A Guide to Travel Itinerary Planning
Travelling has become a bit of hot topic for us lately. With our trip to Malta last fall, a handful of weekend adventures in years past and our honeymoon fast approaching, it’s safe to say our sense of wanderlust is alive and well. As with other facets of my life, travelling is just as much about the planning process as it is the execution. I feel like you can never be too prepared when exploring a new destination which is why I spend an ample amount of time developing a detailed itinerary for each trip we take.
In the last few years we’ve visited Boston, Montreal, Mexico and Malta and we’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. Keep reading to find out how our travel planning process works and how we make the most of the time we have in each destination.
Start with deciding your destination and travel dates
It seems like a no brainer, but there are so many factors to consider when you’re picking a destination. You’ll need to decide what time of year to take your trip and how long you’ll be at your destination. Be sure to do your homework when it comes to peak seasons or climate conditions.
While Europe is beautiful in the Summer, the crowds are larger and accommodations are more expensive so it might be wise to opt for a Spring or Fall adventure on what they call the ‘shoulder’ season. The same can be said for tropical destinations in the midst of hurricane season, flights are probably super cheap for a reason!
It’s also wise to do some research about potential holidays or events that could affect your travel plans. In some instances, you may choose to plan your trip specifically for a certain event - in instances like these be sure to book your flights and accomodations well in advance to take advantage of more cost effective options.
Map out key attractions
The first thing I do after I’ve booked our travel dates and transportation is map out our key attractions. If you’re doing a multi-location trip, you’ll have to do this step for each town or city you’re visiting. We’ve started planning our honeymoon to the United Kingdom and will be making stops in London, Liverpool, The Lake District, Edinburgh, The Highlands and The Isle of Skye so I’ve already got a pretty hefty list of must-see spots!
I found lists of different tourist attractions as well as spots that are a bit more off the beaten path (better in my opinion) by searching online and reading other blogs and, of course, in trusty guidebooks (Lonely Planet is my personal fave).
Once I’ve made a list of attractions, I use Google Maps to plot them with the trip feature (you can add multiple stops and drag the addresses into a different order). Doing this allows me to determine our schedules to ensure we are using our time efficiently. For instance, when we travelled to Montreal we planned one day in North East Montreal where we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Biodome in the morning and took a quick Uber to Old Montreal for the afternoon and our dinner reservation. The following day was spent further South exploring Mile End and Downtown Montreal.
By mapping out our key spots, we were able to see and do more in a shorter period of time because the attractions on our itinerary were mapped out and coordinated geographically which meant we spent less time traveling between destinations. And, don’t forget to buy tickets for attractions in advance if possible - time in line is time wasted when you’ve got a tight schedule.
Create a list of supplementary activities
It’s a good idea to have a sense of what restaurants or shops are near the area you’re exploring in the event that you’re bogged down by rain or you have some time to kill before your next spot. While I like the idea of having restaurant reservations, I also appreciate being able to choose a spot on the fly so having a list of options makes this a bit easier, especially if you don’t have your phone to look it up online. This also helps to ensure that you aren’t spending your money on crappy meals at low rated restaurants.
It was through this process that we stumbled upon St. Viateur Bagels in Montreal which is practically legendary (even for a bagel lover like me) so there’s something to be said for spontaneity.
Plug it all into a spreadsheet or a word doc
Once you’ve got all of your main attractions mapped out and your days planned out (complete with those just-in-case activities), create a word document or a spreadsheet to keep it all organized. I would recommend separating each day and breaking out all of your activities into time slots, ensuring you leave time for travelling between spots and any SNAFUs that may arise.
I’d also strongly suggest including details about your flight (times, flight numbers, etc.) and the addresses for your accommodations or any destinations that may be a bit more off the beaten path. Having this information available will allow you to ask for directions in a pinch and will help keep you on schedule. Add notes for special instructions (i.e. if a restaurant requires a certain dress code).
And there you have it - my guide for creating and planning your travel itinerary. Have you used any of these methods? What does your trip planning process entail? Leave me a comment below!