You’re finally traveling! You’ve taken the first steps of setting dates and purchasing flight tickets. You courageously took advantage of that flight deal after several postponed plans. You’re excited, but you don’t know what to do next. Or maybe it’s the other way around. You can’t seem to travel because you’re anxious and you want everything planned out first before the tickets. And sometimes, different priorities, work, or even procrastination takes more of you than planning.
I’m one of those people described on the first part. I grab deals to destinations I want to visit before I even know what I’m going to do there. My trick is always to craft a “perfect” itinerary. With some traveling, I’ve learned that perfection doesn’t mean a fail-proof plan, a luxury, or one that is completely accomplished by the end of the trip. Instead, I say that the itinerary is perfect when I’ve done the most that I can do, still have a blast, and remember more of my trip than not ticking off a list.
With that said, here’s are 5 tips that have helped me create the perfect itinerary that you can use too:
1. Set some fundamentals
Like I said earlier, I grab deals whenever I can. So most of the time, I book tickets so far away that I don’t even know what I’m going to do there or where I’m going to stay. What has greatly helped me is that I have fundamentals that govern my trips. Here are a few examples:
- Length of the trip. Knowing how long you can afford to be away is crucial in planning your itinerary. In the first steps, it helps you check if you can save on booking back and forth tickets or hold off the other way for another deal.
- Your company. The choice of traveling alone, with a friend or significant other, a small group, or a bigger group impacts your trip in more ways that you could imagine. I have trips that are a mix of those, and considering the number of people is always a must for the best excursions.
- Activities. You should have at least an idea of what exists in your destination – beaches, mountains, urban jungle, and so on. This way, you have a general knowledge if you’re there for some relaxation, culture immersion, or adrenaline rush.
2. Reflect on what kind of traveler you are
There are several types of travelers depending on various aspects of travel. There’s budget vs. luxury, hotel vs. hostel or Airbnb, laid-back vs. jam-packed, and so on. You could prefer a planned tour from start to finish with operators, or opt to do-it-yourself (DIY). Whatever is the case, your travel preferences aren’t that different from who you are in real life. For example, if you’re not really a partygoer, then I don’t think you’d want to spend your trip in clubbing. While it’s true that experiences out of your comfort zone make you more alive, your travel will be more impacting to you when you’re comfortable. For sure, try out new things – but don’t plan your itinerary on places or activities that are only going to make you anxious the entire time.
3. Establish a budget
Unless you’re one of those who are privileged to not worry about money, then this part won’t be as necessary to you compared to those who want to still survive when they get home. I spent six days in Bali for only US$250 (less than PHP 15,000), and that was a sweet deal. As a rule of thumb, spend what you can for a trip – that’s why you need to save as much as you can and establish a figure you’re willing to shell out. Don’t starve yourself or stay in a dodgy hostel just because you are a budget traveler who wants the cheapest options. Here are budget considerations when planning an itinerary:
- The power of your currency. When traveling abroad, don’t convert how much something is worth in your country compared to where you are. Instead, adapt to the new currency completely. When I say consider the power of your currency, this is when you’re saving before the trip. US$250 could be enough for six days in Bali, but definitely not in Japan for that period.
- Do your research. As you plan the places you want to visit, check on current prices for entrance fees, environmental fees, and other things you may need to pay for. Include costs for transportation too.
- Your daily expense. Look into options where you can eat in specific locations, if tours provide lunch, water, or snacks.
- Cut yourself some slack. You won’t have fun in your travel when all you do is calculate your expense.
4. Map it out
Mapping out the places you want to visit and activities that you want to do while considering the travel time and your accommodation will help you make the most out of your trip. Especially when you have limited time, you want to be strategic with your itinerary and ensure that you won’t spend most of the period commuting around or stuck in one place unintentionally. Here are some suggestions:
- Group things together. To make the most of your trip, group destinations or activities near each other to be visited on similar days. For example, when I went to Thailand with a friend, we visited all the temples that we could in the famous temple district in one day. Similarly, as Bangkok is well-known for shopping, we spent half a day to visit the renowned shopping malls that were grouped in another district.
- Make a route. You won’t be able to visit everything in one trip unless you spend a month or so in that place. The next best thing is to determine the areas you want to go to and set up a route. Pick up a map, or check Google maps, and be strategic. Go from north to south, south to north, and so on.
- Think about transportation. When planning your itinerary, think of transportation options ahead. The availability of trains, buses, or motorbikes will influence your commute and how much time you can spend in one site to another. You’ll only be frustrated when you planned six locations for a day, and find out onset that without a motorbike, you can only get to two or three. You don’t need that negativity in your travel.
- Don’t belittle accommodation. The location of your accommodation will determine the places that you can visit. If you’re not moving from one town to another, choose a place that is more central in the city which will get you to almost anywhere with no problems. If you are moving from time to time like how we did in Bali, opt for a hotel or hostel that is near the sights you want to see.
5. Don’t be afraid to let go
If you want the perfect travel, be flexible with your itinerary. Don’t expect that your plan is concrete and definite because things can get out of hand, negatively or positively. When we were in Canggu, Bali, we planned to visit Tanah Lot for sunset. But then our hostel was hosting a barbeque dinner at 6:00 P.M. We chose to stay and relax and meet other travelers than see one amazing sunset, and we didn’t regret a thing. To have a more meaningful travel:
- Slow down. See more of one or two places, than rushing to be in six locations. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
- Choose truly valuable things like culture, friendships and memories than your Instagram posts or stories.
- Go with the flow. When you can’t follow the itinerary because of whatever circumstance, then go where the tide takes you and have fun!
Planning and creating an itinerary can be challenging when you haven’t tried doing it yourself or when you lack practice. However, experience will eventually teach you how to be more creative and strategic in your travel plans. The tips above are what I personally use when I wander . Again, they aren’t fail-proof, but they can help you have the time of your life. The most vital thing that you can do, whether in planning your itinerary or when you’re already traveling is to always adapt and be flexible. Have fun!
Do you have itinerary planning tips that are different from those listed here? Don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments!
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