How to make your perfect travel itinerary
When you are on vacation, you want to make the most of your time in a way that is valuable to you. Once you have your vacation destination, here are a few tips you can consider to ensure you are optimizing your time to create the perfect travel itinerary… for you.
Why are you going to this destination?
This is an important first step in planning your trip as it will help you focus on goals. Is this a wine trip? A street food trip? A museum trip? A relaxing trip? An outdoor trip? The reasons you are going may differ from others. While you will use the internet to help understand what the area has to offer, it does not mean you have to abide by that to-do list. The top tourist attractions and “must sees” may not be the trip you are searching for.
How much time do you have?
The amount of time you are away is key in outlining your trip. Know how much time you have after all the travel to the final destination is complete. Going to multiple destinations? Make sure to deduct this from the time as well. Once you know how much time you have in a particular spot, it will be easier to set expectations on what you can reasonably accomplish.
Real Life Example: Portland Oregon
We are planning a trip for the summer. I allocated 5 vacation days for this trip so with the weekend, could potentially be an 8 day trip. Flying west is always great because we gain time back and a red eye could help reduce a vacation day but flying back east always stinks because it takes up almost an entire day.
What is there to do and see in the area?
After deciding on a destination and browsing flights, I take to the internet to educate myself on the popular things to do, see, and eat in the area. A good Google search and reading through reviews are a great place to start. I find YouTube is not as beneficial, though it can provide a high level frame work – these videos are typically not detailed enough to plan a trip. I really like reading blogs for a more thorough overview of a destination. Recently I have found Instagram hashtags to be a great source for popular food. I take these spots and star them on Google Maps- this helps to visualize pockets on the map that go together. I do not get picky at this step, I really do star the map to an excessive degree. For areas or spots I definitely want to hit, I will change the icon on the Google Maps for quick identification- if I know we will be in a certain area, it helps to know what else is around it that people like to see or experience.
Once I have sufficiently researched (YouTube, TripAdvisor, Google, Instagram, etc), I go back to my Google Maps. Are there outlier stars that are all by themselves with nothing else around and difficult to get to? They may not make the cut for the trip. I look to my “must hit” locations and see what else could pair well to make a full or half day out of being in a certain area. Groups of activities, such as wine tasting in the countryside or hiking, create obvious portions of a day. Then I start un-starring things from my map for those items that did not make the cut- either because we didn’t want to go there, it didn’t fit in the plan, or another reason.
Real Life Example: Portland, Oregon
After starring my Google Maps, there were four obvious days I could see.
Day 1: Hiking the waterfalls
Day 2: Wine tasting in Willamette Valley
Day 3: Beach day at the coast
Day 4: Explore Portland
Each night would give opportunity to explore Portland even more so that would give us essentially two days for the downtown. We discussed adding on another city since we had 8 days to work with but decided to keep it to a 5 day trip and save 2 vacation days for another trip later in the year. Win-Win!
Stay organized with a Grid
If you have read any of my itinerary posts, I start with a planning grid that I fill in throughout the planning process and refine up until we leave. I use it as a guide but we generally like to cram a lot into our trips so blocking the time out for the day helps us be efficient while still enjoying ourselves. Keeping this grid also shows if you are going to be too busy in a day and can help rearrange items to make more balanced days.
Have some spare ideas to be flexible – sometimes thing do not work as planned and doing so additional research up front helps waste as little time as possible when you are on vacation.
Hope these tips help plan the perfect itinerary for your next trip!