So far, we've tackled long term travel planning, we looked at booking flights & hotels and now, it's time to look at itineraries; how do we plan our days before & while we're traveling.
As with everything else, I'm generally the one who does the pre-trip research. I try to get an idea of what there is to see and do in the location we'll be visiting, the areas of the city we might want to visit, I'll track down restaurants to try and I'll check if there are any admissions or tickets we should pre purchase. (I learned my lesson after the Alhambra & Versailles.) I usually compile everything on one, handwritten piece of paper to bring with me.
Unless we had to purchase tickets for something in advance, we do not keep a strict itinerary for a trip. To be completely honest, we usually plan our days when we arrive in our location - we'll get a city map from the hotel and over dinner or drinks, we'll sit down and start to plan it out. We'll discuss the must-sees and decide when/how to see them but generally, everything is kept pretty loose.
With that being said, here are a few things we've learned along the way...
+Always research transport to/from the airport in advance. Sometimes it makes sense for both budget & time to jump in a cab, other times, not so much.
+Tourist spots are tourist spots for a reason and they're usually what a city or location is known for but don't forget, a city is much more than it's well-known sights. Research other neighbourhoods and spend some time wandering the streets well away from famous spots.
+WALK! Joe hates walking the same street twice which sometimes drives me nuts but we see so much of the city because of it. When we stop for lunch or a drink, we'll pull out our map and draw all of the routes we've walked which inevitably, draws our attention to areas or streets we've neglected.
+Schedule plenty of time for meals and drinks. When you see a cute cafe, stop and have a drink. People watch, try the local beer and if the staff seem friendly, ask for their recommendations for things to see and do.
+Eat away from the main tourist sights. The best restaurants are usually where the locals are - well away from the tourists. Come armed with recommendations from the internet, friends and locals which will help you avoid hanger.
+When planning to visit popular museums, try to visit first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon when they're less busy. It also pays to research where you can buy tickets. Pre-purchasing online or at a satellite location can save you from wasting time in lengthy lines on location.
+Don't plan to shop on a Sunday without double checking that shops will be open. Stores across many major European cities will close on Sunday however, there are often markets to explore for a less mainstream experience.
+Keep a loose itinerary but don't be afraid to stray from the plan. Sometimes you stumble onto something you didn't know existed and those often turn out to be the most memorable parts of the trip. It's a shame to rush off just to stick to a plan and miss out on something really unique and valuable.
Do you create an itinerary or do you prefer to go with the flow?