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If you’re like most people, you probably start planning your vacations pretty far in advance. You may have already started looking up flight prices and hotel deals. But have you thought about how you’re going to actually organise your time while you’re on vacation?
A travel itinerary is a great way to plan your time. In this guide, we show you how to create a travel itinerary for any trip!
No matter if we are adventuring for 4 days or 4 weeks, we always make a travel itinerary for every trip!
This becomes our guide to make sure we don’t miss any of the important stuff and it helps us fit in the bonus stuff that would be great to see and do as well.
How To Create A Travel Itinerary For Your Best Trip Ever
Putting together a flexible travel itinerary for every vacation is what makes it possible to fit in everything we want to see when we visit somewhere new or return to re-visit a favourite city with kids.
We like to create our travel itineraries with plenty of breathing room in case those unexpected opportunities arise or something doesn’t quite go to plan!
Like the time we were meant to make an early morning visit to a Paris attraction with Simon’s family, but our group got separated and that meant there wasn’t enough time to visit Versailles Palace on that particular trip.
It has become a running joke with my father-in-law who likes to plan his itineraries down to the hour sometimes…
A strict itinerary can lead to unnecessary stress though, which is why this guide will encourage you to leave a little space when you make an itinerary for travel.
Best Tools For Creating A Travel Itinerary
There are a few different ways to go about making your travel itinerary. You can use paper and pen, or one of the many online tools available.
If you’re planning a trip with multiple destinations, we recommend using a tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Excel so that you can easily share your plans with everyone you are travelling with.
This also means you won’t have the unfortunate situation of losing your paper itinerary along your journey and having no digital backup.
Here are some of the best tools and different apps you might like to use for creating your itineraries.
Each of these programs is free to use for basic features and has an app format that you can use offline when you don’t have internet access:
It is also worthwhile creating a hard copy of your travel plans just in case!
Choose Your Destination
The first step is to choose your travel destination.
There’s a good chance you’ve already got this in mind if you’re wondering how to make a holiday itinerary but not necessarily.
Sometimes it’s during the planning stage that we narrow down what places are viable options for the timeframe we have in mind.
Decide When & How Long You Want To Go For
The next step is to start thinking about rough dates and how long you want your entire trip to be.
This will give you a good idea of what kind of activities you can realistically pack into your itinerary template.
The time of year will also be a factor in your trip planning process. Some attractions or activities may not be possible at certain times of the year.
For example, if you’re planning to visit the Christmas markets in Europe, you’ll need to factor in that they generally start towards the end of November and finish up around New Year’s.
Set Your Budget
How much can you realistically spend on this trip?
This is an important question to answer before you start booking anything.
Some activities will be free, but most will come at a cost.
You need to know how much you’re willing to spend on different activities, accommodations, transport and meals so that you can budget accordingly.
If your accommodation or transportation costs are already accounted for, that’s great! You’ll have a better idea of how much you have left over to spend on other activities.
Always start by knowing your fixed expenses first, then you can see how much is left to spend on entertainment, food and other extras.
When planning to create a vacation plan with a lower budget, knowing this before you start your research can help you find experiences that better suit your finances, such as the ‘best free things to do in X‘.
Your budget may also influence the time of year your visit, the type of accommodation you book and the length of your stay, hence why it’s important to work it out early on in your travel itinerary planning stages.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve got a destination and some dates in mind, it’s time to start researching the destination and what there is to see and do.
Before you get too deep into the research process, think about what type of experiences are most important for you.
Do you want to experience a city’s history and culture? Are you excited for outdoor adventures or prefer to take things at slow pace? Do you want the highlights of a destination or enjoy a local’s experience?
Asking these questions and considering your travel companions will help you narrow down the type of activities and experiences that are best suited to your visit.
During your early research stage, it’s also a great idea to check out the average temperatures and type of weather for the time you plan to visit.
Make A List Of Activities & Things To Do
Now it’s time to head to your favourite search engine to see what possibilities there are!
Start a list on paper or online, such as Google Docs or Sheets, or in an app like Evernote. Add anything that interests you and any ideas on things to do.
You can cull the list later if you don’t have time to see and do it all!
Keep in mind that the results that often come up near the top of online search aren’t always the best options. They can sometimes be large travel booking sites with basic tourist information.
What you really want is to read more detailed experiences and travel blogger articles from people who have actually visited.
This is where you get both the big attractions and the hidden gems that you might otherwise not have heard about!
Another great option for putting together a list of possible things to do on your trip is checking Tourism board websites for the region or city.
These are usually great resources for things to do and upcoming events.
You will also find inspiration on attraction booking sites such as Get Your Guide or Viator, which have tours, day trips and admission for many popular attractions and experiences.
If you are visiting more than one destination during your trip, repeat this process for each of the different cities or countries you plan to visit.
Pinterest is another great travel planning tool that allows you to save articles and add photos to a board that you can easily access later. This can be a collaborative board with friends or family too.
Map It Out
Once the bucket list is created, the best next step is to work out how you can see and do as many of the things on your list as possible. This is where a map comes in handy!
Start by plotting out all the activities, attractions and experiences from your list onto a map of the area.
This will give you a good idea of how close everything is to each other and what’s feasible to see in your travel timeframe.
You can do this using Google Maps, where you can add pins for each of the attractions you plan to visit. This can be added to your online itinerary planning document or app.
If you’re visiting multiple destinations, create a separate map for each one. This will help you to see what’s possible within each destination and start putting together your overall travel itinerary.
Plan Your Transport
Work out how you’ll be getting to your journey starting point and from each place on your list.
If you are using public transport during your vacation, it is worth looking into what options you have, how long the trip will take and the frequency of transport as well as the distance from the nearest stop and your attractions in case you need to walk a distance.
You can compare and book flights, buses, trains, ferries and airport transfers using Omio. They have over 1000 trusted travel partners to make it easy to find the right option for your next trip.
During this stage, I also like to work out distances based on the type of transport we are using for the trip.
For example, if we have a hire car, use Google Maps to tell you the distance between attractions. This is the same process I use when planning road trips.
Book Your Transport & Accommodation
Once you have an idea of how you’ll be getting from A to B and what’s possible at each destination, it’s time to start booking your transport and accommodation.
For accommodation, I like to use booking.com as they have a great selection of hotels, apartments and hostels in most destinations around the world.
They also offer free cancellation on most rooms which is handy if your plans change closer to the date.
I also book our transport within each destination at this stage. This includes any flights, trains, buses or car hire. Once again, I like to use Omio for this as they make it easy to compare all the different options in one place.
Once everything is plotted out on the map, it’s time to start scheduling!
Create A Calendar
When it comes to making an itinerary for travel, a calendar is an essential tool. This is where you start piecing together the logistics of your trip and work out how to make everything fit!
I like to start out with an old-fashioned printable calendar before transferring everything to a Google Calendar or a Google Sheets calendar. The best thing about the Google suite is that you can share access with other people you are travelling with too.
Start by adding all the fixed details you know about your trip such as location, flights or transfers, hotel reservations and tours. Then start filling in the blanks with all the attractions, activities and experiences from your list.
Make sure to add times for any bookings you have so that you can start to get a visual idea of where you have room to add other activities.
Use your Google Maps to work out which attractions are near each other and then schedule them into the same day where possible to save travel time.
We also like to add extra time into the schedule for travel days between destinations, as well as some free time each day to explore or just relax.
Don’t forget to include some buffer time in case things take longer than expected! Especially when it comes to flights and transportation.
Some people like to do all their bookings upfront before they travel.
I prefer to wait until I have my itinerary planned out before I start booking anything. This way I know exactly what I need to book and when which makes the process much quicker and easier.
Popular attractions can book out ahead of time, especially during school break or peak travel seasons so booking ahead is often a good idea.
We use Get Your Guide for most bookings since there is a free cancellation policy.
Finalising Your Perfect Travel Itinerary
Once you have everything scheduled into your calendar, it’s time to start finalising the details. This is where you need to start thinking about things like transport, accommodation and meals.
If you are using a rental car during your trip, you will need to organise this in advance. The same goes for any long-haul public transport tickets or passes.
If you haven’t already booked your accommodation, now is the time to do it!
We often like to have a mix of hotels and private apartments or homes booked for our trips. This gives us a bit of variety and flexibility.
You will also need to decide whether you are going to book activities or attractions in advance. This is often a personal preference and depends on the type of trip you are taking.
Travel Tip: If you are visiting popular attractions, it is often a good idea to book tickets in advance to avoid queues or sold-out days.
When you create your travel itinerary, it’s important to be flexible. No matter how much you plan, there are always going to be hiccups along the way!
During our recent visit to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, we planned to spend a day outdoors exploring but it rained the entire time we were there and I came down with a horrendous cold in the lead-up, so we ended up having a wonderfully relaxing afternoon in the resort spa followed by room service. It wasn’t our perfect trip, but we made the most of an unfortunate situation.
The best way to deal with this is to build some flexibility into your schedule.
This might mean having a free day in your itinerary where you can add activities based on recommendations or what you feel like doing on the day.
If you are visiting multiple destinations, build in some travel days where you don’t have any specific activities planned. This will give you time to relax or explore each destination at your own pace without feeling rushed.
We have done this many times during our travels and are always grateful when we leave room in our schedule to allow this time to recharge.
The most important thing is to enjoy your trip!
So don’t stress too much if things don’t go exactly to plan. It is impossible to see everything in a new place in a single trip so make the most of your time, know your absolute must-dos and go with the flow for everything else!
Things To Include In A Travel Itinerary
Before you finalise your perfect travel itinerary for your next trip, make sure you have included all this basic information in an easy-access format so that you can have all the information on hand no matter where you are:
Flight dates, times & flight numbers
Hotel reservations, phone numbers & hotel addresses
Car hire details & other transportation reservations
Attraction booking dates, times & numbers
Tours & tour times
Distance to and from the airport & other locations
And any other special events or details for your trip
Now you have all the information you need to create a travel itinerary for your next trip! Just remember to be flexible, as things can always change when you are on the road.
I hope you found these tips helpful for how to make a travel itinerary for your next trip. Creating a travel itinerary for your next trip may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! By following these simple steps, you can easily create an itinerary that will help you make the most of your next adventure, even if plans change!