Planning an unforgettable vacation or a honeymoon that’s a perfect match for your horoscope is SO exciting — but it can be seriously overwhelming too. From picking the right place to stay (amazing Airbnb, anyone?) to nailing down the sights you want to see and everything you want to do, there are tons of details to consider. To get a good sense of how to plan the perfect itinerary, we chatted with a few frequent fliers and seasoned adventurers. Their tips will help you plan your trip from start to finish, all without missing a single thing.
1. First, Flights: According to the well-traveled, flights come first. Before you can plan anything, you need to know where you’re going and when. Adventure lover Jenny McClary says, “We always pick a central location first and then it snowballs from there — everything else falls into place as we research what to do along the way.”
Nowadays, there are tons of easy ways to find and book flights online. If you have lots of time before you want to leave, you can set up price alerts for your destination using Kayak, watch trends on Hipmunk or try your hand at hacking cheap airfare. If you’re looking to jet sooner, sites like lastminute.com might be a better bet.
2. Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn: Whether you’ll spend your time exploring a single spot or traveling to a couple of different ones, book your accommodations right after nailing down your flights. Pay special attention to cancellation policies if you think your plans are subject to change.
When it comes to scoring the perfect spot to call home while away from yours, be sure to do your research and think about the kind of experience you want. Will you need close access to public transit? Do you prefer to stay near a city center so everything is accessible by foot? Do you want sweet views? Check online Q&A threads, ask friends or search for travel guides that’ll help you make the best choice for the type of trip you want to have.
JB from Will Fly for Food shares, “I Google ‘best place to stay in (destination)’ to find the most convenient areas to find a hotel. Once I’ve made a short list of hotels in our price range, I choose the best one based on its TripAdvisor reviews and make a reservation through booking.com. I like this site the best because it gives me the flexibility to cancel without penalties should a better deal pop up.” Solid.
3. Totes Take Notes: Listing out all of the things you definitely want to eat, see and do while traveling is a good way to ensure that you don’t miss them — and that you can use your time super productively. Whether it’s two things or 20, jot down any cafe, museum, park, activity or anything else that you don’t want to go home without experiencing.
Next, figure out the general location for each experience so you can cluster them up to make the most of the time you have. This way, you won’t be zig-zagging back and forth between similar spots while wasting cash and time. To make it even easier, JB swears by the Sygic travel app. He notes, “Once I’ve decided which attractions and restaurants to visit, I put it all together in an itinerary using the app. I make sure to print out all pertinent information as well, like addresses, estimated costs, subway stations, etc. for easy reference.”
4. Pre-Book and Make Resos Early and Often: Will you need tickets to do certain activities or visit attractions like museums? Once you know how long you’ll be in each location and where you’re staying during your trip, you should work those into your itinerary. Book any tickets you can in advance to save tons of time waiting in line once you’re ready to visit each site, and note how much time you think you’ll spend at each. Jacquie Whitt from Adios Adventure Travel, a company that helps people visit popular sights in Peru, agrees. She says, “You definitely need to know which activities to pre-book and what can be left to chance. For example, we never recommend that people wait until they arrive in Cusco before buying their train tickets and entry tickets to Machu Picchu. Even if there are entry tickets available, train tickets are subject to sell out at certain times. However, there are activities, hikes and tours which can be scheduled *after* arrival in Peru.”
If you’re not sure which things you want to do fall into each bucket, you can look on sites like Trippy, TripAdvisor or even Google to get deets from those travelers who have been there, done that. The same goes for restaurants you want to visit. Make your reservations in advance and pencil them into your itinerary as soon as you’ve set the date and time. Easy peasy.
5. Keep an Open Mind and Schedule: “I find that the ultimate travel itinerary is having the luxury to choose how to spend your time and where after you’ve arrived,” Kristen Kellogg from Border Free Travels tells us. “In my opinion, over planning can really kill an adventure.” Since we totes agree that exploring without an agenda can be the essence of a great trip, we think it’s a fab idea to pencil in some free time for whatever might pop onto your radar once you’re already at your destination and have plotted out the things you MUST see and do. If you’re someone who loves to plan, you might just leave a few hours each day free (after dinner, for example) or block off a scheduled day without a single plan.
Where are you headed next? Tag us in your pics on Instagram @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)