Avoid Scheduling Yourself 'Too Tightly' With Rick Steves' Clever Itinerary Tip

We've all been there: You're in an exciting new place with a million items on your vacation to-do list, but something goes wrong to derail your plans. Maybe you lost your passport while traveling and spent an entire day trying to get a new one, or perhaps you got sick and spent half the trip in bed. Or maybe you just got lost and had to forfeit your time slot at that popular tourist attraction.

Surprises happen, and it can be frustrating when you can't complete everything on your itinerary. However, travel expert Rick Steves has a simple solution to avoid disappointment: Don't jam-pack your schedule in the first place.

The TV host shared his best European itinerary tips on his website, including the advice to leave space in your vacation plans for chores, delays, and unexpected snafus. How much space you should leave, according to Steves, depends on how long your trip will last.

Schedule a vacation from your vacation

Just as you should avoid overpacking your suitcase, you should avoid overpacking your travel itinerary. With Rick Steves' clever tip, following that truism is easy and straightforward. As the travel writer shares on his website, you should leave one free day per week during shorter trips (like, say, two weeks or less). This day should be kept completely empty so that you can use it as needed when the time comes. For example, your free day could be used for tending to personal matters that arose during your trip, or it could come in handy if you need to move around some of your sightseeing plans. Or it can simply be a rest day to take it easy and not have to be somewhere at a scheduled time.

For longer trips, Steves suggests scheduling a "vacation from your vacation" consisting of several days in the middle of the getaway. Just like leaving one empty day per week during short trips, blocking off multiple days at once can give you some much-needed time to deal with problems that sprang up during your stay. But more importantly, writes Steves, a vacation within a vacation allows you to refresh your senses and ward off travel burnout. Consider spending a few days away from the major tourism hubs, taking extra long baths in your hotel or even escaping to a nearby village or nature spot.

How to simplify your travel itinerary

Scheduling days off in your travel plans might seem simple enough — until you have to narrow down your activities, that is. It's easy to overschedule, even if you intend to leave breathing room in your itinerary.

To ensure you don't overdo it, start by making a list of the sites, shops, and restaurants that you're interested in visiting. Consider grouping these items into two categories: must-see places and ones that you'd be okay skipping if you're short on time. Rick Steves says to make sure you have a solid reason for every stop you make — just because a site is famous doesn't mean you have to see it.

For each essential activity, research ways to beat the crowds and save precious time. In a travel lecture, Steves shared the importance of booking tickets and reservations in advance to avoid standing in line, including at the Eiffel Tower. For spots that you know will take hours to visit, such as large museums, limit your itinerary to just one per day, leaving the rest of the day open for flexible sightseeing and spontaneous exploration.