There is something to be said for aimlessly roaming the streets of an energetic city popping into quaint cafes and talking to the locals, not knowing what you will find. When I went to Amsterdam, I only had two things on my list that I absolutely had to do: try the local “herbs” and go to the Red Light District. Sadly I never made it to the Red Light District. I planned the hotel with a shuttle to and from the airport and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the adventures, street fries and stroopwaffles and I’m sure our drunk shennigans began to annoy one of the bartenders. We literally popped into random stores and restaurants and just wandered aimlessly. It was a miracle I remembered the way back. Ever since then, I try to have an itinerary.
Here’s how I organise an itinerary:
Do Your Research
If you want to get the most out of your experience, you need to know what you want to do and what will make the ultimate travel venture for you. Are you fascinated by a town’s history, culture or food? Do you want your trip to just be about crazy adventures and a city’s vibrant nightlife? Answering these questions means that you need to do some research for the area you are visiting.
Prior to going to London, I looked up tours of all the must-see Landmarks and booked them (well most of them). Even though I had planned a lot, there were still a few hiccups along the way: immigration, currency, my bus pass…so while you always expect the unexpected, always have a backup plan as well.
Use Symbols and Addresses
What’s key to a successful itinerary is coding. I like to use company logos so that at a simple glance, I have an idea of where I wanted to go. Adding addresses makes it easier to remember where something is. Let’s say you want to go to a specific department store. By jotting down the location ahead of time, I was positive I was going to the right store when I plugged it into my GPS.
Download the map area in advance
If you’re travelling internationally, Google Maps has a handy feature that allows you to select a certain area on the map and download it to your phone. That way, whether you have data or not, you’ll have access to GPS. This helped me a lot when I lost my GPS. And if it’s a place you plan on visiting often, all you have to do is update the download periodically so that it doesn’t disappear.
Keep your Itinerary Offline
I really feel like I mastered the itinerary with my Girl’s Trip to Miami last October. It’s so important to keep a version of your itinerary on your phone offline. Papers can get left behind or lost and internet is so unreliable. Save the document in the cloud, and keep it available offline as well as downloading a copy of it to your phone. You can’t be too careful.
Leave Room for Opportunity & Be Realistic
There are always times while exploring a city that something incredible sidetracks you, and if you are scheduled with events back to back you may have to miss out. Of course you’re going to want to see and do everything on your trip, but also be realistic.
Don’t Forget the Extras
Add your flight numbers, hotel addresses, maps, etc. to your itinerary file for easy access. All my itineraries include this information, plus the currency exchange rate (so I know how much 1 US dollar is worth in the country). It is much easier to look at one file then have to scroll through dozens of emails or check different apps to find what I am looking for.