Great itinerary 101

2012-06-27 08:36

You know those people who always seem to have a great trip no matter which god-forsaken corner of the world they visit?

While it kind of annoys you, you also can't help admiring their suave planning and good dose of luck, and inevitably always hit a bit of a traveller's slump when thinking about your often bumpy (but still mostly fun) adventures.

Well, here's some good news: you can be one of those people too! All you need is a bit of an itinerary planning, boost, and we're going to help with a few tips.

Surf the internet

Seeing the destination evidently sounded fascinating enough for you to book a trip there, it's safe to assume that you probably already have a fair idea of what to expect, things to do, places to visit and activities to try out. However, there may be a few things you overlook. Avoid missing out on something mind-blowingly great by surfing the web intensively for information, suggestions and reviews regarding your destination well in advance of your trip. This would also be a good way of making sure what the operating hours and cover charges are of the places already on your list.

If you're going with family or friends, get each member of the group to do the same and come with their own points of interest.

Get personal input

Chat to people who have actually been to your destination. What do they recommend, what put them off, where did they have a great meal, where's the cheapest beer... frankly, very few of these questions will have reliable answers on the web. If you don't know anyone who's been, it's almost certain that someone in your wider network would know a friend of a friend of a friend. Send a question out on Facebook and/or Twitter and see what responses you get.

If you're looking to experience more of the local flavour, check out websites like Tripbod,UpcomingMeetup and Yelp, which aim to introduce travellers to locals in the destinations they're heading to.

List possible activities

Once everyone in your travelling party has done a bit of browsing, chatting and connecting get them to jot down a wish list and then appoint the person with the best admin skills to collate them all into one big preliminary itinerary. Try to include important information about the place/activity as well as a physical address. (Of course this process will be much easier, if you're a travelling party of one.)

Map it all out

So, you've got all your points of interest neatly listed. Now it's time to see how they all fit together on a map.

And that, friends, is just why the physical addresses are so important! Fill them in on Google Maps or Mapquest to see exactly how all the different spots relate to one another, and which can be grouped together. For advanced map editing, you could also use free online tools such as Scribble Maps or Umapper. In addition to general mapping and direction tools, these sites offer the ability to highlight multiple way points and attach additional notes to each destination.

Prioritize and refine

Now that you have a clearer picture of the layout of your trip, you can start prioritizing certain places, and weeding out those that may be a bit out of the way, or somehow don't carry the majority vote. How much gets scratched off the list, of course, depends greatly on how much time you're spending in the destination. If you're only going to be there for a day or two, it's going to be rather severe, however if it's set for a week or longer, you have a lot more leeway.

Construct a new list that carries everyone's approval.

And now the fun begins!

Bring it all together

As soon as everyone's given the refined list the go-ahead, it's time to make serious business of laying it all out in a proper format. Use your map tool of choice once again and decide how many points of interest you are planning to visit on each day of your trip, and how much time will be allocated to each.

Leave space for free time

Be realistic about your time, energy levels and transport. Don't fill every moment of every day up, because that is a fireproof way of ending up disappointed.

For instance, if you're planning on doing a sunset cruise, don't assume that you will be back in time for dinner and book a spot at the restaurant you really want to visit. Instead, leave the restaurant for another night, and keep the evening after the cruise open for some other explorations.

Yes, it will depend greatly on how much time you have in a destination, but the fact of the matter is that you should always leave at least a little room for spontaneity... or nap time. So, make sure this reflects in your itinerary - leave a few-hour gap here and there.

Arrange sensibly

Dividing your trip by day is by far the most sensible way to do it.

Type up your itinerary in an easy-to-read, chronological format with clearly stipulated times for each activity listed below each date and day. If you want to make it even more simple, use a program like Google Calendar. On top of plotting the date and time of your various stops, the application lets you plug in (or import if you used Google Maps) addresses and additional notes.

If this sounds like too much effort, just type it up in an ordinary word document, print one out for each person, and keep a separate sheet with the contact information for each stop. Microsoft Word provides itinerary templates under "Schedules," and there are also various easy-to-download templates online.

Information overload is good in this case

Keep the telephone numbers, physical addresses, maps and email addresses of each of point of interest at hand. Having a hard copy or two as well as an electronic version is always a good idea.

Be flexible and free

Once you get there and start following your carefully constructed itinerary, don't feel like you've taken an oath. If something better and unexpected comes up, go for it! If you feel too tired to do something you planned to do, decide how important it is to you, see if you can slot it in somewhere else and if you can, take some time out. Basically, as good as your itinerary is, the real success lies in it not overruling your vacation. See it as a basic outline of all the things you want to do, not as a set in stone legal document.

 
Read more on:    travel tips  |  travel international
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