How To Build Your Travel Itinerary

In a week, I probably receive 2-3 emails asking me for a travel itinerary for a certain destination. I always try to be very generous with my tips and recommendations—that’s why I always make it a point to blog about the hotels we stayed in, restaurants we dined at, museums, historic sites, beaches, etc. I just want you, my darling readers, to come to this blog and travel along with me. I’d love for you to also pick up a thing or two from my trips and experience them on your own someday too! 

But when it comes to an actual itinerary, like a Microsoft Word document with a timeline, directions, maps, etc.—this is something I can’t easily share to random strangers. Why? Because a travel itinerary is a very personal one. Itineraries are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing that can be easily passed around. There are personality traits, interests and budgets to consider—so what works for one group may not exactly work for another. And that’s why travel agencies charge you accordingly. It takes creativity, research, and lots of hours of scouring the net for reviews and suggestions. If you’re a first time traveler and are not so confident yet, going with a reputable travel agency might be helpful–check out Our Restless Feet by Paula Peralejo-Fernandez 🙂

I personally am more of a DIY traveler (at least for now), I like planning trips on my own: building a timeline based on our preferences as a couple, recommendations from people I trust, and of course working with a realistic budget too. Patrick and I are not big shopping travelers so that would instantly make my no-shopping itinerary a bore for someone who loves to do serious retail therapy while abroad. I love taking naps and having lots of snack stops in between touring, so this could be considered “a waste of time” for a traveler who likes to go-go-go. There are so many quirks about me as a traveler that I wouldn’t want to burden someone else with and that’s why simply sharing my exact itinerary might not be such a good idea—even if I had the best intention at heart 🙂 So instead, I pour out my recommendations freely for you to either pick up or reject. I hope that you get inspired to travel to the places we’ve visited but I do encourage you to make your own adventures, to go to the places I’ve recommended but to explore it at your own pace and at your own style. I also invite you to do your own research on each place, to actually immerse yourself beforehand so you’re able to really soak it all in before your visit.

With that said, since I can’t walk you through each and every detail of your itinerary– I’d still like to help you the basics of building an itinerary instead. The more seasoned travelers might find these tips elementary but for the newbie jet setters out there, I do hope you find this helpful 🙂 🙂

1. Ask for recommendations from trusted sources

Aside from doing extensive research online, it’s important to ask for tips from people you can actually trust. You have to remember that you’ll be traveling to a foreign country so you’ll have to make sure you are armed with information from a credible source. 

For our Sydney trip, I contacted a good friend and blogger, Cat Juan-Ledesma, for some recommendations.  She didn’t give me a detailed day-to-day itinerary to follow but she was generous enough to share a list of places to visit, restaurants, museums, cafes and other suggestions. It was just a free flowing “Pick Your Own Adventure” kind of email which I thoroughly appreciated. She didn’t dictate what to do on Day 1, what to do on Day 2, etc. but instead she just poured out all the information I would need and just gave me the liberty to create my own itinerary–to edit out the ones that didn’t tickle my fancy and to keep those that intrigued me and Patrick. That to me is a generous pay-it-forward kind of traveler, one that I really appreciate a lot. 

2. Establish what type of traveler you are

Are you a shopper or a foodie? Are you an outdoor sports kind of person or do you just enjoy lounging in bed all morning? Do you love museums or consider this a snooze fest? Are you a morning person or a night owl? With all these considerations in mind, it’ll be easier for you to plot out your timeline.

Just to give you an idea, Patrick and I are morning people so our IT usually starts as early as 8-9am with a nice breakfast and then sightseeing immediately after. As I’ve mentioned above, I like taking breaks whether it’s to nap, shower or snack, so I always include a 2 hour break in between my morning and afternoon activities. We’re more of a mix of action and R&R. 
Some people like cramming 10 things in a day just to get more bang for their buck. I totally get this, especially since it cost you so much to get there, sulitin na diba?! So if you’re more of a pure action kind of traveler, then your itinerary will look completely different from someone who just likes to spend the whole day at the spa. So be honest with yourself and create an itinerary that suits your personality and don’t make the mistake of copying someone else’s without really considering what those activities would require. 

3. Always give a grace period when scheduling

Chances are you might get lost or you’ll have trouble finding the bus stop or hailing a cab at rush hour—these little inconveniences add up and might set you back time wise. So make a flexible program that gives you a bit of wiggle room so you don’t end up fighting with your spouse if things are not on the dot. 

4. Tardiness is the enemy when traveling 

Don’t add to the stress by being late. Especially if you’re traveling in a group. If you agree to meet at the lobby by 9am, be ready by 8:50 not 9:30. If you’re not a morning person and already anticipate the agony of waking up too early, be honest and tell your travel buddies about your concerns. It’s better to tell them ahead so they can either make adjustments in the itinerary for you or you could just choose to beg off from the morning schedule. This would be so much better than them losing their cool because you were 30 minutes late. Be the considerate kind of traveler, always mindful of your time and the time of your companions. When everyone’s on time, it instantly sets the tone–lahat kayo good mood and happy vibes! 

More importantly, whenever you travel you are carrying the reputation of your country along with you. I always make it a point to come early for tours, restaurant reservations, and other appointments abroad just so they remember Pinoys are people who are punctual and considerate—and fun too! Hehehe!

5. Research the directions in advance

Pat and I already have our google maps on default mode when we arrive at our hotel. We have the hotel address as Location A and just key in the place of interest for Location B. We plot out different options for public transportation and synch it along with our schedule for the day. Most countries even are blessed with efficient public transport websites with ETDs and ETAs clearly listed. I suggest doing this in advance and not on the day itself, this way you’re not panicking while on the train or spending so much on Data Roaming just trying to figure things out on the fly. It’ll save you a lot of stress if you just have all the directions and instructions with you when you head out. Naturally, you’ll get lost once or twice even with a map at hand but that’s part of the fun of traveling!

6. Plan based on the location

Now that you’ve researched the directions of each place, you can plot out your day based on places that are within a certain radius. This saves you a lot of time and costs if you lump them all together. Just as a reference for you to understand what I’m trying to suggest here, let’s use Metro Manila as an example. If I were to plan a trip, I would schedule a visit to SM Aura, Mind Museum, and Bonifacio High street in the morning and then a show in CCP and dinner at Sofitel after. It would be a waste of travel time and transport costs to do CCP and then SM Aura and then Sofitel and then back to Bonifacio High Street. Gets? So it would really help if you can google the locations of the spots you’d like to visit and group them accordingly. You’ll be able to cover more ground this way. 

7. Make it flexible 

The OC travelers will freak out with this one. Hahaha. But flexibility is key to a good holiday. I remember getting sick in Barcelona. Patrick had a fever and I was down with a nasty cough. We wanted desperately to head out and explore all the main sites, but we were just too sick to function. So we scrapped all our plans for the day and just stayed in the apartment and watched a slew of TV shows in our PJs. It helped that our itinerary was flexible so we simply moved things around for the next 2 days and still managed to visit the places we wanted to visit even if we had one whole day of doing nothing. 

8. Work with your budget

So your friend recommended a nice romantic restaurant in the city? It won’t hurt to research on how much each dish would cost you, the amount you’ll have to set aside for cab fare, and everything else in between. I love to eat and maybe 50% of our travel budget goes to food (much to the dismay of my husband!) so I always have to research in advance just so Patrick doesn’t die of a heart attack when he receives the bill. Kung mahal na at over budget, we just delete it from our list. Same goes for tours, entrance fees, airport shuttle, cab fares, train tickets, etc. Be realistic with your budget and make the most of what you can afford. You don’t have to spend all your savings on one trip, as long as you’re creative, you can make a trip very memorable even with a tight budget. Believe me, I know!!! Hehehe!

9. Talk to the locals 

Nothing beats a genuine recommendation from a local. If you do encounter a few friendly locals on your trip, you can take that opportunity to do some small talk and get a proper gauge of the place. By getting some feedback from the locals regarding tourist spots, restaurants, alternate routes, etc. you can make some last minute adjustments to your itinerary and maximize your visit. Sometimes you’ll discover more interesting places this way, scrapping out the more popular tourist traps 🙂

10.  Plan to HAVE FUN

Sometimes people are just too focused on being the perfect tourist/backpacker/jetsetter that they forget that traveling is supposed to be fun. You have to create a balanced itinerary–with adventure, nature, history, shopping, food, culture, and rest time all jumbled up into one happy plan. Don’t pressure yourself too much to come up with the most awesome itinerary because you need to show everyone how cool you are. Hehehe! Itineraries are there to just give you some sort of structure and to help you with your budgeting and planning, but it simply serves as your backbone for the day. The FUN part is all up to you! 

So there, I do hope you have found these little tips useful in plotting out your personal travel itinerary 🙂 Wishing you and your loved ones more happy adventures!!!

4 Responses to How To Build Your Travel Itinerary

  1. thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures with us, patty. you are such a breath of fresh air! your tips are very down to earth and non-pretentious. 🙂 hope you won’t get tired of sharing snippets of your life. 🙂

  2. I love this Patty! We travel with our toddler and I sooo agree with a flexible itinerary. We work our sched based on our toddler’s waking time, nap time, etc. And it’s best talaga to have a 4-5 days vacation than 3D2N to make the most out of your trip.

  3. Very helpful article! I’d like to ask if you read travel books as well? Been thinking of purchasing Lonely Planet books but would like to know if it’s worth the money. Thanks!