Itinerary planning 101: Part 1 – Creating the outline of your trip

Hi Frugalistas!

This is the first of a new three part series on Itinerary Planning for independent traveling.  In this installment I’ll cover getting the basics of your trip in place.

Travel porn, yes, also a practical tool! Photo

Travel porn, yes, also a practical tool! Photo

1.  Where do you want to go?

Narrow your options down at this stage to a continent, country or region.  Thinking about that continent, country or region write a list of places (whether that is a list of countries or cities/towns doesn’t matter) or specific activities (I’m thinking things like going skiing, taking a cruise/yacht trip etc here).  Don’t worry about whether it is logical at this stage – we’ll come to that, just make a list.

2.  How long are you planning on being away?

Once you’ve worked this out, you need to look at your list and……

3.  Prioritise the places you want to visit

At this point I relook at my list and work out whether it looks feasible.  I allow about 2 days per destination (we’ll work out the details later, this is just a reality check at this stage) plus time for a special “minitrip” within my trip (like that cruise round the Greek Islands, the trek over the mountains etc) and then traveling time to and from my destination – don’t worry about where you are going to fly in and out of at this stage.  If my list is a bit optimistic (ie:  so many places, so little time……)I take my list of where I want to go and re-order it into a priority ranking order and draw a line where the cut off point of days seems to end.

A good map of the area you want to visit is essential Photo:

A good map of the area you want to visit is essential Photo:

4.  Consult your guidebook

If you haven’t done so now is the time to start some pretty hardcore research.  Get out the guidebooks, get on the net, seek advice from friends.  A good map of where you want to go is also a great help.  You need to work out how long you need/want to stay in each spot.  This is where the 2 day average stay per location can be finessed.  Realistically, if you are looking at key major cities anywhere you need a minimum of 3 days.  I write this in next to each of my destinations.  When I get to the end, I check again – have I got enough days for what I want?  If you’re short days draw a line where the new “end point” is.  If you’re lucky enough to be able add in some extras, redraw that line.

You will note we still don’t have a logical traveling order yet, but that’s OK.  Up to this point we’re just thinking about what is important to you and what is achievable from a practical perspective.

5.  OK, now it’s time to put everything in a logical traveling order

To get things in order there are a few factors to think about.  Where are you flying into to start your journey?  That creates a possible obvious start.  Don’t assume you need to fly in and out of the same destination.  Many, if not most airlines will allow you to fly into one destination and fly out of another (a so called open jawed ticket) for the same price as a straightforward return.  Some itineraries will lend themselves nicely to a circular itinerary, but others do lend themselves to a straight line.  What are the distances between individual destinations along the way and how can you fit the pieces together into the most efficient picture?  (Your map will come in handy here.  You can also look at the itineraries of guided tours – they are usually particularly efficient).

Don't assume you need to fly in and out of the same destination

Don’t assume you need to fly in and out of the same destination Photo: author’s own

Once you’ve put all the destinations into a sensible order are you left with anything that just doesn’t make sense?  Consider reordering, reprioritising and if that doesn’t work, I’m afraid you should leave it for another day.

6.  One last check against your priority list to make sure it’s still what you want, and finally you’re done!

A basic itinerary, ready to have some details filled in!

I've wanted to get to Istanbul for ages, but my itinerary has never worked out.  This year, it's happening! Photo:

I’ve wanted to get to Istanbul for ages, but my itinerary has never worked out. This year, it’s happening! Photo:

I know you’re probably saying “why hasn’t she done a budget?” – well, because I want you to focus on priorities and time at this stage.  You can do most itineraries on most budgets – it’s just a question of choices.  But if you can afford to get yourself there, and have some money to spend once you get there I genuinely think any itinerary should be achievable (in fact I might do a post just to prove it!)

Next time, we will talk about budgets, and other practicalities like how to get from destination to destination.  We’ll also fill the gaps of some activities to do, and double check that your basic itinerary is still right for the timeframe and budget you’ve got.  Looking forward to talking to you then!


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9 Comments on “Itinerary planning 101: Part 1 – Creating the outline of your trip”

  1. Geek Goddess 10/02/2013 at 12:44 am #


  2. frugalfirstclasstravel 10/02/2013 at 7:14 am #

    Yes, finally worked it in to an itinerary! It’s easy enough to get there – it’s on the way to/from Europe for me, but I’ve had trouble getting enough time to make it worthwhile. Finally managed to design an itinerary around it for later this year.

  3. Aussie in France (@AussieFrance) 21/02/2013 at 10:20 pm #

    I’ll be interested in your Istanbul trip because it’s high on our list of priorities. I was just contacted for a home exchange but it’s too short (4 nights) and I want a more central location so that we can walk to most places.
    As I get older, I prefer to spend 5 to 6 nights in cities so that I can really get the feel of the place. I do, of course, have the advantage of living in Paris, so can afford to do that time-wise.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 22/02/2013 at 6:25 am #

      Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s taken me a while to work out how I can get there. Jenny from A Taste of Travel recommended (both as an ex-travel agent but also as a previous visitor) at least 5nights, so that’s what I’ve done.

      Don’t worry, it will be well covered on the blog!

  4. Anita Mac 02/08/2013 at 4:32 am #

    While doing a budget is important, I often find that my planning takes my budget into consideration long before I get to budgeting! I don’t plan on a night at the Ritz if it is more of a Holiday Inn kind of trip! The budget is really more an on the road thing for me! If I splurge on a fancy meal one night, I tend to do a picnic the next….but getting the planning together in the beginning, and leaving room for variations such as this, that is the key for my long term travel success! Love this series!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 03/08/2013 at 8:18 am #

      Thank you. yes, that’s how I tend to frame my thinking too. I don’t think of an expensive hotel if I know I don’t have the funds. Similarly I avoid or spend less time in expensive destinations.

      Glad you’ve enjoyed this series! It’s been very popular with readers.


  1. Itinerary planning 101: Part 2 – Getting around and paying for it | frugalfirstclasstravel - 16/02/2013

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  2. Itinerary planning 101: Part 3 – the finishing touches to your travel plan | frugalfirstclasstravel - 02/03/2013

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