Planning an Itinerary
An itinerary is a critical component to any successful trip. I’m not talking about the “8:00 AM meet at Chez Gill for breakfast, 8:45 meet at bus, 10:30 Arrive at Versailles…” No! No! No! This type of itinerary sets you up for a over scheduled traveling experience filled with stress and fatigue. Instead, I create an itinerary that is more of a ‘tentative’ schedule with very important details starting with finding your way out of the airport and ending with arriving at your hotel, and so on.
Steps to completing your perfect itinerary:
1- Research all of the sights that are your ‘must sees’. From this list you will create the rest of your itinerary around those sights so you don’t miss them. Make sure to note the hours of operation for each (some sights are closed early or are open extra late on certain days).
2- Research transportation options. This is the most important, in my opinion. I like to know how I’m going to get someplace before I leave. For example, from the airport to my hotel: I need to board a free shuttle, take a train, and ultimately walk a few blocks to my destination. Under “Tuesday, December 14” I will note the process from purchasing tickets to where I need to go to get said shuttle and train.
3- Allow some wiggle room! This is very important. Too many times, people think to themselves, “Well, I’m never going to come back here so I might as well do as much as possible now”. Don’t think this way. It will only stress you out and compromise the quality of your trip. Instead, do as I said and list a few of the must sees, including general neighborhoods and such. Your trip will be much more fun when you incorporate a little spontaneity.
4- Before you start marking up days, remember your 2-3 transition/travel days. Allow 2 days for travel (the day you arrive and the day you depart) and perhaps a 3rd day for jet lag. I am partial to red eye flights so I sort of combine my travel day and jet lag day. I learned the hard way that you do NOT want to plan a ton of activities that require full attention the first day you get there. You’re tired, cranky, and hungry and the last thing you should be doing in that sort of state is standing in line for 1 hour to visit room after room of paintings. Travel comes first on these days. You have the rest of your trip to explore.
5- Don’t feel like you have to pick each and every restaurant you’re going to visit, even if you are the ultimate foodie. I know, I know, the thing you are most looking forward to is the food! But trust me, there is nothing worse than being lost and hungry looking for that ‘hole in the wall’ ‘authentic’ restaurant. Follow the sights, smells and most importantly crowds of locals and you’ll be just fine. I make a list! In the case of Paris, I’m going to list the arrondisments that I wish to visit and list a couple restaurants under each heading. This way, when I’m strolling around I can see where I am and have a couple of options if I want a recommended restaurant. If not? I’ll just pop in someplace close by…check out the menus (always posted outside) and trust your instincts!
Sunday, November 1
Air Italia Flight #222 Departs PHL at 8:00 PM. Arrive no later than 5:30.
Monday, November 2
10:00 AM, local time: Arrive Rome-Fiumcino Airport
Purchase Roma Pass at Tourist Info Center (no line, cheaper)
11- 11:30 Exit: Go down escalator and follow signs to customs.
Purchase a 1 way ticket for the Express Train to Rome.
Arrive Rome and follow signs to Via Masala. Walk 3 blocks and hotel is on left.
12:00-1 check in and get settled
1:00- Lunch around hotel
2:00 on… explore area of choice!
Tuesday, Nov. 3
9:45 am: Coliseum (Opens 10 AM) (Red Subway to Coliseum stop)
11:00- ? Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Evening: Piazza Navona and Pantheon
* Continue the week using this formula:
AM Sight(s) + Lunch + Gelato
PM Sight (s) + Dinner + Gelato
OR incorporate an excursion using the same approach but clearing stating the way in which you are going to get there. (example:)
Wednesday, Nov. 8
Excursion to Pompeii
9:00 AM Regional Train to Napoli
11:30- Arrive Napoli, Commuter Train to Pompeii
5:00 PM Commuter train to Napoli
L’Antica Pizzeria de Michele (address)
6:30 pm: Regional Train to Rome
Tuesday, Nov. 10 Day of Departure
Check out hotel at 10:00 Am
Leave no later than 11:00 AM
Purchase ticket at train station for the Express (leaves every 25 minutes), arrive airport at 12:30
Flight # 23 Departs Rome at 3:30 PM
The beauty of a flexible itinerary is the ability to play around with planned days with confidence. All of the logistics remain the same, but this means you don’t have to hop a train to a nearby town at 8:00 am if you are still feeling a bit silly from the night before. :) I hope this gives you a better idea of how valuable a good, flexible itinerary is to the success of your trip. If you have any questions whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to ask! Ciao!