After booking a vacation, most travelers like to come up with some sort of plan or itinerary. What will you do each day? How will you get from place to place? What attractions do you really want to see? These are all very important questions when it comes down to planning your trip. However, there are many vacation itinerary mistakes travelers commonly make.
Especially if you are traveling internationally, a solid itinerary is the key to a successful trip. Without one, you might run into time crunches, closed attractions you wanted to see, or getting lost! Plus, you might not be able to see everything you wanted to while there.
A vacation itinerary should be more than just a few ideas of things you want to do and see. We like to create a general schedule of what we will do each day, how to get there, times things are open, etc.
Having a few ideas for each day helps us stay on track and hit all the things we wanted to see while being open enough for wandering and exploring whatever comes out way. Without it, we would be staring at each other wondering what to do each day!
Since you only have a small amount of time at your destination, you will want to make the most of it! Don’t waste your precious time trying to figure out what to do and how to get there- do all that work ahead of time so you can enjoy yourself!
Even if you just plan a couple of things each day, you will feel better knowing you have some sort of game plan once you get there! This will save you from the stress that comes with planning- since you already did this hard part!
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Vacation Itinerary Mistake #1: Not making one at all!
This point was touched on in the discussion above, but it is so important that we needed to address it again! Not making a vacation itinerary at all has got to be one of the worst mistakes you can make when planning a trip.
Think about it. You arrive at your destination, get off the airplane, now what? How are you getting to your hotel? Where is your hotel? Where should you eat for dinner?
While it is understandable some travelers like to go where the wind takes them, it is still helpful to have some kind of game plan to follow- at least for the important things. Things like getting from the airport to your hotel, general transportation to get around town, popular places to check out, etc. At the very least, have these things planned!
Not having a vacation itinerary can lead to a lot of stress, especially if you have never been to that destination before. There may be unwritten rules about the area you are not aware of, certain areas to avoid, or cultural norms you are blind to!
You should enjoy your travels, not spend half the time figuring out where you are and what you’re doing. Plus, without research ahead of time, you might completely miss an attraction that you otherwise would have wanted to visit!
Spend some time before your visit crafting an itinerary. It does not have to be perfectly detailed, just enough to make you feel more comfortable about what you are doing on your trip!
We make our itinerary in a simple Google doc. You can access our template by signing up for our newsletter!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #2: Overloading each day
Most of the time time, you will only have a short amount of time to spend at your destination. Because of this, you will want to pack in as much as you can into your short trip!
We are definitely guilty of doing this. You never know if you will ever be back, so you want to see and do it all while you can! Sometimes it can be exhausting, but we personally love that!
For others, having too much on their schedule can be overwhelming, and for good reason. This is where prioritizing comes into play.
When making your travel itinerary, you will want to prioritize events. What are the things you must do while visiting, and what are some things you just want to do? Make sure you plan the things you must do first, followed by the latter.
This will help ensure you get to see and do all the things you really wanted to do while adding in some other fun things as well!
Research how long travelers typically spend at that location, attraction, etc., to get a sense of how long you will need to plan for. Think about how long you think you will spend there. This will help you carve out time in your schedule to spend here.
By doing so, you can get an idea of how many other things you can add to that day. For example, if one thing only takes an hour or two, you can probably fit more things into that day than if one thing takes 5 hours.
Don’t forget to account for transportation, meals, and relaxation. Always give yourself some leeway so you can explore if you find something interesting along the way!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #3: Not planning days before and after the trip
This is one mistake that is often overlooked. When planning your travel itinerary, travelers tend to just think about the days of the actual trip- not the days before and after.
However, the days before and after your trip are just as important to plan as each day of your trip. If you don’t plan the days prior to your travels, you might not be prepared and this can lead to stress! If you don’t plan the days after you get home, you can get overwhelmed by getting back into the daily routine, wiping away all your relaxation from your travels.
In the days leading up to your vacation, follow this pre travel checklist. This will guide you through everything you need to do before leaving for your vacation. Packing tips, household chores, paying bills, and more!
As far as the days after your vacation goes, follow this post vacation checklist. This will walk you through everything you should do once you get home, to take some stress off your shoulders! Additionally, coming home from traveling can lead to some sadness, so make sure you read out a guide on how to combat post vacation depression.
Having a plan for the days before and after your trip will save you from cramming everything you need to do all at once. You want your travel experience to be as stress-free as possible, and this will help ease some travel-related stresses!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #4: Not having backup ideas
The last thing you want to think about when looking at your vacation itinerary is things not working out. However, traveling is like that! Sometimes your plans just don’t work out as you hoped, and that’s ok- as long as you planned for it.
Whenever traveling, you should plan and expect that at least some times aren’t going to go as planned. However, if you come up with some backup plans, you won’t need to stress as much!
Maybe there is an unexpected rainstorm, and now you are unable to take the kids to that amusement park. What if your flight gets delayed, and you miss a day of your trip? Maybe a place you wanted to visit is under construction or temporarily closed. There are some things you can’t always know, but you can have a backup!
For each day of your itinerary, check to see what is around the area you would be visiting. See if there is anything else that looks interesting in the area that you would want to see if you have extra time.
Maybe your schedule can be flexible enough to swap days if something like weather interferes with your plans. It is always a good idea to have some indoor plans ready to suggest in the event that it is rainy or too cold to be outside.
Additionally, having backup ideas can also be used as time fillers. Maybe you left the park before you expected, or that show didn’t last as long as you thought. You might find yourself with extra time during your travels, so why not have some extra ideas just in case! This is better than trying to find a last-minute thing to do!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #5: Forgetting to look at days/hours of attractions
Confession: we once made our entire itinerary without checking the hours of operation of places we were visiting. Luckily, we realized before actually traveling, because some of the days we had planned to visit were the days it was closed!
Especially when traveling internationally, be sure to look at holidays and observances of your destination, as these can affect the hours. For example, we once wanted to visit a specific church on a Thursday. Come to find out, it is closed on Thursdays. Who would have thought?!
Without knowing this, you could get all the way there only to realize it is closed. Now your whole schedule is thrown off! Instead, make sure to research times and days of anything you are visiting, just to be sure!
We have also found it helpful to write down hours that places are open on our itinerary, just in case we are running early or behind schedule. This way, we know if we are able to visit something at a different time than planned.
This goes for restaurants as well. In other countries, restaurants are open at different times than you might be used to. If you want to visit a specific restaurant, make sure you know their hours so you don’t show up for lunch only to find out they don’t open until 7!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #6: Not taking into consideration location/route
When planning what you will do each day of your vacation, make sure you consider where things are in relation to each other.
Try to cluster your schedule. Aim to see all the places in one day that are close to each other. You won’t want to be running from one side of town to the other 5 times a day! Instead, pick one pocket of town, and hit all the attractions in that area during the same day.
If you don’t do this, you might find you will run out of time to get everything done, because you are spending so much time just getting from place to place! Plus, this can cost you unnecessary transportation costs.
Read more about budget travel hacks to save you hundreds here!
When planning your itinerary, take a look at the map of the area. Take note of what things are close together, or at least relatively nearby. You might even find other interesting things to do you didn’t know about!
Looking at the map also helps travelers get a sense of where things are in relation to your hotel, which can help when you are figuring out directions. Get a lay of the land, and you will feel more comfortable with your surroundings!
It feels better to know general directions of things and where you are, rather than having no idea where anything is!
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #7: Not planning transportation
Not planing transportation is one of the biggest vacation itinerary mistakes travelers make. Even if you have your own car or have a car rental, you should still take some time to figure out how you will get from place to place.
For example, if you have a car and are going to a certain attraction, how much is parking? Is it worth it to drive, or should you just take the bus or subway?
Get a sense of what parking options are like near the attractions you plan to visit. Read reviews of what traffic is like where you are visiting, and if there are any alternative routes you can take during rush hour.
If you don’t have a car, what are the public transportation options? Should you buy a day pass? For which days?
Get a general sense of the public transportation system before traveling. What are the subway routes like? How close is the nearest stop to your hotel? Does it take you everywhere you need to go, or will you need a taxi or Uber?
We also suggest writing down in your itinerary how long it takes to get from place to place. This will help you get a sense of how much you can fit into your schedule for each day. Otherwise, you might be on the subway for 45 minutes when you planned it would only take 10.
Vacation Itinerary Mistake #8: Forgetting to write down details
While you are doing your research in the area, don’t forget to write all the details down! Chances are you are going to forget every little thing you read.
For example, remember to write down hours of operation on your schedule for each attraction or place, just in case you run ahead or behind schedule.
If you needed to buy tickets in advance, be sure to write down that you already purchased tickets- AND where to find them. Are they in your email? Who’s email? Maybe you printed them out- where are they? Did you sign up for a time slot? What time?
Writing down addresses can also be helpful, just in case your GPS gets messed up, or you need to ask a local for directions.
Take note of how long it takes to get from place to place, so you don’t forget to account for transportation times. Write down walking times too, just in case you decide to walk instead of taking the subway.
Additionally, write down all your backup ideas at the end of your itinerary, and any restaurant recommendations you have received. You can use this list as a reference if you ever need it during your trip!
Make sure to write down any of the little details you might need to know about any event on your itinerary, so you are fully prepared for anything!