Hi Frugalistas! How are you going with your plans for your latest itinerary? Have you got a good outline of where you are going, your budget and how you are planning on getting about? In the final installment of this short series we fill in the blanks with all the special moments that will make your trip one to really remember……
1. List all the things you want to do in each of your destinations
Taking into account the length of time you have in each destination, make a list of all the things you want to do for each of your destinations and prioritise them. Check your guidebook, tourism organisation websites, blogs and travel forums, or just ask your friends to help you add to your own personal list of must do’s.
2. Work out about how long each of your activities will take
I normally allow about half a day for the big key museums and art galleries. Personally, I find that’s enough for me, and I don’t know many people who can spend whole days. Churches and other historic sites can normally be done in about an hour, unless you want to attend a service, or go on a guided tour. For large historic sites such as Versailles I normally count them as museums and art galleries and allow half a day.
3. Then allow travel and queuing times
You need to work out how best to get to each of your destinations and about how long they will take. I normally allow about 30mins for a metro train trip and 45mins to an hour for bus or walking. That allows you some slack for traffic, and for some window shopping and general sticky nosing if you walk!
Assume you will visit your sites at the beginning or ends of the day when queues are shortest and then stick to that. Look up if you can prebook an entrance and avoid the queues, and then make sure you stick to that. Queues at some key tourist sites are horrendous, so don’t underestimate what a time waster that can be if you are on a tight schedule.
4. Check for days that the site may be closed, or when it may be open later
Many museums and art galleries (particularly in Europe) have a day when they are closed. Make sure you know when exactly that day is. Many are also open late one day per week. This is handy to know as well. For example, I have a work trip planned to London in April and have worked out the British Library (where I have never been) is open late on a night I am there. This makes getting a trip in there a real option when my work activities are done for the day. It’s now part of my plans.
5. Allow some free time for spontaneity (and shopping!)
Don’t over schedule yourself. Allow time for some spontaneity, to linger in a park or to enjoy a previously undiscovered corner.
6. Piece it all together into an order that makes sense
Try and balance your time between hectic and more gentle pursuits. If you’ve got a special meal, a night at the theatre or some other evening activity planned, make that on a day when you know your day time activities are not going to leave you exhausted. If you’ve tried to include too much, reassess and reprioritise – and leave yourself a wishlist for next time!!
Try and mix up your activities. Only a real art afficianado could cope with art galleries or museums day after day, so mix it up a bit with a variety of things to do and see. If you are traveling with children this is an absolute must – as is allowing for some play time.
7. Work out a basic plan of how you are going to get about
You don’t need schedules for this – just a plan of attack. If you are planning on using public transport do some research on how to do this for your location. It will help you with budgeting as well as give you some confidence in a strange place. Checking the guidebook and generally looking like a lost tourist is just a sign saying “rob me” in many bus or train stations.
8. Your food strategy
Research some places within your budget near your accommodation and places you are visiting. Cafes and restaurants in museums and art galleries are often good value and make an easy option. Research and plan for one great meal – regardless of your budget, and work out when best to do that. Checking out local restaurant review websites can help here – don’t just rely on your guidebook or Tripadvisor. I don’t recommend planning every single meal – again allow for some spontaneity and for finding your own hidden gem. Getting recommendations from friends who may have visited can also help here.
OK, so here we are. Your perfect itinerary for your perfect trip!
Nothing else left to do but enjoy!
Photo credits: author’s own unless identified otherwise