How I Start the Trip Itinerary Planning Process
I’m happy to announce Mom and I are headed ‘cross the pond next year! A few days in Paris, a day or two in Bath, and then a few days in London. This will be my third time to London, my second time to Paris and my first time to Bath and I am so excited! My mom has never been to Europe before so I’m extra excited to experience that with her.
We’re still early into the trip planning stages but I’m using my usual map-based method for planning where we stay and what days we do what. I used this in Toronto last summer and Montreal the year before that and it worked like a charm. This method is useful when you’re staying in one town or city for at least a few days and if you plan on walking to most destinations.
1. Make a wish list of the attractions you and your travel companions want to see.
This is pretty standard in the trip planning process, but it’s always the first step. If your trip is multi-destination, divide up your wish list by city/town.
2. Estimate how long you will spend in each location.
Do your research or ask folks online about how long each attraction might take. Sometimes websites don’t show these or they make them look much smaller or much bigger than they actually are. Also, consider what kind of traveler you are. Example: Colby and I are especially good at museums—we can whip through a medium-sized museum in an hour, two at most.
3. Google Maps is your friend.
Using Google Maps, add all your wish list items to your “Places” by clicking on the location and then clicking the “Save” icon.
I use Maps’ “Want to Go” default list option but you could even create a new list just for your trip. This will add a little green flag to the location whenever you go back to Google Maps. If you use the Google Trips app, all your saved locations will appear in there too. It’s super handy.
Here’s what Google Maps looks like for me right now when I view London.
You’ll need to double check walking (or transit) times between each location but I can easily see The Old Operating Theatre Museum is only about a 10-minute walk from Shakespeare’s Globe so we’ll obviously do those in one day. The Tower of London is only a 16-minute walk from that so I’ll add that to the same day.
While figuring out your routes, keep an eye on locations near your planned destinations. You may find hidden gems you didn’t even know existed.
4. Take note of open hours/days.
It always sucks to show up somewhere and find it closed. When possible, start your day with the attractions that open the earliest. They’re usually pretty quiet when they first open and it leaves you with lots of time to do one or two more things on the same day.
5. Be realistic about your travel style.
Are you a fast walker? Are you comfortable using public transportation? Do you stop and read every sign? Don’t forget to leave room in your schedule for surprise stops (I call this “planned spontaneity”) and meals!
Trip planning is one of my favorite activities. It’s one of the few times when my perfectionist/obsessive personality actually comes in handy.
What kind of traveler are you? Do you use a strict itinerary, go with the flow or something in between?
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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.