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Planning An Itinerary

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1. Posted by aah2 (Budding Member 8 posts) 27w

Hello,

This summer, I will be travelling to Europe. I leave on the 5th of July and will come back home on the 6th of August. At the moment, I am having some difficulties mapping out an itinerary. I will arrive in Zurich, Switzerland, and stay only for a few days before I would like to begin my European tour to the following countries: Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and I must arrive back in Switzerland with a week left to spare, since I will be staying for their Independence Day. The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location.

France: Paris, Versailles possibly
Italy: Rome, Florence
Netherlands: Amsterdam
Germany: Undecided
Austria: Salzburg or Innsbruck

Any suggestions or ideas?

Thanks!

2. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 286 posts) 27w

People have this belief that travel requires you to plan an itinerary. It does not. All it requires is that you have some time and money available. Choosing an area and doing some research ahead of time is fine but it doesn't mean you have to plan 2 days in A and 4 days in B, etc.

Go to the first place on your list. Stay as long as you need to stay to see and do what interests you. When you are ready to move on (and not before) then decide where you want to go next. Repeat that process until either your time or your money runs out. Go home.

You wrote, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location." Well congratulations, you have realized that it is impossible to know BEFOREHAND how long a place will hold your interest. NO ONE knows if 3 days in X will be enough or not. People leave wishing they had more time or find they are ready to leave after only 1 day. That is where the stupidity of trying to plan an itinerary becomes clear. Read your sentence again, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location. " That's actually an intelligent sentence. Now follow it to it's logical conclusion. ie. there is no way to know how long I will want to stay and therefore there is no way to plan it ahead of time. Therefore, I will not try to predict the answer by insisting on having to pre-plan x days in A and y days in B, etc.

Travel can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. There is no medal for how many places you 'tick of the list'. If you don't get to X this time, maybe you will next time and maybe you will not. What matters is what did you do with each day you had available? Did you use your time well and get as much experience out of it as you could?

People often indicate in one way or another that they 'want to get as much as possible' out of their time. But they then seem to think the word 'much' is synonymous with the word 'many'. It is not. The way to get as much as possible out of your time is to simply spend it IN places (not in between places by moving too much) getting maximum experience out of your days.

You could spend ALL your time in the first place you go to and still not be ready to leave when your time or money runs out. The person who went to 10 places did NOT get any more out of the same amount of time.

So research and a wish list of places you think would interest you is fine. An itinerary however is totally unnecessary. Just go to A and take it from there.

3. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 286 posts) 27w

Tourists go on a 'tour'. That is after all where the name comes from. It is a list of places which they can say they have been to with no relevance whatsoever to whether they were there for as long as they wanted to be or longer than they wanted to be or a shorter time than they wanted to be.

Think of a typical package tour of any kind. Anyone who has ever been on any kind of 'tour' will probably know that you end up spending too much time in one place and not nearly enough time in the places that really interested you. That is the problem with tours. They do not allow you to change the time to suit how much something or somewhere interests you. All they really do is let you tick places off a list without regard to the quality of the time spent.

A lot of people who will declare, 'no way would I go on a bus tour of Europe' then turn around and try to plan the exact same thing themselves. 'I will go to Paris for 4 days and Rome for 3 days and Y for 2 days, etc. Umm, but how will I fit in X and how long will I want to be there for?' They plan a TOUR and then are surprised that the same thing happens with their plan as would happen if they had gone on a bus tour someone else had planned. Your planned 'tour' and a bus 'tour' are no different.

Forget tours and learn how to travel without an itinerary. You will never stay for too long or too little time anywhere you go. You will in fact have the answer to, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location. " It will be just the right amount of time in each place.

4. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 653 posts) 27w

The problem with OldPro's approach is that people often have limits of time and money. The time limit may not even just be their time off work, it could be about visas, which may be limited duration or may specify entry and exit dates, plus in some countries you additionally need to register in each city or supply your movements to get your visa.

The "wing-it" advice may also not suit people who want to be sure to see the highlights in their limited time.

5. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

Aah2, you're covering a lot of territory for a month. So besides using trains and buses, or renting a car, you might consider a flight or two. Fares are reasonable. If you merely want to get a "taste" of a place, three to four nights might be OK. For some places, perhaps two nights. It depends on what you want to see and do. So establish some priorities before you set out.

I used to wing it while traveling, often wasting time and money. Remember the times when you set out on a Saturday night, not knowing where you wanted to go, or what you wanted to do; eventually winding up at home without having done much of anything worthwhile?

Nowadays, I cobble together a rough itinerary, making changes along the way as opportunities arise. Sometimes you're forced to make changes because of unforeseen events and circumstances.

There is no right way to travel. Do what's best for you. I use all forms, including tours, which can be cheaper, safer and more convenient than traveling on your own. That's the reason I joined a tour to Papua New Guinea, visiting settlements by canoe along the Sepik River; and the seldom-visited Trobriand Islands. That's why I joined a tour to the restricted zone of Peru's Manu National Park (you can't get there without a licensed tour operator). That's why I joined a group to hike New Zealand's Franz Josef glacier; and to see mountain gorillas in Uganda. You have to do what you have to do to accomplish want you want.

So, aah2, do what's best for you. Since you only have a limited amount of time, an itinerary is helpful, if not essential.

P.S. I'm traveling in Central Africa and West Africa in October, November and December. I have an itinerary; but I know that I'll have to make changes along the way. Having an itinerary -- along with booked flights (you sometimes have to supply ticket numbers) -- are required to obtain visas to some of the countries, as well as an invitation letter. So advance planning is necessary.

[ Edit: Edited on 28-May-2016, at 21:42 by berner256 ]

6. Posted by aah2 (Budding Member 8 posts) 27w

Quoting OldPro

People have this belief that travel requires you to plan an itinerary. It does not. All it requires is that you have some time and money available. Choosing an area and doing some research ahead of time is fine but it doesn't mean you have to plan 2 days in A and 4 days in B, etc.

Go to the first place on your list. Stay as long as you need to stay to see and do what interests you. When you are ready to move on (and not before) then decide where you want to go next. Repeat that process until either your time or your money runs out. Go home.

You wrote, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location." Well congratulations, you have realized that it is impossible to know BEFOREHAND how long a place will hold your interest. NO ONE knows if 3 days in X will be enough or not. People leave wishing they had more time or find they are ready to leave after only 1 day. That is where the stupidity of trying to plan an itinerary becomes clear. Read your sentence again, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location. " That's actually an intelligent sentence. Now follow it to it's logical conclusion. ie. there is no way to know how long I will want to stay and therefore there is no way to plan it ahead of time. Therefore, I will not try to predict the answer by insisting on having to pre-plan x days in A and y days in B, etc.

Travel can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. There is no medal for how many places you 'tick of the list'. If you don't get to X this time, maybe you will next time and maybe you will not. What matters is what did you do with each day you had available? Did you use your time well and get as much experience out of it as you could?

People often indicate in one way or another that they 'want to get as much as possible' out of their time. But they then seem to think the word 'much' is synonymous with the word 'many'. It is not. The way to get as much as possible out of your time is to simply spend it IN places (not in between places by moving too much) getting maximum experience out of your days.

You could spend ALL your time in the first place you go to and still not be ready to leave when your time or money runs out. The person who went to 10 places did NOT get any more out of the same amount of time.

So research and a wish list of places you think would interest you is fine. An itinerary however is totally unnecessary. Just go to A and take it from there.

Thanks for your reply :). Perhaps I should've been a bit more specific in my question. I am travelling with my family, (my two parents and a little brother). Of course, if I were travelling alone, I would love to do as you suggested. However, my family wishes to travel to each one of those countries and have a list of dream landmarks in each country. For this trip, an itinerary is definitely necessary so we can plan our time wisely. However, after reading your comment, it's made me realize that I can be a bit more flexible, and perhaps leave a day or two in each country to just wing it as you suggested. But completely ditching an itinerary unfortunately is not possible for the trip. However, thank you for your great input :)

7. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 27w

It's worth taking into account that July is pretty much peak season for all of these destinations due to the summer holidays. Expect crowds, accommodation which is very expensive and/or booked full, etc. Rome might also be quite unpleasantly warm.

In Germany, if you want to stick to cities, Berlin is pretty much a must. So much history, and so much to see. However, I'd like to make a case for maybe trying for some smaller cities and seeing a bit of nature. Göttingen is my personal favorite unexpected gem to see for a day or two, but there's really not many mid-sized cities with which you can go wrong; you're quite spoiled for choice there. I'd steer clear of Frankfurt and Munich, though, and opinions on Hamburg are strongly divided, with a lot of people being very negative about it.

I'm personally not that much of a fan of Paris. It's too sprawling. Since I don't expect to talk you out of going, at least be very certain to pace yourself, and not try to cram too many different neighbourhoods in each day. Rome has a bit of the same problem (though with much more positive connotations for me); you'll need to really limit how much you try to put into each day there - there's just sooo much to see scattered around everywhere. I'd say 5+ days for each.

Amsterdam is much more walkable, and I guess you can limit your time there to 3 days and still get a good overview (though it pains me to say so, and really, longer is better). When there, be certain to head outside of the immediate city center, to the more leafy streets of the Jordaan (west from central station, beyond the Prisengracht), and the quieter canal sides along the southernmost stretches of the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. That's an entirely different side of Amsterdam. If you're around the museumplein area (I can highly recommend the Van Gogh museum), and want a retreat from the bustle of the city, head west from there to the Vondelpark. (Though note the general high season crowds modifier.)

I remember Innsbruck as more appealing than Salzburg, but haven't been to either in ages.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-May-2016, at 08:22 by Sander ]

8. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

Yes, book accommodations in advance during the peak summer travel period.

If you're visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, go in the afternoon. You won't have to wait as long to get in as you will in the morning. I got this useful tip from the owner of a B&B in Rome. She used to be a guide. Rome is one of my favorite cities.

If you have some extra time in Florence, it might be worthwhile to take a bus to nearby Siena.

9. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 286 posts) 27w

I am fine with anyone who for whatever reason feels they need to plan. What I am not fine with is the ASSUMPTION that everyone has to plan everything. All I try to do is present the OTHER choice and it is then up to the individual to decide what will work for them.

What I am also not fine with is people who are planners and ASSUME based on their LACK of knowledge of winging it, that winging it won't work. For example, look at these statements made above.

"The problem with OldPro's approach is that people often have limits of time and money."

How is that a problem with my approach? I also have limits of time and money. Everyone has limits of time and money. It has nothing whatsoever with whether you plan or not. The ASSUMPTION being made however is that somehow if you wing it, you will get less out of your time and less for your money. Poppycock.

That assumption is then made again in this statement, "The "wing-it" advice may also not suit people who want to be sure to see the highlights in their limited time." NO ONE can see more in a day than someone else. If there are 10 places you want to see then you either have enough time to see them or you do not. I have yet to go anywhere and once there end up not seeing something I wanted to see. In fact, I would argue the opposite. People often bite off more than they can chew. They have 10 places on their list and then discover that 3 days they PLANNED to spend in the area is not enough time in which to see them. I NEVER have too little time or too much time. That's part of what winging it is all about.

Everyone is free to choose how they prefer to travel but they are NOT free to suggest there is something wrong with how someone else chooses to travel. Making statements about when winging it will not work is in fact attempting to say there is something wrong with it.

Some might argue that in fact that is what I am doing when I suggest winging it rather than planning. I would argue that I am not saying never plan, I am answering a question of 'how to know how much time to spend in a given place.' The answer is, you don't know and can't really know beforehand. The planner guesses and sometimes gets it right and sometimes gets it wrong. The person who wings it never gets it wrong. In that sense, winging it IS better than planning. But it does not mean someone who needs to plan can take advantage of that.

I agree with berner256 that each has to do their own thing and in some cases pre-planning is the only option as in some of the examples berner gave. However, only that part of a trip or that trip if it is all you are going to do requires planning. The rest of the trip or the next trip does not require planning because going to see Gorillas did. In other words, the example is ONLY an example of what does require planning, not an example of why ALL travel requires planning. You can't use the one example to try and justify planning everything. And I realize berner did not intend to say that it did. But others will use such an example as somehow being an argument for planning everything.

I do take exception however to berner256's comment that, "Since you only have a limited amount of time, an itinerary is helpful, if not essential." Again that ASSUMPTION is being made that somehow those who plan will get more out of their time than those who do not. I do not agree.

What anyone gets out of their time is up to that individual. No one can get MORE out of a day than someone else could. It's simply physically not possible. The assumption is made clear when berner256 writes, "I used to wing it while traveling, often wasting time and money. Remember the times when you set out on a Saturday night, not knowing where you wanted to go, or what you wanted to do; eventually winding up at home without having done much of anything worthwhile? "

The assumption is that everyone does what "I" do. I understand completely what berner256 is referring to. I used to call a friend and say, 'want to go out tonight?' He'd say, 'yeah sure, what do you want to do?' Now in berner256's world what then happens is the two of them go back and forth with, 'I don't know, what do you want to do?' I don't know, have you got any ideas?' etc. But that was never how the conversation went for ME.

I"d say, 'want to go out' and my friend would say, 'yeah ok, what do you want to do?' And then I would TELL him what I wanted to do. I didn't 'waste' my time not doing 'much of anything.' I am not someone who has a problem making decisions or deciding what I want to do at any given point in time.

I agree that if someone woke up in a hotel somewhere in the morning and then lay there saying, 'so what will I do today, I don't know.' They would indeed probably waste of lot of time and not do much. But I never wake up and ask myself, 'so what do I feel like doing today?' and not have an ANSWER to that question.

Berner256 assumes what HE and those he knows do is what everyone else including ME does. That is an incorrect assumption.

Does winging it suit some people more naturally than other people? Of course it does, just as planning suits some people more naturally. Some people have such a small comfort zone that any step outside of it seems impossible to them. That however is a psychological need, not a physical need.

In the end, the only thing I want to make clear is that when someone writes, "The most trouble I am having with the itinerary is deciding how long to stay in each location. ", the only answer to that problem that I know of is to wing it. I can answer your question and I think my answer makes sense. While I see others trying to say why my method of travel may not suit someone else, I DO NOT SEE anyone else answering the question of 'how long to stay in each location'. Not ONE WORD on how know how long to stay somewhere. Why is that? Because they don't have an answer so they avoid answering it altogether. Kinda like a politician.

I'm glad to see my comments have given you some food for thought aaah2. That is what I always intend to try and do. If you build in a few 'unplanned days' then that may work for you. The only thing is you cannot pre-book a hotel and call it an 'unplanned day.' You need to be able to decide whether to stay another day where you are or move on to somewhere else. That is an 'unplanned day'.

An itinerary is not necessary to 'use time wisely' aaah2. It is the person who either does or does not use time wisely. If you think about it, to suggest that a plan is necessary is in fact insulting me by implying that since I don't plan, I MUST be wasting a lot of my time. I waste none of my time when I travel believe me.

10. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

OldPro, I respect everyone's opinion; and contributions to this; and other forums. We all try to be of help to others.

One of the joys of traveling is that of discovery, of learning new things. I've certainly learned new things from contributors to this forum; and several Travellerspoint bloggers. Currently, I'm enjoying Ask Gudmundsen's photos and blog on his journey in West Africa. The more we travel, the more we learn. And I'm grateful that many are sharing their experiences.

Over the years, I've learned that it often is a mistake to jump to conclusions by making assumptions. As a result, I always ask, "how do I know this?" So I observe; and try to get the facts. I'm always asking questions; and I'm not shy in asking for help, too. The amazing thing is that, more often than not, people are willing and eager to help, often without prompting.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-May-2016, at 15:01 by berner256 ]