Is an itinerary really necessary?


Feb 22nd, 2004, 09:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hmm. Itinerary. Well, yes.

There are certain constrains when it comes to purchasing airline tickets. The ones you can change cost more, and changing the non refundable ones ups the cost as well. So there are economic constraints that enforce definite beginnings and ends.

Some destinations dictate having hotel reservations, if you want to stay there. For example, I would not visit Paris in September and expect to find a hotel easily. I plan on x number of days for Paris and book a hotel accordingly.

The same is true of some places in Switzerland. I would not, for example, expect to arrive in Lauterbrunnen on a beautiful Friday in August or early September and expect to find very much available, if anything.

Munich at Oktoberfest can be a real problem for casual visitors who just wander in wanting a room. You might find one, but it takes some searching.

Salzburg in the summer is the same way.
I know the year I stayed at the Sallerhof, which is well out from town, I was amazed when the young man at the desk told me they were booked solid and I could not have a room. Fortuntely, I had a printed email reservation that showed I had paid for the first night by credit card.

In the states, I would not dream of turning up in Yellowstone expecting to find a room available in July or August.
I know from experience that my chances are slim to none, and that if anything did turn up, it would probably be a Roughrider cabin with a path to the bath.

I also found last summer that even in Sligo Ireland that without a reservation, I would have had a difficult time finding a hotel or B and B. There was no tourist agency open to help me and even locating a cab was difficult. It took me 20 minutes standing on the street before I could flag one down, and he had to come back and get me. Two cab drivers turned me down; they had calls and showed little interest in helping me find one.

I am not sure I would want to arrive in London without knowing where I was going to sleep, particularly between May and October. The last thing I want to do after a flight to Europe is to figure out where I am sleeping that night and spending 3 hours doing it.

For a major destination like Paris, I arrive with a tentative list of attractions I want to see, arranged in priority order based on interest, location, and open times.

But I have learned from experience that in major cities, there is always something happening that I had not allowed for. Therefore I don't plan tightly and I will let a #2 priority slip by if a perceived better alternative shows up.

Even the Musee d'Orsay got pushed back 2 hours one Sunday when I wandered into a street market on Boulevard Raspail on my way there. I still had time.

On this forum, we often get into debates here about escorted tours. Take them or not is the question? I for one got a bellyful of the dictated schedule on my tour of Ireland tour last year. I thought the schedule was dreadful. We had time for shopping but only 45 minutes at the Cliffs of Moher. Had I been able to find a public bus from the Cliffs to my hotel in Ennis, I would have abandoned the tour.

Lock stepping is not for me, except in a country where I don't know the language or the customs or anybody.

But sleeping on park benches is not my style either.
bob_brown is offline  
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Feb 22nd, 2004, 01:52 PM
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We don't make an itinerary as in:

9-10 AM: Museum X
10:15-Noon: Castle XX
Noon-1 PM: Lunch at Joe's

However, we do enough reading and research to know what we really want to see, and what would be nice but not necessary. When we arrive in a place, we plan our daily activities around making sure that we get to our must-sees. Must-sees are those sights, events that, if we were to miss them, it would really bother us.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 04:42 AM
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Well, kct, based on all this ultra-compelling information what is THE answer??? Is an itinerary really necessary or not?????
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Mar 1st, 2004, 06:47 AM
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I've been to Italy many times over the past 25 years and have never booked a hotel in advance or worked out an "itinerary". Obviously, I know in advance which places I'd like to visit and have some ideas of what route I'll take, but that can change according to weather and circumstances. I make sure I have a good map, a guide book, the Thomas Cook timetable, a phrase book and a pocket dictionary with me. More important than planning an "itinerary" is learning about the places you're visiting and trying to learn the language. I'd read the books in advance so that I have all the information I need when I get there.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 07:07 AM
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I really enjoy the planning process. I would recommend listing your "must sees", then plotting them out on a map. Then you can look on the map for other attractions, markets, museums nearby. Going with the flow may be nice, but it doesn't really sound fun to criss cross Rome for 4 days when you could have seen everything in the same area on one day.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 10:24 AM
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I do exactly what missypie suggested, plotting must-sees on a map. I have never made it to all my 'must-sees', but when in a certain neighborhood or area, I try to cover as much as I can from my list, withouy knocking myself out. I also check hours and days closed for main sites. I've never travelled in the high season, so museums that may require a reservation we were able to do the day before.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 10:28 AM
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Kct, I could not feel more inclined to agree with you.

When I travel, like you I am aware of what I want to see site-wise, what museums I wish to visit, etc. I decide what I want to do on the day, or maybe the evening before, over dinner. Holidays for me would be so dull if I knew months and months in advance of what, where when. People need to relax, and be much more free - as you say we're not at school having to stick to some timetable.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 10:49 AM
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I'm not really going to add much new here. To me, the question of an itinerary depends on several factors; e.g., how much time do you have, where are you going, your personality, what you want out of the vacation, where you're goin, how many people in your party, and what you mean by an itinerary.

Flying to Paris on June 5 and returning to Baltimore on June 25 is an itinerary, though not very detailed. I think everyone has to decide what works for him or her depending on the various factors involved.

My wife would like a very detailed itinerary, I prefer to know some of the major sights I want to see and let the rest ride.

Years ago we worked out the following method: Once we've decided which area we're going to visti, we each make up a list of what we would like to see there. We then divide our individual lists into Must Sees (if I don't see/do this it would be a major spoiler of the vacation for me), Really Want to Sees (I'd like to see/do this a lot, but if I don't I can wait until our next visit), Nice to Sees (I wouldn't make a special trip to go here/do this, but if it's on the way it would be interesting). We compare our lists--any Must Sees on both lists get priority, Must Sees on one list get second priority, etc.

So if we're going to Venice and B. San Marco, the Accademia, Murano, and a gondola ride are Musts--we do plan a particular morning or afternoon for them. The other stuff we pick up as it goes along--or not at all if something more interesting crosses our path.
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Mar 1st, 2004, 12:59 PM
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I am struck by the number of posts that equate the lack of an itinerary with freedom. Those who are fans of Edward de Bono will appreciate this passage from his book, "Serious Creativity."

"There are those who will be horrified by the notion of serious creativity and will see it as a contradiction in terms. To such people creativity means being free to mess around in the hope that somehow a new idea will emerge. it is true that in order to be creative we must be free of constraints...but that freedom is more effectively obtained by using certain deliberate techniques than just by hoping to be free. A solid file is a better way of getting out of prison than exhortations to be free.

"There are those who believe that systematic and deliberate tools cannot lead to creativity because structures will immediately limit freedom. This is nonsense. There are indeed restricting structures such as railway lines and locked rooms. But many structures are liberating. A ladder is a liberating structure that allows you to get to places you would not otherwise have reached. Yet you are free to choose where to go with your ladder. A cup or glass is a liberating structure that allows us to drink much more conveniently. But the cup does not force our choice to drink. ..."

So too is an itinerary, used properly. It can, if one wishes, be a ladder to the vacation of one's choice. You can use something else than a ladder if you wish, but please, to use a ladder - or an itinerary - need hardly be a barrier to cherishing every moment or to being receptive to new ideas. Insinuations to the contrary are doubtless the product of unfortunate experiences with badly designed itineraries, like the person who once fell using a ladder with rotten rungs and who now insists that ladders have no place in the lives of those who wish to climb high.
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