Based on what I’ve heard from friends and family the most overwhelming part of planning for vacation is figuring out what the heck to do. How do you put together an itinerary when there are so many things you want to see?
My favorite type of itinerary is one where I’ve got most things I HAVE to see/do planned plus extra time for spontaneously exploring.
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How to Create Your Trip Itinerary
- Initial Research – All good plans start with some preliminary investigation. My go to resource for planning a vacation is Pinterest. Almost all pins you’ll find were created by bloggers like me! This means you’ll get an inside view of what a place is like, the must-sees, and hopefully some hidden gems.
- List Everything – Make a huge list of everything that catches your eye. If you’re even remotely interested then add it to the list. Make a column beside the name of the things to do and add in what each costs. You can also create a third column with how much time you’d like to spend at each place. I find it can be difficult to guess this though.
- Budget Impact – Now take a look at your budget and what you had set aside for attractions/daily activities. If some items on your list are way too expensive then go ahead and cross them off. Quickly rank the other things to do and start adding the dollar amount for the top items together. Once you reach your budget number, that’s how you’ll know to stop. You may still have a lot of free activities on your list though.
- Map It Out – If you still have lots on the list after narrowing by price then start pulling things up on the map. I love using Google Maps for this because they have a “save” feature where you can go in and save a location as a pin. Search the place on the map – beside “directions” and “start” there is an option to “save” – click that and then add a New List with the name of your trip – keep adding from your list to the map.once you’re done you can share the list with other people in your group.
- Narrow Down – The main thing for the map is to see how close all the activities on your list are. Are there some that are just way too far to warrant going? See what activities fit in logical groups. If something doesn’t fit then cross it off. Don’t have enough time to do everything near each other in one day? Start crossing off the least favorite things in that grouping.
- Be Realistic – It may help during this time to remember that you can always come back. You’ll never see all a place has to offer anyways so don’t be discouraged if you can’t fit everything in your trip itinerary.
- Final Itinerary – Once you have an idea of how long each activity will take, where it’s located, and how much it costs you should be able to use those and figure out a solid itinerary for your group. List out the days you’ll be there and then which activities you’ll go to each day in order of importance. Don’t rush around from place to place though. Enjoy the time you have and each stop you put on your itinerary.
- Be Flexible – You may not get to everything you have on your list. That’s okay. Save all those items for another trip. If you come across something while you’re there that looks interesting then go explore. Don’t hold yourself to this trip itinerary either. You are just creating a loose guide so you aren’t wasting time while you’re there figuring out what to do.
Trip Itinerary Example
This is the itinerary I used for my first trip to NYC. Some of it went according to plan and others did not at all. You can read more about that in my 3 days in NYC article.
- Alive After Five – $35
- Battery Park – $0
- Stone Street – $0
- 9/11 Memorial – $0 (The Museum does have an entrance fee)
- Brooklyn Bridge – $0
- Tenement Museum – $20 (This was planned for Saturday but moved to Sunday)
- Food Tour – $57
- High Line – $0
- Broadway – $95
- Top of the Rock – $42
- Central Park – $0
- Grand Central Station – $0
- MET – $25 (Didn’t make it here)
- Natural History Museum – $23 (Didn’t make it here)
I created this list after narrowing down a huge list of all the items I want to do in NYC. While I didn’t make it to everything, I did hit a lot of the high points and it was a very memorable trip.
Trip Itinerary Overview
Of course this method can be applied to many different types of trips but not all. This is good for a city vacation where there are lots of things to do or a visit to a National Park where there are many outdoor activities that are spread out.
If you’re going on a ski trip though you may be doing the same thing every day and only take one rest day. This is where knowing what type of trip you want is very important. You can prioritize sight-seeing, relaxing, spending time outdoors, focusing on one activity, the list goes on.
What’s important is that your trip itinerary is perfect for YOU and no one else. Just because everyone else thinks something is a “bucket-list” activity or a “must-see” doesn’t mean you have to add it to your itinerary. Make sure each item is something you are interested in doing.