Ease longings for travel by creating the itinerary of your dreams

Ease longings for travel by creating the itinerary of your dreams

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

When my own longing for travel grows almost too strong to bear, there’s one activity I rely on to help ease the tedium and frustration of being stuck in one place. Cobbling together elaborate itineraries helps me find something to look forward to, even if a vacation seems far away. This mash-up of fantasy and pre-planning has the dual advantage of keeping my head in the clouds while arming me with knowledge I hope to one day put into play. Does anyone else fantasize about travel with a similar strategy?

Choose a destination

Prior to the pandemic, much of my travel was based upon events I hoped to witness firsthand. I dreamt this would be the year I would finally see the Patio Fest in Cordoba, Spain, but that’s in May, and there seems little hope we’ll be out of the woods by then. So instead, I’m turning my eyes to my refrigerator. There hangs a postcard from a friend’s trip to the Calanques in southern France, just to the east of Marseille. It’s high time to start pre-planning my own trip to those turquoise bays and limestone cliffs.


Plan your activities

Many travelers opt to plant themselves in a single spot for the duration of their vacation, slowly getting to grips with the rhythm of a place. I prefer to organize an itinerary that’s borderline exhausting. My ideal trip should involve a strenuous physical activity, quirky sight, an experience unique to the local culture and sampling a typical food or drink. Should I need to get around on local transportation and change my sleeping quarters each night, challenge accepted!

Preliminary research allows me to nail down the pillars of my coming trip, which, in the case of a proposed five-day stay, shall include a) a full-day hike through the Parc National des Calanques, b) tasting the rosé wines made from Mourvèdre grapes in the nearby Bandol region, c) exploring the collection of ex-votos (offerings made to thank the Virgin Mary for favors granted) at the Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille and d) sampling bouillabaisse, along with simpler fare such as pissaladière from street food stalls.

Explore travel and lodging options

For reasons I’ve mentioned before, I don’t plan on actually booking any travel or lodging. But I can still explore my options by picking out theoretical dates for the end of June. While airfare isn’t prohibitively expensive, I discover that direct service from Mannheim, Germany, to Marseille on an ultra-fast train takes seven hours door-to-door and comes in at less than 100 euros round trip if I book early enough. That’s good to know for when the time comes! As for lodging, with a few clicks on the Airbnb website I find a private studio apartment with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean and already my heart starts to beat a little faster.

Find the right guide

Employees across all sectors have been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly those who work with tourists. Independent tour guides are not only grateful for the fees they gain from showing tourists their favorite places in their hometowns, but their local knowledge can help you to tweak an already great itinerary to perfection. And their enthusiasm for the places they call home is contagious. If you book a tour through a platform such as Airbnb, you can contact your guide in advance with travel questions you can’t find the answer to on your own. Engaging with your guide while you’re still in the planning stages can help build excitement for a trip. Jean-Marc’s 3.5-hour hike through a magnificent and unknown neighborhood of Marseille sounds like a perfect afternoon with the perfect host.

The nuts and bolts of planning

This is where things get really fun! Although there are as many approaches to planning a trip as there are travelers, I like to create a Word document, title it with my destination and use it as my scribble pad. I cut and paste tidbits from my online research I think might be handy one day, along with any links to websites that look like they might hold valuable information. For general inspiration, I find a photo is worth a thousand words, so I conduct Google image searches to hone in on the gems of a particular region. For basic info and historical background, Wikipedia is invaluable. I like to consult message boards for the exchange of tips and advice, particularly Rick Steve’s Travel Forum and Tripadvisor Forums. To locate quirky and obscure sights and monuments, I turn to the wonderful Atlas Obscura. I absorb information from city and regional tourism websites and private blogs—and I find the latter often prove much more informative than any official resources. And finally, I go to YouTube and fall down a rabbit hole of travelogues, cooking shows and TV specials. I pull away from the screen of my laptop, inspired by all the things I too, will do someday.

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