Practical Trip Planning (Part 2): Creating Your Itinerary

In a recent article I outlined my thought process for the beginning stage of planning a trip to Spain and Italy. I discussed searching for flights, trains, costs and maximizing your time while over there. The next phase of planning is working out an itinerary.

In the past I’ve not planned my trips too specifically. I typically do a quick hostel search (aff) a couple days before arriving in a new city (sometimes the day I arrived) and press on to whatever vague destination I had in mind.

This trip however is a bit different and probably more like what most travelers will want to experience. With my Dad wanting to see all he can in just two weeks it makes sense to book all our accommodations and whatever travel I can ahead of time. This will eliminate all the on-location searching and wandering around that eats away at precious time overseas. Really, on a limited time schedule who wants to spend an hour or two in an Internet cafe searching for a bed?

Chair Alley, Barcelona
Chair Alley, Barcelona © moriza

First, we’re flying into Barcelona via Madrid and leaving out of Venice (the process stands no matter what the destination is). The plan is to see (at least) Rome, Pisa and Florence in between. So with that in mind I write down a list of the days I will be overseas. Counting the days I will be flying this gives me 12 days within which to work out a plan:

Monday–April 28th,Tuesday–April 29th, Wednesday–April 30th, Thursday–May 1st, Friday–May 2nd, Saturday–May 3rd, Sunday–May 4th, Monday–May 5th, Tuesday–May 6th, Wednesday–May 7th, Thursday–May 8th, Friday–May 9th

With this list in front of me, I can start plugging in the things I know already. For example I know I will be flying all day Monday (April 28th) and not arriving in Barcelona until 2:00pm or so on the 29th. I also know that I will be flying home on May 9th at 10:00am. Beyond that, I will want at least another day and night in Barcelona after I arrive as well as a full day and night in Venice, at least.

Monday
April 28th
Flight to Barcelona
Tuesday
April 29th
Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pm
Wednesday
April 30th
Barcelona
Thursday
May 1st
Friday
May 2nd
Saturday
May 3rd
Sunday
May 4th
Monday
May 5th
Tuesday
May 6th
Wednesday
May 7th
Thursday
May 8th
Venice
Friday
May 9th
Fly home from Venice at 10:00am

The rest starts to get a bit tricky. If you’ve never been to these places before you will need to know roughly what you want to see and give yourself enough time to do it. A decent guide book will help with daily agendas and the must-sees of each city.

For example, after a little homework you would find that the boat from Barcelona to Rome (Civitavecchia to be exact; about an hour from Rome) doesn’t leave until 7:00pm. This provides an extra day in Barcelona and hence no real reason to stay another night. We do have time constraints that don’t allow us to linger too long in any one city and an entire extra day in Barcelona waiting for the next ferry is a bit much. Of course your trip may vary.

Civitavecchia Port, Italy
Civitavecchia Port, Italy © turydddu

With that figured out we know we will be getting into Rome on Friday (May 2nd) after catching a train from the port in Civitavecchia. Now any guide book will tell you to devote three days to the Italian capital and, while I agree, I think it can be rushed in one and hurried in two. Let’s figure three nights and what essentially amounts to two days in Rome. Up next is Pisa so we can jot that down on our list for one day or night (its all you will need). Our last slot is open for Florence which gives us a list that looks like this:

Monday
April 28th
Flight to Barcelona
Tuesday
April 29th
Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pm
Wednesday
April 30th
Barcelona
Thursday
May 1st
Ferry from Barcelona (overnight)
Friday
May 2nd
Arrive in Rome via Civitavechia 5:00-6:00pm
Saturday
May 3rd
Rome
Sunday
May 4th
Rome
Monday
May 5th
Pisa
Tuesday
May 6th
Florence
Wednesday
May 7th
Florence
Thursday
May 8th
Venice
Friday
May 9th
Fly home from Venice at 10:00am

It would seem that be have a bit of flexibility around the Pisa, Florence, Venice leg of our trip and before we book our hotels we need to make final decisions. A bit more research into the areas can help us decide if we want to spend an extra day in Venice instead of Florence or skip Pisa all together. For our purposes here however the schedule above is just fine. For all intents and purposes we could go ahead and start booking hotels now. Instead, lets make sure we hold on a minute and think about what we want to see.

Florence Sunset, Italy
Florence Sunset, Italy © jonrawlinson

We have to keep in mind that some sights are going to be closed on some days. The Vatican Museum for example is not open on Sundays except for the last of every month; not when we are going to be there. Also a lot of Museums are closed on Mondays in Italy which means we may want to make sure we avoid expecting too much on the 5th of May (The Accademia where the David statue is not open for example). It works out that we will be heading to Pisa on that day where all the main attractions are open daily. Another thing to consider will be holidays. I showed up in Paris once with only one and a half days before I had to move on and was disappointed to realize, too late, that it was Victory day. With most of the sites shut down and a city that was functioning on a holiday schedule I had to leave without seeing much of anything I came to see.

With all this in mind and a bit of research I can start plugging in the sites I want to see for a more complete itinerary. This of course will be the most flexible part of your schedule but it will give you a sense of what you can accomplish and if there is any down time where you can add more. Seeing all this written down will also make is easy to see if you have not allotted enough time in any one place. In any case write in everything you know you want to see and take it from there.

Monday
April 28th
Flight to Barcelona
Tuesday
April 29th
Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pm
Relaxing night, Recover from Jet Lag, Las Ramblas
Wednesday
April 30th
Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Sangria and tapas
Thursday
May 1st
Ferry from Barcelona (overnight)
Bus tour, open air market, walk around city until ferry departure, recover from hang-over
Friday
May 2nd
Arrive in Rome via Civitavechia 5:00-6:00pm
see the Colosseum at night, Wine on Piazza Navona
Saturday
May 3rd
Rome
St. Peters Basilica, Vatican Museum, Catacombs, Aqua duct, explore Roman Churches
Sunday
May 4th
Rome
Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Palatine Hill
Monday
May 5th
Pisa
Duomo, Leaning Tower, Battistero
Tuesday
May 6th
Florence
Uffizi, David Statue, Walking tour, Gelato tasting
Wednesday
May 7th
Florence
Duomo, Cappelle Medicee, Ponte Vecchio, Dante’s home
Thursday
May 8th
Venice
Get lost wandering the city, Relax on San Marco Square, Water bus tour, nice Italian dinner
Friday
May 9th
Fly home from Venice
at 10:00am

What you end up with is essentially your trip. The sights can be changed a bit. New ones can be added, some can be taken away, but you now have enough info to start booking your hotels and some travel. Next up, the excitement of visiting people’s homes (hotels) in foreign countries via the Internet. Where do you want to live for a night?

About The Author

Christopher Cook currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida where he received his second Masters Degree from FSU. As an avid traveler he maintains a budget travel website, www.noambit.com and develops MP3 audio tours in the hopes of inspiring others to just get out there and see Europe. He has lived and studied in Tübingen Germany and travels as much as possible each year to cities throughout Europe. His writing has appeared in several publications including, bravenewtraveler, thetravelrag and the FSView.

3 Responses

  1. Italy Travel Guy

    Thanks for the advice. I’m currently trying to plan some days that will augment an Italy Tour we’re going to be going on. Where do you go for to research things like say…if a Venice tour is going to be closed on Mondays? Are guide books the best bet or just general travel to Italy sites? Never been to Europe so I’m kind of nervous, exited though. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  2. sk

    what are the different types of itinerary?
    what is itinerary planning?
    why is it important?

    Reply

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