Practical Trip Planning (Part 2): Creating Your Itinerary Christopher Cook March 10, 2008 Features, Money, Pre-Trip, Tips, Travel 3 Comments 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 © 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. MondayApril 28th Flight to Barcelona TuesdayApril 29th Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pm WednesdayApril 30th Barcelona ThursdayMay 1st FridayMay 2nd SaturdayMay 3rd SundayMay 4th MondayMay 5th TuesdayMay 6th WednesdayMay 7th ThursdayMay 8th Venice FridayMay 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 © 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: MondayApril 28th Flight to Barcelona TuesdayApril 29th Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pm WednesdayApril 30th Barcelona ThursdayMay 1st Ferry from Barcelona (overnight) FridayMay 2nd Arrive in Rome via Civitavechia 5:00-6:00pm SaturdayMay 3rd Rome SundayMay 4th Rome MondayMay 5th Pisa TuesdayMay 6th Florence WednesdayMay 7th Florence ThursdayMay 8th Venice FridayMay 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 © 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. MondayApril 28th Flight to Barcelona TuesdayApril 29th Arrive in Barcelona 2:00pmRelaxing night, Recover from Jet Lag, Las Ramblas WednesdayApril 30th BarcelonaLa Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Sangria and tapas ThursdayMay 1st Ferry from Barcelona (overnight)Bus tour, open air market, walk around city until ferry departure, recover from hang-over FridayMay 2nd Arrive in Rome via Civitavechia 5:00-6:00pmsee the Colosseum at night, Wine on Piazza Navona SaturdayMay 3rd RomeSt. Peters Basilica, Vatican Museum, Catacombs, Aqua duct, explore Roman Churches SundayMay 4th RomePantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Palatine Hill MondayMay 5th PisaDuomo, Leaning Tower, Battistero TuesdayMay 6th FlorenceUffizi, David Statue, Walking tour, Gelato tasting WednesdayMay 7th FlorenceDuomo, Cappelle Medicee, Ponte Vecchio, Dante’s home ThursdayMay 8th VeniceGet lost wandering the city, Relax on San Marco Square, Water bus tour, nice Italian dinner FridayMay 9th Fly home from Veniceat 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? 3 Responses Italy Travel Guy June 30, 2008 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 Rachel September 16, 2008 What is the best website to go to to book the ferrie from spain to Greece? Reply sk January 11, 2009 what are the different types of itinerary? what is itinerary planning? why is it important? 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