In just a couple months, we’ll be departing for our trip to Iceland and are incredibly excited because we have absolutely nothing planned or any itinerary short of our flight and accommodation. We will have the complete freedom to explore the Icelandic countryside at our leisure – choosing what to see and do while in the moment. Unbound by any itinerary.
That’s the polar opposite of how we normally travel. Usually, we cram as much as we can possibly see and do into our vacations. After finding all the things our hearts are set on doing, keeping track of all the details associated with each activity becomes difficult quickly. This information is vital to ensure we’re managing what precious time we have while there. Details such as start-time and duration of guided tours as well as the operating hours of museums, shops, and restaurants make planning a successful trip feel overwhelming.
This led us to the creation of an itinerary spreadsheet to keep track of every detail of the most important aspects of our trips. In the following post, we’ll cover what it is, why you should use it, and how to use it. We believe you’ll find it so easy to use and beneficial when planning your trip that we’re providing our itinerary spreadsheet template to you, FOR FREE!
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Learn how to customize your own Travel Itinerary!
What it is
Our itinerary spreadsheet is nothing more than a small calendar, broken down by hours, for each day of travel. Different activities are color-coded for easy identification with space to include highly important information.
Simply put, it’s a visual aid for managing everything you’re planning on doing during your trip on a single page. That’s it. It sounds so unassumingly simple but I promise you, it’s a powerfully helpful tool when planning your vacations.
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Why use it
Human beings are visual creatures. We struggle to comprehend new information in any other form. It’s why charts and spreadsheets exist – to make complex information easily digestible for the brain’s consumption.
Our itinerary spreadsheet is no different:
- All-in-one reference for your most important information – flight numbers, arrival and departure times, hotel names, tour company names, meet-up locations, prices, and any other information that is important for you to have easily accessible
- Visualize how much you’ve planned for your trip (if you haven’t allowed enough downtime or vice versa)
- Identify timing issues – like how long it takes to get to your destination, when you need to wake up, if two activities overlap, etc.
- Move activities around – Allows you to see which days offer the best fit for each activity you wish to do before you commit to purchasing a ticket
- Get real free time – Indicate how much time you realistically have to explore, eat, shop, etc… between activities or travel
- Tailor your Trip – Allows you to see how much you’re in the car or time spent on extreme physical activities so that you are not doing too many days of that in a row if it’s outside your abilities
- See what you can eliminate – Identify the activities that don’t work within your travel constraints and eliminate them from your itinerary to free up time for other things
- Fine-tune the duration at a specific location – Visualize how much time you need to spend in one location (if you need to add another day, or drop a less important location from your itinerary)
- Stay within your budget – input cost per person so you can visually see if you can afford everything you want to do
- Emergency Reference – Give to family members/friends so they know where you are each day if something were to happen
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How to use it
Obviously, you’ll need to start well before your trip. Input information into the itinerary spreadsheet once you’ve read through your guidebooks and done your research for your destination. Input everything you want to do based on its location and what day you think you’ll be there. Don’t worry about perfection – you’re going to have multiple drafts as you whittle down your itinerary. It’ll be overwhelming at first, but gets easier the more times you revise your spreadsheet. You’ll end up with the satisfaction and confidence for the things you’ve planned for your trip.
Start with hard information – flight or travel to your destination and back home, when you need to pick up your rental vehicle, activities that may only be offered on specific dates or times, or anything else you are absolutely certain you are going to do at a specific date or time and go from there
- Don’t forget to include the chores you’ll have to do (Grocery shopping, picking up and returning your rental car, checking into your hotel, etc…) – including all this info gives you a much more accurate picture of exactly how much time you really have each day
- Input the total time for set activities like guided tours (check-in times, start times, and duration)
- Be sure to include total drive times to and from sights and activities – be sure to allow some additional time in case of traffic, late departure, or any other unexpected delays so you’re not late to important activities that require set start times. Use Google Maps to give you the most accurate drive-time using the most specific locations you can input (hotel address to the airport’s departure terminal, for example.)
- Prioritize your most important items – Add or drop locations based on the most important sights and activities you’d like to experience – or move locations to a different day
- Set realistic time constraints – Remember to give yourself enough free time to enjoy a leisure activity! – beach time, restaurant, museum, or walk around a city, etc…
- Tailor your itinerary to your abilities – Move strenuous activities around to different days if you have overscheduled too many days in a row, or if the previous day is a busy travel day and you think you’ll need a less strenuous day to recoup – important so you don’t crash on your trip!
- Remember that you need to eat and sleep – Make sure you allow sufficient time between activities to allow yourself some rest and nourishment. Adjust sleep schedules if an activity requires an early start time, or runs late into the evening (you don’t want to be up late, get only a few hours of sleep, and then have an 8-hour hike up a mountain with a guided tour group the next morning at 5 am.)
- Leave a couple hours blank for each day with nothing planned at all – you are going to find things you want to do while you are there and if you’ve planned out every minute of your vacation, you’re going to miss out on the spontaneous activities you wish you had allowed time for – don’t go home disappointed and exhausted
- Make it POP! – Color-code each piece of information based on activity (travel, exploring, lodging, tour) so you can easily differentiate between activities.
Don’t think because you’ve written all this down, paid for tours upfront, and planned everything to a tee, that you have to stick to your itinerary when you’re actually there. This is just a tool for you to use, and can be changed as much or as little as you wish – just remember to give tour companies as much time as they need so you’re not charged for canceling in short notice.
Learn from your mistakes. If you’re a chronic over-planner and end up wishing you’d have left yourself more free time, go back through this itinerary spreadsheet after your trip and make notes on things you would do differently to refer to on your next trip. Use it as a tool to become a better traveler.
So what do you think – pretty nifty little itinerary tool, huh? If you think this would be an amazing way to easily visualize all the information that’s swirling around your head, then please, do yourself a favor and download it and give it a try – it’s completely free and you have nothing to lose! And be sure to let us know in the comments, or drop us an email, if you found it useful. Thanks for Reading!
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