God bless Microsoft Excel! It’s just as crucial as a flag highlighter. Itineraries can be done in Word but I prefer Excel’s setup and charts.
I treat my itinerary as a bible. It is my sole resource when traveling. Although I still bring my books and other materials, the itinerary is designed so that I only have to carry it. I know where I am going and what I am doing when I get there. I have the contact information so that if I need to make a call or reservation I can do so at the touch of my finger tips.
To begin an itinerary, I create a spreadsheet that labels each day and date I will be away (i.e. Monday April 2nd, Tuesday April 3rd and so on) and go through the following columns so that no detail is left behind.
A good itinerary should include the following details (in columns going left to right):
- Day and time you plan to go;
- Address (and contact information including hours of operation, websites and phone numbers);
- Directions (whether you are taking public transportation or driving);
- What is notable to see, do, or try when you get there (why you are going there);
- Duration and estimated time of expected visit at each site (i.e. 1 hr, from 2pm-3pm);
- What to purchase;
- What to take a picture of ;
- How much it will cost; and
- A final column to check off when the task has been completed.
A proper itinerary eliminates any worry that you forgot something or don’t know what to do next. It allows for time from getting to one attraction to another as well as the best uses of your time in each location. I even include meals and snack breaks so that my time is properly allocated and I don’t pass out from low blood sugar.
Since you have already done the back breaking research (see previous blog, For a Game Plan Part II) the itinerary is just a matter of organizing and typing up the information you have already discovered. I always begin organizing attractions into days based on where they are located and how to get there. For instance, if you see that the same subway stop is used for multiple destinations then those two places get “booked” back to back. Even if you aren’t sure where something is located directions are a good clue. Next of course, it is easy to go online and map it. That extra step eliminates an itinerary where all of your attractions have you going back and forth across a city and wasting your time and travel fare. Nothing that you include on your itinerary should be left to chance. Nothing that you can control anyway. It should feel like a safety blanket while you are out exploring and enjoying.
I always allow extra time at one event or another so that if something delays me I am not panicked that my whole day is off. Having all this information in one place also allows attractions to be moved around if you don’t get to something or don’t feel like doing something on the assigned day. You will know when it’s closed so that you can make changes on the go without worry or fear you won’t get to do it. If I have made a reservation or prepaid an attraction I also include that on the itinerary. Your itinerary will be so detailed that it will also have your flight, car service, transportation as well as all travel information so you don’t even have to worry about scrambling for that when calling to verify take off or pickups.
For trips that include more than one city or location I do separate itineraries and treat them as separate trips to keep it simple. I know this may not seem so simple, but once you have created your first successful itinerary you can use it as a template for all others in the future, which is the real blessing in disguise.
Check back tomorrow: For a Game Plan Part IV- Traveling tips.