How to Make an Itinerary

Before I go anywhere I plan out what I’m going to do. I wanted to do a post so you can see what my method is! Here’s how to make an itinerary!

I currently use Apple Notes to plan my trips, but I’ve also used Word. I’m sure anything will do, but I do it online because then I can easily print it for my family to have an idea where I’ll be on any given day should something happen. I will use my upcoming trip to New York as an example for how I create itineraries.

First

First, I figure out how many days I’m going to be gone. In this case, I know that I will be in NYC for about 6 and a half days.

  • Before planning my flights I ensure that the place(s) I want to stay are available and reasonably priced. In this case, I used HostelWorld and saw some reasonable-ish (for NYC) prices for almost any time I wanted to be there.
  • Then I use Google Flights and Skyscanner (in an Incognito browser) to search for the best flight days. By changing my schedule just slightly, from leaving on March 30th to leaving on April 1st, I was able to save over $50 and get a direct flight home. I also make sure that I will have a full weekend so that I can make sure that “weekend-only” activities will be possible.

Second…

Second, I decide on a general budget. I know how many days I want to go, and I can do it on a barebones budget or something a little better. Since this trip is essentially a graduation trip and farewell to the US (for now) I’m giving myself a little more leeway and $1000 budget. This will include my flight and the train ticket to get me from upstate NY (where I’ll be visited extended family prior to visiting NYC) to the city.

  • So this will be about 1/3d of my budget! I immediately take this out of a running tally on a calculator somewhere and carefully write down each cost. I often keep a pen and paper around for this kind of thing, so it doesn’t get confusing.

Third

Third, with this budget in mind I calculate my housing. While in Europe it is often cheaper to go directly to a hostel’s website, in this case Hostelworld saved me at least $5 a night on my housing, so check a couple places. I make a short-list of housing options. Before booking housing though, I look to see their proximity to the things I want to do.

So now I have to find out what I want to do!

  • I look around at various places where I want to go. I know I want to see the Statue of Liberty and the Met Museum, so I add up how much that will be. Also, I have heard about a company that does tea tastings so I put that in as well.
  • Then I find a couple restaurants I want to try, and a market or two. I really want to try some asian cuisine and some Jewish options (I find it very difficult to get Jewish food here in the midwest), so I find a few that look interesting.
central park nyc

I’ve never really looked at pictures of Central Park before, but it really is so pretty! Very clever city planning, for once

I put everything into Google Maps and look at my housing options. Central Park turns out to be very close to one of the options, and most everything is a 15min to 30min subway ride. This one seems the best, but now I need to know my transport options.

I look up how much the subway costs – what luck, you can buy a 7-day unlimited pass for just $32. A single fare is $2.75. With the amount I’ll be traveling around the city, I only need to use the subway 12 times to make it worthwhile. That’s definitely going to happen! I include a couple Uber drives in my budget, just in-case. My housing option on the upper east side seems like the best bet and I book it.

Lastly

Finally, I start giving myself a “general” day-by-day plan. I make sure I know that I don’t have to do everything on the list. It’s only a guideline so I don’t get bored or miss out on something really interesting.

  • I look at which of my options are closest to each other – the place where I want to go to a market is fairly close to the MET, for instance. So I put these on the same day.
  • I also research what is nearby for some of my further flung places. I want to see a little tea shop that comes highly recommended, but is in Flushing. So I find out about an excellent bakery and a Chinatown right there, and add those to the itinerary.

It’s important to note that here I always make sure I have a “free” day. I like a lot of flexibility in my schedule. If something comes up and I can’t make it, or I’m really tired and need to take a break, I don’t feel pressured. Often, someone from the hostel invites me somewhere, and I feel more free to enjoy it. For instance, other than one weekend event, I can shuffle my days around as much as I please to tailor what I am interested in each day.

Why I Do This

One thing this itinerary does is save me from getting caught up in other people’s priorities. For instance, in South Korea, while I had a lovely time, I let other people guide the plan. This meant I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted in one of the palaces, and I wish I had decided to stay. If I have an itinerary, I’ll *know* I want to go to a certain event. So I’ll go and fully enjoy myself, whether I’m with someone else or not.

And one last tip – when it comes to restaurants and events, I tend to always slightly exaggerate the cost, just in case I get something extra or something goes wrong somewhere. This way I know I’m well within my budget, even though it may appear that I’m at the very edge. I also always include a tip in my calculations for restaurant style meals.

I’ll follow this up in the next week or so with an example of what my itinerary will look like, directly copied and pasted from my notes to this blog 🙂

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