Depending on how spontaneous a traveller you are, creating a travel itinerary can be a great help to planning your upcoming adventure.
As much as we wish we could be, we are not spontaneous travellers. We are often taking time off from work, have a limited time in each country/city we’re visiting and don’t want to miss out on anything significant or important from poor planning.
When you’re travelling on limited time like we normally do, it really pays to create a travel itinerary before you leave so you don’t waste time trying to organise transfers and activities while you’re over there. Here’s a few steps to how we plan our perfect travel itinerary.
The first thing to think about before anything else is the time of the year that you’re thinking of travelling and what the weather will be like at your destination at that time.
If you’re like us, always looking to get away from cold and miserable weather and seeking the sunshine, you don’t want to accidentally book your trip during the winter of your destination, or even the rainy season if you’re travelling to a tropical location. We’re not fussed about travelling during peak travel times if it means we’re looking at beautiful sunny weather!
1. Book your main flights
We always start with the main flights, international or domestic. What day are we departing and returning to Australia? We will normally check out which days are the cheapest and most convenient to travel before we apply for any annual leave.
Figure out what days are best for you, keeping in mind working weekends and public holidays into your trip in the best possible way. The more weekends and public holidays you can work into your time off, the less annual leave you need to take.
We will normally organise or at least discuss annual leave with work and then book the main international flights first. Of course, if you’re travelling for something special, like a music festival, wedding, event, etc, always make sure that works into your plans first.
2. Figure out where you’re going and the best way to get there
I usually start this by grabbing a scrap piece of paper and writing down all the dates that we are away – from the first date that we leave Australia to the date we return.
Then we work out the different destinations we will be travelling to, what order of destinations makes the most geographical sense (which cities have direct flights or are driving distance with great stops along the way) and how long we want to spend in each country/city. Then check out the smaller flights.
Using the plan we’ve created, we’ll take a look at what days we can get direct flights on, what days are the cheapest to travel and just what makes the most sense to ensure minimal time spent travelling around. This may involve tweaking your original plan, as it may be cheaper or easier to fly a day or two either side of your original plans. We try to book as many direct flights as we can to minimise the time spent waiting around at airports, so if we have to change my flights to be a day earlier or later we will always take that option!
A great way to figure this out is to use a website like Skyscanner, which lets you choose options like direct flights only and weed out all the options that you wouldn’t be interested in. It’s also super easy to find results from all the different airlines and booking pages, so you can see not only the different flight paths and times, but also how much they are on all the different booking sites.
Always use a comparison sight when looking for flights and accommodation so that you can compare the prices and make sure you’re not booking an overpriced deal.
3. Then book your internal flights
Our next step is usually to book all of the internal domestic or international flights, which then confirms our plan and works as a solid foundation for where we’re going to be on each date. If you’re booking on lots of different airlines and websites (for example, if you’re planning a European itinerary) make sure you check out the change and cancellation policy of each airline, as well as the luggage and extras policy.
Whenever you can definitely book and pay for your luggage and seats in advance to avoid hassles later on. You don’t want to be told your luggage can’t fit on the plane mid way through a multi-stop trip or that you can’t sit next to your partner on a long haul flight.
4. Start planning the fun stuff
After the skeleton of the plan has been confirmed and all the flights have been booked, then you can start organising the fun stuff! Check out accommodation options in each destination and start figuring out the activities and attractions that you want to visit.
We generally don’t plan activities down to the day unless we’re only spending one or two nights in a certain place, but it’s always good to check out the details of each activity you’re interested in case some of them book out months in advance (like the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour in London) or can’t be booked last minute. Always make a list of the places you want to visit in each destination to make sure you don’t miss or forget about anything while you’re there.
When you’re planning the fun stuff it’s also always good to plan the logistics. Make sure there are ways to get to and from where you want to go on the days you’re visiting, that tours run on those days and that there’s no annoying surprises (like religious or public holidays) that might get in your way. Print out a hard copy of everything you might need, like bus or ferry timetables in case you don’t have access to the internet or can’t find the information you need in the moment.
Planning out our trips and creating a travel itinerary is definitely what works best for me. It means when we get to our trip we can spend more time exploring and enjoying the destination rather than needing to figure out where we’re going next, how we’re getting there and where we’re going to sleep next.
Starting each itinerary with a dated plan has also allowed me to save money by checking out all different travel dates and options to get between the two destinations. It’s crazy how much of a price difference you can find between two days in a row!