I’ve only ever met two kinds of traveler in my life: Those who plan their trips down to the tiniest detail, and those who love discovering the beauty of new places by chance. There is nothing wrong with either of those two options, but as hard as I try to be a little spontaneous, in my heart I guess I will always stay the thorough planner and strategist that I truly am.

To me, planning an itinerary before going on a trip is half the fun. I love getting immersed in guide books, travel blogs and Instagram accounts, jotting down every detail of all the places I definitely want to see, and finally connecting the dots to form a well-rounded itinerary.

To find out how to create the perfect itinerary, I’ve asked the girls on the Travelettes team to share their best tips on how to plan a trip – and thrown in plenty of my own experience, as well. So, before you start planning your next adventure: here’s a few things that might be useful in the process.

First order of business: Read up!

When I wanted to learn how to code websites, I borrowed a giant book to teach me. When I first moved into an apartment with a balcony, my first trip was to the bookstore to buy a book on balcony gardening. And when I decided to learn Russian, the first thing I did was get a Russian copy of Harry Potter. You see, I’m a book girl.

Naturally, I am convinced that books are the single best resource when planning a trip to a new country. I love heading out to the bookstore and browsing through the different types of travel guides before settling on one or two to take home for further study. Very often, I just get stuck with Lonely Planet (I love their guide books!), but my favorite kind of guides are the no-name, independent, artsy ones.

To get the most out of your book of choice, browse or read through the whole thing and mark the places you absolutely need to see. This way, you will get a good overview as well as a few first pointers on where to stop.

Next: Get inspired

As much as I love them, I have to admit that books will only get you so far in your planning. To really get inspired, the internet is your best friend. Instagram is always a good place to start (check out our Travelette Sophie’s guide on how to use Insta for travel research if you’re not sure how to go about it), closely followed by Pinterest. I also always check on my favorite travel blogs (like Travelettes, of course!) to see whether they have already covered the country I’m visiting.

Create a mood board with your favorite pictures and articles to get a sense of what kind of holiday you will be having. It’s not only the perfect place to gather all your online resources in one spot, but it will also make your thoughts wander and your heart beat faster with all the anticipation.

Top Tip: Ask Your Friends

To really get the very best information on where to sleep, eat, and which hidden places to uncover, ask your friends and family – maybe some of them have already been to your travel destination and can provide you with inside tips. Or write a little something in our Travelettes Facebook Group – here, you can chat with females from all around the world who will happily share their experiences and local insights.

Bring it all together with Google Maps

After you’ve gathered all the information you need, here comes the fun part (at least for me): connecting the dots. I usually create a custom Google Map and enter all my points of interest. With the layer option, I divide them up into categories (cities, hikes, beaches, sleeping options, restaurants, or even, I’ll admit it, Instagram spots). Each category gets its own color, so I can easily see on the map how everything spreads out.

Once everything is entered, I try to connect the different dots to create the best possible itinerary to hit as many of my targets within the given timeframe. Sometimes, this means leaving out some things that would otherwise have been extremely interesting, but ended up just being too far away from the rest of my stops. At other times, I make sure to go even to the most remote places if I am convinced it will be worth it, but try to check out more options in the same area to make the trip even more worthwhile.

If this seems like a little excessive, well, you wouldn’t be the first one to tell me this. And I haven’t even described how I then enter all the trip details into a well-designed Excel sheet, print the whole itinerary and hand it out to my fellow travelers (who usually greet it with a lot of eye rolling, but I take it as a compliment)! To keep it simple, you could also just mark your places of interest as starred in your Maps App and then use it as you travel. Just make sure to download the offline version before you leave your country!

By the end of it, you should be sitting in front of a nicely designed itinerary, perfectly tailored to your needs. The only thing left now is to go out, travel – and tweak the itinerary as you go along. After all, even a printed-out Excel sheet cannot include every cute corner coffee shop, vintage store, or little hike that comes your way when exploring….

 

All pictures via unsplash