Just Wing It? Please Don’t.
If there is one piece of advice I can give you about traveling, preparing an itinerary would be it. Whether you prepare it yourself or pay a travel agent to do it for you, is entirely up to you, as long as you know what you’re doing when you get there. Personally, I prefer to do the planning myself, but I’ll get into why that is in just a little bit.
The Ideal Itinerary
Unfortunately, there is no perfect itinerary format that you can just fill up. Remember, traveling is a highly personalized activity which means that no two people are exactly the same. Therefore, what I will share with you is my personal preference and what my own experience (over 60 trips to more than 40 countries) proved to be useful and successful.
1. Attention to detail: The more detailed your itinerary is, the more likely you are to actually follow it on the trip. Do not just throw in some suggestions on a piece of paper or copy paste the list of ‘what to do in…’ Google search. Start off by creating an excel sheet which lists out the days you’ll be away for with each tab representing an hour of the day (explaining this in writing is much harder than I thought so just check out the sample itinerary at the end of the post).
2. Keep it Flexible: I have said it before and I’ll say it again, do not fall in love with your itinerary and turn it into a holy scripture. Many of my favorite adventure moments were unplanned, and that is one of the essential beauties of traveling. An exit on a highway might intrigue you, a name of a village can fascinate you or an advert in a tour brochure may attract you; that’s ok, go explore. Now you may be thinking ‘But I thought you said keep it detailed on an hourly basis’, but you can always substitute, squeeze and fit or sacrifice your lunch time (how could I even suggest such blasphemy?!).
3. Easy on the eyes. Not much I can say here but do yourself a favor and make it easy to read and understand. Do not use tacky colors and crazy fonts that will make your eyes sore. Even if you don’t intend on sharing your itineraries with other people, help yourself by making it presentable.
What Goes Where?
You know you need one and you know what it should look like, but how on earth do you actually fill it up? You wanna make sure that the itinerary is made up of activities relevant to your interests, and that they’re strategically (location, duration, timing) placed. I said earlier that I prefer doing the planning myself, that is because a) I know myself better than anyone else does. b) Researching potential adventures will get you hyped about the trip. c) I want to be in full control of my own holiday. So, here are a few tips to building a sick itinerary:
1) I feel kinda mean doing this but, email three or four tour agencies saying you’re interested in a 1 week (or however long you’re gonna be there for) holiday package with them. Mention when you’ll be visiting and what your interests are. Each agency will send you a proposal which includes all the activities they recommend, take what you like and discard the rest. If you wanna be really annoying, you can even email them back with what you do not like and let them rebuild their package; once again, take what you like and discard the rest. Finally, email them back apologizing whilst making up an excuse for why you will not be purchasing their services.
2) Google search ‘things to see in…’. The result page will show you a list of the top attractions in the city, take what you like and… you guessed right, discard the rest.
3) Google search ‘1-week itinerary in…’ (or however long you’re gonna be there for). A number of sample itineraries will come up, you know what to do from here.
4) Tripadvisor is a great platform which you can use to search things to do, read people’s reviews and find links to agencies’ websites that offer specific tours (things you can’t do yourself such as rafting, ziplining, canyoning, etc.).
The result of the previous 4 tips should be a long list of things you are super excited to take part in. A Google search will show you the location, opening hours, reviews, contact details, rating and how many hours people usually spend at each. This information will help you determine the ‘what time’ and ‘how long’ questions. Finally, if you are interested in shows, broadways, special tours, bungee jumping, etc. book them in advance to avoid running into any trouble. Booking things in advance will also help with the final step, budgeting, which I will discuss next.
There you have it guys, you’ve chosen your destination, booked your flights and hotels and prepared a detailed plan to ensure a pact holiday full of fun and thrills. Now you can be sure that you won’t get stuck in your hotel room thinking ‘what should we do next?’. The next step is to help avoid the whole ‘My credit card bill is going to consume me alive after that last holiday’ situation. Stay tuned for the final part of this guide: budgeting.