Building an itinerary for your holiday can be an intimidating experience. Do you set up a budget and work backwards on the places you can afford to see? Or do you prepare a comprehensive list of things to do and try doing them all during your holiday? The right answer to these questions depends on what you want your holiday to be. Some travelers prefer a relaxed holiday and are okay with compromising on the list of things to do, while others want to soak up everything on offer during their holiday.
Prepare a Comprehensive Attractions List
Forget your budget or duration of stay. The first thing to do is to prepare a comprehensive list of things to see and do at your holiday destination. This should include everything right from the local attractions to the restaurants you want to try. Do not try to filter out anything at this point. The objective is to prepare a master list of things you want to do at your destination. If you are planning to visit more than one city for your holiday, prepare multiple lists of attractions.
Pin These Attractions On A Map
Once you have a comprehensive list of things to do and see in a city, put these attractions on a map. This way, you will be able to identify the geographic proximity of these various attractions and create a cluster of items that you could enjoy in a day’s outing. For instance, from the map below, it is evident that a visitor to Sydney could explore the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge together before traveling to Bondi beach.
Google MyMaps is the most popular way to locate the various attractions on a map. There are other tools like MapCustomizer that provide bulk-entry options to input all your places to see all at once.
Group Attractions Into Clusters
Now that you have a good idea of where the various attractions are located, the next step is to prepare a spreadsheet where you can list down these various attractions in groups. The objective of this step is to see how you can reorder the various attractions in order to fit them within a day or two of your itinerary. In the Sydney itinerary above, you may find that the Sea Aquarium is open in the afternoon but the Harbour Bridge Climb does not happen until evening. Knowing this, you may reorder the listings within a group to chart the things to do from morning until evening on a given day.
There are some things to consider here. There may be instances where you may not be able to fit all the attractions in a group within a day. You may now decide whether to spend an extra day at the same place in order to see everything or if you could skip some attractions. Other times, you may also find that all the attractions in a group can be covered in just half a day. In this case, you can merge this group with another that may be covered within a single day.
Estimate Costs Of Each Item In The List
You may skip this step if you are not a budget-conscious traveler. However, if you do not want to overspend, the next step is to estimate how much you could be spending at each place. Add a new column in your spreadsheet and enter an estimated expense against each of these attractions. This could include entry fee, transport fares, as well as food, if you want to be really precise with your budget estimation. Your spreadsheet now looks something like this.
Carry out this process for all the planned destinations on your holiday. This way, you will be able to get a gross estimate of how much you could be spending in all. If this gross estimate is higher than your planned budget, you might look at removing or replacing items in your itinerary with alternate attractions from the same geographical cluster. One rule of thumb is to remember that your actual expenses are always likely to be higher than your estimate.
Prepare a Draft Itinerary
You now have a complete list of places to visit and the number of days you will spend in each city on your holiday list. The next step is to prepare a draft itinerary to capture all your activities from the date of departure till you come back home. You could make use of Google Sheets or cloud-based apps like GrowRadius to flush out all the necessary details regarding your travel plans in one document. The benefit of using dedicated itinerary planner tools is that it is easy to share your itinerary with friends and family, collaborate with the people you are traveling with, as well as get anonymous feedback from strangers on the internet. Make sure that you take into account everything while deciding on the number of things to do in a day. This includes flight travel time, layovers, time for lunch/dinners, commuting to and from the hotel, etc.
Collaborate & Finalize
Once your draft itinerary is ready, you need to do two things before finalizing your plans. The first is to share it with the people you are traveling with to get their opinions. You may also share it with traveler communities online to get feedback on your itinerary as well as to make sure that you haven’t missed out on any must-dos at your holiday destination. The second thing to do is to estimate your expenses for various alternatives. For instance, if your itinerary includes a week each in Sydney and Melbourne, you could decide the landing destination and where you will depart from based on your flight ticket prices.
Once you have aggregated feedback from everyone and have double-checked the budget estimates, you may draw up the final itinerary. Following the steps above should ensure that you not only explore all the must-see places in your holiday destination, but that you are also able to do it within your planned budget.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com