Planning your itinerary can be both an exciting and daunting task.
Where to start?
Don’t know how to even start planning your itinerary? First, get out a piece of paper and write down all the cities and countries that you’re interested in seeing.
That list is going to serve as your framework for building an itinerary. Then, keeping your budget and length of trip in mind, start narrowing that list down to the cities and places that you absolutely must see.
Places I want to go:
- Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow)
- Tour French Riviera (Nice, Monaco, Cannes)
- Switzerland, for the chocolate
- Beerfest in Munich
- Maybe Copenhagen (?)
Don’t get too bogged down in planning out the logistical minutiae at this point. Just focus on first getting a list of target areas. Then start filling in that information as you start researching transportation, accommodations, etc.
Once you have your list, starting doing some research to fill in the details. Figure out how to get there, check out what hostels and hotels are available, and write down the things you want to see and do in each place.
With a little legwork, you can put together a tighter travel plan with relative ease. Here’s an example of taking that list of cities and drilling down into something more detailed.
Fly into Heathrow, hostel booked for 4 days. See Tower of London, Museums, Day trip to Oxford.
- Take train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh (book early)
Staying with friend 2 nights, book hostel if want to stay longer. Must see: Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill
- Ryanair flight from Edinburgh to Dublin
- … and so on
Also, don’t be afraid to leave some flexible time in your schedule. Some of the best experiences are the ones that you only find once you’re on the ground.
When to go?
Another big choice is whether to go during the summer months, or high season (May-September) or during the off-season. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re a student, you might be limited to going during the summer months, but fear not, traveling during the high season can be amazing, even if all the attractions are crowded.
High Season: May-September
During the high season you’ll have more trains and buses running, warmer weather, attractions open longer, and more backpackers to meet.
However, hostels will be fuller and pricier and everything will be swamped with tourists.
If you’re going on the off-peak, there are some definite benefits. Hostels and travel will be a bit cheaper, you’ll have milder weather and you’ll spend less time waiting in line for attractions.
The downside of the off-peak season is that you’ll have to pack a little heavier for the weather and some attractions might be closed or have reduced hours.
If you end up going during the off-season, although this applies to the peak months as well, make sure that the attractions you’re interested will be open. Don’t squander your trip to Bavaria by finding out that Neuschwanstein castle is closed in the fall (don’t worry, it’s open year round, but you get the point).
This is where having a guide book is very handy; most have the open seasons for major attractions.