Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to Research and Plan Your International Trip: Building a Rough Itinerary

This is a four part series where we'll explore:
1.  Choosing Your Destination
2.  Researching it Out
3. Budgeting for your Trip
and
4.  Building a Rough Itinerary

Building a Rough Itinerary

Now things are getting exciting!  You've chosen your destination, you have dates... it's time to make a calendar!  I generally do mine in Word, though I'm sure there is a better program.  I just make a calendar detailing the weekdays, and dates that I'll be travelling, like so:
 Then, I generally save it in gmail or upload it to google drive so that I can make changes on it from any computer or device.  This way, my husband can access it too. Next I fill in the absolutes:  Flying dates/times for sure, and I put on anything that I have already bought tickets for, or anything I feel is set in stone.
Once I have the bones of it set, then I use a different color to start filling in the details:
(This is not my actual Peru itinerary)

Keep in mind, this is the overall calendar.  I formulate a separate document as I go, detailing restaurants and even specific dishes I want to try, agencies that offer activities I'm interested (complete with address and phone number), times and locations for church, 1-3 hotel options for each city I plan to sleep in, and the details for any reservation I've already made.  I'll often print this front and back so it's less bulky, and I try to organize it by city so once the first half of the trip is over I can just throw away that page... 

As far as booking hotels beforehand:  This totally depends on the style and length of the trip, and your stress level. :)  On our 6 week "honeymoon" through Southeast Asia, we didn't have a single hotel booked and it all worked out just fine.  One thing we LOVE about doing it this way is that if we find a place we adore, we can stay 3 extra nights without throwing off the rest of our trip!  We value the flexibility of changing plans more than the security of knowing for sure where we'll sleep.  (We did have ideas about where we would stay when we got to the next place, just no reservation.)  Determine whether you are travelling in high season or not, and how picky you are about the price and quality of your accommodation- that will help you decide what is best for you!

A few resources I have loved for finding hotels are:  airbnb.com, hotels.com, couchsurfing.org, and booking.com is great.  
(The Sacred Valley, Peru)
The biggest thing to remember is that this is a rough itinerary!  Be flexible once you get there-- be willing to change things up, or spring for a better offer.  You will learn so much from fellow travellers and locals, it's often best to bag your original plan and take advantage of what's in front of you!  

2 comments:

Kelsey Cole said...

I have a gnarly question for you... I am TERRIFIED of getting bed bugs when I travel (even in the U.S.). Do you ever worry about them? If so, do you have any tactics on avoiding them? Europe was a blast but I was so paranoid about that the whole time. I wish there was an easier way to achieve peace of mind haha.

Heather said...

great tips!