Seven top tips to chart out the perfect travel itinerary

So many decisions to make, bookings to confirm and wrinkles to iron out before you actually take that much-awaited trip. If you’ve decided to do it yourself instead of leaving it to an agent, follow our easy checklist to make sure that you get the itinerary just as you want it.

Despite the onset of new waves and different virus variants, travellers are all set for their next adventure. It’s been a while since most of us have sat down and planned an epic trip. Planning a holiday to a new destination can be equally exciting and overwhelming but this little check list should help you get ready for the perfect vacation.

Itinerary, travel, planning, booking, world travel
Creating an itinerary is exciting. But you have to keep a few things in mind so that the holiday of your dreams doesn’t turn into the trip of your nightmares! Image: Shutterstock/rawpixel.com

Be realistic about your budget

Once you’ve picked your destination(s), cities/ towns, the first thing to do is allocate a budget for yourself. Vacation dreaming can get expensive very fast even if it’s still just in your head. Pick a realistic budget, one you’d like to at least try and stick to, and work within that.

It happened to me: I dreamt of an African safari but soon learnt that both Kenya and Tanzania were out of my budget. I ended up in South Africa and had the most exquisite wildlife experiences without having to stretch myself financially.

How much time is enough?

If you work on the go and aren’t answerable to office HR and rigid leaves from your organization, the world really is your oyster. Most of us unfortunately don’t have that luxury so decide how many towns or cities or even countries you can visit in the amount of time you can take off from work. Realistically speaking, you can do three cities in a week or perhaps two countries and four or five cities in 14 days.

It happened to me: I managed to visit France and Belgium in under two weeks and visited six cities in that time. I spent most of my time in Paris (France) and Ghent (Belgium) as my base and then did either a night in the other cities or day trips and ended up actually seeing a lot more than I had originally planned.

Choices: Flying solo or with the fam jam

Is this a solo soul-searching/let me enjoy the perks of international Tinder sort of trip or are you in a group with friends or family? If it’s the latter, then definitely look at your group dynamics and interests. Some might want a trip to the museum while others want to bar hop and shop until they drop. Try and strike a balance so everyone gets a taste of what they like.

Itinerary, travel, planning, booking, world travel
If you’re travelling with many people, you’ll have to plan for each of their interests too. Illustration: Shutterstock/Yoshi5.

It happened to me: I made the grave mistake of planning a tourist driven itinerary to Bangkok on a Thailand trip with friends who wanted to do nothing but eat Pad Thai, bar hop and visit every shopping mall in the city. Eventually frayed nerves were calmed by copious amounts of cocktails and all was well. But, in hindsight, it was best to strike a balance of everything.

The reason for the rush? Tis’ the season

Most of your activities/sightseeing will be seasonal, so pick the correct season to visit. If you’ve always wanted to fulfill your Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara moment and have a tomato fight with complete strangers in the middle of Spain, then don’t plan your trip during autumn or winter. A lot of general sightseeing and monuments tend to close at random times in the year for various events so check beforehand, especially iconic spots like the Louvre in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome.

It happened to me: I learnt this the hard way. I planned my trip to Innsbruck in Austria specifically to get on top of their Nordkette mountain only to learn that all the mountain excursions were shutting for winter the very next day!

Itinerary, travel, planning, booking, world travel
Avoid the disappointment of heavy crowds or seasonal closures by checking the websites of cities and individual sights. There are plenty of online resources for most countries. Image: Shutterstock/ReelCreative.

Don’t forget free days and flexibility

The most underrated tip anyone can ever give you is to schedule a free day! With jam-packed itineraries you don’t want to come back exhausted, feeling like you need a vacation to get over your vacation. Leave some room for flexibility in your itinerary. Besides, there’s a special kind of bliss is wandering around aimlessly just enjoying a new city or town without any specific agenda.

It happened to me: I had an action-packed trip to Italy a couple of years ago and tried to squeeze in as much sightseeing as I could. But it really was the one day I chose to do nothing but aimlessly walk around Florence to soak in the atmosphere that I ended up enjoying and remembering the most.

Do your homework and research well

Make sure you do your homework before your journey. Scroll through Instagram to find funky restaurants or picturesque spots for photo ops. Let’s be honest — it’s the most important aspect of your entire trip — you can’t forget the ‘gram! Look for free things to do in the city you’re visiting. In Europe, most places offer free walking tours of the city. Often museums will offer free entry on either the first or last Sunday of the month.

Check to see if Uber is easily accessible or if it’s safe to use public transport. You can even download a map of the metro or subway from the local tourism board website. It’s usually a treasure trove of useful information about a city and you could find loads of discounts on attractions too.

Itinerary, travel, planning, booking, world travel
Get the details of the vacation right and the big picture will paint itself. Image: Shutterstock/rawpixel.com

It happened to me: Ended up saving a lot of money in Munich in Germany on free walking tours (you just tip the guide a small fee) and ate at some of the coolest Michelin restaurants in Lisbon because after doing a little research, I found out they’re not even half as expensive as you’d expect them to be. Thanks to Instagram and some very cool travel blogs, I ate like a queen all through my Portugal trip well within my budget.

Suggested Read: Want to take off in style? Here’s our guide to creating the perfect airport looks

Insure’ you have a good time!

Itinerary, travel, planning, booking, world travel
The one thing you should definitely pack! Illustration: Shutterstock/SkyPics Studio.

The most boring part of vacation planning but one that will serve you well is to ensure you have travel insurance. No one tells you this little nugget of information, but the truth is you can have a fantastic holiday or one full of mishaps with misplaced luggage, broken bags, or even an accident, god forbid. That little piece of paper with your travel insurance will ensure you don’t blow your entire travel fund to pieces. The insurance amount to pay for the trip is usually fairly economical and the coverage extends to a wide range of things.

It happened to me: I’ve had several airlines manhandle my luggage but on a trip to Taiwan, Cathay Pacific actually broke my bag in transit. All my anger and rage were soothed by the prompt reimbursement thanks to my travel insurance. We’ve been best friends ever since.

Read more.

Here’s a cheat code to booking hotel rooms online

Leaving on a jet plane? Make sure your bags are packed perfectly