Many people tend not to do itinerary planning or don’t do it well enough to be helpful. However, while considering the steps for creating a DIY travel itinerary, there are factors to consider in itinerary planning. There are several factors you need to consider when doing itinerary planning include using travel research in your itinerary planning, being realistic when you do itinerary planning, including time to rest in your itinerary, leaving some flexibility in your itinerary and consider your budget and travel companions.
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1. Do your travel research continuously
Research is so helpful when planning any trip. I subscribe to many travel blogs, and whenever I see somewhere that I would like to visit, I save it for future purposes. When I decide on a specific destination, I see what I have saved over time and use that information in my itinerary planning. Tools such as Evernote, Notion and OneNote works well for this. Saving items in this manner also helps me decide on a destination, as I always know my top destinations for my bucket list. If I don’t have many items saved for my destination but still consider going there important, I may do some further research to build my itinerary. Having researched in advance saves me a significant amount of time as I don’t start fresh.
2. Be realistic
When I planned my first trip, I used an itinerary planning tool and added one sight after the other. The sights were near each other, so I was going wild. Once I added them all, the tool calculated how much time I would need, and it estimated 17 hours! That is when I realised (and it is common sense), it takes time to see sights and have experiences. Something may be a dot on a map, but getting there, seeing it and experiencing it will take some time. Some sights need more time than others.
The point is, it is best to be realistic. Do you want to say you were somewhere but saw nothing, or would you prefer saying you were somewhere and you saw what it offered? You also don’t want to return home exhausted because you had such a packed itinerary that you had no time to rest! A realistic itinerary should not include more than one primary sight and 1-3 additional sights per day.
3. Include some time to rest
You may feel that you are spending so much money to get to a destination that you need to use every waking moment for sightseeing. This may work for a short and focused trip, but if you will be at a destination for over three days, this is not feasible. Instead, make sure to include some time for resting. If you don’t want to set aside a whole day for relaxing, try having quiet evenings while spending your entire day sightseeing. You can have a meal at a restaurant on your bucket list and spend a relaxing evening either at your hotel or by taking a leisurely walk to wind down.
4. Leave some wiggling room
Don’t fill every moment in your itinerary with something to do. Leave some wiggling room for surprise items or a change in weather. Perhaps you meet a local, and they invite you for lunch – be flexible and make the most of your experiences in a destination. Don’t rigidly stick to your itinerary and miss out on some surprises. If you leave some open time in your itinerary, you can always fill it later if nothing else pops up. There will never be too little to do in a destination.
5. Consider your budget
As lovely as the idea of seeing many sights is, it also costs money to go out and see sights. Consider transport costs, meals, and other items if you plan on seeing specific sights. As mentioned in our step-by-step itinerary planning post, try to batch sights and activities in the same area together to save both time and money. It is more efficient to see sights in the same area on the same day as you limit your transport and other costs to get there and back. The budget principle also applies to choosing a hotel. Ideally, you would like to say as close to most sights as you can, but sometimes the hotels near touristy locations are pricey, and it may be more cost-efficient to stay further away – even if you then have to pay more for transportation costs.
6. Consider your travel companions
When travelling alone, setting your own itinerary is easy. However, travelling with others can make itinerary planning more challenging. Some people don’t care about planning for their trips, but for those who do, try to get their input when you complete the itinerary. Using a tool such as Notion or Trello allows people to add suggestions to a draft itinerary. Have a list of sights and activities or even a draft itinerary in one of these tools and get your travel companions to comment on it. Give them a date when you will complete the itinerary, and if they don’t speak up by that time, the itinerary stays.
If you have children, involve them in itinerary planning by getting their input on places they want to visit and make sure you include this on the family’s itinerary. You can give each person a half-day or day for deciding where to go or what to do.
Whether you travel with your children, other family members or friends, there may be too little time for all the sights the group wants to see. In such a case, it is helpful to discuss any sights and activities to see if some can be deprioritised and removed from the itinerary to make time for something that everyone else sees as a higher priority.
7. Do use itinerary planning tools
You can use several itinerary planning tools to make itinerary planning easier—more about this in a future post.