In all my travels across 40 countries, I have realised one thing – there is no such thing as a perfect travel itinerary. However, you can have a perfect holiday if you set your mind to it and plan well ahead in advance. Travel, in my opinion, is a way of life and as a traveller, the journey to me is the destination. And yet there is so much to see, touch, explore and absorb from a journey. Every destination has so much to offer that it is perfectly normal to be a bit lost when you start planning your trip and wonder how to make an itinerary. Here are some tips that will help you plan your ideal holiday with a near-perfect vacation itinerary and you will find ways to fund them as well.

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1. Ask yourself, what do you look for in your travels?

It is important to set your expectations right before a trip. Every one of us has that one reason to travel – it could be for relaxation or a soul- searching journey. Ask yourself if you want to switch off from the world or Instagram every moment of your holiday! For some, it is about ticking off sights from a bucket list, while for others it is about soaking in the experiences. Some travel for food, while some seek adventure. Well, for me, it is always about absorbing the essence of a destination and losing myself in the stories. While I sometimes wear the garb of a tourist, the slow and mindful traveller in me takes over. I immerse myself in the local culture, traditions, festivals, markets, and neighbourhoods. I may be in Germany, Croatia, Hong Kong or Japan, but it is the Old Town that beckons me. I like to watch life unfolding in front of me and merge with the milieu. So when you wonder how to make an itinerary, you need to first ask yourself what are you looking for in your travels. And that will enable you to come up with a trip itinerary that is perfect for your interests.

2.Have a plan in your head

In my early days as a traveller, I used to plan meticulously wanting to maximise every moment of my trips. After a few years of travelling, I started embracing the idea of slow travel; I started appreciating the little joys of travelling. That became the very essence of planning a vacation itinerary for me. However, I still have a plan in my head. I often mix and match experiences and sights based on my interests so that it is a perfect tour itinerary. I was for instance, in Tokyo for four days and I mapped all the neighbourhoods that I wanted to explore – be it the busy Shinjuku and the overwhelming Shibuya or the quaint Asakusa and the vibrant Akihabara. A little bit of pouring over maps helped me plan the trip as I explored temples, markets, comic stores, cafes, gardens, and palaces. In Prague, I spent more time in the Lesser Town and the Castle District than in the Old and New Towns while in Wroclaw in Poland, I was besotted by the dwarfs, who were the symbols of the city and I went on a treasure hunt that led me to explore many neighbourhoods around the town.

Every destination has different sides to it and the benefits of doing a bit of research help you experience the myriad cultures. However, every trip needs a planner. I am not just referring to a travel agent but a financial companion who offers you multiple benefits when you stay invested for a long time so that you can keep funding all your travel plans. And that is why I keep my money invested in lifelong insurance plans from ICICI Prudential Life. The plans help me finance my trips and also provide my family with the security of a life cover. There are many more advantages from these plans, which helps you grow your wealth, offer tax benefits and even give you additional protection with a guarantee of returns. The biggest advantage is that I can stretch my holiday a little more, without stretching out my funds for my holidays. Now that is a perfect ingredient for a wonderful vacation itinerary.

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3. Look for the offbeat, the alternatives, the secrets and the hidden
While we are planning on how to make an itinerary,  we initially focus on the must-see attractions – be it museums, castles, cathedrals, temples, palaces, amusement parks to name a few. There are outdoor experiences that we cannot miss – a wildlife safari, a hot air balloon ride, kayaking, snorkeling, trekking in the woods. While these have to be on your vacation itinerary,  I would also recommend that you seek out the alternative and offbeat tours in a city. When I was in Berlin, I spent a lot of time exploring the historic sights and then experienced an alternative Berlin where we looked at street art and free expression. I was in Tokyo on a “Cultural Curiosities tour, a fascinating walking tour that took us into the heart of the old city. Every destination has its secrets tucked away in the bylanes. The “closes” of Edinburgh tell their own stories, the lanes of Prague come alive in the night with golems and ghosts. Look out for the free concerts in the parks and along the underground or in metro stations. While the street performances are very entertaining, you can also move away from attractions and tours and attend a class. I have done Chinese painting class in Hong Kong, a culinary class in Bali, a chocolate tour in Brussels and even a taichi class in Mauritius. Watch cultural shows and performances – from swirling dervishes in Turkey to apsaras in Cambodia, from fiery Kecak dance in Bali to Sega in Mauritius to name a few. Your tour itinerary just got colourful and vibrant.
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4. Do not give in to FOMO

I have often met several travellers who are so exhausted in their journey and yet they keep travelling just because they do not want to miss anything. There are some elusive feelings in them that they might miss out something from their bucket list. It is, however, natural to feel a bit let down if you are challenged for time, but giving in to FOMO will only ruin your trip and your vacation itinerary. If you are facing time constraints, then you have to prioritise your holiday plans. Make a list of the most important experiences that you do not want to miss. When I visited Copenhagen, I wanted to see Kronborg Castle, where Shakespeare set his Hamlet. And when I was in Dubrovnik, I was keen on the Game of Thrones tour. I did not mind missing out on the London Eye as long as I went on a Charles Dickens walking tour or a pub crawl on Fleet Street that took me to some of the oldest pubs. Someday I would like to see Wimbledon finals in London, but I will wait for the day! For all these dreams to come true, I need to invest wisely and stay committed to my investments. And that is why I trust my financial partner ICICI Prudential Life. Their expertise in managing my savings and investments give me the confidence in fulfilling all my dreams.

5. Go on many day trips

Many wonder how to make a trip itinerary fascinating and different from the rest of the travels. Take a break from the city tours and head out on a day trip. Explore the countryside, visit a distillery, go to a national park, a fishing hamlet, a town of artists and artisans, to name a few. Magnificent castles and caves are sometimes just a train or a bus away. We went to the Predjama cave castle in Slovenia from Ljubljana, Plitvice National Park from Zagreb in Croatia, Dragor – a fishing hamlet from Copenhagen and Szentendre – home to artists with its quaint marzipan museum from Budapest. I plan at least one day trip from every destination that I visit, which gives me an enriching experience. This gives my vacation itinerary a different twist.

Travel itineraries do not have to be packed. Pause a bit, sit in a local cafe and be a part of conversations, try the street food, head to a local market, sip a glass of wine or beer, pick some strawberries, go to a library or a book shop, watch a street performance, shop for some local arts & crafts and switch-off from the internet. A destination comes alive in its streets. I learn more about a city by just randomly walking around or by sitting in a square and watching life pass by. It is sheer indulgence when you can afford to do that and extend your holiday and sometimes do absolutely nothing. But by staying invested and insured with your financial partner in a long term relationship, you do not have to worry about funding your travels or taking that long break. Life-long plans by ICICI Prudential Life ensures I live today to the fullest as my tomorrow is secured.

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