Love the idea of traveling, but you’re not confident (yet) in your plan-making skills? We have you covered with a step-by-step guide to making a killer travel itinerary that is sure to give you an unforgettable vacation. All it takes is a little research, a few notes, and google maps.
DO A LITTLE RESEARCH UPFRONT
If you see a cheap flight deal and are tempted to click “book,” – do a little bit of research first to see what the destination offers. Make sure this place and time are what you are looking for before purchasing your flight! You don’t need to know or make plans yet, but just get a few base ideas to ensure the time frame and time of year is best for you and your precious PTO.
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
If you’re searching for a specific destination and time, set a google alert so you’ll receive an email if the price of your desired flight changes. We highly recommend becoming a fare drop member for destinations or timeframes you’re not actively stalking or set on. Need more ways to find flight deals? Check out our blog on how to find the best flight deals.
After you’ve booked the flight, it’s time to book your stay! It’s essential to be mindful of your priorities during your stay, as this is one of the most significant factors in a travel budget. Accommodation budgets truly depend on the trip’s location, length, and goal. For example: while we’d love to pay $150 or less for a classic 4-star hotel anywhere we go, not every destination offers the same pricing. We’ll estimate to spend $70-$150 in a mid-range city and $150-$300 in a major city for a 4-star level accommodation.
If you spend most of the time exploring the city and don’t find hotels and their amenities vital to an unforgettable trip, don’t blow your budget on a fancy stay. Instead, save that money for other adventures and book somewhere more basic. The exact opposite could be said of a relaxing destination where the primary goal is to chill out and stay at the resort.
Once you determine your accommodation budget, make a google doc and list a few of the most notable and interesting hotels or Airbnbs within that price range. Make sure to note how much tacked-on resort fees will be, as most hotels have them, and those price differences can make all the difference in overall cost! From there, put those hotels on a google map for that destination to visually represent accommodation location options.
But hold up! We’re not booking yet. Never book the hotel until you have a few essential travel plans first! Being centrally located to what you want to do most can make or break a vacation.
FIND POINTS OF INTEREST
Whether you’re looking forward to food, views, or major attractions, just start pinning and googling! If you’re a foodie, start notating must-visit restaurants or bars. If you’re into exploring cities, start searching for “top things to do” in your destination, find overlapping mentions, and note those. Watch a lot of travel vloggers and follow travelers on Instagram or Tiktok to continue to gather inspiration. If you’re into hidden gems, check out Atlas Obscura to find interesting lesser-known points and why they’re cool. Once you’ve established a few key points of interest, add those to google maps.
Once you can locate any common crossover region for key points of interest, find the best hotel for the price within the budget nearest that region or section of the city. If there are any ties, I’ll do one more search on Instagram and Google reviews to try to choose the one with the best reviews or most perks.
MAKE A GENERAL DAY PLAN
Once the hotel is booked, make a general road map of the day based on things you do daily. For example, no matter where you are, you wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with snacks or drinks, then wind down and go back to sleep. The same goes for when you’re on vacation, but you get to add fun stuff instead of work, meetings, and responsibilities. Therefore, add in times to explore and the transit time to and from exploring, and boom – you have good bones to build a solid itinerary.
Once you know your crucial points of interest, check opening hours and reviews of best times to go and plan those visits into your schedule accordingly.
Schedule meal times and snacks! Whether it’s somewhere to commute to or planned to be near an attraction, make sure you leave enough time for transportation and to enjoy your meal.
LIST IT OUT
Make a list for each day that includes travel times (like boarding & flight departures and arrivals), check-in/out times, and time frames for visiting attractions, dining, and moving around the city. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with plans every day! Look at your plans and intentions, and make sure you leave room to breathe and enjoy yourself. Time to kick back and enjoy sunrises and sunsets can be planned too!
MAKE DINING RESERVATIONS & PURCHASE ATTRACTION TICKETS
Once you know where you want to visit, its time to make your reservations and book your tickets! Don’t leave visits to chance. Be intentional about a few must-do points in the day, so you have room to explore, adventure, and make other spontaneous decisions while not being let down that you didn’t get to do, eat, or try something you really want.
FILL IN ITINERARY GAPS AND REARRANGE
Sometimes you don’t get the reservation times you plan! Make sure you update your itinerary accordingly. From there, you’ll do the final tweaks.
CONGRATULATIONS – YOU HAVE A PLAN!
Make sure to keep watch of any reservation updates! Flight times are known to change, and you never know what could change in this ever-changing world. Keep your mind open, expectations malleable, and hope high. Thanks so much for reading, and happy travels!