The beauty of a good itinerary: it’s simply about showing you a good time

I asked you in my last post if you used itineraries and, if so, how you used them. I loved your responses – from Michael who creates his own itineraries but is happy to be spontaneous if an exciting opportunity presents itself (like tapas bar hopping with a friendly stranger in Spain!) to TravelMuse who has planned itineraries for trips with groups of friends with military precision. Zenaida and The Global Traveller both read itineraries for inspirational value then once on the ground discard them to chart their own journeys of discovery. Larry sees following an itinerary as one step up from following a tour guide with an umbrella, while David finds the ’48 hours in…’ itineraries a dull read, never covering anything particularly well, and Jamie notes that it wasn’t always possible to get through everything a guidebook itinerary recommends.

Itineraries can be dull to read, and they can be jammed with so much to see and do that following them is more hard work than it is fun. And when they try too hard to please everyone they can ultimately please no one.

One itinerary recently published that I came across was in fact all of those things, which is actually what motivated my last post – and I’m going to come back to that tomorrow, because it’s itineraries like those that give good itineraries a bad name. Seriously. I’ve literally written hundreds of the things, for scores of guidebooks, papers like The Independent (on Dubai, Muscat, Doha), in-flight magazines such as Hemispheres (3 Perfect Days in Dubai), which I think publishes some of the best itineraries around, and travel sites such as Viator (see our 3 day Dubai itinerary).

Some editors take itineraries very seriously and they want their writers to do so too. They write detailed briefs and if writers diverge from these then they want to know why.

I recall an exchange of emails with Simon Calder, the editor of The Independent travel section, who had questioned how much eating and drinking I had readers doing on my Doha itinerary, going from a meal at the souq, on to aperitifs, then straight to dinner; he’d wanted them to do something more active in between.

Hemispheres editor Randy Johnson was also a stickler for detail, raising concerns about whether I had people doing too much on a particular day in my Dubai itinerary. What I enjoyed about working with these editors on those itineraries is that they cared about their readers and how they spent their time when they travelled.

And so do I. When I create an itinerary what is always utmost in my mind is: am I showing my readers a great time? That’s where the ‘art’ of creating a good itinerary lies.