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Travel: How to Build an Itinerary

Let’s talk about itineraries! An itinerary is a collection of your travel details. You build it as you plan, and book, to keep track of everything for your trip. It is also a great resource to use while you are on your trip.
An Itinerary can take many forms, from a PDF to simple calendar invites. The level of detail is also a spectrum, from the very detailed, formal, or a less detailed, informal. What do these have in common? They are both correct, you pick the one that works for you. One that is “easy for you” to build, maintain and use. I’ll give you examples of both and why I prefer each for different types of travel.

What is in an itinerary? The simple answer is anything you’d like! I like to include different things (and different levels of detail) depending on the length and complexity of the trip. Here are some ideas on what you can include in yours and why I like to include them in mine.
  • Include details like confirmations/addresses/phone numbers/websites for your hotels, reservations and activities.
  • Per entry, the cost and note if the item was pre-paid for or not.
  • Date/time for all applicable items:
    • Include hotel check-in and out times.
    • Travel departure times – Note what time you need to leave your current location to make your departure time with an additional 30-60 minutes of buffer time.
  • A map of the main activities and locations on your trip.
    • This practice can stop you from booking something in the wrong city or even too far away from what you have planned.
Why would you need an itinerary? An itinerary is an organized guide for your trip. Instead of trying to remember everything, you’ll have it all written down. I also use it to create my trip budget! Here are some other reasons why I love itineraries!
  • Build the itinerary while you plan so everything works together.
  • I prefer to travel with others so it’s easy to share with travel buddies.
  • When I return from my trip, it’s easy to share my itinerary to friends that want the details of my trip. When people ask: “Hey, what hotel did you stay in” or “how did you get from X airport to X town” I can just email all the itinerary to them.
  • And so I can share them with you on my blog of course!
Where do you build an itinerary? I prefer free phone app tools even though there are plenty of paid apps that are made for making itineraries. I mostly use my phone’s cloud-based note app or google drive that I can real-time share with my travel buddies. I will also use my desktop office programs, like slide presentations and spreadsheets to make itineraries.

I’ll create a PDF from my hotel, plane and activity confirmations then combine them into one PDF document with the formal itinerary PDF. Then everything is in one document making it easy to share and use.

How to choose between Formal vs Informal Itineraries?
  • I use an informal itinerary for weekend, business or road trips. I like to use these when I have no set activities, or I am staying in one city.
  • I’ll put the work into a formal itinerary when I have weeks of travel with timed activities like multi-city travel and reservations. 
The main rule is to do what works for you and provides you with the most value on your trip!

Here is an example of a Formal Itinerary – this a small section from an itinerary from a past trip to Naples! It includes a map, hotel, travel and activity details.


Here’s an example of an Informal itinerary – super simple list of the essentials!

Now you have your itinerary! Where should you keep it? Here is where I store mine. First, I PDF the itinerary, so it’s in an easy format no matter how I made it. Then I merge it into the same PDF file as all of my confirmations, so everything is in one document:
  • I save it on the documents IN my phone, not on an app but in my phone and tablet internal folders, so I can use it without internet.
  • Email it to my emergency contacts for the trip.
  • In your hidden Luggage ICE (In Case of an Emergency) Bag: we will talk more about this in packing!
Think about your relationship with your itinerary – don’t let an itinerary become a chore or even worse, get in the way of your trip. If you don’t see the value in it then don’t do it, but it could come in handy so build your itinerary the level of detail that works for you!

Happy Traveling!