Busy Travelers: Save Time With This One Marvelous Planning Tip

Travel planning takes time. For busy adults and professionals, it may take more time than you have to plan a detailed trip the way you want to. That’s why I recommend always keeping a few travel itineraries ready to go, especially for your top-priority bucket list destinations.

I call these “rough itineraries.” They’re not meant to be complete travel plans, but rather a skeleton or an outline, a substantial starting place from which it will be easy to create a full itinerary.

choppy waves crash on a dark sandy beach covered in driftwood. You can just see the Space Needle in the distance.

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Why you should make rough itineraries

Do you have a travel bucket list? You know, a list of all the places you really want to go. If you’re a hyper-organized control freak like me you have one written down in priority order.

Several years ago we traveled to Paris (#1 on my bucket list then) after I spotted a deal on flights from Atlanta. The only downside was that our travel dates were just a few weeks away. That was not super fun for an anxious traveler like me, but we just couldn’t pass it up.

Fortunately, we had been talking about going to Paris for a while so I had already bought and read a couple of guidebooks. I had at least a mental list of our top priorities for museums and things, and I had already built an apartment rental wish list in Vrbo.

It made planning the final itinerary so much easier than if I was just going in blind after buying our plane tickets.

What should your rough itinerary include?

Your rough itinerary doesn’t need to be detailed, but it should include the essentials. That way if a great last-minute travel deal pops up, you can jump on it right away because you’ll already know…

  • How many days you ideally want to spend at your destination
  • Exactly which is/are the best airport(s) to fly into and out of for your itinerary
  • At least a few options for where you want to stay
  • Your top priorities for sites, tours, and activities, making note of any peculiarities such as any activities that book up well in advance, how to book, etc.
  • A good idea of how much you should budget overall for your trip and how much you want to allocate to each of the major categories in your budget (transportation, accommodations, activities, food, etc.)
  • For international destinations, any travel alerts or restrictions and/or visa requirements

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view of the Eiffel Tower with a bright blue sky
I planned every detail of our Paris trip in just a few weeks because I had done some work ahead of booking the flights. Photo: David Vierow

Your rough itineraries do not need to include

  • Packing lists, because they are so dependent on the season you travel
  • Detailed plans for each day
  • Your choices for where to eat for each meal on each day
  • Decisions for day trips you want to take, if any

These can be filled in once you make your decision and book your trip.

​Benefits of making rough itineraries

  • It will be easier for you to jump on any last-minute flight deals because you’ll already have a good idea of where you want to go and for how long.
  • It will take you less time to plan your trip because you’ll have already made many of your important decisions in advance.
  • You can compare potential costs across various trip possibilities and choose what is most aligned with your budget and financial goals.
  • You’ll avoid that dreaded “Where should we go for our next trip?” discussion that ranks just slightly below “What do you want for dinner?” on the Annoyance Meter.
  • You can reduce travel planning stress and overwhelm because you’ll have fewer decisions to make after you book.

Creating multiple rough itineraries requires keeping pretty organized. Keep track of all of your important travel details with a digital travel planner like this.

The bottom line

​Keep a few travel itineraries ready to go, especially for your top bucket list destinations. This way, you’re well prepared to jump on any amazing travel deals that come along because you’ll already have made the major decisions that face any traveler when planning a trip to a new destination.