick up/drop off stops near our apartment so it worked out great. We rode both the routes the entire way around getting off here and there, I feel like we got to see all of Barcelona that way.
Here are some of the sights we hit, more about them on the post about sightseeing Barcelona.
We visited the Sangrada Familia, the tickets were €19,50 per adult to visit and climb a tower and €17,50 for kids ages 11-17 so it was €74/$80 for the 4 of us. Make sure you buy tickets ahead of time for this site!
Park Güell is a neat place with interesting architecture but now comes with a hefty fee to visit, whereas it used to be free. Prices are €8 for ages 13 and up and €5.60 for kids 7-12. I hadn’t planned on paying to visit the park but Mr. B wanted to so we did, and it was €29,60/$31 but you don’t really get much for that money. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth it for your family. You can also visit Casa Batillo here (Gaui’s house) but we chose not to pay to see it. You can also get this with a combo ticket at Sangrada Familia.
Hospital St. Paul, we just walked down and checked out the exterior, we did not pay to tour it.
Las Rambas walk – self guided using Rick Steve’s book – free
Port Vell area – free
And a few more that will be posted on the upcoming post.
We found eating and food to be more expensive in Barcelona that what it was in Rome. And we were even with only 4 people in Barcelona compared to the 5 in Rome. An average dinner was €50 in Barcelona for 4 people, in Rome we ate for €34 for 5 people. Grocery stores are the best way to get snacks, sodas, and water to carry around.
Drinks in were about the same as Germany, around €3-5 for a soda. No refills as usual in Europe. You can supposedly ask for tap water here but we did not try it.
At the grocery store we got bottles of coke for and cans for €0.75, unless you wanted cherry coke then it was €1 per can. The large 1 liters of water were €1 at the supermarket and we carried these with us during the day.
Dinner was around €50/$53 for the 4 of us, and our lunch at Port Vell was the most expensive at €78,80/$83 but it sure was some tasty seafood.
There is also McDonald’s where 3 of us ate for €15, Subway €8 for one meal, & KFC where we got the special and scored lunch for €12 for 4 of us. So really the American type fast food places ended up being cheaper for food options.
Totals for our trip
Airline tickets with Ryan Air $120
Rental Car with Firefly through Ryan Air $47.70
Parking €45/$47.45 for 3 day pass (we only needed 2 days but it was cheaper to buy the pass)
Hotels $136 for 2 nights in Barcelona, $53 for 1 night in Girona with free breakfast (that we didn’t get, see review).
Sights & HOHO bus $214
Misc $50 souvenirs, etc
Grand total: $982.57
I hope if your planning to visit Barcelona you find this information helpful!