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How necessary is an itinerary?

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Greenfield, Ohio
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How necessary is an itinerary?

Dear TALF - first of all, many thanks for so generously sharing all your experience and knowledge. I have been reading your posts (somewhat feverishly) since January and have learned a great deal. I am wondering how you feel about the necessity of having a daily pre-planned itinerary to have a successful visit to London? Our inclination, since we are having trouble gauging how much time each destination deserves, is to just take things day by day. We have a solid idea of the things we want to do in our 8 days but at this point, no particular schedule. Any insights would be appreciated.

Derby, UK
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for Lindos
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1. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

LibraryLady you have exactly the right idea - i've never understood this obsession with itineraries!

I think it's much better to take each day as it comes - taking as much or as little time you like at whatever attraction you've decided to visit that day. It also works out better with our rather unpredicatable weather over here - on a rainy day you can visit museums, etc. and on a sunny day make the most of the outdoors.

ENJOY!!

north-east NJ
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2. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

I've never used an itinerary on any of my trips. For me, an itinerary would seem more of a duty roster. I have purchased theatre tickets in advance, but that's it.

I think your plan to take things day by day is a good one. One day you might feel chipper, & another a bit knackered; one day might be bright & sunny, and another gray & rainy -- a pre-planned schedule doesn't take these things into account. It also doesn't always allow time for things you didn't realise you wanted to do, but just chanced upon once in London.

My advice is to do what feels right for you, and don't worry about missing out on something. Just relax and enjoy your holiday!

Halifax, NS
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3. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

I always like to have an itinerary, because I find that half the fun of travelling is the planning I do in advance. I only put the 'must sees' on the itinerary and leave lots of blank time. I find it useful so that I can group together things that are in the same neighbourhood and so that I don't find out that my last 5 star sight to see isn't open on the last day of my trip.

On the other hand, my view is that itineraries are always made to be broken/changed/rearranged/cancelled if something better comes up.

detroit
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4. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

Hi LibraryLady50,

I am not much of a London expert, having only been there for the first time this June, but I will tell you what worked for us. Before we left, just like you, we did have a good idea of what we wanted to see. My six-year-old had seen the London Eye on T.V. and so kept talking about it - that was on our list. We knew the entire family wanted to see Tower of London, so that was on our list also. In the end, we did have a loose itinerary. However, I was pretty wary of having a itinerary cast in stone.

When we did get to London, we did some of what was listed on our initial itinerary. We had planned a day-trip but nixed it when we went to London and realized that there was just too much to do in the city. My oldest son and I attended a chamber-music concert at St. Martin-In-The-Fields. That was not in our original plans but could not miss up the opportunity when we learned of their summer concerts in the church. Let me take a wild guess by your screen name - you like books. Then, you will love Charing Cross Road. There are some great bookstores there. I spent more time in the bookstores than I had originally planned - but I loved every minute.

So having a loose itinerary worked for us - it gave us some idea of what we wanted to do when we got up each day. Having an itinerary also forced us to read up on the places we were planning to visit. However, be prepared to modify your itinerary or change it dramatically when you get to London. There is absolutely no shame in not doing anything that you planned originally. I have read several times on TA that "itineraries are meant to be broken" :-)

tennessee
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5. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

I think that as long as you have your list of sites, which is really sort of an itinerary of its own, you'll be okay. That way you know what you've still got to see, etc.

Many people have no idea how the jet lag will affect them on that first day. I have been on flights where I can get off the plane and carry on until 10 at night without a blink. Then, on one flight to Paris, I thought I was going to collapse before I got to the hotel. I had to take a nap or die. You just never know.

I would keep the list and a good guidebook handy and roll with it. As long as your travel partner has the same attitude about sites as you do (ie--no one is going to be devestated if you miss out on something or get scattered), then I say go for it.

The biggest problem I can see is that you might end up wasting a good bit of time trying to decide what to do next or backtracking and such, but if you're well-studied on London and prepared, then I'd say that won't really be a problem.

Washington State...
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6. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

The first time I went to London, I had no itinerary. Things went very well! We planned each day accordingly. However, after the trip was over... there were things that we had missed entirely, simply because we forgot about them.

You wonder how you can 'forget' about something you've wanted to see all your life? Heheh. Well, it happens. In the excitement of being in London and seeing the sites, we just plain forgot about some of them. It wasn't that we didn't have time, even! Things just got overlooked.

After the fact, we just shook our heads and said "How could we have NOT gone there?!? What were we thinking?!?"

So, my itinerary is more of a guide for me so that I don't miss anything I really want to see. If my days change due to some unforseen circumstance, I won't fret it. But at least I can check my list and stay on track with the things I really want to see. ;)

Also, there are just some things that have to be seen/experienced at a specific time. For instance, there are a number of the Original London Walks that take place on specific days only. So, that's handy to make note of ahead of time, because you may want to schedule a Walk in a certain area, to coincide with other attractions you want to see in the same general place.

My gut instinct is that a little organization and preperation will go far in improving your visit. So, call it an 'itinerary', or just call it a 'checklist'.... either way, it's bound to help out somehow!

Sacramento
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7. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

We just returned from two weeks in London. Instead of a strict itinerary, we made a "menu" of everything we wanted to see and do, grouped by area. Each evening, before turning in for the night, we would get out our list, check off the things we had done that day, and discuss where we wanted to start the next day. This worked out very well, and we did not have the stress of always checking our watches to see if we were behind schedule.

San Jose, California
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8. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

I guess I tend to be an overplanner : )

My itinerary, of course, lists the nites at the theatre for the shows I bought tickets for ahead of time.

It lists the Original London Walks Explorer Days that I want to go on, and the walks in town that I really want to do, and in italics, lists the ones I'd like to do if I have the energy or something else hasn't come up that I want to do more.

It lists things on certain days that tend to happen only on certain days (Saturday markets, evening hours for museums).

It lists all the things I REALLY want to do, on certain days, usually grouped in an area around one of the walks I want to do...or starting in one area and moving on to another area nearby later that day (trying to save tube time and not backtrack a lot)

It lists free "fill-in-the-blank" time.

But it's all subject to change (which I should have done more of on my last trip - tried to squeeze too many museums into one day, and now I have to go back to see what I missed!)

Each night I will write up in a simple journal what I've done that day and what I've spent money on, and then I look at my itinerary for the next day, read up on the sites in my guidebook, scope out the tube journeys I'll need to make, decide if there's something else I'd really rather do that day and then go to sleep to dream of the next day's adventures..

-Diana

Greenfield, Ohio
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9. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

Thanks for your prompt and insightful replies. You've made me feel much less harried about planning. What I've done so far to prepare is to divide a notebook into London neighborhoods and then list the places we want to see and the things we want to do along with opening times, costs, special events, etc. I hope that way we won't miss anything essential to us yet won't spend a lot of time traveling back and forth, or deciding what to do. I also hope this gives us the flexibilty you've all spoken of. Can't wait, but in the meantime I'm ejoying reading my guidebooks and, of course, theTALF.

Gloucester, United...
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10. Re: How necessary is an itinerary?

A full blown itinerary is over the top in my opinion. I do like to have flexibility in what I am going to do. I would however recommend putting a fairly basic list together of what you really want to see and other attractions close by. That way you can plan any day to minimise travelling times and thereby maximise sight seeing time.