Who needs an itinerary?????

Feb 28th, 2001, 12:15 AM
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Who needs an itinerary?????

Does everyone here prepare a fine tuned itinerary for themselves before leaving for a trip??? Seems awfully time consuming and mildly anal, are they really necessary?????
Feb 28th, 2001, 05:14 AM
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I would say itineraries are necessary for the people who ask about them and want to have them, and unnecessary for the people who don't want them. That is not meant to be sarcastic at all, just that it varies with the person.
For me, my travel time and budget are limited and precious, and planning helps me feel that I will be making the most of it. it also depends on how much a person is willing to put up with the downsides when spontaneity leads to the museum being closed or the hotel having no vacancies. Doing the research and planning is also a big pre-trip enjoyment for me, part of the "hobby" of traveling.
I of course do try to allow for flexibility in any plan, and every so often I chuck the whole plan out the window.
Feb 28th, 2001, 06:54 AM
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I must admit to being pretty anal about it all, but yes I plan a pretty definitive itinerary so far as hotels are concerned, but not what specifically to do when I get to a particular location. The few days I sometimes leave open as we will be driving and not sure where exactly we will want to stop or for how long, usually end up consuming too much time looking for a place to stay. We tend to be pretty picky about hotels, but I suppose if you are the type that just wants basic and clean and not particular about location or style, then it wouldn't take so long to find a place in most towns. I enjoy the planning and fortunately have the time to do starting at least a year ahead of each major trip so I feel it is easier to scout out the hotels long distance than it is to wait till I get somewhere. The other advantage of having a full itinerary is that I have an elderly mother back home and someone watching my house (usually in hurricane season) so it is reassuring to know that people can get hold of me wherever I am within a day's notice.
Feb 28th, 2001, 07:37 AM
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I have traveled both with and without itineraries. Both Elaine and Patrick are absolutely correct: budget and time limitations make planning a necessity, and it is also my "hobby." When we do not have reservations, we have wasted up to three hours of a day finding a hotel (despite having a long list of hotels and good maps). Conversely, some of the most interesting things in our travels were not on the scheduled itinerary (but had been researched). "Planning" should always include lots of alternatives and then adjustments depending on weather, strikes and just being tired!
Feb 28th, 2001, 07:59 AM
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Fredrick, To me very trip is in 3 distinct phases and each phase is equally enjoyable. The planning phase may take 6 months, but I have the time and it is a learning experience. Of course it is anal, but I have learned that the enjoyment of the execution phase is directly proportional to the time that I spend in planning. Oh yes, the third phase is boring my friends with photos and slides and reliving the experience for years after the trip. I would feel cheated if I was only able to enjoy one phase.
Feb 28th, 2001, 08:02 AM
Santa Chiara
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I pretty much fly by the seat of pants in all other things, but I am on the side of the planners on this one. If you do not plan, down to what street to take to get to the center after you get off the train, then you eat up hours of time. Sometimes plans don't work out, and that's where you need to be flexible, but the basics: directions, sites and hotels, planning is a must. Not to plan is time-consuming and expensive.

Europe is becoming more and more packed. You would be surprised quickly hotels fill up. Just tried to book an unheard of (I thought) agriturismo in an unpopulated and non-touristy (I thought) part of Italy for the end of May, and it is already full.
Feb 28th, 2001, 08:18 AM
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I quess I need a seat on the anal train!
I can't imagine not wanting to do the research for a trip, it is all part of the fun of planning and learning about the places you will be visiting. We try to do a 3 week family European vacation every 2 years if possible and when we are investing $15,000 can. you want things to run as smoothly as possible. Especially when you are traveling with children, nobody needs to be looking for hotels or arranging car rentals at the last minute. I go so far as to research almost all the restaurants we visit, the only one that I didn't research for our last night in Rome turned out to be one of the worst meals we had anywhere! We thought that we would just head out and stop at a place that was calling to us, well were our ears ever wrong, it was a bad way to end the trip but we were very happy that every other meal we had was fantastic! My itinerary looks like an actual travel guide when I am finished printing it out and I would be lost without it, but even I sometimes juggle days around, ( I'm not a complete freak ) Well maybe!
Feb 28th, 2001, 08:30 AM
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Is it an age thing? Do older travelers plan more?
I'm with Elaine and Bob on this one. I enjoy the process almost as much as the trip. My oldest son travels with a different agenda then mine.
I want to see and experience things.
He wants to get to a place and stay put, relaxing and enjoying the companionship of the locals.
When I went to Ireland, I stayed only one night in each place trying to see and take in as much as I could. He went to Dingle, got a room, and stayed there.
Feb 28th, 2001, 08:39 AM
Tony Hughes
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No, not an age thing, I dont think.

I've spet months planning a big trip but not to the 'nth' degree, leaving space for a chance happening etc.

To go on any overseas trip having done little or no planning seems, in the words of my mother, to be a lesson in being very silly indeed.
Feb 28th, 2001, 09:26 AM
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It may be somewhat of an age thing. When I was younger I used to take a guide book with me that had highlights of places to see, but my time was totally open. If I couldn't find a place to sleep, I slept in my car. As some mentioned Europe is a lot more crowded now (as is the US) so I don't take quite as many chances now. I start reading and planning about 6 mos in advance. I just picked up books on Poland and Romania last weekend for my trip in Sept and already have found some places that I was not aware of but now have an interest in seeing. I also picked up audio tapes on Polish and have ordered same from Romanian so I'll have a smattering of the languages before I go. I have always found that even attempting to speak the local language (no matter how badly you butcher it) pays great dividents.
Feb 28th, 2001, 09:27 AM
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It may be somewhat of an age thing. When I was younger I used to take a guide book with me that had highlights of places to see, but my time was totally open. If I couldn't find a place to sleep, I slept in my car. As some mentioned Europe is a lot more crowded now (as is the US) so I don't take quite as many chances now. I start reading and planning about 6 mos in advance. I just picked up books on Poland and Romania last weekend for my trip in Sept and already have found some places that I was not aware of but now have an interest in seeing. I also picked up audio tapes on Polish and have ordered same from Romanian so I'll have a smattering of the languages before I go. I have always found that even attempting to speak the local language (no matter how badly you butcher it) pays great dividents.
Feb 28th, 2001, 09:32 AM
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I always make up an itinerary. Otherwise, I would forget which sites are closed on certain days of the week, & thus miss out. I pick out what I want to see, check the map for sites grouped together, & then check the dates they are open. This helps me figure out how many days I need in a particular city to accomplish most of it. I also like to get tickets in advance to anything that may sell out early (Lippizaner Stallions )or tend to have long lines (Uffizi). I also try to plan days that we can sleep a little later & have 'down' time for a rest before dinner & evening activities. This little bit of planning eases a fair amount of stress & unnecessary running around once we arrive. Of course all of this is subject to change at the suggestion of a local or our mood. : - )
Feb 28th, 2001, 09:47 AM
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I suppose if you are young with no (big bad) constraints on your time - - if you can afford to be in Europe in six weeks (even if you only see three weeks "worth" of stuff because you are spending a lot of time working out your logistics on the fly), then traveling withoput an itinerary seems fine.

But I feel like I can stretch a trip of 2-3 weeks worth of lodging into 6 or 8 weeks of enjoyment by spending just as long here savoring the research, writing to places and anticipating - - as I do actually traveling.
Feb 28th, 2001, 10:26 AM
wes fowler
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Many, many years ago I meticulously planned a three week driving tour in Europe. Before leaving home, I knew where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see, what I expected to experience. On my second day in the Netherlands, on the way to investigate the Zuider Zee reclamation project, I picked up a rain-soaked young man who was hitchhiking. He proved to be an hydraulic engineering student on his way home to Zwolle. We drove across the Zuider Zee dike while he, in impeccable English, described a history of Hollandís land reclamation projects, what was planned for the future and how the plans would materialize and how he in his future career would be a part of them. I drove him home and was invited to lunch in his familyís farm house. An extraordinary and unexpected experience. It prompted me for the balance of my trip to pick up the first interesting looking hikers I encountered which ultimately turned out to be 36 young men and women all but one proficient in English. I ended up seeing about 70% of what I planned to see and did so with people delighted to share their knowledge and interest in those sights. Two young architectural students, one Austrian the other Italian, neither of whom spoke the otherís language and were forced to converse in English, introduced me to le Corbusierís stunning pilgrimage church in Ronchamps, France. Three young women college students treated me to dinner in Bremenís Ratskeller and gave me a tour of the city and the artistís colony in Worpswede a few days after I had treated them to lunch and a tour of the Kroller-Muller museum. The entire experience taught me a valuable lesson: plan well but be flexible.

I plan still: not about restaurants and hotels, but about what to experience and why. In traveling now, I expect to spend a quarter of my time seeing specific sights, museums, historical sites, half my time simply exploring, randomly wandering streets or driving off the beaten path and a quarter of my time devoted to whatever unexpected adventures or delights might materialize. Iíve never been disappointed. Where I get meticulous is in documenting where Iíve been, what Iíve done, why I did it and what impressions and memories I carry with me.

I suppose what I'm doing is putting the cart before the horse: sketching out an itinerary prior to traveling then filling in the blanks upon my return. Works for me!
Feb 28th, 2001, 10:46 AM
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I suppose it's both an age thing and a style thing.
When I was in my 20's, I didn't even know enough to plan much! Of course, I had all the time in the world (summer vacations went on forever); and now, in retrospect, I see that I missed lots of wonderful things because I hadn't known about them. Of course, I had other wonderful experiences that have stayed with me, but much of the travel was about being open to experience and following the moment. I stayed in youth hostels and really cheap hotels and ate a lot of bread and cheese in those days.

Now, 25+ years later, I have less time to travel and have more awareness of cultural offerings and interest in seeing specific places and sights. I also like to be physically comfortable, and staying in a pleasant hotel is a more important part of the experience than it used to be. I don't want to spend my limited time searching for a hotel, and I now like having knowing where I'm going to be. Sometimes I will leave part of a trip unplanned, but I find now that I would rather know where I'm going instead of just winging it.

As others have said, there is a lot of pleasure in the planning, too. I have my summer trip to Turkey all planned and reserved already! But I've also planned to be in each of the places for several days, and that will be exciting; while I know of the places I'd like to get to, there will be experiences that occur when we're there that I certainly can't predict. And I think that I've set up situations which have allowed some degree of freedom and flexibility.

I do spend more time learning about the place, so that when I arrive, I have a sense of who I'm visiting. I read a lot of books-- especially fiction-- which will give me a sense of place.

So is the planning necessary? Absolutely-- and I love every moment of it.

Feb 28th, 2001, 11:49 AM
Steve Mueller
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Habitually unemployed backpacking slobs can afford to spend a limitless amount of time muddling their way across Europe. The majority of Americans, however, only have a limited amount of time and an itinerary allows them to utilize that time in the most effective manner.

I am perfectly willing to travel to southern Utah without an itinerary because it's only five hours away and I can return every other weekend if I choose. Likewise, Europeans traveling around Europe may not feel the need to adhere to an itinerary because much of Europe is readily accessible to them.

I have a friend who refused to develop any preconceived notion of what he was going to do on his one-week vacation to Paris. To make a long story short, my wife and I were in Paris for four days and saw twice what my friend saw because he didn't bother to study a map closely enough to realize that the Louvre and Notre Dame could easily be visited together. Consequently, he left the Louvre with the spontaneous idea that he wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower next, and then left the Eiffel Tower with the spontaneous idea that he wanted to see Notre Dame next, etc. The result of his "spontaneity" was a lot of needless zig-zagging and backtracking.

An itinerary is not only valuable because you have a plan to follow when you get there. The process of developing an itinerary is a great exercise in familiarizing oneself with a city or a region of a country. It also allows you to develop a realistic idea of what can and can't be seen in the amount of time you have available.
Feb 28th, 2001, 01:19 PM
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I'll join the group and say that I realized within the last several years that I obtain almost as much pleasure planning my trips, and reading up on the destination, as I do in actually taking the trip. (In my daydreams, we never get lost, we always have enough time and money, and nothing is closed.)

We travel in the shoulder seasons, and always book ahead hotels in big cities or other spots where the hotels are likely to fill in advance and/or it's more difficult to locate hotels with rooms, such as Paris or Florence. Smaller locations, we're more likely to get rooms when we arrive.

I read up on what we really want to see, and want we might want to see, and try to make an informal list of the places in those categories. (I.e., in Rome, we'll spend one day on the ancient Roman stuff, one day visiting the Vatican). Then, each day, we decide what we want to do. For example, if it's sunny, we might do outdoor things rather than indoor activities.

For restaurants, we usually have a couple of ideas, then check the menus out during the day. We don't mind spending extra time deciding on restaurants!

It ends up being planned enough to fit in what we really want to see, but enough flexibility to change our minds if/when we happen upon something uplanned and special (that gorgeous outdoor restaurant in Monteriggioni where we just had to have lunch, or an appealing villge we pass through on the way from one major site to another).

Time consuming - yes, but I'd rather read about the Dordogne than watch TV, and I'd rather have a hotel in Paris to stay in the night before I head back to the States. Mildly anal - yes, but I enjoy it! Really necessary - sometimes. Depends on whether you like to sleep in your car, and whether you'd rather see all 10 "must-sees" or fit in 5 of them & have some out-of-the-ordinary experiences. It's easier to choose the latter if you think or know you'll be back.
Feb 28th, 2001, 01:46 PM
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I, too, plan a full itinerary; I enjoy the process, looking at the pretty pictures and reading the information in guidebooks, writing to tourist bureaus and receiving envelopes full of stuff, then plotting out where I'll be each day. I have never had good luck with 'winging it' for accommodations, so those reservations are made well in advance. And, yes, by having a well though-out itinerary I can cram a whole lot of stuff into a little bit of time, without feeling rushed. No disappointments that a sight was closed or a train for my chosen destination didn't leave for 2 days...
For women especially, safety issues are a concern; finding oneself in a railway station at 2am because one didn't plan ahead to catch an earlier train is not any place I want to be; sleeping on a park bench because all the hotels are full is a scary prospect.
Conversely, sticking to an itinerary and missing out on unexpected pleasures is ludicrous. If I know I have a hotel reservation, secured with a credit card, I can go to the street fair and take a later train than planned; I'll have a place to stay when I arrive.
Feb 28th, 2001, 02:11 PM
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I love planning my trips! I look at each trip as it may be the first and last time that I might ever venture there and I sure don't want to miss anything. Do I make it a minute by minute plan? No, but I make sure that I have a hotel waiting for me, train schedules, the costs of hotels, tickets, admissions to museums, parks, etc. That way I not only know what's open on a certain day, have a place to sleep each night, but what my cost of my trip might be and it gives me a guideline on how much money to save. I read every guide book, web site, magazine I can get my hands on for anything that might be relevant to my trip. Then I make a list of what I want to see in that area on certain days. I also make sure that I leave time during the day just to relax and stroll down unexpected streets. I agree with Bob, a trip is 3 phases, 1)planning, 2) going, 3) remembering. All 3 are just as rewarding and a lot of fun!
Feb 28th, 2001, 03:12 PM
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If you call it anal, and I am! I love to plan my trips and sometimes I take 6-8 months to plan. I'm sure I don't need that much (maybe 4-5), but planning is part of my enjoyment. My hobby. Travel is my passion. Without an itinerary, one can get lost, be stuck because of missed train or bus, or a museum is closed. I think everyone has some itinerary of some sort, some more detailed than others. I enjoy my research, buying my guidebooks, contacting tourist offices, posting questions here, talking to family and friends about upcoming trips and seeing happiness in their eyes for me. I learn through my planning. I want to get the most out of my trip so that I can visit new places. Once I get home from a trip, I'm ready to start planning my next trip!

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