Planning a trip overseas can be a daunting task, so it’s tempting to hand over the reins to a travel agent or a guided tour to ensure you have the easiest week off possible. But if you can manage to put in a little extra elbow grease, you’ll find it a worthwhile effort. Making your own travel plans can be healthier, more educational, and more fun. Just don’t fall into the trap of planning too much. Follow these tips to make sure you have a balanced itinerary.
One day on, one day off
It can be tempting to pack as much activity as possible into your trip, but traveling at a fast pace without taking any breaks can make it harder to enjoy the things you’re experiencing, and can also put too much wear and tear on your immune system. Pace yourself by planning an even balance of activity and relaxation. If you’re going to London, spend a day sightseeing and museum hopping, but take the next to hunker down in a traditional pub and just people watch. In Sydney, you might climb the Harbour Bridge in the morning, but you should then take the afternoon off to relax on Bondi Beach. Planning relaxing activities is just as important as planning exciting ones. After all, it is a vacation.
Schedule free time
Whatever type of activities you plan – adrenaline-pumping, relaxing, or anything in between – be sure to leave free time in your itinerary as well. Reading travel guides and reviews on TripAdvisor can’t tell you everything there is to know about a destination. You’re bound to make your own discoveries on the road, whether it’s an ice cream shop recommended to you by a local or a special walking tour that didn’t make the cut for your guidebook, but has a brochure at your hotel. Leave room in your itinerary to allow for these pleasant surprises.
Don’t forget transportation
Sure, you might be able to fully explore Beijing’s Summer Palace in about four hours, and the Forbidden City in about three, but that doesn’t mean you can easily knock out both destinations in a single day. These top Chinese attractions are in different parts of the city and it will take at least an hour on the subway to get from one to the other. When planning an itinerary, pay special attention to where attractions are located and what your transportation options are. Other odds and ends to account for in your day include opening hours and ticket lines. Give yourself more time than you think you need for major attractions so you have plenty of time to get there, wait in line, and grab a snack or use the restroom if you need to. This way you’ll also have a buffer for getting lost. You should also give yourself extra time for lunch and dinner. The restaurants closest to major tourist attractions tend to have the highest prices. You’ll save money, fight fewer crowds, and likely get a better quality meal by taking the time to head off the beaten path.