A travel itinerary is a schedule of events relating to planned travel, generally including destinations to be visited at specified times and means of transportation to move between those destinations.
Putting together a basic travel itinerary isn’t all that difficult, and we’ll walk you through the basic elements of a good trip schedule. However, things get more complicated when you need to submit a travel itinerary for a visa application—especially since every country has different requirements. It can be frustrating trying to figure out whether you need your tickets paid in full, a flight reservation, or something else entirely. Before we walk through the contents of a solid itinerary for a domestic trip, we’ll answer your questions regarding itinerary requirements for international visa applications.
How can I get my flight itinerary without paying?
You can’t get an itinerary for 100% free if you need one.
Unless you qualify for a special, free visa (like you’re travelling for charity work, or you’re a diplomat), there’s going to be a fee for your application at minimum. These fees differ from country to country, but expect to spend anywhere from $15-300 on your application. On top of this, you’ll typically need proof that you either have tickets, or a reservation for tickets. In both scenarios, you’ll need to spend money.
- Countries require proof of tickets for two reasons. For one, a return flight “proves” you won’t stay past your visa date’s expiration. On top of that, buying tickets forces you to have some skin in the game, which theoretically ensures that you aren’t just applying for a visa without intending to visit.
- For some countries, the reservation alone is enough to demonstrate that you’re serious. This is where a “dummy ticket” will work. If the requirements mention a “reservation,” this should be a good way to go.
How do I know if I need to buy the tickets first?
Read the visa requirements to see if you need to buy full tickets first.
The visa requirements will be online, as well as the visa application itself. If the visa requirements indicate that you must purchase arrival and departure tickets (i.e. a reservation alone is not enough), then you’ll need to just buy the tickets outright. Purchase both sets of tickets and submit the receipts, flight number, and a copy of the tickets with your application.
- You must understand that if a visa application specifically indicates that you have to buy your tickets ahead of time, you will 100% be denied a visa if you do not do this. There are no ways to do this for free if they ask for tickets.
You can just reserve the tickets if the requirements say it is allowed.
If you only need a reservation, contact the airline you’d like to fly with and ask if they have a reservation process for travel itineraries. Every international airline should have a process for this. If they do, pay the small fee to reserve a ticket on future flights for both your departure and arrival and submit the confirmation paperwork with your application.
- The cost of a reservation depends on where you’re going, when you’re flying, and how far in advance you book. It can range anywhere from slightly cheaper than a normal ticket to thousands of dollars.
- Remember, this will only work if the visa application explicitly states that reservation is acceptable.
- The fees for this depend on where you’re going and who you’re flying with. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be free.
How can I save money on my travel itinerary?
Buy refundable tickets so you can get your money back.
Many airlines sell both refundable and non-refundable tickets. If you buy the refundable tickets, you’ll be able to cancel the tickets and get your money back in the event that your visa application is denied.
- These tickets may be slightly more expensive than their non-refundable alternatives, but you’ll be able to get your money back if you can’t use them, which you may not be able to do otherwise.
Book with an airline that allows you to transfer tickets.
Many airlines will allow you to transfer tickets you wouldn’t be able to use on the flight you booked. If you have somewhere else you were planning to go in the far future after the visa-required trip, go with an airline that allows transfers. That way, if your visa is denied you can simply move the tickets from the cancelled trip to the future flight.
- There’s rarely a fee for this, but there are often time restrictions. Book with an airline that gives you enough time to move the tickets for the second trip.
- For example, Spirit Airlines only gives you 60 days to use your transferred tickets, while Virgin Airlines will give you a full year.
Get travel insurance for your tickets to get a refund if necessary.
If you have to book tickets for the application but you aren’t sure you’re going to be approved, purchase travel insurance that will reimburse you for the flights if you have to cancel. It may cost a little bit up front, but if you need to cancel your tickets you’ll recoup a lot of that cost!
- You don’t need to buy “full” travel insurance. Just contact a travel insurance agency and explain that you’re looking for insurance for the tickets alone.
What do I need for my travel itinerary?
The ticket requirements are usually all you need, but it depends.
Find the destination country’s visa requirements online, or contact their embassy directly to get them. Read through the requirements in their entirety to determine what you need to do to get approved for a visa. Some countries are extremely strict, while others have very broad requirements. Familiarizing yourself with the steps will make this a lot easier as it pertains to the itinerary.
- Do not trust any non-government site when it comes to explicit visa rules. There are a lot of shady websites that promise to get you visas for cheap, but they aren’t all 100% trustworthy.
- Make sure you’re following the steps for the correct visa, since there are multiple options. For example, you usually need a student visa to study abroad, while conducting business requires a business visa. If you’re just going on vacation, you need a tourist visa
How can I ensure my itinerary will be approved?
See a travel agent to ensure your visa is airtight.
If your primary goal is getting your visa approved, consult a reputable travel agent who specializes in international travel. Explain that you want help fulfilling the itinerary requirements for the visa. They’ll walk you through it and help you submit everything you need to be accepted. This is easily the most efficient way to ensure that your visa is approved.
- It may cost up to $500 for a full itinerary, but you may be able to get help with the application for less if you want to book the tickets and plan the core of your trip on your own.
What is a confirmed travel itinerary?
An itinerary is confirmed if it is verified by an airline.
If you have a document from an airline that lists a confirmation code or demonstrates that you have actually reserved or booked your tickets, you have a confirmed travel itinerary. “Confirmed travel itinerary” isn’t a special designation or legal term—it simply means that your itinerary exists and someone at the airline will confirm it.
- If a visa requirement mentions a “confirmed travel itinerary” in their requirements, they’re basically saying that they won’t take your word for it; you’ll need to provide proof of some kind that you have tickets.
What is a dummy ticket?
They’re reserved seats that don’t count as a ticket, but fulfill visa requirements.
There are a lot of travel itinerary companies online that will reserve tickets for you and provide the necessary booking information to fulfill the visa requirement. They often cost $15-20 depending on where you’re going. In some scenarios, this will work, but it’s risky. Not all of these companies are reputable, and your success here depends on the destination company’s requirements.
- This is a riskier option in most cases. You can go this route if you really want to save some money, but it may not fulfill the visa requirement depending on where you’re going.
Are dummy tickets legal?
They’re perfectly legal if they’re legit, but they won’t always work.
A dummy ticket will work if you actually paid to have a flight reserved for you and the visa application says you only need a reservation. Technically, there isn’t any difference between a dummy ticket and a reservation—it’s just a question of whether you’re paying a company to do it, or you do it yourself through an airline directly.
- The reason people occasionally use dummy tickets instead of doing it themselves is that the dummy ticket companies can get a better rate than you would going directly to the airline. However, there’s a higher risk of getting scammed if you use an unreputable dummy ticket company. Just keep that in mind!
- It might be illegal if you lie about the ticket or you doctor up a template to make it look like you have a real ticket. People have tried this before—it won’t work.
How can I get my money back if my ticket is nonrefundable?
You can try cancelling your flight when it gets updated.
These days, you can usually cancel a ticket free of charge for no cost within 24 hours of booking. However, visa applications take more than 24 hours to be approved. If your application is denied, wait for them to “update” or change the flight information and cancel within 24 hours of that!
- Depending on who you book your flight with, you may be able to get a partial refund so long as you pay a fee to get the tickets cancelled.
Yes, but they’re typically very straightforward.
The itinerary is the hard part. Once the flight business is taken care of, the rest of the requirements are a breeze. At minimum, you’ll need to fill out the application with your personal details, submit a copy of your passport, and explain where you’ll be going. They may even ask for payslips or bank account records to prove you can pay for the trip. They might request a physician’s letter to prove you have the necessary vaccines.
- Outside of the application fee and the tickets, the rest of this process should be free. It can be a little time consuming to check all of this stuff off of your to-do list, but it should be fairly straightforward.
- Once you have everything you need, submit everything you need to the destination country’s online portal. You can always contact that country’s embassy where you live if you have any questions or concerns.
- You may need to complete an in-person interview with a consulate to answer questions about your visa application.
What goes into a standard itinerary?
Determine where you want to go and when.
The first step in building a travel itinerary is determining where to go. You’ve likely already selected a country or state, but which cities? Are you travelling between multiple locations while you’re travelling? Start with the big picture stuff and work your way down from there.
- When you’re narrowing down dates, make sure that you’re not travelling or visiting during any major holidays where it’s either going to be incredibly crowded or totally empty. Visiting New York on New Year’s Eve might be a messy nightmare, and there might not be anything to do on Christmas when things are closed.
Research the popular sights and activities.
Hop online and start digging through reviews for all of the popular tourist spots, exhibits, and sights at your destination. Keep your fellow travelers in mind as well. Are you more of a museum crowd, or is it more important to spend time researching the best local cuisine? Compile a list of activities or events that you and your fellow travelers would be interested in.
- Nobody says you have to visit the most popular sights, but the people you’re traveling with might be bummed if they go all the way to London and don’t see Big Ben, for example. Even if you’ve been tasked with planning the trip, ask others for their input.
Map out a logical order for the trip’s activities.
Literally. Get a map out or pull one up online. Determine how long it will take you to travel from one sight to another and add a time buffer for travel. Aim to construct the trip in a way where you’re spending as little time as possible travelling from location to location. This way, you can maximize the amount of time that you spend in each location.
- As an example, imagine you’re spending two weeks in Europe. Commutes would be shorter if you go from Paris to Berlin to Warsaw than they would be if you went from Paris to Warsaw to Berlin. The same applies to the sights and activities in individual cities you’re visiting.
How many events should I include on an itinerary?
Less is more here since you’ll need time to rest, eat, and relax.
Be realistic about the scope of the trip. If it’s going to take you two hours to travel from a popular tourist attraction to that famous trail, are you really going to be in the mood for a hike? If you’re visiting Paris, can you really do the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame in one day?
- Remember, you need downtime and periods of rest. It’s best to choose 1-3 things to do for each day that you’re visiting. It’s a little unrealistic to plan on visiting 10 different tourist sights over 2 days if they aren’t super close to one another.
How do I share the itinerary with my fellow travelers?
First, craft the itinerary so that it’s easy to read and follow.
Once you know where you’re going and how long it will take to go from place to place, create the actual itinerary. Give each activity a time slot, set your start and end times, and include any key information that you’ll need (like phone numbers or addresses). Don’t forget to set aside time for sleep, travel, and food!
- There are tons of free itinerary templates and apps that you can use to put the plan into an easy-to-read format.
- An itinerary is really just a schedule. However, you shouldn’t feel locked into following it perfectly. If you and your other travelers stumble across something you want to explore, you should do it!
Share a physical or digital copy with everyone in your party.
If you’re printing physical itineraries, pass them out after everyone has boarded the plane. Alternatively, you can share a digital copy and ask people to download it and keep it on their phones. So long as everyone understands where they’re going and when, your itinerary is a success.
- It’s especially important to give everyone a copy if your group ever plans on splitting up and meeting somewhere in the future.