Make a list of everything you want to see at a particular location. As you gather information online, through guide books, personal recommendations and other sources – mark the sights A, B, C in order of priority to you. The As are the “must sees,” the Bs are the “really want to sees,” and the Cs are the “if time permits.”
Start your day’s schedule with any specific appointments or pre-paid reservations. Notate must-do events that only occur on particular days of the week, and organize your schedule around that. Pick sights near each other for each day’s itinerary. Make sure to allow yourself time to break for meals, to rest your feet and soak in the environment of the place you’re visiting.
If visiting museums is a priority – search on Tripadvisor’s forum for your destination or do a Google search for discounted museum cards or passes. They’re usually only economical if you plan to visit multiple museums – and it’s worth doing a cost comparison of the card vs. the entry prices for the museums you want to visit. If you opt for a card, group the sites covered by the card together and visit sights not covered by the card on other days.
Consider hop-on hop-off (H-O H-O) bus tours. If your time is tight, or you’re visiting a sprawling city, a H-O H-O bus tour is worthwhile for getting an overview and visiting spread out major sights.
If you are traveling with another person, grab a bottle of wine or a meal and do this together before the trip so there are no surprises. Consider separating briefly to explore individual interests so each party doesn’t feel they’ve compromised too much.
If eating the best food wherever you are is a priority, make a list by neighborhood of the restaurants you want to visit. Any time I go anywhere, I have a list of recommended restaurants, so regardless of where I ended up for lunch or dinner, I knew the best spot to go in the neighborhood. Also, do the same thing for shopping. If you categorize your lists by area from the start, you will be less likely to miss your must do spots.
Itineraries for every destination can be found online. Pick and chose what appeals to you. Its also a great idea to read the trip reports other travelers post to get real time information, advice and suggestions. Like the Tripadvisor reviews, it’s important to know how to read these trip reports and not believe everything you read.