How to Plan an Itinerary: 10 Steps to the Best Travel Planning

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How to plan an itinerary is among the most important questions for many travelers. Planning your itinerary may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to travel planning.

However, with the right approach, it can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Crafting a well-thought-out itinerary can be the difference between a stress-free, memorable trip and a chaotic, disappointing experience.

In this guide, you will learn how to plan an itinerary with ease. You’ll discover the key steps to planning a flawless itinerary that will ensure you get the most out of your adventure.

Read more below to find out how you can create a well-structured itinerary for your next trip.

how to plan an itinerary
Learn how to plan an itinerary in 10 simple steps.

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn how to plan an itinerary using these 10 easy but essential steps, including:

Travel Planning And Itinerary Building: Tips For Planning A Well-Structured Trip

Regardless of whether it is a work or leisure trip, proper planning is always important. 

You have to be far more deliberate in your choices and in how you plan your vacation.

If not, you might find yourself getting stuck, or encountering inconveniences such as cancellations or delays. These can cost you to spend a lot of money you might never get back. 

In the worst case scenario, it could be a nightmare of a travel experience. But, if you are aware of what to do from the start, you can plan to travel and execute your plans as smoothly as possible. 

When it comes down to it, you have two options.

Either use a professional travel advisor because they are travel experts. They know what to look for and how to make sure to cater to all your needs.

Or, you can what experienced travelers do and plan it yourself. 

How to Plan an Itinerary in 10 Easy Steps

Here are some important steps to guide you on how to plan an itinerary for your next trip. That way, you get the best of both worlds and can execute it professionally.

1. Pre-Planning

Planning your trip
Pre-planning your trip is the key to a joyful journey.

You couldn’t possibly skip the pre-planning step if you want a seamless trip.

Start by visualizing what you want. You need to be 100% clear about the vacation that you want to take.

That includes everything from whether you want it to be relaxing or full of activities every second of the day. So, take some time to think about what your dream vacation is going to be. 

As you start looking at options, you’ll find there are so many choices available. In fact, it will be easy to fall down the rabbit hole and end up far away from what you wanted.

Instead, stay focused and take the time to clarify exactly what you want.

That way, as you start researching your different options, you can zero in on the items that are aligned with your vision.

2. Get Inspiration

Just like with moving houses, it’s important to find inspiration for your trip.

One of the fastest way to research potential destinations within your budget is to use online platforms like Google Flights

Such platforms allow you to set your price points. The flight you choose, the duration of your vacation, and the season you’re traveling will all affect your bottom line.

Rest assured, you will discover limitless options because you are free to choose from many different places all over the world.

Keep an open mind and and hone in on a vacation spot that suits your interests and your pocketbook.

3. Check on Travel Restrictions

Keep travel restrictions in mind when choosing a destination.

Checking travel restrictions is another part of the pre-planning stage you won’t want to skip.

Seek the most current information about any restrictions as they relate to vaccinations, other entry requirements (like visas and passport expiration windows), and potential safety concerns.

Before you set your heart on a destination, carefully consider the travel requirements. You’ll want to scrutinize all travel restrictions and advance timing in order to make a firm decision on your travel.

Finding out the range of requirements for each destination helps you in analyzing and vetting out whether it’s a viable trip.

So, look at all the available information as you’re learning how to plan an itinerary.

Then, you can decide if it’s worth it to visit this place, or if you should pick a different destination.

4. Research Your Destination

The next thing to do is to look for more details about your chosen destination.

You can use YouTube and Google to review videos, and read blog posts about the location.

Delve deeper into understanding:

  • The different regions and neighborhoods
  • Best things to do
  • What location to stay in
  • Which hotels are the best
  • Regional Cuisines
  • Safety concerns
  • Currency
  • Other details regarding the destination

Take notes on anything interesting, perhaps activities you think might interest you, as well as additional tips that may come in handy.

Basically, you want to research all the important points and write everything down. It’s a good idea to keep the details in a dedicated notebook or digital folder.

This process can take some time, but it will make the next steps easier.

5. Create an Itinerary Rough Draft 

By creating a rough draft of you’re itinerary, you are not yet committing to anything.

A good way to go about this is to block out each day of your travel plans in your notebook and pencil in potential cities, attractions, activities, and tours. You’ll want to consider how you’ll get from place to place at the destination. And don’t forget to include the days you’ll potentially be flying in and out of your destination.

As you mark up your draft and delve deeper into your research, you might discover you need to make changes.

For instance, one reason may be the activity you wish to indulge in will be closed down at the time of your visit. This might cause you to rework and rearrange all your plans–which, admittedly, is not fun.

But it’s better to find this out on paper than when you are on your trip! 

You’ll find many instances where your rough draft come in handy, like helping you work around different dates, flights, and train schedules.

The important thing is you don’t want to lock yourself into anything until you know exactly what you want, everything is available, and everything is working the way you need it to work.

Ironing out the kinks in your itinerary is something of an art form when you’re learning how to plan an itinerary. There are lot of moving parts!

But, the more you do it, the better you will become at planning your trip. 

6. Interact with Your Concierge

Interact with Your Concierge
Always make contact with your hosts prior to visiting — they’re a wealth of information!

One way you can be certain you’ve done a thorough job on the draft of your itinerary is to reach out to concierge. The concierge staff at the hotel you’re considering, or any of the hotels in the destination for that matter, can provide a treasure trove of information. 

You can discover a wealth of details about the area and this could impact your decision-making. This can be key when you’re learning how to plan an itinerary.

Concierge can recommend activities and things to do in the region you may have overlooked. This way, you’ll find out more about local customs, currency, modes of transportation, and safety. 

You’ll also get a sense of the level of service the hotel offers.

The best concierge will provide you with insightful information to help cover all of the logistics. You’ll learn about all of the little things you might have overlooked, and that will help make your vacation go much more smoothly and be far less stressful.

7. Finalize Your Itinerary

Now, consider the information you learned from the concierge and review the work you did crafting your draft itinerary. With these two things in mind, you can come up with your final plan.

This may sound counter-intuitive when figuring out how to plan an itinerary, but now is the time to remove a few items from your schedule. Chances are you’ve over-scheduled your time, as most ambitious travelers do.

The truth is, as exciting as travel is, it can be exhausting. And when you’re visiting a new place, you probably want to see as much as you can.

But over-scheduling yourself can be a mistake!

So, review your itinerary and ask yourself these important questions:

  • Have I included enough down time in my itinerary to allow for some rest and relaxation (especially if you might be jet-lagged)?
  • Do I have some unplanned time so I can take advantage of impromptu opportunities, or linger longer at especially enchanting locations?
  • Have I allowed a buffer for travel delays, missed trains, slow service, and other transitions?
  • Will I feel rushed with this itinerary, and do I want every day to be fully booked?
  • Am I physically and emotionally available to keep this pace?

Sometimes, less is more when it comes to planning your travel itinerary.

It allows you to immerse yourself in a culture and enjoy it without ping-ponging around like a crazy person. (Trust me, I’ve done this, and you’ll need a vacation after your vacation.)

At minimum, highlight the “must see and do” activity for each day. Then, consider the other items as “nice-to-do” but not essential.

Prioritizing this way takes the pressure off and will give you some flexibility within your itinerary. If you get to the top items on your list, you’ll come away feeling good about the experience. And if you get to the others, that’s even better.

But be sure to give yourself some breathing room.

8. Book Your Reservations

booking travel itinerary | Enjoy Travel Life
Book the items on your itinerary well in advance.

Once you have your adjusted final plan of what you want to do, it is time to book everything. 

And this means you want to book your:

  • Flights
  • Hotel reservations
  • Tours
  • Activities (especially tickets for the most popular attractions)
  • Ground transportation
  • Highly rated restaurants, like Michelin starred or in-demand venues

A pro tip when making reservations for hotels and flights is to book with companies that offer refunds, free cancelation (note the penalty-free date), or “reserve now, pay later” options.

This is because things can change and affect your travel. It also means you’re not locked into something if you change your mind once you reach your destination.

You also want to book your reservations using your credit card rather than a debit card, in case you need to file a dispute. Doing so puts the onus on the vendor to prove you owe the charge rather than tying up the money in your bank account until it’s resolved.

9. Keep Good Records

Almost as important as booking your reservations is keeping good records of them.

You’ll want to make note of:

  • Name of your booking and reservation dates
  • Important times, such as flight times, check-in/check-out times, and ticket admission times
  • Addresses for airports, hotels, meeting points, and attractions
  • Reservation confirmation numbers
  • Price paid (or due on arrival) and associated credit card
  • Names of anyone you spoke with or important contacts

You can keep this in your notebook (take a picture of it for good measure), or create a digital record that you can access on-the-go and share with others.

Save your confirmation receipt and print out hard-copies of all reservations, too.

10. Logistics

At this point, you want to go over all the tiny details that will help make the trip smoother and better for you and anyone else you might be traveling with.

These tiny details that are important to look at might include shipping your luggage before the trip, prior planning of transportation to different locations on the trip, checking with your credit cards for any fees or limitations when traveling abroad, and investing in travel insurance. 

As your trip nears, double check the weather and pack your bags accordingly.

In addition, you need to leave copies of all important information at home with someone you trust. That can includes:

  • Your itinerary
  • A copy of your passport
  • Credit card information
  • Medical information
  • Travel insurance information

Finally, on the day of travel remember to carry backups. You need to have a hard copy of your details and reservations in case it is needed at different checkpoints or your phone dies.

You can never be too safe.

Related: The Ultimate Documents Bag: Pack These 5 Things to Unlock Stress-Free Travel

Final Thoughts on How to Plan an Itinerary

Every good trip starts with a great plan. And now you know how to plan an itinerary.

Making early preparations helps avoid the last-minute rush, which results in a poorly planned travel. If you are traveling to a new country, don’t leave anything to chance.

Before your trip, make plans to cover your responsibilities at home while you’re away, like your home, any family members or pets, and your profession.

When you take the steps above, you will have create a well-structured plan for your upcoming trip, whether a local or international. Doing so will put your mind at ease and prepare you to truly enjoy your time away.

Bon voyage!

Jackie Gately at the beach

About Jackie Gately, editor-IN-CHIEF

I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years.

With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality.

Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! 

Follow my social channels for more inspiration.

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