Putting together an itinerary is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You will have to take into consideration your transportation, days when museums and other sites are open, when speakers can meet with your group, and when other activities are planned.
The first consideration is to decide how many days you will need to set aside for transportation. Getting there and getting home already account for at least two days. If you are traveling from city to city or country to country, allow more time as travel days. If there are transportation delays, you may not be able to make an afternoon appointment in another location.
A second consideration is how many sites, speakers, museums, etc. you wish to include to accomplish the goals of the course. Two activities per day may be the maximum that you can accommodate.
Third, how much free time will the students have to explore the locations on their own? We have found that at least one free day in a three week trip helps keep spirits up, gives time to sleep in, lets students get some laundry done, and allows them to sightsee on their own.It is tempting to fit as much as possible into as few days as possible in order to save money. It has been our experience that we and the students get very tired and don’t get as much from the activities when too much is packed into the itinerary.
Our suggestion is to make a list of sites for the course and then check the days of the week that that they are open. Accounting for transportation days within the trip, make a draft itinerary for the sites you are planning to visit. This should help you determine what days it is best to travel to and from the countries.
Give your travel agent the dates for finding flights. After you have some firm dates, contact your speakers or other hosts to see what days and times they can meet with you within the dates you suggest. As appointments firm up, firm up your itinerary.
One of our basic itinerary outlines is to plan a low key group activity for the arrival day. It is usually sightseeing or a free museum type of activity. If there are flight delays, we have not missed a speaker or a paid activity. Starting the second day, we have a morning activity, lunch on your own, and then an afternoon activity. We try to finish course activities by 5 or 6 PM. The students are then on their own to shop, eat, and/or tour the area. If we are traveling to another city or country that requires air travel or a long train ride, we have the same type of low key activity planned for the afternoon of arrival. If there are delays, we have not missed an important course component.