Make the Perfect Travel Itinerary: 7 Steps

My travel buddy and I are very skilled at packing a lot into our trips. We both have jobs and unfortunately can’t spend weeks or months in our destinations. So to get the most from our time, we always come up with an itinerary usually weeks in advance.

These itineraries can be quite detailed, including walking directions, trains to take, hotels, etc. Here’s how to come up with a comprehensive plan for your next jaunt.

1. Do Your Research

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For me, this is the best part! Buy your guide books, scour the Web, and visit the destination’s tourism website for the must-see, must-do excursions. I tend to prefer guidebooks with lots of pictures and top 10 lists (hey, call me simplistic!) My favorites are DK Eyewitness Travel, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet, but I’ll often use others if they seem comprehensive and easy to navigate. As for websites, hands down, TripAdvisor is my No. 1 resources. The site has helpful reviews, pictures, most popular lists for things to do, restaurants, hotels and B&Bs. That said, do an exhaustive Google search on your destination, check out Wikipedia, and ask your friends until you have an idea about the place and what you might want to do while there.

2. Come Up With Your Top List

Your next step is to write down your top list. Don’t worry yet about being realistic with time constraints and travel limitations, or priorities. Just jot down everything you want to see or do.

3. Pull Out a Map

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 9.59.42 PM

Mark everything you want to see and do on a map. You can do this easily using Google Maps and clicking on the Get Directions button. You can save your maps in My Places to refer back to and always have at the ready. Take note of how close things are or how far. Can you walk to some things from your hotel? Does a tour bus hit most of them? A train? Make notes on the best way to get to where you need to go.

4. Eliminate and Prioritize

Once you know where things are in proximity to where you’re staying, you can begin to gauge what you can realistically do with the time you have. Now it’s time to determine your priorities–these are your must-sees! Eliminate anything that doesn’t make that list either because it’s too far or you don’t care about it all that much. This is also a good time to share and swap ideas with your travel partner(s). They may have their own ideas about their must-sees, so you’ll want to be open to compromise.

5. Make a Day Schedule

Group excursions by day–and think of your days in two parts (day and night). If several places are close together and can be done in a walking tour, then do that one day. Note what restaurants or shops you may also want to hit up. Plan your evenings also. Be sure to look at your destinations closing hours. Use your evenings, if possible, to do indoor things, such as shows, restaurants, museums, clubs, and shops. Leave your days open for parks, beaches, tours, places that close early and outdoor sites.

6. Plan Your Travel

Finalize how you plan to get to and from each place, whether by foot, bus, train, or plane. Find schedules online so that you can plan your day around them. Take cabs as a last resort–to save money (unless you’re in Bali where cabs are dirt cheap OR you’re ballin’ like that!)

7. Write It All Down

I like TripIt for this part. It should look something like this:

TUES, Aug 25

Flight
8:10 PM EDT Newark (EWR) to Munich (MUC)
Lufthansa 413
Tues, Aug 25 Verona, Italy: AVG: HI 83°F / LO 64°F
10:10 AM CEST Arrive Munich (MUC)
40m layover
Connects to LH 3936 at 10:50am CEST
Aircraft: Airbus A340-600, nonstop 8h, 00m, 4,039 mi
Flight
10:50 AM CEST Munich (MUC) to Verona (VRN)
Lufthansa 3936
12:00 PM CEST Arrive Verona (VRN)
Aircraft: Aerospatiale/Alenia ATR 72, nonstop 1h, 10m, 209 mi
Lodging
12:30 PM CEST Sogno di Giulietta
Via Cappello 23, 37121 Verona, Italy
3 guests
2 rooms
Depart 9/2/2009 10:00am
Activity
4:00 PM CEST Night out in Verona – Piazza Bra
4:00pm to 11:00pm
Our night to hang out in downtown Verona. Check out the Arena, 
walk around Piazza Bra, look in stores, etc. Line for opera 
starts around 7PM
Theatre
9:00 PM CEST CARMEN OPERA
Piazza Bra

9:00pm to 11:00pm

Arena di Verona
Booking Info
Total cost: 85,50
Performance details can be found here
I will purchase tickets online.

WED, Aug 26

Rail
7:59 AM CEST Eurostar City from Verona Porta Nuova to Venezia S. Lucia
Depart Verona Porta Nuova
hope you can sleep in the train...
9:10 AM CEST Arrive Venezia S. Lucia
Eurostar City 9701
2nd Class
Tour
9:10 AM CEST The Day in Venice
9:10am to 7:02pm
Here we will take the vaporetto all over the Grand Canal, 
wonder the alley ways, enjoy a gondola ride. 
Things to see:
Rialto
Fish Market
Piazza San Marco
Campanile
Doge's Palace (book the Secret Itineraries tour - 041-5209070) 
16 Euros (check for multiple museum package....)
Basilica di San Marco
Dorsoduro
Teatro La Fenice
Accademia Bridge to Accedemia Gallery
Bridge of Sighs
Rail
7:02 PM CEST Eurostar City from Venezia S. Lucia to Verona Porta Nuova
Depart Venezia S. Lucia
8:00 PM CEST Arrive Verona Porta Nuova
Eurostar City 9746
2nd Class
Meeting
9:00 PM CEST Night out in Verona
9:00pm to 11:00pm
Spend the night, taking in more of Verona. We may hang
with some of Max's friends or just chill in the city 
with Max... perhaps have dinner in town.

Thu, Aug 27

Activity
9:00 AM CEST Day along Lake Garda
9:00am
We will need money for food. I don't know if we have to pay to 
enter the beach. Also, the skyrail cost money to get to the 
top of the mountains. And you'll probably need a couple of 
bucks for the bus or maybe the beach is in walking distance??) 
Things to see:

Freccia nel Cielo @ the Olympic Ice Skating Stadium 
(ascend 8,102 ft to take in breath-taking views of the 
Dolomites. (20 Euros)
Small towns along the lake
The Beach!!
Lodging
3:30 PM CEST Giovanni’s Elephant Bed & Breakfast – Arrive
Giovanni’s Elephant Bed & Breakfast
Lodging is free here.
3 guests
2 rooms
Depart 8/28/2009 2:00am

Fri, Aug 28

Activity
9:00 AM CEST Day at the beach on Garda Lake/Clubbing on the Lake
9:00am to 11:00pm
Today we'll catch a tan on the beach! Then maybe meet up with 
Giovanni for dinner. We'll possibly go clubbing on the lake!

Sat, Aug 29

Rail
8:56 AM CEST Rail from Verona Porta Nuova to Moderna
Depart Verona Porta Nuova Verona Porta Nuova
Rail
10:27 AM CEST Rail from Moderna to Bologna
Depart Moderna
Rail
11:04 AM CEST Rail from Bologna to Firenze S.M. Novella
Depart Bologna Florence, Italy: AVG: HI 84°F / LO 61°F
12:39 PM CEST Arrive Firenze S.M. Novella piazzale della Stazione – 50123 Florence – Italy
9433 Frecciarossa
ES Italia AV
2nd Class
Activity
12:30 PM CEST A Dash Around Florence
piazzale della Stazione – 50123 Florence – Italy
12:30pm to 11:00pm
We'll start with Michelangelo's David in the Accademia 
(Make a reservation: 055-294883 Mon - Fri 8:30 am to 6:30 pm)
walk west to see the leather market around San Lorenzo and 
then south to the massive Duomo and Baptistery in Piazza Duomo. 
We'll head further south to Piazza della Signoria. And then 
eat and loop back to the train. Let's not forget to have a 
gelato!
Transportation
12:45 PM CEST Bus or Cab from Santa Maria Novella to Residence Michelangiolo
Depart Santa Maria Novella Santa Maria Novella
1:00 PM CEST Arrive Residence Michelangiolo Viale Michelangiolo 21 – Florence (near “Piazza Ferrucci”)
The commute from the train station to hotel: 
by bus or by car  15 minutes
by foot 40 minutes.

From the Station by bus: Bus lines 23a/b, which stop in 
front of the  exit at the end of the rail, Direction SORGANE, 
STOP Piazza Ferrucci, which is about 200 meters from Residence 
Michelangiolo.

Note: remember to purchase the ticket from the newspaper or 
tobacco stand before catching the bus.

From the Station by taxi: (around 12/15 euro)

NOTE:  Pay attention that many GPS confuse Via Buonarroti and 
Viale Michelangiolo (Buonarroti) so its indications lead to 
wrong address inside ZTL. Set "Piazza Ferrucci" to avoid this 
mistake.

The room MAY be ready at 1 pm. If not, they say that we may 
leave our luggage at the residence and return later (check 
in is at 2p).
Lodging
1:00 PM CEST Residence Michelangiolo Lodging – Arrive
Viale Michelangiolo, 21; 50125 Florence Italy
+39 055 6811748

Confirmation # 1250545009

Total cost: 120 euros
The person I have been corresponding with from the hotel is 
Angela. She confirmed we'd have two twin beds. But she says 
the room may not be available by 1pm so if we like, we can 
arrive and they'd hold our luggage and we can leave and return 
later. Of course, we could do some stuff first and gradually 
make our way to the hotel before 6pm (end of check in time).
2 guests
1 room
Standard Double Room (All rooms are no smoking) w/ twin beds. Mini fridge w/ water and juices, bathroom w/ shower or tub, hairdryer, Satellite TV, telephone line, Internet ADSL plug,
Depart 8/30/2009 11:00am

Sun, Aug 30

Activity
10:00 AM CEST A Quick Peek at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
10:00am to 12:00pm
We're mainly here to see the Campanile (Leaning Tower) and 
we'll make a reservation ahead of time (050-560547 or 
050-3872210; www.opapisa.it) 17 Euros. If we have time, we'll 
also check out The Campo di Miracoli, Baptistery, the 
camposanto and the Cathedral.

HOUR OF OPERATION FROM APRIL TO SEPTEMBER:                

Leaning tower                 
Ordinary: 08:30 - 20:00 (last climb)
Extraordinary from Juny to Agost: 08:30 - 23:00

Cathedral                         
Ordinary: 10.00 - 20.00

Monumental Cemetery   
Ordinary: 08.30 - 20.00

Baptistery                          
Ordinary: 08:00 - 20:00Opera Museum
Sinopie Museum
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6 responses to “Make the Perfect Travel Itinerary: 7 Steps

  1. These tips are phenomenal Nicole! I really enjoyed your final point and the in-depth look at TripIt. I’ve recently started using TripIt to help manage my upcoming trips and it was very helpful to see what a completed trip itinerary looks like. Cheers!

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  3. I love DK Eyewitness guides and highly recommend them for anyone who’s more of the visual type. (Lots of colorful pics and maps.) Their Top 10 mini books are great, too, if you only have a couple of days at a particular destination. Great post, Nicole!

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