How to craft a brilliant tour itinerary that your guests will rave about

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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How to craft a brilliant tour itinerary that your guests will rave about

The best tour itineraries go beyond basic logistics and give guests a true sense of what to expect from their experience. 

If you’re unsure what this might look like, we’re here to help.

In this guide, you’ll find a step-by-step breakdown of how to create an excellent tour itinerary, as well as real-world examples of tour operators who nailed the assignment.

What is a tour itinerary?

A well-crafted tour itinerary provides your guests with clear expectations, ensuring that they make the most of their time during the tour.

At its simplest, it is a detailed plan outlining the events, activities, and locations included in a tour. It serves as a roadmap for the entire trip, providing a step-by-step guide for visitors.

Tour itineraries typically include information such as:

  • Dates and times
  • Destinations/stops
  • Activities and events
  • Accommodations and transportation (if included)

8 steps to create a tour itinerary

Whether your tour features historical landmarks, culinary experiences, or adventure activities, these are the steps to craft an itinerary that your guests rave about.

1. Define the tour objectives and theme

The first step in creating a tour itinerary is to outline the purpose of the experience. 

Are you educating your guests or entertaining them? 

Is your tour an outdoor adventure meant to thrill visitors, or a cultural immersion meant to inspire?

Next, you’ll want to conduct market research to answer the following questions:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are the unique selling points of my tour?

The theme of your tour will guide the entire itinerary. It’ll ensure the experience remains coherent and is tailored to your specific audience. For example, if you’re running a historical walking tour in London, objectives might include providing in-depth insights into key historical periods and attracting history enthusiasts.

2. Research and select the destinations/stops of your tour

Identify and choose the specific locations and/or attractions to be included in the tour. Of course, this will depend on the nature of your tour. A multi-day tour operator will need to research multiple destinations, while someone who runs a walking tour will focus on specific sites within a particular city.

Don’t forget to consider factors like accessibility, popularity, and the overall flow of the itinerary. The destinations/stops on your tour should align with the overall theme defined in step one.

In our historical tour example, stops might include London’s most famous sites like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

3. Determine the tour duration and dates

Now it’s time to decide the length of the tour and the specific dates it will take place. 

Consider the time needed to cover selected destinations/stops and the preferences of your target audience. You’ll also want to think about seasonal factors that might affect the tour, including weather and peak visitor months.

When you present guests with an itinerary, one of the first things they’ll look for is the tour duration and dates that it takes place. This allows them to plan ahead and commit to the experience.

Let’s say the historical walking tour in London lasts three hours and happens every Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the summer, taking advantage of the warm weather and daylight.

4. Plan a daily itinerary

Next, we’ll get to the nitty-gritty details of the tour. Every itinerary should include a day-by-day or hour-by-hour breakdown of activities, sightseeing, meals, and free time. 

As you’re planning, make sure to allocate specific time slots for each activity and factor in travel time between destinations/stops. It’s always nice to add in some leisure time for guests to explore a destination/stop on their own.

A detailed itinerary keeps the tour organized and sets the right expectations for your guests.

For example, the London itinerary might look like:

  • 10 a.m.: Meeting point at X spot.
  • 10:10 a.m.: Walking tour starts
  • 11 a.m.: Tower of London
  • 11:30 a.m.: Coffee break
  • Noon: Buckingham Palace
  • 1 p.m. End of tour

5. Arrange accommodations for multi-day tours

If you’re running a multi-day tour, you’ll also need to select suitable accommodations for overnight stays. It’s a good idea to not only research hotels in each destination, but visit them ahead of time to ensure they meet expectations.

Always consider factors like comfort, proximity to attractions, and budget. For a historically-themed trip around the U.K., for instance, you’d want to book centrally located hotels with historical significance, offering a blend of comfort and cultural immersion.

6. Plan transportation

Determine how the group will travel between each destination/stop. Choose the transportation method that makes the most sense for your tour, considering factors like weather, tour duration, and comfort. 

Efficient transportation ensures a smooth and timely flow of the tour. When your transportation is teed up beforehand, it will minimize disruptions during the tour.

For a multi-day tour across the U.K., you’d likely use a combination of high-speed trains and comfortable coaches. A walking tour, on the other hand, would get around by foot. However, if there’s a portion of the tour that requires taking public transportation, make sure to specify that in your itinerary.

7. Explain the meals and dining experiences included

Specify where and what participants will eat throughout the tour. Plan meals, considering local cuisines and popular eateries.

Sharing a meal not only makes a tour more fun but also gives the group space to connect. For tours that involve exploring a new destination, giving guests a taste of the local cuisine will make the experience even more memorable. 

The walking tour in London, for example, might make a pit stop at one of the oldest cafes in the city to enhance the tour’s narrative.

8. Communicate clearly

Communicate the tour itinerary clearly to participants before and during the tour. Promote the itinerary on your social channels to reel participants in, and send them the itinerary via email once they sign up. Clear communication will help minimize confusion and enhance guests’ sense of security.

For example, sending a detailed map of your walking tour and the stops you’ll make will give guests a concrete idea of what to expect.

5 examples of exceptional tour itineraries 

Let’s take a look at how operators put these practices to work.

1. London walking tour

london tour

This real-life London walking tour gives guests a comprehensive view of the full experience. The highlights are listed at the top of the page, ensuring guests learn about the best aspects of the tour first. Then the operator lists every single site that will be visited. Under the section “Tour Includes,” guests learn that the tour includes a “skip the line ticket” for the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

The operator then goes into full detail about the tour in paragraph form. Guests who read through the itinerary will know exactly what to expect — from gaining first entry into Westminster Abbey to a visit to the Crown Jewels.

2. Kayak, Bike & Brew

kayak bike and brew tour

Kayak, Bike & Brew offers a fun four-hour tour in Traverse City, Michigan. During the tour, guests will pedal and paddle to three breweries, all within walking distance of the river. A tour guide also takes guests through downtown Traverse City before finalizing the experience at a lounge for refreshments and games.

In the itinerary above, the operator breaks down the tour by hour. Guests are given a 30-minute timeframe to check in, which tells them when to show up for the tour. Then they’re given a solid idea of the time it’ll take to reach each brewery and how long they’ll have there.

Since this tour involves biking and kayaking, guests can get a sense of how long they’ll be doing each activity by looking at the itinerary. They can then decide whether the tour seems too strenuous for them.

The more detailed the itinerary, the better you’ll be able to attract the right guests for your experience.

3. Wynwood Graffiti Golf Cart Tour

graffiti tour example

This Miami tour operator sets itself apart from competitors by including a map with the tour itinerary. The tour involves taking guests around the artistic Wynwood neighborhood and introducing them to the famous street murals.

The itinerary itself explains where the tour starts; specific points of interest included in the journey; and how much time will be spent in each. The map, however, brings an additional layer of information to the itinerary. It gives guests a clear idea of the route they’ll be taking, allowing them to visualize the tour before booking. This additional information can give guests extra confidence to finalize a booking.

4. G Adventures Antarctica Tour

Antarctica example

G Adventures runs multi-day group tours around the world. Here is a great example of a multi-day tour itinerary, which involves more detailed descriptions than the other examples on this list.

The itinerary for this Antarctica trip lays out all the logistics that guests would be interested in knowing before booking:

  • Destinations
  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Activities

The operator breaks down each day of the 11-day experience, ensuring guests know exactly what to expect before booking. Again, the map provides a wonderful visual representation of the journey guests will embark on if they book.

5. Full-Day Tour in Rio de Janeiro

rip tour itinerary example 5

If you look at the itinerary for this full-day tour in Rio de Janeiro, you might find that it’s just as detailed as the multi-day tour to Antarctica. That’s because the operator does an excellent job setting the stage for the experience. The itinerary explains each stop in detail, as well as specific points of interest that will be included on the way.

The itinerary also explains what is and isn’t included; for example, the admission ticket for the Maracanã soccer stadium is something guests will need to purchase on their own.

Another key point to note is that the operator informs guests exactly how much time will be spent at each stop. This gives guests an idea of how the tour will play out in real time.

An example tour itinerary template

Creating a tour itinerary from scratch can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never created one before. Starting with a template can make the process a whole lot easier.

A well-designed template can serve as a foundational guide, providing the structure needed for you to organize all the tour details. 

You can find several design-forward templates on Canva, or head over to JotForm for even simpler templates. You can tailor the template to suit the specific needs and theme of your tour.

Here’s an example of a template for a multi-day tour:

Tour Overview

  • Your Name:
  • Duration:
  • Dates:
  • Tour Leader:
  • Emergency Contacts:

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: City Arrival

  • Morning: Arrival and check-in
  • Afternoon: Guided city tour
  • Evening: Welcome dinner

Day 2: Historical Exploration

  • Morning: Visit [Landmark 1]
  • Afternoon: Lunch at [Local eatery]
  • Evening: Cultural event

Accommodations

  • Night 1: [Hotel Name]
    • Address, Contact
  • Night 2: [Hotel Name]
    • Address, Contact

Transportation

  • Departure: [Departure Point]
  • In-destination Travel: [Transport Mode]
  • Return: [Return Point]

Notes and Reminders

  • Weather Considerations:
  • What to Pack:
  • Important Reminders:

10 Itinerary planning best practices 

Consider the following tips when creating your tour itinerary.

  1. Understand your audience: Tailor your itinerary to the interests and preferences of your target audience. A personalized itinerary makes the experience more memorable, leading to better reviews and repeat business.
  2. Balance the activities: Mix sightseeing, cultural experiences, and leisure time for a well-rounded itinerary. Of course, this will depend on the type of tour you’re providing. However, diversifying the stops on your walking tour is just as important as the variety of activities in a multi-day tour.
  3. Consider travel time: Factor in travel durations between destinations/activities and communicate that to your guests. Realistic travel times ensure a relaxed and enjoyable pace.
  4. Build in flexibility: Allow for free time and optional activities. This can lead to spontaneous discoveries and give participants some autonomy over the experience.
  5. Engaging with locals: Interacting with local communities and businesses can make the tour feel more authentic. Plus, it gives you and your guests a chance to contribute positively to the places you visit.
  6. Prioritize the highlights: Identify the must-see attractions/activities and allocate ample time for each of them. Your itinerary should mention the highlights that guests are expected to come across to add a layer of excitement before they get there.
  7. Seamless transitions: Plan smooth transitions between activities and locations to keep the tour flowing smoothly.
  8. Communication is key: Make your guests aware of the itinerary before and during your tour. Every time you reach a stop, let them know how long you’ll be there and what the next stop will be.
  9. Be prepared for the weather: Consider seasonal weather and pack accordingly. If it’s going to be a very sunny day, remind guests to wear light clothing and wear sunscreen for a more comfortable tour experience.
  10. Collect feedback: Gather feedback about the itinerary after the tour. Ask your guests what were their favorite stops, whether or not they felt rushed, and any recommendations they have to improve the experience.

5 common mistakes in crafting tour itineraries 

We know that building a tour itinerary isn’t always easy. We’ve looked into the top mistakes operators make when they’re building itineraries, with the idea of helping you avoid them as you’re working on yours.

Overpacking the schedule

An overpacked schedule leaves little room for flexibility. This can result in a rushed and stressful experience for visitors. Your itinerary should always have some breathing room for unexpected delays, spontaneous explorations, or simply enjoying the moment.

Carefully consider the time it takes to commute between one place and another. If you’re rushing, guests may feel stressed and might miss out on the essence of each destination/stop.

Ignoring audience preferences

There’s nothing worse than noticing that your guests are disconnected and disengaged from your tour. To avoid this, craft an itinerary that considers the interests and preferences of your target audience. Then pay close attention to guests during the tour. They may find certain activities uninteresting, which means you can move through those quicker than others.

This also involves listening to participant feedback. The continuous improvement of your tours relies on understanding the needs and preferences of your audience.

Underestimating physical demands

Failing to consider the physical demands of activities can strain your guests. If a guest signs up for a two-hour-long walking tour, and the tour ends up lasting twice as long, they’ll likely feel a bit thrown off. And tired! With this in mind, don’t forget to remind your guests about what to wear (i.e. comfortable walking shoes) or what to bring (i.e. sunscreen) to avoid discomfort.

Neglecting breaks and leisure time

A group of exhausted and unhappy customers won’t be able to enjoy the highlights of your tour — they’ll likely be focused on the next break or looking for a place to sit. Failing to include breaks and leisure time can lead to guest fatigue. Give your guests free time to relax, refresh, and appreciate their surroundings.

Omitting crucial details

Unclear communication about meeting points, schedules, or special requirements can leave your guests frustrated and confused. Your guests might miss out on key experiences due to misinformation.

***

In sum, these are some strategies and examples you can use to create tour itineraries that convert customers at first sight.

·

Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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