Itinerary planning 101: Part 3 – the finishing touches to your travel plan

Hi Frugalistas!

How are you going with your plans for your latest itinerary?  Have you got a good outline of where you are going, your budget and how you are planning on getting about?  In the final installment of this short series we fill in the blanks with all the special moments that will make your trip one to really remember……

1.  List all the things you want to do in each of your destinations

Taking into account the length of time you have in each destination, make a list of all the things you want to do for each of your destinations and prioritise them.  Check your guidebook, tourism organisation websites, blogs and travel forums, or just ask your friends to help you add to your own personal list of must do’s.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  A definite in my plans, so I'll be allowing plenty of time to enjoy it. Photo:www.greatistanbul.com

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. A definite in my plans, so I’ll be allowing plenty of time to enjoy it. Photo:www.greatistanbul.com

2.  Work out about how long each of your activities will take

I normally allow about half a day for the big key museums and art galleries.  Personally, I find that’s enough for me, and I don’t know many people who can spend whole days.  Churches and other historic sites can normally be done in about an hour, unless you want to attend a service, or go on a guided tour.  For large historic sites such as Versailles I normally count them as museums and art galleries and allow half a day.

An hour is enough for most churches unless you attend a service

An hour is enough for most churches unless you attend a service

3.  Then allow travel and queuing times

You need to work out how best to get to each of your destinations and about how long they will take.  I normally allow about 30mins for a metro train trip and 45mins to an hour for bus or walking.  That allows you some slack for traffic, and for some window shopping and general sticky nosing if you walk!

Assume you will visit your sites at the beginning or ends of the day when queues are shortest and then stick to that.  Look up if you can prebook an entrance and avoid the queues, and then make sure you stick to that.  Queues at some key tourist sites are horrendous, so don’t underestimate what a time waster that can be if you are on a tight schedule.

As I was leaving the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona the queue was over two hours long.  I prebooked and walked straight in......

As I was leaving the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona the queue was over two hours long. I prebooked and walked straight in……

4.  Check for days that the site may be closed, or when it may be open later

Many museums and art galleries (particularly in Europe) have a day when they are closed.  Make sure you know when exactly that day is.  Many are also open late one day per week.  This is handy to know as well.  For example, I have a work trip planned to London in April and have worked out the British Library (where I have never been) is open late on a night I am there.  This makes getting a trip in there a real option when my work activities are done for the day.  It’s now part of my plans.

Even key art galleries and museums have a closing day

Even key art galleries and museums have a closing day

5.  Allow some free time for spontaneity (and shopping!)

Don’t over schedule yourself.  Allow time for some spontaneity, to linger in a park or to enjoy a previously undiscovered corner.

6.  Piece it all together into an order that makes sense

Try and balance your time between hectic and more gentle pursuits.  If you’ve got a special meal, a night at the theatre or some other evening activity planned, make that on a day when you know your day time activities are not going to leave you exhausted.  If you’ve tried to include too much, reassess and reprioritise – and leave yourself a wishlist for next time!!

Try and mix up your activities.  Only a real art afficianado could cope with art galleries or museums day after day, so mix it up a bit with a variety of things to do and see.  If you are traveling with children this is an absolute must – as is allowing for some play time.

7.  Work out a basic plan of how you are going to get about

You don’t need schedules for this – just a plan of attack.  If you are planning on using public transport do some research on how to do this for your location.  It will help you with budgeting as well as give you some confidence in a strange place.  Checking the guidebook and generally looking like a lost tourist is just a sign saying “rob me” in many bus or train stations.

A basic plan of how you are getting around is a good idea

A basic plan of how you are getting around is a good idea

8.  Your food strategy

Research some places within your budget near your accommodation and places you are visiting.  Cafes and restaurants in museums and art galleries are often good value and make an easy option.  Research and plan for one great meal – regardless of your budget, and work out when best to do that.  Checking out local restaurant review websites can help here – don’t just rely on your guidebook or Tripadvisor.  I don’t recommend planning every single meal – again allow for some spontaneity and for finding your own hidden gem.  Getting recommendations from friends who may have visited can also help here.

I prefer to choose local foods to add to my experience

I prefer to choose local foods to add to my experience

OK, so here we are.  Your perfect itinerary for your perfect trip!

Nothing else left to do but enjoy!

Related posts:

Itinerary planning part 2:  getting around and paying for it

Itinerary planning part 1:  creating the outline of your trip

Planning your itinerary to save even more in Europe

How to use European underground trains

Photo credits:  author’s own unless identified otherwise

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

14 Comments on “Itinerary planning 101: Part 3 – the finishing touches to your travel plan”

  1. Geek Goddess 23/02/2013 at 2:49 pm #

    You will LOVE LOVE LOVE Instanbul!

  2. Andy 23/02/2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Number 4 is often overlooked. People visiting countries often forget about local holidays or just general closures. If you are only in a city for 3 days, you’d be upset to find your most prized monument to be closed… Good idea.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/02/2013 at 6:37 pm #

      Similarly if there’s something special on, it’s good to know about that too. The fountains at Versailles are only operating during certain parts of the day for some of the year, so it makes sense to try and time your visit accordingly if you are there at the right time of the year.

      I will confess to falling for the public holiday thing myself…….even with the best guidebook you can get caught ( I didn’t read mine properly before I booked)
      🙂

  3. Pretraveller 24/02/2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Jo, thanks for a great series on planning my trips.

    I agree that days where attractions are closed or have different hours can catch everyone out, particularly if you are on a tight schedule. Another tip is that if you are travelling off season check even closer whether the attraction you want will be open at all!

    And I would allow a full day for Versailles (which is how long we spent there) – it is not just the palace (and getting there and back from the center of Paris), there are the extensive grounds to walk around, the fountains to enjoy, and there are also some ancillary buildings etc which are really interesting.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 24/02/2013 at 5:11 pm #

      thanks Anne, for your always helpful comments. Yes, we spent a full day at Versailles too as we also visited all three parts as well as the gardens and the fountains. It was probably a poor example 🙂

      Maybe replace with somewhere like Kensington Palace?

  4. Anita Mac 26/02/2013 at 7:16 am #

    Great tips!!! I would just add an unscheduled day – you never know what amazing things you may stumble upon once you get there! My one night in Paris had me stumble across the buddy bears. Given how little time I had, and more importantly, the lack of daylight hours…it required a little shuffling around to get it all in!

    #4 is so true. Turns out that my one morning in Paris (I was in town for ~ 24hrs) was a Tuesday. Went to buy my entrance ticket on line the night before and discovered that they are closed Tuesdays! Oh well….will have to go back to Paris! It is as simple as that!!!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 26/02/2013 at 8:50 am #

      Yes, I agree. Regardless of how short your stay is you do need to have some down time.

  5. theloftbarcelona 27/02/2013 at 2:34 am #

    plenty of good tips !! so good to read this post. cheers

  6. theloftbarcelona 27/02/2013 at 2:35 am #

    Reblogged this on THELOFTBARCELONA and commented:
    Tips on a Trip:

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hotel Dieu: The unexpected inside of Paris’ oldest hospital – Itinerary Planning 101 – Map of Literary French History | Aussie in France - 27/02/2013

    […] Taking into account the length of time you have in each destination, make a list of all the things you want to do for each of your destinations and prioritise them. Read on […]

  2. Itinerary planning 101: Part 2 – Getting around and paying for it | frugalfirstclasstravel - 02/03/2013

    […] Itinerary planning part 3:  the finishing touches to your plans […]

  3. Itinerary planning 101: my system for booking my trip | frugalfirstclasstravel - 13/07/2013

    […] Part 3 – The final details […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: