Monday, September 5, 2016

How to create a travel itinerary

Whether you plan to travel the world around or to a neighboring city, whether you plan on taking planes or walking, it is a good thing to have a travel itinerary.
Back at good old times there were travel agencies one could count on to do all this for you. Nowadays, not so many.
(Frankly, I have NEVER even SEEN one in Sweden. I used to use one in Finland all the time. It was so convenient and lovely and the people working there were great. I am sad to see this occupation vanish. Any way, I went to a Swedish "travel agency", and it turned out they sell ONLY tickets to ONE buss line. If we asked any questions of ANY OTHER OPTION they told us to go somewhere else to find that information. Really! We left and never returned. There was no indication outside the local of that they ONLY represented THAT company. In fact, they had images of all kinds of travels, from Paris to Hawaii on their window :-D How they would take a person to Hawaii on a buss is a very interesting question, but I'm sure they would not have understood the satire.)

This is a very nice little information list about how to plan your travels, but creating an itinerary is a bit different thing. (It is a part of the above list, but here I'll talk a bit more about it.)

1) Write down the route
- from where to where, which places you wish to visit, which sights you wish to see.

Put this information on a map to see how these spots are located to each other, to be able to design a logical route from one place to another.

Gather all information you can of the places you plan to visit. You might find out that some places were not what you thought they'd be, and can skip them, and you might find out some places you'd hate to miss.

2) Plan the time
How long time do you have?
When do you have this time?
When are the events?
When are the museums and attractions etc. open? Some are closed on Mondays, for example, or open only during the summer etc.

How much time does transport take?
How much time do you plan on using in site? (Take a practice round at a similar place near you, for example an art museum or an amusement park. You will also notice what you need to consider. For example, in some amusement parks the food is awful and expensive, but in some amusement parks you may not take in your own food. In some museums there are restrictions on what you may bring in the show rooms. For example, purses are not allowed in the jewel room at British Museum. For some reason they allowed me to go in wearing my trench... and my purse was UNDER it... They never even asked. :-D You might need to prepare for some extra money for such purposes.)

3) Find out the travel options.
Can you fly or do you have to take a boat? How about trains and buses? Would you need to have a car, can you take your own or do you have to rent one?
Some places don't have any such access, you have to go there on your own legs, or perhaps hire a mule or some other animal whose legs you can use. :-D
Find out this information. This is available on the internet when it comes to most of the places.

Choose the travel options of your preference (but have a backup plan, because accidents happen and things change, and people usually are not aware of that you have made plans a couple of months ago so they don't know to inform you of that the buss company you planned on using has changed routes or owner...)

4) Plan your accommodation. 
Find out all the available options from hotels to couch-surfing. Don't forget bed-and-breakfast and agritourism options. Choose according to your expectations and finances.

* Now you have your initial itinerary ready.
5) You need to go through it and REALLY SERIOUSLY THINK IT THROUGH.

Does it really sound realistic and functional?
Have you planned in plenty of time to move from one place to another, all the time it takes to wait on the airport, check-ins etc.? Have you planned in what you need to do if there is for example a strike or a major accident and you won't be able to use the public transport to get you to the airport?
How have you planned around your fitness and mental demands? You might think it's easy to run through several museums and galleries a day, but it really isn't. Don't plan in more than ONE attraction every day, and give yourself a time to rest about every 3-4 days at least.
Have you considered the possible national holidays and events that might interrupt with your plans? In some countries NOTHING is "open" on Good Friday, for example.
Adjust your plans to fit your reality, your nature, your style, your preferences, not the ideal fantasy or someone else's resources.

Now you need to write this revised, final plan down. (I actually think they at Rose and Gully have a wonderful idea! You can try to copy it by your best ability.

6) Get the money
Collect all this information and how much money it costs. Divide the time between now and when you must pay (not necessarily the travel date!) and the amount of money to know how much money you MUST save each week. Save that amount and have a backup plan for those weeks you fall short of the goal. If you do that, you either need to find more sources/less drains for money or move your trip forward.

7) Get the tickets, reservations etc.
Do this in good time. A week can make 100s of Euros' difference!

First you need to check that your passport is valid, and what kind of travel restrictions they have.
You might need a visa, some vaccinations etc.
You are not welcome to some countries if you have AIDS.
Some countries don't allow you in if you have been in some other countries.
Also find out about the restrictions when it comes to what you may bring with you. Australia is infamous about the "no plant/animal material that might have seeds/pollen/other alien lifeforms attached".
There are also restrictions about certain medicins and cosmetics, etc.
Also, remember that you may not take anything you like with you in a plane, like knitting needles and nail scissors.

Book the "biggest things" first. The hotel where you will stay the longest, the longest travels from place to place, the most important "must not miss" events and happenings, then the "small" ones.

Collect all the necessary information in one place and have an electric backup somewhere online where you can reach it even if you loose all the papers. You can also leave copies to a trusted friend whom you can call if need be to get that information.

I would really recommend getting a travel folder, of leather or other sturdier material, small like the one pictured, with pockets for all the papers.
And I suggest you print out the information on A4 and fold it in three (that would be DL envelope size). (Frankly, if you learn to use that format of paper (DL envelope size) in stead of A4, your life will be much easier. Most of the information fits on paper that way too, takes less space and is easier to eye through. But as it is now, most printers are designed to use A4 size paper. So much so that in USA it's called "printer size" :-D)

the names - hotel, airline, buss company, train company etc.
numbers - flight number, buss route number etc.
reservation/confirmation numbers
telephone numbers and names of people you need to reach if something happens

directions, maps, photos of your hotel, the air port, station etc. You need to know how to get from the airport to the hotel and how to get to the airport yourself. Now-a-days it is easy with google maps etc.

information about the local public transport, fees, hours of operation, how to use them, if you need a pass etc. and taxi companies numbers etc.

information about eating out and grocery shopping in the area of your hotel (how much does food cost, what extra costs you need to expect, tipping, manners etc.

how to ship home larger objects if you happen to find anything you just must have

address list of friends and relatives you wish to send a postcard

Also include
- medical information
- emergency contact numbers
- your nation's embassy/consulate number and address

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