Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

I am busy preparing for my second trip to Spain. This time around we will be spending more time in Madrid and we will also be traveling north to Oviedo. The last time we went to Spain (2015), I wasn’t very prepared. I was accepted to a conference in Barcelona and my hubby and I decided to make it a vacation. I didn’t spend any time brushing up on Spanish and I didn’t really plan anything. It was great anyway. We went to Madrid and Barcelona.  We did a few day trips, like to Cardona and Monserrat. We saw Flamenco shows, ate churros and walked these super old streets. I ate more tomato toast than I ever thought I would (I actually didn’t know it was a ‘thing’ until I went). Each hotel we stayed in had these amazing rooftop views– and you could go up any time you wanted. We watched an Australia vs. Scotland rugby match, in an Irish bar, next to some guys “on holiday” from England, in Barcelona. We ate a lot of tapas and pinchos. We drank wine at the oldest, still-operating winery in Spain. Oh and we saw La Sagrada Familia. So it was a great trip! We loved it so much we wanted to go back, but this time I am doing a little more preparing…

The first interest I have is the language. When I travel, I feel bad that I don’t know multiple languages. I hate that I can’t communicate with people. I’ve been using Duolingo and Fluenz to prepare for this trip. Duolingo has both a Web site and app. One would think they’d be the same, but they aren’t. The Web site has a female voice and will show you pictures to choose from every now and then. The app has drag and drop matching games and features these little avatars for people they are talking about in the activities. I actually prefer the Web site to the app, except the new ‘bot’ feature on the app. This bot feature allows you to text a conversation, and then you get points based on your texting. Pretty cool. At level 8, I wouldn’t say that I’m fluent yet. Nope- very far from it. But, my comprehension has definitely improved. I also love that there is a community with Duolingo. You can pop in a forum and ask questions at any time.

Fluenz is a completely different system. It’s not cheap or free (like Duolingo is). It can probably be seen as a competitor to Rosetta Stone. I bought it for my husband last year and I have been the one using it! Fluenz has a few levels and two individuals who teach you and explain to you the Spanish. You focus on a situation during each lesson (there are maybe 25 lessons per level), such as ordering at a restaurant. Activities involve watching, speaking, games, and typing. There is both a computer download and a Web version. Because I have Fluenz, I am using it also. There are probably pros and cons to both approaches, but the most obvious difference is the cost.

Now, the last time we went to Spain, we landed up in some pretty kick-ass bars, restaurants, and plazas. Sometimes winging it can be fun, but you can also miss out on a lot if you don’t at least look for things to do beforehand. I use a variety of tools for trip planning, mainly TripAdvisor and I’m Yelp Elite. However, this time around I will also be trying out Google Trips. It only comes in an app format. It pulls in all your reservations from your email, which is pretty cool and creepy. It also allows you to add it’s suggested places to your map. I don’t like that you can’t more easily search for places it doesn’t recommend to you. Also, it seems to only be well-developed for the major cities. So, while I found a lot in Madrid, I didn’t find much for Oviedo. I did figure out that I can go to maps.google.com and star places that appear on the map in the app. Clearly, it is also tying into my map data for my account. Additionally, I also created a Google MyMap. Unfortunately, the places you star on maps.google.com don’t make their way to your MyMaps- but there is a crazy hack I found yesterday that did the trick. So far there isn’t a MyMaps app, but you can open the MyMap from Google Drive on mobile, which asks if you want to open it in your Google Maps app. When you do, it overlays the MyMaps points with your starred Google Maps points. Sometimes, Google is bizarre. I hope Google Trips, Maps and MyMaps catch up with one another, eventually.

I have the hardest time picking out what to travel in. It doesn’t matter how many suggested capsules I look at on Pinterest- when it comes to my closet, I get stuck. Lately, I have been buying up a lot of Athleta and White House Black Market. I know from traveling to Spain last time that it was colder than I thought it would be and it rained a lot. So, again I will bring lots of layers and lots of scarves. I am also wondering what kind of shoes to bring. Last time I had some good flats from Clarks, but they are now gone and they weren’t very cute. I need to look for some stylish city walking shoes. I did pick up an awesome Travelcon pick-pocket-proof purse on Amazon for the last trip that worked wonders. I’ll definitely be bringing it again.

Staying healthy is always a concern of mine. I used to be such a healthy person. Now I find myself getting sick more. I always get sick after I fly. I try to prevent it by stocking up on Airbornes in my body beforehand because I am convinced my body hates the recycled air on the plane.The last time we traveled to Spain, I got a cold. We went to the ‘Pharmacia’ where this really nice lady saved my life with a bunch of medicine. Not only this, I also get they kind of ‘lock myself in the bathroom’ ill on the plane when I fly because, yes, I am afraid of flying. It doesn’t matter how many planes I see in the sky on the Plane Finder app, I now have panic attacks on take off and usually at some point in the air. My doctor gave me a prescription that works a little and alcohol helps, but it will always happen once a long flight. The last time I flew I did my amazing Waking the Cobra Chakra meditation for the first time and it was a better experience, but that was a short flight. I will have to see if it works for a longer flight. The day after we land, I get these bizarre stomach cramps that basically cripple me. We’ve learned to not book day trips the day after we fly because of this. The cramps subside when I lay down, but this is not easily done on a bus. So, yes, staying healthy is always a concern for me. I won’t let any of this deter me, however. I can’t wait to go back to Spain and travel to more parts of the world.