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What are the must-have travel essentials that you should prepare and pack for your trip to Madrid? What you do before you go on vacation can help make your trip hassle free and your return home a little more relaxing.
So now that you’ve planned your trip to Madrid and the itinerary has been set, it’s time to check the things you need to sort out and your packing list before you travel.
Well, after years traveling around the world, I thought I’d share this handy travel checklist for Madrid. It’s the result of many fails that I’ve experienced over time and that I had to fix while on the road. Don’t do as I did…
Minimize your pre-trip stress with my comprehensive packing list for Madrid highlighting some of the most important things to do before leaving home. This way, you’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need to make your trip .
Let’s sort this out!
Number one on my travel essentials checklist for Madrid: don’t forget to bring your passport with you! Make sure it has at least six months validity and one empty page. If it’s due to expire this year, make sure you renew it in time.
Before you leave home, photocopy or scan your passport and keep the copy in a place that’s easy for you to access while abroad – in the cloud (e.g. iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.), on a pen drive or printed out and left in your suitcase. If your passport is mislaid or stolen, it’s much easier to arrange for an emergency passport if you have a copy of the details to hand.
Find out whether you need a travel Visa for Spain. Do this at least 3 months before your departure.
Even in this day of electronic ticketing, it’s helpful to have a paper copy to refer to and show airport and/or train station staff. Just in case your smartphone runs out of battery…
If you’re still researching flights to Spain, use this step by step guide to find very cheap international flights.
And if you need help with your train tickets, read this guide to get yours online.
If you plan to drive in Spain, check your driving license is in date and verify with the relevant authorities that it gives you the right to drive here. Take a photo, scan or photocopy it, just in case it gets mislaid or stolen on the trip. You may also want to consider obtaining an International Drivers Licence.
If you are renting a car, save money and time by booking yours online.
Having a print out with a list of your hotel reservations in Madrid is helpful for hotel staff as well as for yourself. Keep it in your carry-on luggage. Or save it on your smartphone so you can always have it with you.
You’ll be asked to fill in your first night’s hotel address in your landing card before immigration, so a list is handy. Also, having all the accommodation address will be useful for taxi drivers.
There’s still no quicker way to get a sense of the big picture than looking at a nice map.
That’s why I recommend you to have a look at a list of my customized Spain Traveller maps of Madrid. You will be able to to look for accurate information on Madrid from your computer, tablet or smartphone, regardless of where you are (at home or on the road).
Having a real guidebook can be useful in tandem with online information – plus, it’s handy to browse on the plane and get to know more about the facts and culture of your next destination. It’s one of my favorite travel essentials!
My recommendation is ‘Madrid In 9 Walks’.
Yes, I’m biased, because I’ve worked on this book.
Ensure you tell your bank before you leave your home country that your cards may be used in Spain. Otherwise, you may find your cards have a block on them. It will be easily removed with a phone call, but it will be a hassle nonetheless.
That being said, you should record the international phone number for your bank on your smartphone. And make sure you have online banking set up before you travel as this can be a lot easier than having to call your bank from abroad.
VISA and MasterCard are widely accepted in Spain, American Express not so much. Also bring an ATM debit card to withdraw euros from your checking account. It’s definitely a travel essential you shouldn’t overlook.
Take a photo, scan or photocopy them, just in case they gets mislaid or stolen on the trip.
It’s really hard to generalize but there is no need to carry more than 100 euros in cash per person to cover meals out and other eventualities for a day. Especially because you can pay for a lot of services by card in Madrid.
You should definitely carry no more than 300 euros on your person at any one time. And you should consider a money belt or a carry safe wallet if you expect to be carrying significant amounts of cash.
If you have no clue about tipping in Spain, here’s my handy tipping guide.
Travel insurance is in my top 3 travel essentials. It’s vital for travelling Spain and indeed anywhere in the world.
Spanish health care is excellent, but also expensive. Besides your health, you want to be protected against cancelled flights, missing baggage etc. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but travel insurance makes all the difference if you do. Therefore, I suggest you to get a comprehensive travel policy.
Whatever insurance you take out, remember to bring your European Health Card, if you are an EU citizen.
If you are on medication, bring it with you! It should be a top priority among your travel essentials.
Make sure you have enough to last the duration with a few extra days just in case there are any last-minute changes in your trip. When packing medication, bring the leaflet that comes with the pills so if you need medical attention, the doctor here knows exactly what you are taking. If you have any medical conditions, consider bringing with you a letter from your doctor outlining your recent medical history.
Remember that if you are struck down with a cold or stomach issue while in Madrid, you may not find the same brand of medicine that you use at home. Thus, if you only trust a particular brand, pack it and bring it with you.
Contact your provider to ensure your phone is unlocked for international travel, especially if you need to make an emergency call. And even if it sounds obvious, make sure you know your PIN code as you may need to power up and down your phone.
If you’re planning on staying connected during your time there the good news is it’s cheap and reasonably easy to get your own data-only SIM card with one of the local cell companies. Spain has plenty of prepaid SIM options.
One final note. By law, Spanish SIM cards need to be registered. So you won’t be able to buy one without a passport or national ID card.
Whether you print out your boarding cards or use the airline’s online app to scan yourself through the boarding gates, make sure you have fulfilled the airlines requirements in advance and always arrive to the airport early. One of the biggest causes of missing luggage is checking-in late.
Your airline will outline its luggage travel restrictions so do check before you fly as mistakes can be costly. The usual baggage allowance is 23kg or 50lb maximum for checked luggage and 10kg or 22lb for hand luggage. But again, check with the airline beforehand.
Try to stick to just one suitcase in the hold and one carry-on. Take a photo of them, just in case one of them go missing. And be sure your luggage is tagged with your contact details both inside and out.
It’s always a good idea to take along a small day-pack. You can use it as carry-on for your flight and it’s handy for day trips and for your stuff around when exploring Madrid.
Just in case your checked luggage gets lost or damaged, make sure to pack all your valuables in your carry-on luggage so they can be with you at all times.
Spain uses the standard European two-pin rounded plugs and the voltage is 230V/50hz. So you may need to bring an adapter to power up all your requirements such as your smartphone, tablet, Kindle, camera, etc.
There’s nothing worse than getting on your flight to Madrid and not having music, books or movies. So make sure you fully charge your electronics before you leave.
But most importantly, don’t forget to pack in your hand luggage the charger of each of these devices of course!
Consider packing an extra external battery for your smartphone if you use it to watch TV, movies or listen to audio. And pack earphones too – they are always handy for the flight and any train journeys.
The classic travel advice applies – wear layers and use breathable fabrics.
Cotton and linen are good, especially in the summer months. Try to avoid denim since it’s heavy and holds moisture. A lightweight fleece is a great item to have even in summer months simply to keep you warm on airplanes and trains where the air conditioning can be arctic and beyond your control.
You are likely to be doing a lot of walking, so you want to be as comfortable as possible. Similarly, make sure you have some lightweight comfortable walking shoes.
And if I can give a final piece of advice, pack everything using travel cubes. They are great to easily organize your clothes so you can access everything near instantly.
In any case, always take a lot at the weather forecast to have an idea of what you might find once here…
Before you hit the road, download ebooks, music, movies, games, and other entertainment that you like.
First, remember to check the storage space on your device. You won’t be able to download anything there if there’s not enough room. So take a little time to get rid of the stuff you no longer need.
Then, take your time a few days before your trip to download everything you want at home.
That way, you’ll have tons of things to do while you’re on the plane. And you’ll use your faster and more reliable internet home connection instead of relying on your cellular data service.