How to Prepare an Itinerary

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Spontaneous travel is rarely as fun as it sounds. You arrive late and the hotel is booked. You've planned a museum visit on Wednesday but it's closed. Don't get tripped up: Put a little forethought into your itinerary and get set for smooth sailing.

Identify the number of days you'll have on the ground. Include air travel days so everyone's flight arrivals and departures can be included, and travelers know where to go on the first day.

Include the names, addresses, phone and fax numbers of hotels or private homes as well as the time difference (plus 8 hours from Mountain Standard time).

Research connecting options in advance. Pay particular attention to potential delays related to airport check-in, travel to and from airports or train stations, car rental, distances between attractions, time differences, unfamiliar roads, and even local traffic conditions at various times during the day.

Resist the impulse to overplan. Some destinations don't conform to schedules (ask anyone who's taken a train in India), and you want to stay flexible and be open to spontaneous opportunities. They will arise unexpectedly--a local will take you under his or her wing, or a fellow traveler will suggest a scenic detour.

Give a copy to someone at home who is not traveling with you (but is most definitely waiting for that postcard).

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact tourism boards at your destination for brochures, coupons or referrals. Keep all pertinent trip information in one file.
  • Compile a list of flexible tasks to fill spare time while you wait for connections, particularly in Third World countries. Bring a book or magazine as well as bottled water. See 436 Plan a Trip to a Different Culture.
  • Plan for jet lag. Nothing can throw a trip faster than nodding off at the big event to which you purchased expensive tickets far in advance.

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