How to Make a Damn Good Travel Itinerary! - Emily Tong

How to Make a Damn Good Travel Itinerary!

I have to say, that every time I go on a trip I say to myself “damn, I’m good.” I love trip planning - I am the person that spends hours on Trip Advisor looking up places I have no plans to go to yet, or aimlessly searching adorable AirBnBs on distant islands. My head is always in travel mode so it makes sense that when I get to go on a trip - I AM READY!

So what’s the secret? I've broken it down to six easy steps so you too can have a DAMN GOOD trip! 

1: Set your Travel Intention

...or as the oh-so-smart Marie Kondo says “what sparks joy”?

The “KonMari Method” not only applies to household items but also to traveling and just overall life itself. Before any planning begins, figure out the 1-2 goals you have for your trip. If you are traveling with a partner, friend, or family member, have them do the same. Although my husband doesn't love the logistic side of trip planning, it is important that he “finds joy” on the trip and to reach an intention together- otherwise, what’s the point? 

 Think big for this part - do you want to relax? Do you want to go on adventures? Are you wanting to see the landscape or culture? Nightlife or no life? Animals or people? History or food? Do you have it? Good you’re ready for step two.

2: Don’t break the bank - what is your budget?

Although this step is not as fun, It is important to know your budget BEFORE you start planning. Figure out your numbers and what you are willing to spend on this trip and again, keep thinking back to your travel intention. 

Once you have a direction and budget to work with you can now start on the fun stuff!

STORY: In 2018 my husband and I were planning on a vacation to Vancouver Island in the summer and then Hong Kong for Christmas. As we got closer to going to Vancouver Island, we realized that our budget didn’t allow for both. So we sat down and decided which one we were more excited for and ultimately was best for our travel intention. We wanted relaxation and to see a different side of the world, so we scrapped Vancouver Island and was able to do Hong Kong and add on Vietnam. If we had not known our budget we would have been in trouble and had two not-so-fun trips.

3: What is your “Something Amazing”?

What is your Something Amazing? Again if you are traveling with others, each person should choose the ONE Something Amazing that cannot be missed. With this step, there should be no judgement involved regarding time, money, difficulty of getting there etc. - because ultimately this is the essence of your travel intention.

Your Something Amazing may have to fall on a certain day, time, and place. In order to fit it in, put it straight on your calendar and work from there.

STORY: When we went to New Zealand for our honeymoon, I desperately wanted to see where Edoras was filmed and my husband just as desperately wanted to swim with dolphins. Mine took a lot of time, and his a lot of money, but we fit it in and it was the best parts of our trip! Both were a little extreme but because it was our Something Amazing, we would make both of them fit our schedule and our budget. Hold on to these somethings and work around them as you go forward in planning.

4: Prioritize and group the next items on your list(s)

Now prioritize the next items on your list without scheduling yet. Are there certain cities, sites, activities, restaurants, you want to see or do? List them all out and again if you are traveling with a partner, combine lists. 

Then group them by area. Are there 3 things on your list in the same city? Is there a great restaurant by the place you want to swim with sharks? Is the temple right next to the garden you want to see?

By organizing in this way you can travel a bit smarter and get a better sense of how your trip is going to lay out.

5: Map it out both by time and space.

Now it's time to start putting it on the calendar. Again keeping in mind your Travel Intention to help with the order of things - for instance, go to the busy city first and then relax at a nice beach rather than the other way around. Keep asking yourself, does it make sense? Does it fit in with your intention? Does it “spark joy?” or does it bring you stress? If the latter, maybe you need to reevaluate and remove an activity.

City ⇒ Country 

6: Don’t schedule too much.

It pains me to see travel itineraries that are JAM PACKED, without anytime to really soak in a place. The magic of traveling in my mind is when something spontaneous comes up that you didn’t even plan. I like to have a list of ideal areas to go and a few destinations, without planning every minute. This leaves room to go to a great restaurant that a local mentioned, or for the day you are too tired and just want to go see a movie, or for when an activity takes way longer than you thought and you have to push something to the next day. It is always better to budget in some buffer time for the spontaneous. 

And that’s it! Easy right? So with your new travel intention in mind, go get started on that next trip!

Check out Emily Tong Photography on Instagram

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