Exhausted, broke and disappointed. . . . . . . . not words most want to use when describing their vacation. After all vacations are usually what we save up all year (sometimes two or three) for so that we can relax right?
My husband and I have been on a few vacations over the course of our marriage. Some were to places for pleasure, some to visit family. The first few, however, had a continuing theme. We returned back exhausted, broke and disappointed. After sitting down and thinking about things we had realized what we were doing wrong. We knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go but didn’t have a solid plan. We didn’t have an itinerary. It was at this point that we decided to build itineraries for our trips and we have been doing it ever since.
Having an itinerary is like having a specialized roadmap made to accommodate your specific wants and needs. Most importantly it helps you organize the places you want to go, the things you want to see, how to get there and when to do it so that by the time you get to your destination there is no stress or critical thinking required. You quite literally just have to go.
Making an itinerary doesn’t have to be difficult either, especially in today’s age of technology where everything is right at our fingertips. In just a few clicks you can find out all the information you need, plug it into a word document and before you can say “control-p-print” you’re done.
So how does one go about making an itinerary? It’s quite simple actually!
The first thing you need to do is decide on your must see locations. A must see location is anything that you simply can’t go home without experiencing. This might be a tourist attraction, restaurant, historic site or anything else you can think of. Once you have all of your must see locations listed briefly research the areas nearby those locations. This will allow you to see what other small attractions, restaurants and/or sites may be in the area that you may also want to check out.
HINT: During this entire process be sure to note the hours of operation, seasonal closures, admission fees and any other important details. This will come in very useful later.
With everything listed it’s time to organize all your locations and start to plug them into the dates of your trip. There are many ways to do this but I find it most beneficial to start by organizing each location individually. The way I do this is by taking one of the areas around a must see location and making myself a linear path. This prevents back tracking and ultimately wasting time and energy. Once that is completed I try to see which locations (or more appropriately groups of locations) can be put together possibly on the same day if necessary. This will ultimately cut down on excessive transportation costs.
NOTE: It may not be necessary to group multiple locations into one day. I usually only do this if I am trying to save money and/or if I only have a limited number of days to work with.
With everything organized all that’s required now is to pop the locations into the dates of your trip. This is the part where knowing operation hours and seasonal closures is important. I also like to go so far as to put a round-a-bout time for everything that I have planned. For example we leave the hotel at 7AM get to location A for 8AM spend a few hours there and grab lunch at a nearby cafe around 11AM. The benefit of doing this (in my opinion) is that it keeps your trip on somewhat of a schedule. If you go off it there’s no huge problem but at least you know where you intended to go and when. This also is a good way to make sure you don’t show up to a location a few hours before it opens.
Take one last look over the itinerary that you just created and make any special notes that you find necessary. I like to add important information such as what time check-in is at a particular hotel, whether or not credit cards are accepted or even “safety restaurants”. You can also customize your itinerary to meet the specific needs of your family. The possibilities are endless!
NOTE: “Safety Restaurants” are what I call places that picky eaters can find something to eat in a pinch. For example KFC, McDonalds and Subway. Convenience stores are also good places to note. Although they are not what some would describe as ideal they are a “safe” place to get familiar food if needed.
That’s it. . . . . you’re done! Now all that’s left to do is head out on your vacation and enjoy yourself!
OTHER HELPFUL HINTS:
* If possible arrange to visit popular tourist attractions during weekdays rather than weekends when they tend to be more crowded.
* Be sure to have a plan for a rainy day. That way if it does rain you don’t have to waste time trying to figure out what to do. . . . . you’ll already know!
*Try to arrange at least one meal per day especially if visiting a fast paced place like Tokyo.