Why (you may ask) do you need an itinerary for your bus trip? Think about it: Behind every productive board meeting, there is a carefully thought-out agenda. Behind every victorious football game, there’s a rock-solid game plan. Likewise, behind every seamless bus trip, there is an itinerary—a thoughtful, realistic, flexible itinerary.
Here are the top seven reasons you should have an itinerary for your bus trip:
1. You need one. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” When Laurence J. Peter used this witty aphorism in The Peter Principle, he was being metaphorical about things that go wrong in the workplace. But the truism also applies, quite literally, to traveling without an itinerary. Think of an itinerary as your one-page “cheat sheet” that outlines your trip at a glance—defining where you’re going so you don’t end up somewhere else.
2. An itinerary keeps you organized. When you put all the details of your trip in one place, there’s no need to scroll through multiple e-mails or rifle through piles of paper to find confirmation numbers, check-in times, street addresses, reservations, or other travel logistics while you’re on the road. With a finely-tuned itinerary, all the information you need is at your fingertips.
3. An itinerary keeps you honest. And by “honest,” we mean realistic about what is possible to accomplish during your trip. When you develop a chronological itinerary, its very structure forces you to schedule time not just for the activities themselves, but also for travel, meal breaks, rest stops, and even the time it takes to board the bus, disembark, and take attendance (which adds up).
4. An itinerary protects you from glitches in the schedule. No one wants to show up at a restaurant on the one day it’s closed, or pull up to a museum 15 minutes too late to get in on the last tour of the day. These dreaded “travel fails” don’t have to happen. As you develop your itinerary, you are also vetting it: finding out hours of operation, reservation policies, tour options, admission costs, and any opportunities or restrictions relevant to your group.
5. An itinerary puts everyone on the “same page” – literally and figuratively. It’s not just a schedule of events, it’s also a communication tool. Parents like knowing exactly where their kids are at any given moment when they’re away from home; group leaders and chaperones appreciate being kept in the loop; and participants benefit from knowing the “what, where, and when” of their schedule before and during the trip. When you hand out printed copies of the itinerary (and/or make sure everyone has an electronic copy) the guesswork is gone.
6. An itinerary allows you to be flexible. “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.” (Not.) It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest that an itinerary—which is, after all, a minute-by-minute plan—could actually give you more flexibility. But it makes sense: Let’s say you must get to an awards ceremony, or a sales meeting, or a theater performance at a specific time. If you’re running late—or something interesting (like pastry) diverts your attention—you can move things around so you don’t miss your most important engagements. The best travel plan gives you a good idea of where you’re going with the wiggle room to make spontaneous decisions and adapt to changes and opportunities along the way.
7. A proper itinerary reduces stress. Let’s be honest: Travel can be stressful. A lot of that stress has to do with logistics. A proper itinerary eliminates logistics-related stress. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget something or won’t know what to do next; you won’t have to search for phone numbers and addresses; you won’t have to make decisions under duress.
So there you have it: the top seven official reasons you need an itinerary for your bus trip. But just between us: a good itinerary also makes you look good. Whether you’re an event planner, ad hoc group leader, executive assistant, or parent volunteer, a great travel itinerary makes you a superhero.