So you finally picked your next travel destination? Well, before you start mindlessly scrolling through the endless itinerary possibilities only to get overwhelmed about the planning process, read up. I’m giving you my three-step travel planning process that’ll help guide you through creating an itinerary from scratch. Let’s start squeezing out a plan from that wanderlust-filled brain of yours and filter it down to what you’re actually going to do.
Open a OneNote page and quickly jot down the sights you want to see, the activities you want to do and the food you want to eat. The idea generation phase is all about dreaming big! What bucket-listy life experiences do you want to make? Try to avoid making conscious decisions of whether or not you’re actually going to do everything that’s on your list. Remember, this is the time for quantity—don’t hold back!
Here’s where to find itinerary inspiration during your brainstorming session:
Pinterest is the Google of travel inspiration and itineraries. Whether you’re looking for the best sightseeing locations or off-the-beaten path guides, get insider tips from travel bloggers with tried and true experiences. Search for “Things to do in _____” or “_____ itinerary ideas” to get started on your Pinterest research.
I care about what people think when it comes to everything from accommodations and restaurants to activities and sights. That’s when the opinions of everyday travelers on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Airbnb can be useful.
Official Visitor Websites
Virtually every country has its own official tourism website and offers a great place to begin researching your trip. It’s packed with practical information, sample itineraries, city guides, interactive maps and more!
Family & Friend Recommendations
Who can you trust more than your own family and friends? Somebody’s gone somewhere you’re planning on going to, so word-of-mouth advice from family and friends is an easy way to get inspiration and itinerary recommendations.
Do it in OneNote:
- Create a 3 x 2 table.
- Label the first column “See”, the second column “Do” and the third column “Eat”.
- In each column, list down specific places you want to see, the activities you want to do and the restaurants you want to eat at. The key here is to be specific as possible. Instead of listing “kayak to Chinaman’s Hat”, list the name of the tour company you’ll be kayaking with.
Map It Out
The next step is searching for each location or activity and plot it out visually on a map because the last thing you’d want is finding the perfect list of things to do only to find out that the places are cities apart! My favorite tool for creating custom maps is Google My Maps. It’s simple to use and gives you customization features like adding color coded icons, layered itineraries, driving directions and more.
How to Create a Map in Google My Maps
- Go to Google My Maps and log in to your Google account.
- Click on + Create a New Map.
- Rename your new map and untitled layer.
- Enter the name of a business into the search bar and click on + Add to Map.
- Repeat step 4 until you’ve saved all of your locations to your map.
Plan By Location
With your ideas visually pinpointed on your map, plan out each day’s activities based on a cluster of pins by specific locations. You’ll see where everything is located in relation to each other so that you can be more realistic about your time and plan a more detailed day-to-day itinerary.
Remember, less is better. Don’t try to jam back to back activities on one day. Spread it out. Give yourself time for spontaneity to explore outside of what’s on your itinerary. Rather than planning everything down to the minute, keep your itinerary simple by organizing it by “morning”, “afternoon” and “evening.”
All Planned Out
Now that you’ve whittled down your itinerary, you can budget for your trip a little more accurately and you’ll have an idea of what lays in the days ahead. I love using OneNote in conjunction with Google My Maps for travel planning, and this simple process can be easily adapted to your favorite app, spreadsheet or word document program, whatever works for you! If you hate travel planning, I’d like to think that I’ve made the process a little more doable, and hey, maybe even a little more fun! Are you a planner or do you thrive off the spontaneity of traveling without a plan? Leave a digital note below and tell me about your trip planning process!