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How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

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Florida
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How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

My husband, children, and I are going to London for 8 nights late May, early June. I still have 8 months to plan, (my sister says it's like I am having a baby) :)

My questions are these:

How did you get your itinerary together? Did you read travel guides and list the things you wanted to do and see, and plan them out on paper? This is probably what I will do. It's a bit overwhelming now, but I am sure it will become easier once I do more research.

I want to do all of the touristy things--the Tower of London, Westminster, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Pubs, fish and chips, eat a curry, possibly one walking tour, and possibly one day trip, and on and on. :)

Hopefully we can fit most of it in. I have to be realistic, since we are bringing our young children, ages 3 and 5.

I also want to make things as easy as possible, such as purchasing tickets in advance, etc.

Thanks for any tips.

Florida
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1. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

It helps if you have a blank calendar page. I drew one up on my computer and filled in the dates I'd be there. I also wrote down the places I really wanted to see in order of importance and then tried to lay everything out so I wouldn't be criss-crossing the city too much. I wrote it all down on the calendar (in pencil) to see how it would fit. If I couldn't squeeze it all into the alloted time I eliminated some of the lesser places. But you need to be flexible too. If you suddenly realize you're right at a really interesting site that isn't on your list, don't pass it by. That's what works for me.

Topeka, KS, USA
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2. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

You've started off right by finding TA. (Incidentally, how did you find it?)

The posters here are very kind and helpful. My planning method starts months in advance because for me that's part of the fun. This is our seventh trip, but each time we come I buy new travel books---You might like Rick Steeves London (as well as others) which lists the 10 most popular tourist sites. Read, read, read. Decide what you really want to do most, then ask questions on this forum.

I always have a hard time deciding where to stay. I love the area of the Strand Palace because its become familiar to me, but chose a different hotel this time and hope Im not sorry. (Maybe someday we'll fling caution and budget to the winds and stay at the Savoy!)

We make the major buys well in advance (air and hotel), take the maximum cash from the many ATMs for miscellaneous stuff, and use our Visa when we can, which is almost anywhere which helps spread the cost over several months. Also learned here to take one or two hundred dollars in case the ATMs go down for a few hours.

We havent traveled with small children but there are posters who have and will be helpful in planning for them.

Welcome to the forum. It wont take you long to get "hooked."

Seattle
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3. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

NurseLRT: I go someplace different in Europe every year (plus I always spend a few days in London before heading home) and once I decide where I want to go, I get up to date travel books (Frommers, Fodors, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide; I have tons of Michelin Green Guides), browse through them and also check out city/country websites.

If I'm staying in a large city, such as London, and want to do day trips, I figure out train/bus times for traveling to and from. Because I usually travel by myself, I always have a map of the city or town, and plot the route from the train/bus station to the center of town. I'd also suggest getting brochures; some of them have great maps and suggestions for things to do. Here's the link: onlinecenter.to/vbbritainbychoice2005.html

Have fun planning!

Florida
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4. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

Thanks so much everybody. I am definitely going to buy the Rick Steeves London. Another person has recommended this to me. Thanks Lee for the link. I will read it and bookmark it.

Peregrinae, I think I first found out about tripadvisor from my dad. I will pass the money tips onto my husband. I have heard this good advice before--I think I read it on this forum. :)

The husband, kids, and I went to Washington DC this year, and used trip advisor.

Dixie, I like your calender tip! :)

Salem, Oregon
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5. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

This is how I have planned all 8 of my itineraries, and what I teach my travel students. I've customized it for you.

1) For starters, get a good map. Call 1-800-GO-2-BRIT and ask them for a free London map, Tube map and tourist kit (brochures, etc).

2) Get a good London guide book. Borrow from library or buy one. This can be as inexpensive as TripBuilder London for only $6 at Barnes & Noble, or DK Eyewitness London for about $25 at most booksellers. A good guide will show you the top 50-150 sites and show you where they are in the city.

3) Use this forum aggressively. Use the search function. Read lots, ask additional questions on threads that interest you, and start a new topic for each separate question you have.

4) Make a list of all the things you know for sure you want to see/do (A list), then a list of everything you would like to get to if possible (B list), and a list of everything that you don’t really know about but have heard about and think sounds interesting (C list).

5) When you get a good map of the city group your A, B and C lists by area of the city. Arrange your days accordingly so you don’t spend inordinate amounts of time in transit.

With 8 days you can put your top 16 things in half-day segments and see them all without rushing, accidentally missing anything, sacrificing something or wearing yourself out in transit. Include B and C list items in the same half-day segments so that when you’re ready to move on you know what else is in the vicinity, or just go with the flow and do whatever grabs your immediate attention. Anyone who travels from one end of London to another more than once in a day (except to get home) is not a smart traveler.

A good 8-day itinerary should easily fit on a single page.

The planning part can be a great deal of fun. You might want to check your library for In Britain, Realm, and English Home for inspiration that’s off the charts.

Redmond, Washington
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6. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

Everyone knows the planning I did. But this is how I started off.

Get any standard London Tourist book that lists major touristy attractions and see what you're interested in out of all that London has to offer. (Like Britfan, I'd recommend DK. It's got good pictures with descriptions so easier for you to understand what you can expect out of that attraction).

Next look at the locations, and try grouping them by geography.

Finally, use this forum and that attraction's official website to get more information - online ticket vs counter purchasing, deals, which day is best, morning vs noon, Saturday vs weekday, etc.

Valencia, Spain
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7. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

I use a xls file to keep things together. One page for the calendar; another(s) for the places we want to see, including opening times, nearest tube, price, etc. In this page I include also the flights timetable, hotel location and travelcards costs, so it's also valid as budget control table.

Take a look to www.toptable.co.uk, www.fancyapint.com or someweb like that, and choose some places to eat.

Arrange your selection of attractions, places, restaurants, pubs, parks, etc. geographically, and plan varied days.

We went to Paris when our son was 8 yo and our daugther 8 months old. They really need carefully planning, free time to take a breathe and all the things you know.

pennsylvania
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8. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

As a former elementary school administrator, I was always making lists of children groups and rearranging them for all kinds of reasons. I use the SAME process to plan my itinerary .

I take a piece of paper for each day. I write my 'must sees' on small post it notes (including the open hours, for late evening treats like the Portrait Gallery).

Then, the post-it notes stick to the day.... but can easily be rearranged as you refine your plans. Pop them off a day and stick them on another. Much better than scribbling, crossing off and rewriting.....!

Florida
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9. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

Wow, thanks for all of these fabulous tips. Britfan, thank you for the customized tips! The A,B,C lists make a lot of sense, and I feel better that I can still see and do without running too ragged. Vikram, I have the DK book, as well as Fodor's London 2006. My husband bought the DK, and I think I like it better. He said, "I can't read that Fodor's, it's too boring." :) I love the concise info in DK, and the pictures. poor talker, thanks for the food websites, I will definitely use them. valley, I love post-it notes too. :) I am finding a lot of teachers travel. Summers off and holiday breaks might have something to do with it. :) :)

Florida
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10. Re: How Did You Plan Your Itinerary?

oops Valley, you are an administrator not a teacher! Sorry. :)