People ask me all the time what travel agents/sites/companies I use. I don’t use any! I create my itinerary all by myself, which works best for me because (1) I’m kind of a control freak and (2) I get to research each place myself and decide what I would like to see and what I would rather skip. For example, I’m a vegan, so I’m not about to go on the meat and cheese tour in Paris. But I am very much looking forward to visiting a lot of parks and gardens. By planning your own itinerary, you get to decide what is most important to you – and this is the best way to ensure that you won’t be going on any tours or adventures that you aren’t super excited about.
I plan my itinerary in steps.
Step 1: go to Google Maps. Print out a map of the area that you are going. I am going to Western Europe, so I printed the following map.
Step 2: Pick your destinations. I circled the cities that I would like to spend time in. A very useful tip: do not ever double back. This will waste time that you could spend enjoying a new town. Also, know that you will not be able to see everything in one trip. I would love to go to Ireland some day, I would love to go to Greece and Croatia (and I will!), but I will not be going to any of those places this time around. I also would like to spend an extended amount of time in Spain and Italy, but I will not be doing that this time around. I try to make the best with the time that I have, and make sure that I have time to really enjoy each place I go. I consider this trip an introduction to Europe for me, as it is my first time visiting there.
Step 3: Research each place you are going. I scoured TripAdvisor and Google to find the most recommended places to go in each city that I circled. I also make sure to leave room for unexpected trips. I am planning to befriend locals, as they always know the best places to go, and that is one of the most efficient ways to learn about the culture of the place you are visiting.
Step 4: Using a word program, I create a list of the cities that I am going to (in order), with a list of things I would like to do in each city. I decide how long I will be in each city by the length of the list of things to do. I am very aware that my itinerary will most likely NOT go according to plan, and that is fine with me, but I do know that I would like some specific things to go according to plan. For example, I want to spend Christmas in Paris. I want to spend New Years in Barcelona. I am willing to move around other destinations if I need to to make sure this happens. Being flexible while travelling is super important.
That pretty much sums up how I create my itinerary. I make sure to create lists of things that I know I would like to see, but a lot of this trip I plan on spending making new friends, learning new languages, trying new foods, and forfeiting parts of my itinerary. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂