Planning a trip the Southwest or anywhere for that matter? Not sure where to start? Itinerary planning can be pretty tricky, and most often should be left to the experts. With the ease of user-friendly booking websites, most people think trying their hand at making their own itinerary will help save them time and money. Yes, it can - but it may not always save you effort.  We spend hours creating itineraries every day, and we think we've learned a thing or two about planning itineraries - and we are glad to share these tips with you!

When we plan itineraries, we look at a few different things that you're probably familiar with:

1.Dates
2. Important Must-See's
3. Hotel Reservations
4. Transportation
5. How to get from place to place (maps, train schedules, directions, and much more)

These are all important elements and need to be included - but itineraries are so much more than just specific reservations. Itineraries are hard to create, especially if you aren't familiar with the area. They're kind of like a puzzle (hence the photo). However, with these tips hopefully it will become easier for you to plan a fantastic itinerary for you and your family or whomever you are travelling with!

So, in no particular order:

Tip #1: Don't Try & Fit Too Much In

This is a very common mistake with most travellers. They are so keen to get everything done in one shot - because, let's face it - they may never make it back there again (depressing :( ). While it is important to ensure you include your must-sees', it is also important to build in some downtime. Without downtime, your vacation will feel like a whirlwind. Some people are into that style of travel- but most of us treasure our 2 weeks off and want to make sure that it is enjoyable and fruitful but also leaves us well-rested.

Tip #2: Think About Contingencies

When I build itineraries, I like to look at them and think. What happens if this doesn't work? Where would I go? How would I get there? It's also really important to build in some buffer time (i.e don't schedule a flight to land at 7:01 when your pick up time is at 8:00 an 40 minutes away from the airport, 19 minutes is cutting is close!) While that seems pretty self-explanatory, you will be thankful for that little bit of buffer time when the pilot announces that you're running 2 hours behind. Instead of having to sweat and run through an airport, or worse thinking about how you're going to meet up with the tour group that is currently departing without you, you'll be able to rest assured that you have some time built in so you don't need to rush. While you can't always plan for everything, at least you've thought about some major potential issues and what you would do in case the worst case scenario happens (If you have every travelled before...something WILL go wrong).

Tip #3: Embrace the Local Culture

As easy as it is to gravitate to the comforts of home, trying new things in a new place is always a key to understanding and embracing local culture and getting the most out of your experience. Even in the Southwest that is possible. Whether it is trying a Navajo taco outside of Monument Valley or some of the local fresh made pies along the way to Bryce Canyon, the area definitely has opportunities for you to try new things or things that are specific to the area. Learning about the culture is also a great way to feel less like a tourist and more like a traveller. Learning and embracing cultures can take your trip itinerary from touristy to meaningful.

Tip #4: Build a Budget

As important as an itinerary is with all of the details, a budget is an important part of vacation planning. Whether you use a scrap piece of paper to jot down notes or a detailed spreadsheet, a rough idea of what things are going to cost will help keep you organized and on track. Vacations can add up quickly, so it is important to have idea of what things cost - and what you can afford to help keep you on track. But, vacations are also about the experience, so if you're thinking about penny pinching in destination on a once in a lifetime opportunity...my advice is to throw your budget to the wind - the experience is always worth it! (With caution, obviously!)

Tip #5: Details Are Important

Forgot the confirmation? Don't have the hotel address and your GPS has failed? Not sure what day you're checking out or what the tour cancellation policy is? These are all important details to keep in mind. With my itineraries, I like to have all of the pieces of info I could possibly want or need just in case I don't have internet access: address, phone number, hours of operation, directions, key info, prices, etc. Most people aren't like me and forget the details - and that's OK if you are flying by the seat of your pants. But I'm pretty sure you'll want the details on how to change your flight when the seat of your pants is taking you to Aruba instead of flying home like you thought you were going to!

All in all, planning an itinerary should be fun, not stressful! It is planning your vacation after all! Are you ready to plan your itinerary? Do you think you will use any of the above tips?

Let us know some of your tips below! Or you can just contact us for your next itinerary and leave the planning to the experts! :-)