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Travel & Holiday

Design your dream holiday

Glean tips on planning a seamless itinerary
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - February 23, 2011
By: Sheila Lim
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Design your dream holiday

Booking a tour may save you a whole lot of hassle and trouble, but nothing beats the excitement and satisfaction of drawing up your own holiday itinerary.

Doing so is much easier these days thanks to modern technologies like the Internet and GPS. There is no limit to places you can go and the kinds of holiday activities you can opt for. But too much choice isn’t necessarily a good thing – it can be utterly mind-boggling if you don’t know how to go about creating a seamless itinerary.

Well-laid travel plans are an integral component of any successful trip. So here are some pointers on how to go about devising them:

Start early

Planning your own itinerary can be an immensely enjoyable yet painful process. The thrill lies in snaring great deals and putting together the constituents that make up your ideal holiday. The pain comes from the time-consuming and back-breaking process of tracking down what you are looking for.

Just as in the planning of any event, it’s never too early to start! This is especially so if you intend to go to popular international events like music, arts, food, flower and cultural festivals that draw legions of tourists from all over the world. Making an early start will help you avoid sold-out situations for flights, accommodation and tickets, and having to fork out higher fares and prices nearer the event date. 

Be realistic

Don’t try to milk your trip for all it’s worth if you don’t wish to turn your dream holiday into a nightmare! Squeezing too much into your trip only wears you out and causes undue stress.

Visiting multiple countries and cities in one trip can be quite a challenge. For instance, if you have only two weeks to spend in Europe, visiting two or three countries within the continent would be ideal, to fully enjoy what each place has to offer, instead of madly tearing around from place to place.

Lay the foundation

Settle the fundamental components of your holiday first. Once you’ve decided on the country/countries to visit, shortlist the places you most want to see and what you want to do.

Make things easier by drawing up a list, and prioritising the items. Surf Internet message boards or consult guidebooks to estimate how long each activity will take and how long you’ll need to get to the venue where it’ll take place. This will help you figure out what’s achievable and what’s impossible (like visiting Disneyland and Sea World in one day)!

Do your research

Check out the calendar of events in the selected destinations, and other things you can see and do. There may be an exciting festival or fun activity you would like to slot into your schedule, or conversely, avoid since it will be crowded and boisterous.

Also note local public holidays coinciding with your trip as they could affect the availability of transport, opening hours of retail and food outlets, and other travel needs.

Drafting your itinerary

Maps are an indispensable planning tool when you are travelling on your own. Once you’ve determined the places you want to visit, look at the maps of these locations and start grouping the different attractions you want to see by country, region or precinct. This will help you plot the most cost-effective routes to take (especially if you intend to travel by rail or rent a car) by minimising transit time between various locations.   

Never pack your itinerary too tightly. In fact, you should consider scheduling “free days” into your itinerary. A more flexible schedule gives you some wiggle room to explore worthwhile attractions you didn't know about prior to your departure and allows you to extend your stay in a place you have fallen in love with.

It’s also wise to keep your itinerary light on the day you arrive at your destination as you are likely to be tired out from making the journey there. If you’ve made prior arrangement for a domestic flight, cruise or prepaid excursion, plan to arrive at least a day prior to the departure date. Missing it could cost you dearly as well as cause you disappointment.

Don’t travel too far from your appointed transit point on the day of departure either, because you never know what contingencies may crop up and prevent you from getting there on time – you might get lost, be delayed by a traffic jam, or caught in a flood! 

Always factor in extra time for unforeseen contingencies. Ask yourself a few questions when catching a flight/ride: How far is the transit point from my place of accommodation? If I miss it, will I have enough time to wait for the next one or will I be able to make alternative arrangements?

Enjoy the trip!

After you've put together that “perfect itinerary”, you can get down to the business of snagging  solid airfare and accommodation deals, making transport arrangements, booking tickets to shows, tourist attractions and places of interest, and even start packing!

When you are planning an itinerary for a “free and easy” holiday, always remind yourself that you’re not participating in the Amazing Race – take time to smell the roses!

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