Trip-planning tip: itineraries

Trip It1

Trip It3

Trip It2

The other day I was doing some office clean-up—trying to bring myself to throw away the outdated copy of Let’s Go France I brought on my first trip to Europe by myself in college—and I came across some old itineraries I’d made. I know there are all kinds of apps that do this for you now, but I still love putting together an old-fashioned, paper travel-itinerary. And I love looking back at them (even if now I’d rather they be scanned then add to the clutter).

People ask me about trip-planning strategies all of the time and I often forget about this, but making an itinerary yourself is a great one. (Now, I haven’t tried the electronic itinerary app, so take this with a grain of salt.) Here are four things I love about it:

  • When I pull everything into one place and type in any missing details, I’m more likely to remember things—like the difficult-to-pronounce town we change trains in. And to notice what hasn’t been confirmed or thought through (connections and the like). And to bring the voucher you have to print.
  • If we’re traveling internationally, I add notes about “body time.” This is a post-kid addition, but it was really handy for our trip to Bali to see where we stood in terms of body time at the end of each leg, in multiple countries.
  • I type out the days and dates and can see immediately if we’re going to be disappointed to arrive in, for example, a market city on the day of the week the market is closed. And I get a better sense of time for packing and planning activities.
  • But most of all, I like using them to gather ideas. I rarely like to schedule too much before we arrive somewhere, often preferring to see where the day takes us. But I also hate getting someplace and wasting too much precious time looking up what to do, don’t you? So I might make a list of possible activities for a city and keep it with our hotel and travel arrangement details. Or, if we’re driving a distance (like we were in Costa Rica, up top) I might list possible detours and things to look forward to along the way… especially food. (By the way, we did stop for the strawberry shakes and they were awesome!) How many times are you driving somewhere and looking in a guidebook only to find that you’d passed something you would have liked to have seen 20 miles back?

Honestly, I don’t always have the time these days. But if you’re already doing the work of researching a trip and underlining highlights in a guidebook, just go back and note those highlights in a separate list. Or, more likely, if you’re reading blogs and online magazines and looking at Pinterest for ideas, cut and paste ideas according to location.

Of course, the notes I make on these after the fact end up being really useful for making those really detailed Travelogues.

P.S. Tips for flying with a baby or toddler. And favorite things to pack for traveling with kids.

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