If you wonder how to craft the perfect travel itinerary, then you are in the right place.
Planning a short or a long trip? It doesn’t matter what trip you are going for, creating a plan will make your trip close to perfect and help you to avoid the most common mistakes.
We already planned many travel itineraries and there are no real secrets to that. Making a travel itinerary takes time, planning and many things to consider. But don’t worry, once you will put in work, we guarantee that it will pay off. Big time.
This is to make sure that you can get the best out of your trip and have a good time. So all these 20 easy tips are here to help you to plan your next perfect trip.
So why listen to us? We have been traveling for 10 years and been altogether to 55 countries, and we believe that we cracked the code on how to plan an awesome holiday.
Have a look at all things important that we think are essential to make the best of your holidays.
THERE IS NO PERFECT TRAVEL ITINERARY
Quite a shocker, right? You are here to find out how to plan your perfect travel itinerary and I just told you that there is no such thing. Well, more or less.
So hear us out.
Everyone is different and prefers different things. What is the best thing for me, doesn’t need to be the best for you. And this, of course, applies to traveling as well. And why is that? Well, there are several types of travelers:
- Travelers who PLAN literally everything.
- Travelers who DO NOT PLAN anything at all.
- Travelers who PLAN just enough to get by with a little touch of FLEXIBILITY.
We would definitely consider ourselves the ones who plan our itineraries but also try to be as flexible as possible. We love to plan our trips, doing research, booking trips in advance. But we are definitely not the ones who plan everything meticulously.
However, the following tips are exactly the steps I take every time I plan our trips. It is nothing crazy but they work for us.
I think you should always start with this question.
What is your dream country you are dying to visit? Or where do you want to go next?
Everyone has their own bucket list destinations. And there are many countries to choose from. It can be a bit challenging as there are in total of 196 countries (recognized by the UN) on our earth.
So where shall you go?
Well, that depends on what you like.
I love the beach and I love tropical destinations so I always try to go to warm countries. Especially when it’s winter in Europe and I miss the sun.
Or how about checking out all Seven New World Wonders? Many people have different reasons why they travel and why they are going to certain countries. So this one is your call and you need to find your dream destinations first.
HOW TO FIND YOUR DREAM DESTINATION
If you struggle where to go next, then here is a little help. Get a pen and paper and write down the top 10 Places or destinations which come to your mind right away. They can be exciting places with iconic landmarks or just fun places, beach paradise islands, places perfect for hiking. The opportunities are endless here. Or just google around, look at Pinterest or Instagram to find inspiration.
Just to give you our top countries we are planning to visit this year: Slovenia, Morocco, Jordan, France and exploring more places in Germany.
If you would like to go to South America check our blog post on 15 MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN SOUTH AMERICA
Or if you would like to go to Southeast Asia, here are the best beach destinations to go to.
When I am planning a travel itinerary I always start with research.
So how do I research? First, I find out what are the best things to do in that country, like famous landmarks, spots, cities, etc.
How do I do that?
I like to go to Google and type a country I want to visit. I do not click on ALL but on IMAGES. This is for me perfect to get a first impression to quickly scan through. Maybe you find it silly, but that’s what I do. This way I can quickly see what are the best spots and I can get a lot of inspiration.
SOCIAL MEDIA VS. REALITY
Then I also check Instagram by typing the location in the search field. Instagram can be also a great platform to get inspiration. However, please note that sometimes what you see on Instagram tends to be far from reality.
There are many people who are excessively using Photoshop these days. And that might give you a false impression of a certain place. I can see many people being disappointed at the location once they get there, only because they saw some pictures with crazy oversaturated colors. So that’s why I like to go to Google first and just see images for myself how the place actually looks like and what to do there. Also, Pinterest is a great way to get inspiration and to easily find blog posts too.
We love to get our hands on a paper copy. That’s why we love using travel guides. Also, there are so many blogs out there that already created travel itineraries for you. Including us. So why would you torture yourself and do everything on your own? There are tons of inspiration out there. We already wrote travel itineraries for Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, Indonesia, Philippines and more.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE?
One of the most important parts of planning your travel itinerary is to know how much time you have and how much you can see in that time.
For instance, if you have only three days in one country, you naturally cannot see everything. You can only see the best thing in a certain town or city. So follow the rule: Quality over quantity.
Or if you have two weeks in Colombia, you know that you cannot see everything but a couple of cities.
First, you need to figure out how many times you want to change the location and how much time it will take you to get from one place to another.
If you see that there is only 200 km to get from Medellin to Salento, that doesn’t mean you are going to be there in 2 hours. In reality, it took us 9 hours because travel in the Andes tends to be slow.
Also if you are traveling in Southeast Asia you need to know that transportation is super slow too due to traffic and bad roads. There was a time when we traveled on a bus for 9 hours getting from El Nido to Puerto Princesa (260 km). If you are aware of that it is half as bad.
Very often when we travel to a new town or an island we literally set at least half of the day for that. When we travel to a new place, we do not plan anything crazy on that day. You might also call it a free day or just a travel day.
TRAVEL CAN BE TIRING
Also, moving to different locations can be very tiring.
You know that feeling when you commute for a long time and this makes you tired?
Often you need to either wake up early or wait for the transport and let’s not forget, the journey itself. Or you need to take sickness motion pills because you know that you are getting sick on the boat or on the bus? So once you arrive in a new place, your energy level is not necessarily at 100% and you are not ready to climb a mountain.
That means you need to see how many times you going to use transport or how many times you want to move because this time will take away from your holiday.
Many people do not take into consideration time zones when they are about to go somewhere new.
This is also very important because very often you’ll either lose or gain time when traveling to different time zones. For instance, when you travel to Australia you automatically lose a day that means you need to adjust your plans to that. Just because you leave on the 9th doesn’t mean you’re going to arrive on the 9th.
So before you book any hotels, make sure to know how long the flight is, when and what date you are going to arrive. Also, you very likely might have jet lag when you crossing time zones. That’s why the first day of your trip might be or should be a chill day. Going to the beach, or chilling at the pool with a book is great to start your vacation anyways.
Also, do not schedule some crazy activity on the day of your departure. People tend to do that to get the most out of their little time. Don’t worry, we have done that too and it is very stressful.
Depending on your boat to come on time so you can make it on time to the airport? No, thanks.
Many things can go wrong (unexpected weather, bus break down, etc). It is not worth the stress.
SUMMER OR WINTERTIME?
You need to be aware that there are some countries where days in winter are much shorter. For instance, traveling to Europe in winter is very different than in summer.
It is because the days in winter are shorter than in summer. In winter it usually gets dark at 4 PM and in summer around 9.30 PM. That means you need to plan different activities if you are traveling in winter or in summer.
If you are traveling in summer months, you most likely do a lot of outdoor trips whereas in winter you want to be more indoor. So knowing how much daylight you have is a great start to make the best out of your itinerary.
But there are also other countries such as Ecuador where you do not need to worry about sunlight. If you visit Quilotoa lake in Ecuador, you will have 12 hours of daylight and it doesn’t matter which month you come. Same as at Mitad del Mundo, where the Equatorial line passes.
Knowing your budget is one of the most crucial parts of your travel itinerary.
Subsequently, you can select activities and accommodation that fit to your budget.
For instance, we wanted to travel for five months in Southeast Asia and when we did our budget for each month we end up with 1.200€ a month. That means if we would spend more money in the first month, then we wouldn’t have enough money for the next month.
What we actually did was to set up a budget journal in which we would write how much money we spent each month. It was a lot of fun and this kept us on track.
Also, look at the countries that are in your budget. Some of the countries are more expensive than others. This is the reason why we choose to travel for a year in Southeast Asia and South America. If we would have gone to the United States or Canada we would have been broke after a few months. So depending on what you want to do and where you want to go, you can set aside how much money you want to spend.
There are many accommodations in the world fitting everyone’s budget. If you have only a budget to sleep in dormitories, that’s fine.
You don’t need to beat yourself up for it, it is what is, and this can be a great experience where you can meet other travelers.
We mostly stayed in mid-range hotels with private bathrooms. We saved additionally more, just to have that comfort as we knew that this was very important to us.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
You should definitely find out when is the best time to travel in that country. You do not want to travel to Australia when it’s so hot that you won’t make it outside. Or you do not want to go to Miami during hurricane season. Or visiting Southeast Asian countries in the rainy season because you will have crappy weather and might end up stranded on an island because of a typhoon. Yes, we did that on Siargao in the Philippines and it wasn’t fun.
There are also some places with limited transportation or even closed down hotels. For instance, on the Perhentian Islands, hotels shut down in the offseason. So knowing when is the best time to travel in a particular country is the key to planning your perfect trip.
OK, now you got inspired, you know when you’re going, you know how much money you want to spend. So what next?
BOOK IN ADVANCE OR NOT?
Do you need to book your entire travel itinerary in advance?
Booking in advance is something I highly recommend to anyone who travels somewhere for a certain period of time, mostly for a short period of time. So if you have 10 days in Tulum you want to book your hotel in advance. Or if you would like to visit Peru, you need to get your tickets to Huayna Picchu in Machu Picchu, earlier because you know that only 400 people can go there each day.
If you spend your entire morning looking for tours or queuing to get to the Louvre instead of buying tickets online, then you are wasting your time during your holiday.
But if you have indefinite time to travel (lucky you), of course, the best thing is to be flexible and just book on the go. We tried that in a couple of places, like Rainbow Mountain or San Andres island hopping, where you can book your trip one day in advance or just show up in the morning.
But even though we planned to be more flexible while we traveled around the world, we always tried to book hotels or trips in advance, in order to save money and make sure that there are still spots.
Now that you have a clear vision of your travel itinerary, let’s start planning. If you travel with your partner or your friends make sure that you plan a trip together. Even though they might be not so interested in it or they put you in charge. Ask your friends what they think about the place you’re thinking to visit and what they want to do on a trip. Otherwise, if you end up planning a trip yourself and maybe your friends would end up doing only things you like.
GO FOR A TRIP WITH LIKE – MINDED PEOPLE
That brings me to another very important point. Go on vacation with people that have similar hobbies, interests, values, etc. like you. Going on a trip, where you want to explore culture, museums, art galleries with someone, who only wants to party is not a good fit.
You’re either end up being alone the whole day and at some point angry with the other person, because s/he has different priorities. And it’s not fun to be on a vacation with friends who have different interests than you, trust me. We have been there! (Our first trip to Thailand).
ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
You don’t need to research everything on your own. What I love the most is to actually ask for recommendations.
Isn’t it just cool to ask someone for a recommendation who actually been to that country already?
Of course, it is.
You can get honest feedback on the country (or hotel, restaurant, etc.) from a person who actually has been there before you.
When we traveled around Colombia, we met a person who recommended us to visit Salento instead of Manizales, because he was so in love with the place. Well, guess what! We listened to him, we went and we absolutely loved it.
So ask for the opinion of others on how they liked a place, what was the best thing they did. Like this, you can get a lot of inspiration too.
BE FLEXIBLE AKA HAVE A PLAN B OR C
Even though you may have researched, you booked everything, you have figured it all out, the thing is, anything can go wrong anytime and anywhere. That means you’ll miss the boat or the bus breaks down, there can be so many things happening on the road that are simply out of your control, and you need to be ready for it.
The first thing to do is to just accept it. If there is no boat going to an island you wanted to go to, be creative and open-minded for new things. There might be other cool things to do instead.
The last and most important part of having a great travel itinerary is to enjoy it. This is your time to have fun, to experience a new country, new cultures, meet new people, so have fun. You put a lot of work into your planing and you should be proud. But take it easy as well.
COLLECT IT ALL
Now that you mastered your first travel itinerary it is time to put it all together. There are certain apps we love to use when we plan your trip.
We love to use the app Wallet where you can collect all your tickets together. This will help you to be organized.
If you are thinking of booking your accommodation, try Booking.com. Or did you know that you can get a free stay on Hostels.com?
Also, we love to use Airbnb for that homey feeling. If you haven’t tried Airbnb before you can get $37 off on your first stay.
And never travel without insurance, things can happen everywhere, so make sure you are covered.
We also wrote a FREE EBOOK with all our TRAVEL HACKS to help your save money and reduce stress.
That’s it from us, we hope that your next itinerary will be awesome. Also, what is your next upcoming trip? Or how do you plan your itinerary? We would love to hear from you.
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