Once we’ve decided on a general destination or area we want to spend time, I start creating an itinerary. I create a travel itinerary that eventually becomes a master document I use to both plan the trip and while on the trip to find key information, including (but not limited to) lodging confirmations and contact information, hours for sites we want to see, URL’s for those destinations, and details for reservations we have made.
Why create a travel itinerary?
There are several benefits to keeping a travel itinerary:
- It helps determine whether we can realistically see all we want to see within the time we have. If we have 25 things on our must-see list, and only 5 days in which to see them, it becomes really clear when you can visualize it on an itinerary.
- It helps to see how many nights of lodging we need for every destination on the trip. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get confused when trying to determine how many nights we need at our lodging. “So if we’re leaving on the 5th, do we need a room that night?” Tell me I’m not alone here.
- It helps us weight travel options. For example, my husband would have loved to make our recent trip to California into a road trip. He wants every trip to be a road trip, and I don’t disagree. However, with the time we had for vacation (less than 2 weeks), and the number of miles it is from Minnesota to California, it made more sense to fly so we could maximize our time there.
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What should be in my travel itinerary?
What’s in my itinerary? I keep it pretty simple. It has three columns: Date, Activity, and Lodging.
- Dates: This should have every date related to the trip, including the day your travel starts and ends. You should have a separate row for every day.
- Activity: This should generally outline what you plan to do that day, whether it’s a travel day, a day where you have something specific planned, or all of the possible options for that day. I like to somewhere have a master list of all the activities you’d like to accomplish, knowing that weather, fatigue, etc., can impact whether or not those things actually happen on a given day.
- Lodging: Make sure that every night you are gone you know where you are staying! This is easy if you are going to one destination, but if your trip has multiple stops, using the itinerary can cover you to make sure your reservations (if you’re making them) account for every night of the trip.
Here is one example of an itinerary I’ve done…
This was a short four-day road trip we did from my husband’s hometown in Indiana (while visiting his family) to Niagara Falls and northern Ohio. It’s probably important to note that we did end up revising this itinerary on the fly. The weather forecast for our originally planned day at Cedar Point was not good, so we moved it up a day, then went back to Cleveland for the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame the next day instead.
My advice with your travel itinerary
- Keep it simple: Don’t overcrowd it with too much information.
- Consider the medium: I usually keep mine on a Google Doc, but if we aren’t going to have reliable access to data or wi-fi, I will forego the URL’s and keep a paper copy.
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