This guide is helpful for both planning a multi-country trip or a single country trip. Having an itinerary allows you to be organized and to travel easier. It also gives you a better frame for adding in new places as you travel.
Step one of building your itinerary is breaking it down by day. Build the skeleton of your trip with things you already know like departure and arrival dates. Give yourself realistic travel times including layovers. From here, examine the best route from A to B. For example if you plan to fly into Santa Marta, Colombia and then fly home from Cusco, Peru after climbing Machu Picchu, what destinations can you visit along the way?
This part of building the itinerary can be tedious as it's a trial and error of researching different destinations, activities, and cities in between your beginning and end destinations. We usually pull up Google maps and begin with quick searches about the major cities along the way. We also peruse different blogs to find where other travelers have been to get a mix of must-see and remote destinations.
Once you’ve found some cool locations it's important to figure out how to move between destinations. Check all means of public transportation, trains, buses, and planes. The more places you plan to visit in a concentrated amount of time, the more you'll probably want to fly and depending on the country, flying can actually be an affordable means of travel. Don't let initial flight prices between cities discourage you.
The more research the better. Consider how many transfers and hours you’ll spend getting to a spot to decide if that place is worth the time and effort. If the destination has made the cut, add it to the itinerary. We integrate this research into our itinerary by labeling our travel time as DOT (day of travel) making a more realistic budget of time.
It can get overwhelming with the possibilities of places to go. We suggest that 2-3 days is a realistic amount of time in a place if you're crunched for time and want to maximize the number of places you get to visit. Obviously, if you have a more lucrative schedule than 2-3 days may be too short. We advise against limiting yourself to only one day in a destination. Allow yourself time to adjust from traveling so that you can properly experience a destination.
It really depends on where you are and what works with your schedule. Sometimes a one day stop fits in your itinerary to break up a long journey from A to B. We ended up only spending one night in Thessaloniki, Greece in order to break up our extensive train ride from Athens, Greece to Sofia, Bulgaria.
Everybody’s travel incentives are different. We want to see new places and be among amazing new people. We don’t necessarily center our vacation on luxury and relaxation and our itinerary reflects that. Build your itinerary day by day allowing DOT to budget your time abroad efficiently. This doesn't have to be too detailed as things will change. Having flexibility when traveling is a good thing. If you’re inspired by other travelers to go somewhere new, then you want the ability to do that. You might find that you want to extend your time in a place and a flexible schedule allows you to do that. We do that a lot!
We recommend that you don’t book any accommodation until you know for sure that you’ll be arriving at that destination. We book accommodations 1-2 days before we arrive in most cases. This doesn’t mean we’re not actively checking for accommodations, which we recommend. In some cities, your trip might overlap with national holidays or festivals, in which case you would need to book further in advance, but have fun and go crazy with this part of planning.
TRAVEL TIP: allow time for transit. There are possibilities of getting lost, delays in public transportation, and traffic; all of which can be a factor in making it to the airport or train station on time. Giving yourself time and having a backup plan will reduce the stress in travel.