Welcome to this venture of mine, where I hope to share my passions of healthy cooking, fitness, and travel with the world, and hopefully inspire others to live a bit healthier in their own lives.

Itinerary Building (and how it can work for everyone) + Croatia Itinerary

Itinerary Building (and how it can work for everyone) + Croatia Itinerary

When it comes to vacation and trip planning, there seems to be a spectrum on which people fall. On one end, there are the people who don’t plan anything much besides the flights and the hotels. They plan to figure everything out when they get there. On the other end are the folks who plan every minute of every day they are traveling. Both ends of the spectrum are unrealistic if you want to have the best time you can. If you don’t plan anything, you will likely miss out on some activities or must wait in some long lines which eats up valuable vacation time. If you plan too much, you won’t have any opportunity for self-discovery of things you stumble upon that you didn’t research or find out about ahead of time. And then you feel stuck in your plan. I fall somewhere in between those poles, closer to the “planning” end, though not as far that way as many would think. Though most think of me as an intense travel planner because I love building itineraries, I believe that planning to do the things you want to do most allows you more freedom.

When I go places, I often treat it as if it will be the last time I will visit that places, which isn’t necessarily true. In other words, I want to experience everything (or as much as I can) that it has to offer. If you don’t agree with that, then we just have different travel philosophies and perhaps itinerary building isn’t for you. But if you do want to experience all the best parts of a given location, itinerary building can help.

Now like I said before, I believe that itinerary building gives you more freedom, which sounds somewhat counterintuitive. Let me explain. We are all human and we all have different interests when traveling. Some of us may like to visit museums or historical sites. Others may like to try the best restaurants. Others may like to hike up to the best views of the city. Whatever you like doing, it’s safe to say that when you visit a given location, you want to at least do the things you love most about traveling in that specific location. Let’s say you love art and want to go to the Louvre in Paris. That’s the #1 thing you want to do while you are there. You are in Paris for only a few days so your time there is valuable. Would you just plan to go to the Louvre when you feel like it or would you do 20 minutes of research ahead of time, looking when the slower times to go are, and book tickets ahead of time? Personally, I would do the 20 minutes of upfront work. That 20 minutes of upfront work when you are not on vacation has three benefits:

1. It saves you time when you get there because almost always, you will get to skip some lines if you book tickets ahead of time. This could mean the difference between waiting several hours and waiting 20 minutes.

2. It could also mean getting to go to the place at all. When my mom and I went to look at tickets for the Alhambra in Granada 2 months before our trip, tickets were sold out! The only way to get tickets were to go through a tour at that point. If we had waited until we got to Granada, we may not have gotten to even go.

3. Wouldn’t you rather visit the Louvre when it’s less busy than when it’s busy? I would argue that most people would rather visit a museum when there are less people than more. Quick research on when museum times are slow could greatly enhance your experience.

I know this is an anecdotal example but I use it to explain the value in understanding what you like to do most when you travel, planning those things to have the best experience, and then experience the trip outside that. There is no time wasted waiting in lines, arguing over what to do, or thinking “is there something else I would prefer doing?” With the itinerary planning I will show you how to do below, the planning actually sets you free.

With that in mind, I want to walk you through ways I went about planning my upcoming Spain trip using this philosophy. I’ll focus on the Barcelona portion of the trip.

Step 1: Research

The first thing I do is research the location online and then crowd-source via Facebook. Many of the best things to do in a city have likely already been discovered and written about online. I know in the back of your minds, some of you may be thinking about serendipitously stumbling upon a really hip, whole in the wall café or a beautiful piece of architecture which I am sure has happened and will happen but many of the best things have already been discovered. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There’s no shame in borrowing ideas from those that came before you. I like to crowd-source via Facebook (by posting “What are your favorite things to do in Barcelona?”) because 1. People LOVE to give recommendations on what they have done. Sharing with others and seeing them find value in your recommendations brings joy to people. Heck, just writing this all out is bringing me joy because I know others will find value in it. 2. If someone says something about Barcelona, you can start a dialogue to dig in more on that…why they loved it, any insider tips on what to do, etc. Using friends gives you a truly trustworthy source and also builds a connection between you and that friend through shared experience. By the end of this step, I have made a list of what others regard as the “best things to do in Barcelona”, which may or may not be best for me but we start to prioritize in the next step.

Step 2: Know Yourself and Prioritize

This might be the toughest part if you are the kind of person who is “up for anything” because in any given city, you will have endless options on what to do. That said, what I would recommend doing is thinking back on past trips and the activities on the trips that you most enjoyed. Was it the meals? Museums? Views? For me, the things that I most enjoy when visiting new places are: The architecture, the history, the sports, the views, and the food. In Barcelona, that means a few things: Gaudi and FC Barcelona.

Those are my “must-dos” while I am in Barcelona and I am going to prioritize them over everything else because I know that hitting those two things will ensure that I have a positive experience. They are also experiences that benefit most from ahead of time planning. With that in mind, I planned those two things: I bought FC Barcelona tickets and I planned a tour of the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. If we had waited until the day of the FC Barcelona game, it is very unlikely we would have found 6 tickets together and we would have likely had to pay a marked-up price. If we had waited until the day of to get Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell tickets, we would have likely had to wait in long lines and potentially visit at busy times, which would downgrade the experience we have. Now that you have planned the most important things, it is still good to list the things that you would like to do but don’t require ahead of time planning.

Step 3: The Nice to Haves and Less Rigid Planning

Now that I have the most important things planned and booked, I like to make a list of other things I would like to do while I’m in Barcelona but don’t book anything. Since I like beautiful views, I listed Tibidabo, Montjuic, and Montserrat. And since I like food, I wrote down the cool food market (Boqueria) and made a list of great restaurants so that when the time comes, we can have some good options. I am sure there are some very fancy, exclusive restaurants that require a reservation long ahead of time but those are not typically the restaurants I look to go to. I like going to the more authentic, older restaurants that are not very “haute cuisine.” After listing all these things, I make tentative day plans based on location within the city but again, nothing is booked. All these activities shouldn’t have a significant value-add from booking ahead of time. There are endless restaurants to have a great meal at and there is not much time to be saved by going to one of the beautiful views at a specific time. Of course, it would be great to go at a less busy time, and that’s taken into consideration in the tentative day plans, but know that these are not rigid.

Step 4: Travel Between Cities

This one really depends on the type of person you are and availability. Since I typically like to do a fair amount of up-front research ahead of time and have my “must dos” and “nice to haves” listed, I typically like to book my intra-country train/air travel before getting there. I like knowing that I will be able to get from one city to another on a given day so I can experience the best of both cities. It also depends on availability. If you are looking at a train route that leaves several times a day and has availability up until the day of, then there isn’t as much value in planning ahead of time. But if it’s a less frequent route and there’s a possibility that it will be full, then there is value in booking ahead of time. I wouldn’t wait on air travel until the day of because of higher prices…train prices don’t typically act the same way.

After taking this all into consideration, I write out my itinerary day by day, trying to put as much detail in there. I even put in how long a walk each location is from my Air BnB/hotel so I know how to plan my day and what to expect. I also like to put in restaurant addresses in case it helps navigate or ask for directions. Doing this ahead of time will save you the valuable time when you are traveling.

Given all this, I wanted to show you an example itinerary of mine for my family’s recent trip to Croatia. I have bolded the things that we booked ahead of time and as you can see, there was much free time/open activity planned.

Thursday, August 17th

  • Arrive 2:15 PM in Dubrovnik
  • Go to grocery store to get breakfast stuff and snacks
  • Unpack and get acclimated
  • Potentially take cable car to top
  • Restaurant Recommendation: Restaurant Amoret (Od Pustijerne 2 | Od Pustijerne 2, Dubrovnik 20000)
  • Sleeping in Dubrovnik (at X Air BnB)

Friday, August 18th- Dubrovnik

  • Explore Old Town and City walls, check out open air market
    • Minceta Tower (highest point along Dubrovnik’s city walls) (House of the Undying from Game of Thrones)
      • Fort Lovrjenac (The Red Keep)
      • Pile Gate 
  • Take cable car up to the top of Srd Hill and walk down for great views
  • Hang out at the beach?
  • Watch sunset at Buza Bar
  • Party Beach: Banje Beach
  • Sleeping in Dubrovnik

Saturday, August 19th- Dubrovnik/Lokrum

  • Take taxi boat to Lokrum Island (15 minute ride, boats depart every half hour)
  • Swim in saltwater pool
  • Only inhabitants are peacocks,
  • Explore monastery and walk around car-less trails
  • Sleeping in Dubrovnik

Sunday, August 20th - Dubrovnik/Korcula

  • Take early morning (2 hour) ferry from Dubrovnik to Korcula. Get in at 9:15 AM.
  • Rent bikes and ride along coastline, easy hill-free route with beautiful coastal scenery and roads that lead through the Lumbarda vineyards
  • Check out town
  • Restaurant Possibilities
    • Konoba Belin (Seafood/Croatian)
      • Aterina
  • Bar to watch sunset: Maksimilijan garden
  • Sleeping in Korcula (at X Air BnB)

Monday, August, 21st- Korcula/Hvar

  • Take (1hr, 15 min) ferry to Hvar. 9:15 ferry that gets in at 10:30
  • Rent scooters and ride around island
  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Square
  • Spanjola fortress
  • Stari Grad Plain (UNESCO site)
  • Prepare to order ahead of time for Konoba Stori Komin tomorrow
  • Restaurant recommendations:
    • Macondo (off main square)
    • Black Pepper
    • Lungomare (Seafood, Mediterranean, European)
    • Alviz (Pizza, Seafood, Croatian)
    • Konoba Menego (Mediterranean, Croatian, Seafood)
  • Sleeping in Hvar (at X Air BnB)

Tuesday, August 22nd-Hvar

  • Take a trip to the Pakleni Islands, just off the coast by speedboat tour
    • Morning tour (half day)
      • Palmizana beach has beach bars
      • Brac is another island we can visit
  • Afternoon
    • Dubovica (beautiful beach on south side of Island, short scooter or car ride)
  • Reservation at Konoba Stori Komin (in secluded village, have to order beforehand)
  • Sleeping in Hvar

Wednesday, August 23rd- Hvar/Split

  • Hang out at pool at hotel
  • Early lunch
  • Take (1 hour) ferry to Split (aim for 1 PM)
  • Sleeping in Split (X Air BnB)
  • Plan for early morning tomorrow

Thursday, August 24th- Split

  • Rachel and Adam on all-day tour to Plitvice Lake National Park
    • 7:15 Arrive at east side of Split Promenade, by the bus and taxi stop, intersection between Poljana kneza Domagoja and Obala Lazareta
    • Tour Booked
  • Paula and Brian hang out in Split
  • Sleeping in Split at X Air BnB

As you can see, the only things bolded were travel (they book up), a trip to beautiful National Par, a bike rental (they book up), a really cool secluded restaurant, and a boat tour. We did research on the best things to do, prioritized and booked the things that require ahead of time booking, and enjoyed our entire trip. The trip had its planned portions but we also stumbled upon random restaurants and had amazing experiences that were not on the itinerary. Maintaining the balance and always being open-minded are key to having an amazing trip and I hope I was able to show that itinerary building can help get you there.


My Top 5 Foreign Destinations

My Top 5 Foreign Destinations

My Top 5 Resources and Top 5 Tips For Finding Cheap Flights

My Top 5 Resources and Top 5 Tips For Finding Cheap Flights