How to Create a Travel Itinerary

There are all types of travelers, from fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pantsers to those who plan every second of the trip. I generally fall somewhere in the middle of these types of travelers, but regardless of how chill or structured a trip will be, I always do some type of research beforehand. It’s just who I am! That’s why I love crating a travel itinerary.

Why Should You Create an Itinerary When You Travel?

Generally, I am a big advocate for having some sort of plan in place when you travel. I think it helps a trip go smoother, especially when traveling in a group. If you’ve ever been on a trip and realized everyone is hungry but have no clue what restaurants are nearby and have to stop and try to read Yelp reviews, you’ll quickly realize why doing your research beforehand is important! You don’t have to have each meal planned out before you leave, but having a working list of restaurants to choose from when you do get hungry makes choosing a spot much quicker and easier – so you can make a decision before being hungry turns into hangry!

It’s also a great idea to do your research and have a plan when you are visiting a place for the first time – especially a larger city. Visiting somewhere like New York City for the first time (or second, third, even fourth time!) can be overwhelming, so prioritizing what you want to see and do while there is key – because there is no way to do it all! Plus, if you plan to do any type of museums, attractions or tours, you’ll likely need to purchase tickets or make reservations in advance, which requires planning.

There are a million more reasons why it’s beneficial to have a plan in place when you travel, but I won’t bore you with every single one. Just know that for most trips, doing research and having a general outline for your trip will make it that much more enjoyable!

How to Plan an Itinerary

Step 1: Research

The very first thing to do once you decide to book is trip is to start Googling and searching Pinterest! Once dates confirmed, we typically book travel plans first, then research and decide on a hotel if we’re familiar with the area of town we want to be in. If we’re not, researching where the top places we want to visit are can help narrow down the area we need to look for a hotel or Airbnb.

I typically start by taking notes either on a Google Doc or Note in my phone, listing out possible hotel options, or create a trip board on Airbnb/VRBO. I’ll include the area it’s in and general idea of price in my note, and once I have a range of options, I’ll start narrowing it down until we make a choice.

During the research phase, I also list out anything and everything that I may want to do, visit or see. I usually have a category for Things to Do, Things to See and Places to Eat in my note. In my initial research phase, literally anything that looks or sounds interesting goes under one of these headings.

I also usually create a Pinterest board for each of my trips, where I save any Pin that looks relevant. Then, as I start really planning out the details, I’ll review each Pin I’ve saved for their recommendations and add ones I’m interested in to my list of categories mentioned above.

Step 2: Narrow It Down

Once I feel like I’ve exhausted all of the resources that are available to plan my trip, I start narrowing all of my options down. I usually wind up with way too many options on my list, so removing my least favorite options is a great place to start eliminating things. With everything listed out in similar groups, it’s easy to look at a list and decide what is or isn’t a priority. You can do this with your hotel or housing options, restaurants, places to visit, literally anything on your list.

Step 3: Book

Now it’s time to start booking things. If you haven’t already booked your hotel, I’d recommend starting there.

Once you have your housing option selected, review your list of Things to See and Things to Do for anything that may require reservations or ticket purchases. If you have items on your list that are must-dos that require specific time slots to visit, purchasing those tickets first will allow you to create the rest of your itinerary around them. For example, on our first trip to New York City, we wanted to do all the super tourist-y attractions, many of which required reservations (some months in advance). We selected our time to visit the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial and see the Rockettes as the first step in our planning process, which formed the basis of our trip. On another trip, pre-booking a spa day based on the facility’s availability was our first step, and then our plans for the day revolved around that stop.

Step 4: Create Your Travel Itinerary

Now it’s time for my favorite part – actually creating your travel itinerary! I start by creating a heading for each day we’ll be traveling or at our destination, and first put in travel details, housing details, and then any other reservations made.

Once those big pieces of the puzzle are in place, you can start planning the rest of your trip. This part is subjective when it comes to how specific you want to be with your planning. You can truly outline each stop of the trip, budgeting an estimated time for each activity. Or, you can create more general buckets for how you want to spend your time. I’ve done it both ways, and even combined both strategies within one trip plan based on what we wanted to do. Generally, our food time slots are always reserved but not hammered out entirely, which allows us to choose from one of the restaurants on our list based on how hungry we are or the food mood we’re in when it’s time to eat. Other things that we know are must-dos on the trip are intentionally planned so they’re not missed.

No matter how detailed you choose to be in your travel itinerary, having one will make your trip more enjoyable and carefree!

Have you planned a trip with an itinerary? Share your best travel planning trips below!

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