I travel frequently, and travel planning can still be stressful for me. There’s always this pressure to fit as much into your trip as possible. Downtime is seen as time wasted, and if you visit a place and don’t see a “Must See” Attraction, people tend to be judgemental. When done correctly, itinerary planning can also be a really fun activity. Over the years, I have learned what does and doesn’t work for me and how to craft the perfect travel itinerary. I hope these tips and tricks can help make planning your next trip a little less stressful!
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Step 1: Brainstorming Ideas
This is my favorite step in the planning process. When brainstorming, you and any travel partners just writes down everything that you might want to do while in a location. Don’t think about if it’s feasible. Don’t think about cost yet. Just write down everything you might want to do in a place. If I am planning a solo trip, I usually do this in my moleskine notebook. If I am traveling with friends(which is more typical since I don’t love solo travel), we use a google doc!
Step 2: Research
You know those ideas your brainstormed? Now it’s time to do a bit kore research into them. For this step, I like to use a spreadsheet. I put each activity in the first column, then add cost, if tickets are required, if there are days it isn’t open, and any other info into subsequent columns. This is also a good step to look up opinions from other travellers. If I had on my brainstorming list that I wanted to eat at a particular restaurant, but then other people were saying things like “it’s overpriced” or “the service is terrible” I would want to note that. I love looking at Destination Guides that other travellers have written to get information as well! I also think that Pinterest is a wealth of information for travel planning! Be sure to check out my tips on how to use Pinterest to help your travel planning!
Step 3: Narrow down your ideas
Now that you have done some research, it’s time to narrow down your plans a bit. Start eliminating things based on cost, feasibility, and other factors. One mistake people make at this step is to over-eliminate though! You can always cut more items later so make sure you still have a good number of options before you go into the next step. You can even organize your ideas into “Must See”, “Would like to see” and “can live without” categories as a way to help yourself in the next step.
Step 4: Start your Draft Itinerary
So you’ve narrowed your ideas down and now it’s time to start your itinerary! I also use a spreadsheet for this, but that’s just because I’m a sucker for a good spreadsheet. In my spreadsheet, I break down my itinerary in a few ways. I give each day it’s own column and then break it into morning, afternoon, and evening. I also add in spots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I know that I want to go to specific places for those meals on my trip. This part is a puzzle. You want to arrange and rearrange activities in your itinerary until it feels right.
PRO TIP: DO NOT OVERBOOK YOURSELF
Remember this is a trip! You should be enjoying yourself so don’t do something crazy with your intinery. For instance, when I was in Paris a few years ago, my friend and I decided to do the Palace of Versailles in the morning and then go to the Louvre that afternoon/evening because the Louvre was open late that night. We were EXHAUSTED by the end of the day and barely enjoyed the Louvre as a result.
Step 5: Rearrange your itinerary
You’re thinking to yourself, why did I just create an itinerary if you were just going to make me change it? Bear with me! I want you to rearrange it with some things in mind. Use the following questions to guide you in turning your draft itinerary into the perfect travel itinerary.
- Will you be jet lagged your first few days?
- If attractions require tickets and specific dates/times can you buy the tickets for the day you planned?
- If not, move it to a day you can get tickets for
- Have you given yourself any time to just explore?
- Did you leave enough time to get between places?
- If you are doing a general city tour, is it in your first day or two of your trip?
- If not, I highly recommend moving it to the beginning. General tours of the city can be a great way to get your bearings at the starting of a trip.
- Did you leave open space for any fun activities you might learn about on arrival?
- Is your itinerary flexible?
Step 6: Finalize Plans
Now that you have brainstormed, researched, and written and re-written your itinerary, you are basically done! This last step is just where you book anything that needs to be booked ahead of time. Buy your tickets for anything like theater shows or sites that require a specific date and time. I suggest making these bold or highlighting them in your itinerary so you know you already have the tickets and those plans are fully set.
Congratulations! You now have the perfect travel itinerary and it only took 6 steps! Want to make your life even easier? Head over to my Resource Library and you can download my spreadsheet template to help you with steps 2-6!
From one Misguided Millennial to the world, happy planning!