After you have confirmed you will be visiting a new destination, the excitement of preparing for the trip is unbeatable. Once the dates for the trip have been confirmed in the calendar, the reality truly sets in. But here is the big question: Do you arrive at the destination and wing it, or do you prefer to have a clearly thought-out travel itinerary?
As an experienced traveller, I have experimented with both approaches. Personality, travel style and purpose of the trip dictate the most appropriate approach to this. Below I’ll share my insights into travel planning and offer guidance to fellow adventurers who appreciate having a plan while remaining open to spontaneity. As in life, plans don’t always play out exactly as desired however, and when in doubt it is good to have one to fall back on.
How much time do you have?
Determining how much time you have in your chosen destination sets the foundation of your entire plan.
What’s the geographical scope for your trip?
Decide if you want to explore just one city or venture out to surrounding areas. Your travel style and interests will play a role in this decision
Determine your budget
Establish how much you want to spend in your destination. This should include accommodation, activities and food (assuming you have already deducted transport costs)
Obtain insider tips
Ask for recommendations from friends or family who have visited the destination. They may provide valuable insights and recommendations
Use Online Resources
Travel inspiration is plentiful on the interwebs these days – use Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube, travel blogs or Google. However, refrain from overdoing this as you may overwhelm yourself with to much information. You will get to experience it for yourself when you arrive
Create an Activity List
Based on your interests and budget, put together a list of activities you would like to experience at the destination.
Consider Guided Tours
In some places, guided tours can be a fantastic way to explore and learn about local culture and history. They also make logistics simpler as they may sometimes bundle up multiple activities together, making your trip smoother. If you book a group tour you may also meet other travellers from all over the world, who also share their experiences and provide a different lens to your experience. I rarely book private tours alone unless it’s a very unique experience like the favela tour, I did in Roccina, Rio or specific tours I wanted to do on Lombok island and Zanzibar island (however that is also because I usually travel solo and therefore it may be too expensive or sometimes I like group tours for meeting other travellers)
Determine your priorities
What’s the primary focus of your trip? Is it adventure, relaxation, culture, history, a bit of everything? Defining your key priorities will guide which activities you choose.
Plot your itinerary
Plot out your activities for each day, but do not overfill your itinerary and not leave room for serendipity. Overloading your schedule can stifle spontaneity.
Book in Advance
Confirm how far in advance you may need to make bookings for specific activities or experiences. Some activities can be booked the day before or a few days prior. However, some activities may need to be booked in advance for example visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco, or some performances in London or New York.
Once your itinerary is set, trust it as your guide, but be open to unexpected adventures.
Allow the trip to evolve as it progresses, remembering that travel is not always just about checking items off a list; it’s about immersing yourself in unique experiences. Whether you are a super planner or a go-with-the-flow traveller, the beauty of exploring new destination lies in the discoveries you make along the way like a local bar that someone you meet invites you to, or an invitation to a road trip or an activity suggestion that you had never considered.
Start planning your next adventure today, and let the journey unfold. Do you usually stick to your pre-planned itinerary when you travel?