Lessons

Pluses (things that we did well and worked for us):

  1. A detailed plan and itinerary, and being flexible to change on the ground.
  2. Research where to stay, eat, and attractions to visit. TripAdvisor.com is a great resource.
  3. Stay in home riads in Morocco, and not hotels.
  4. Book directly with riads in Morocco, when they were willing to extend a discount. And, book through Booking.com when they didn’t offer a discount or requested a down-payment. Watch-out for cancellation terms.
  5. Before committing to riads and hammams, we had a friend investigate our shortlist in-person while he was attending a conference in Marrakech.
  6. Buy tickets to attractions and activities in advance.
  7. Travel by car in Morocco. While travel by train is a much cheaper options, it is not efficient and reviews are not great.
  8. Rent a car and drive in southern Spain. It’s fun, cheap and convenient.
  9. Director of Entertainment, Ihab. He has a great taste!

Deltas (thing we could have done better):

  1. Our Itinerary was a bit hectic and would have been great to allow for some personal time to relax, unwind and do your own thing.
  2. We should have hired a guide in the Medina in Fes, and agreed on price up front. Adults and kids are equally aggressive when offering guidance.
  3. The weather in both Morocco and Spain was a bit warm. I think starting the trip the last week of September would have been better.

How I lowered my cost:

  1. Airline miles to pay for air ticket: I used AAdvantage Miles to pay for my American Airlines ticket Phoenix/Madrid and return Barcelona/Phoenix, and only paid $53.16 out of pocket for taxes and carrier fees.
  2. Airline miles to pay for a daytrip: I used British Airways Avios to pay for the day trip from Marrakech to Essaouria
  3. Hotel points to pay for lodging: I used HiltonHonours points to pay for hotels in Spain.
  4. Flights from Spain to Morocco: it was relatively cheap to pay for a one-way ticket from Madrid to Marrakech. I paid $56.45 on Iberia.
  5. Low-cost carriers: we flew Vueling from Malaga to Barcelona and it was a pleasant experience. Before you book, be aware of all the restrictions and read the fine print.

Resources:

  1. Ferry from Tangier MED/Morocco to Algeciras/Spain: FRS
  2. Car rental in Malaga: Marbesol
  3. For ideas on points and miles follow: The Points Guy
  4. For flights and fare deals follow: SecretFlying