6 Steps to Creating a Great Personalized Itinerary

Ever notice how some people seem to make traveling look easy? It’s usually because they created a great itinerary. However, creating the perfect plan starts way before you start packing your duffel bag. Phone apps and easy access to travel information make trip-planning more user-friendly. However, creating a well-planned itinerary requires more than a desire to travel. It takes a strategy that funnels all that raw data into an actionable plan.

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Ever notice how some people seem to make traveling look easy? More likely than not, it’s because they started with a great itinerary. However, creating the perfect plan starts way before you start packing your duffel bag. The proliferation of phone apps and easy access to travel information makes trip-planning more user-friendly. However, creating a great personalized itinerary requires more than an account of tripIt.com and a desire to travel. It takes a strategy that funnels all that raw data into a plan that can you can execute quickly.

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black-coupl-traveling-Steps-to-Creating-an-Itinerary-You-Wont-Forget-1 6 Steps to Creating a Great Personalized Itinerary
  1. Mindmapping Your Perfect Vacation
  2. What Kind of Experience are you Seeking
  3. Online Apps
  4. Hotel
  5. Attractions
  6. Slow Down

6 Steps to Creating a Great Personalized Itinerary 

Ditch the Random Checklist for One You’ll Never Forget

I started creating custom itineraries for friends and family members first. Then I created them for co-workers. I didn’t charge for them until I realized some readers were duplicating entire trips– right down to the hotel, restaurant, and activities. After someone asked me for my driver’s name in Bali, I decided this information had value. And many people didn’t enjoy the act of planning and were willing to pay for it.

Creating a great itinerary is relatively simple. Don’t try to do everything you see on Instagram. You don’t want to be that person who uses a random checklist, do you?

The key is to narrow your search parameters to something easy to digest and yet thorough enough to create the vacation you’ve been dreaming about every night.

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Why You Should Personalize Your Travel

One of the best ways to use mind mapping to personalize your travels to avoid over-tourism This means you don’t look for places that are trending on social media. Instead, you opt for destinations tailor-made for your interests. Social media creates a narrative that everything trending is the only way to go. Don’t rely on Google search metrics to determine you next vacation, but on your own individual taste. This kind of travel is not only authentic but an authentic reflection of you.

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1. Mindmapping Your Perfect Vacation

Travel Plan with You in Mind

Most people start with the destinations, and that’s logical. You can make a list of everything you want to see, then prioritize each activity. Or you can try one of my favorite planning techniques: mind mapping. I love using this tool to free-think, which allows me to zone in on what I want to accomplish. Here is a simple mind map for my trip to Arizona.

You see, I start with Arizona in the center and branch out from there. I like to capture things like what I want to do as well as my strength, values, motivations, and actions. These clarifications allow me to look at my itinerary to see that it satisfies my mind, body, and soul.

Check out our budget itinerary to Singapore– it’s neighborhoods, attractions and all the delicious foods HERE.

2. What Kind of Vacation do you Want to Have?

So now that my mind map is complete, I ask myself a few questions to fill in the details. These questions will help me make a decision when I start looking at specific places and activities in Arizona.

  1. Where will I stay?
  2. How will I get around Flagstaff?
  3. How do I get to and from the Grand Canyon?
  4. Is there an activity I’ll only find in Arizona?
  5. How do I hire a tour guide?
  6. Is there a festival or event I want to participate in or avoid?
  7. What’s the weather like in September-October?
  8. What is your budget?
  9. I am not looking to pack in a lot of activities. What kind of traveler are you?
  10. Do I need to buy anything for this trip?

3. Useful Online Apps

Google is Not the Only App in Town

One of the worst itinerary problems is misestimating how long an activity will take, or how long it will take to get there. Another problem is scheduling travel around local holidays that can affect transportation schedules and business operating hours. My go-to app is Google My Maps because it lets you create personalized maps and pin them for later.

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4. Finding a Hotel

Keyword Searches, Booking Sites and Rewards

One of my favorite tips is to look at hotels in the soft opening phase. A soft opening is when a hotel opens for business. However, all the light fixtures, amenities, or services may not be available. And you get a discount for the inconvenience. I love them and seek them out. When I travel, it’s a great way to get more of a bang for my buck.

Only one hotel came up when I Googled soft openings Flagstaff, and it didn’t pass the mind map test. It wasn’t a resort. However, using my mind map as a guide, the keywords I’ll use to search for a place to stay in Flagstaff are spa and yoga retreat.

My other go-to is booking.com or booking with my rewards partners, IHG, and Delta Airlines for flights. And I always book everything with my rewards credit card to earn points and cashback on my travels.

One great TIP is to find accommodations that speak to you– like the G Boutique and Resort in Hoi An.


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5. Finding Things to Do

Tourism Boards, Newspapers and Word of Mouth

I usually begin my search by checking out the city’s tourism website. Once I arrive, I pick up the local papers (print Arizona Daily Sun to find events that might not make the Interwebs. There is usually an online version, and luckily there’s a Flagstaff Event Calendar online too. You can also request or download a free visitors guide and map ahead of your trip.

Check out their Chamber of Commerce, the local college Facebook page and IG pages, and viator.com for more inspiration. One of my favorite tips is to look at the city from the highest point for perspective. In Flagstaff, that’s Humphreys Peak, and in the Grand Canyon, that’s yup, the Grand Canyon. And it turns out both are on my to-do list. I also love to Google free stuff, walking, guided, and food tours.

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Slow it Down

Scheduling, Overpacking, and Missed Connections

Now that I have a travel plan, I can sit back and just anticipate a worry-free trip, right?  Wrong. Planes arrive late, connections get missed, ferries break down, festivals get canceled, and pandemics break out. Yeah, it sucks, but there are few things you can do to lessen the impact on your, your time and your wallet.

Slow your roll. Consider scheduling a free day into your itinerary. This flexibility will also give you some wiggle room in case you miss your connection, hear about something you’d like to explore or need a little downtime. Instead, expect the unexpected, and leave plenty of room for upsets.

Now, you have everything you need to put together the perfect personalized itinerary. So what are you waiting for now? I’d love to hear how you approach creating a customized plan and check out the mind map of your next trip too.

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12 thoughts on “6 Steps to Creating a Great Personalized Itinerary

  1. I actually was looking for examples of mind mapping for a course I am in and I found your blog. Do you do this for every trip or for special ocassions? I think this is a unique way to zero in on a trip that has you at the center that no one else in the class will use, so thanks.

  2. Love your idea of using mind-mapping as a planning tool, and checking both online and with local sources for ideas of what is happening while you’ll be there. Another thing I like to do during the research phase is Google “public murals” or “public art” in that location because it gives a great glimpse into the personality of the area and the art is generally incredible and (as a blogger) useful for posts and social media.

    1. I love mind mapping for other things as well. It allows that free flow of thought— so we aren’t laser focused in one way.

  3. This is so well written and easy to follow! Mind mapping is a great tool and one I don’t think I’ve ever considered for traveling. I kinda like it better than lists because it feels a little free and less “business” and I want to feel free when I plan or take a trip! Thank you!

    1. Thank you, I am a visual person. That’s why I love pre-planning because it extends my trips that much longer. You can use mindmapping for anything you are looking for inspiration for.

    1. Thank you, Shar. I really enjoyed writing this because its the passion that helped me travel all around the world.

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