In our family, we have our family travel itinerary planning down to a science. Our 15-year-old son is currently planning our next trip to Japan, including the whole itinerary. We shared some of our favorite travel itinerary do’s and don’ts with him, and here they are for you, too.
Do: Arrive a Day Early for Tours or Cruises
If you are planning a scheduled tour or cruise, arrive to the departure destination a day early. I have heard so many horror stories over the years of people missing their cruise due to a flight delay or cancellation. You spend a lot of money on your vacation, so arrive a day early to give yourself a little wiggle room, just in case you have any flight or transportation delays.
Don’t: Over Plan
When you start planning your itinerary, it is easy to plan every second of every day. When you plan every minute of your vacation, you may miss out on the unexpected activities, restaurants, or experiences — and these are some of the experiences that truly make your vacation special.
I see this “don’t” a lot at theme parks. You will see families at theme parks with kids crying and stressed-out parents. At this point, your vacation is not fun. Take a break and head back to your hotel. Let the kids take a nap or relax by the pool, then head back to the parks in the evening, when everyone is refreshed.
Do: Allow for Plenty of Transportation Time
For the first part of our Japan vacation, we are stopping in Tokyo. It can take hours by car to get from the airport to a hotel in Tokyo. For our restaurant reservations, we will leave plenty of time to get from one location to the next.
Within the U.S., we love using the free app Waze, which can help calculate traffic and travel times.
Don’t: Forget to Consider Your Budget
When you start planning your itinerary, don’t forget to consider your budget. Every city around the world has activities that are free or very affordable. These are usually the more local experiences, too.
We always leave open time in our itinerary to explore the destination. We even ask the locals about spots that are more local and less touristy. This is when you find the true gems in a destination and save a little money.
Do: Make Key Reservations
Our family does love the unexpected during our travels, but we do still make important reservations before we leave for our vacation. One of those key reservations we always pre-book is accommodations.
With travel, you always pay the highest price on accommodations when you walk into a hotel. In the industry, we call that rack rate. Booking your accommodations before your vacation will ensure you have a place to stay. Plus, you will be able to take advantage of any discounts.
Another key reservation is your transportation. This can be your transfer from the airport or car rental. For car rentals, you will also guarantee your car and take advantage of deals.
If you are taking advantage of an Uber/Lift or taxi, be sure you download the app to your smartphone before you arrive.
Don’t: Book Your Connecting Flights Close Together
Not all flights are direct. Be sure you pay close attention to your connecting flight times. For domestic flights, we like one to two hours between flights. For international flights, we like three hours between flights, since you may have to go through customs or a checkpoint. On a recent visit to Germany, we spent 90 minutes in the customs checkpoint line. We were lucky, because we booked our connecting flight with a three-hour layover.
Do: Go With the Flow
Our kids know this phrase in The Jones Family! Traveling is about experiences and capturing moments with your family. Things will never be perfect on a vacation. If you miss your restaurant reservation or it rains or something unexpected happens; it’s OK. Just go with the flow! It is these moments that you will laugh about in five years.
We hope these do’s and don’ts help you plan your travel itinerary for your next vacation. Do you have a favorite travel tip you want to share? Leave a comment below – we would love to hear it.