07 Nov + How to Plan for Travel: Creating Your Daily Travel Itinerary
This is Part 5 in my How to Plan for Travel countdown series with one blog post per month containing travel tips to get my family, friends, clients and you ready to go for your next vacation overseas. From August 1 through June 30, I’ll be counting down the tips by how far in advance it’s optimal to plan. If you stumble across this blog post in February, and you’re planning a trip in May, you’re not too late. You’ll just have to do things a little more quickly.
How can I get organized for travel: 5-7 months before
How to Plan for Travel: Create your daily travel itinerary
To many folks out there, it doesn’t sound relaxing to have a daily travel itinerary for vacation. After all, you’re on vacation and don’t need a schedule, right?
It’s one thing to head to a weekend getaway at the beach where all you plan to do is sleep, read, tan and swim.
But if you’re planning an overseas trip, you’ll want to see and experience enough to make it worth the long plane ride over – not to mention the cost. If you want to get the most out of your time, plan ahead. If you prefer not to create a daily travel itinerary, be prepared to see less and do less and wait around more. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want and expect.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re doing your daily travel itinerary planning:
*What are the top three places you must see?
It’s usually impossible to squeeze in everything there is to do, so it’s important to agree on what your top three must-sees are. The rest will be bonuses.
*What do you want your days to look like?
In Part 2 of my travel planning series, I discussed travel styles. It’s time to review those to make sure you and your companion(s) are on the same page – or agree to go your separate ways on certain days. My husband and I take turns planning itineraries, but we both know our ground rules: We like to be up by 7 and out and about by 8 AM before the day trippers and crowds descend on a town. We hit “intellectual” museums before lunch while our brains our fresh. We picnic for lunch whenever possible. We go to less touristy places in the afternoons when the popular spots are crowded. By 3:30/4:00, we’re usually done being tourists and head over to a pub or café for pre-dinner drinks and see if there’s anything we need to do or buy to get ready for the next day. Then we head to an early dinner (7:00 is way early by European standards). If there’s a late night planned, we don’t want an early next morning. We also reserve the right to blow off something previously planned if an opportunity arises that we can’t pass up.
*Is there a special event you want to see or avoid?
If you’re a cycling lover, and you’re going to be in France during the Tour de France, you might want to check the schedule to see if you’ll be able to catch any of the events. If, however, you want to avoid all of those crowds, you’ll need to know the days and locations of the races so you can be a long way from there.
*Is there a particular day of the week on which many places close?
One beautiful Sunday while driving around Provence, we decided that it was mid-day and time to eat lunch. The husbands dropped us wives off at the grocery store to pick up picnic items while they went to park the car. The store was p-a-c-k-e-d! The check-out line went down the aisle to the back of the store. I took one look at my friend, and we walked out of the store and back to the car. “Let’s go to the next town!” What none of us realized is that everything closes down on Sunday after 12 noon in small towns in Provence. Everyone was in line to get what they needed before the store closed. We were famished by the time we found a place to eat in a city nearly two hours away.
*What museums and sites do you want to see?
*What are their opening days and hours?
*Do they require reservations or advanced ticket purchases?
*What else can be done on day(s) when museums are closed?
*If you’re going to be in a town or city for a few days, is there a museum pass?
The Paris Museum Pass is one of the best deals we’ve ever come across. If you go to at least three places covered by the pass, you’ll save a few euros. Even more importantly, that pass gives cut-the-line privileges, so you save hours not standing in line. With the museum pass, we’re able to hop in and out of museums as we please. We can spend forever in only two museums on one day, or pop in and out of five of them. On our first trip there, the line to get into the Pompidou was roughly two hours long, and the line for the Louvre was around three hours. As pass holders, our wait was approximately five minutes, so we were able to see so much more while we were there. Check into passes with cut-the-line privileges. If none are available, consider hiring a local licensed guide who enjoys the same benefit.
If you know of anyone who’s visited the places you’re planning to see, ask them about their experience. What are their tips and tricks? Travelers love to share their stories.
How to Plan for Travel series:
Part 1: Budget
Part 2: Set your travel goals
Part 5: How to develop your daily travel itinerary
Next time: What documentation will you need?