Whenever our plans call for an extended trip, I’ll put together a booklet which captures all the key details – a Google calendar with key data, and sections for flights, hotels, restaurants, and other critical information relating to the trip.  You can too – and there’s no heavy lifting involved at all.

We’ve already established that I have access to a spiral binding machine, and here’s another use for it (any Staples, Kinko’s, or Office Max can help as well, for a modest fee, or you can simply use a heavy duty stapler).

I’ll place a simple Google Calendar at the front of the book (under a clear cover), with plenty of space for me to jot in restaurant reservations, must-see sites, and the like:

The calendar contains all the absolutely essential info relating to the trip – flight #’s and times, hotel reservations and confirmation #’s, and the like.  If we’ve decided up front that we’re going to visit a particular site or (on a golf trip) play a certain course and already have a tee time, it also goes into the calendar.  Free time is available for reservations we haven’t made yet, or impromptu plans.  The important thing is you can see the key items at a glance.  I’ll use as many pages, printed week by week, as necessary.

From there, it’s equally simple.  I create a section for hotel-related info, flight information, restaurants that we want to experience, and perhaps a general section.  In this case I made section dividers out of some card stock I had on hand:

The emailed hotel reservation confirmations are in this section, and if there’s ever a question, I’ve got the information I need right at hand.

Before anyone writes in stating the obvious, let me point out that I realize that Google Maps is by nature an online and interactive application; I get it. But if I’ve created a Google Map for the trip,  I nevertheless will print it out, along with all the supporting info for each of the attractions I’ve added to the map.  On a flight, or somewhere where I lack an internet connection, I can still quickly review the things we want to experience, whenever I wish:

In the restaurant section, I’ll include a map and the 1st overview page from Google Maps, which provides a few reviews, phone numbers, and a list of accepted credit cards.  Sometimes I’ll jot down the TripAdvisor ratings, or note if a friend recommended this particular spot:

I think you get the picture.  One other important point:  you can photocopy, or if you have a scanner with a feeder, scan all the documents before you assemble your Trip Planner.  That way you can email yourself the scan, or give your partner a copy if you’ve photocopied things, so you have a backup should you forget or somehow (don’t do this) lose your copy.

The spiral binding keeps things neat, and if you so desire, you can rip out pages after they’re no longer relevant or useful.

How about you?  Have any clever ways you keep things organized when you’re embarking on a longer trip?  If yes, I’d love to learn about your technique – and I’m sure Practical Hacks readers would as well – please share by commenting.

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5 Comments on Keep your longer trips organized with a “trip planner”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kevin, The Lifehack Ninja. The Lifehack Ninja said: Keep your longer trips organized with a “trip planner” http://bit.ly/c191Ex [...]

  2. Scott says:

    My wife gave me a hard time about a spreadsheet I made for a week long trip to Paris. It helped us figure out what was open and when. I took a lot of abuse over it, but in the end she’ll admit that she was glad for the organization because it allowed us to switch gears and not miss key sights.

    This takes things to a different level and I’d NEVER live it down.

    I like to take a moleskine and handwrite ideas, tips and recommendations people have given me, plus info on our hotels and flights, all in the back of the book. It’s not this thorough, but it’s enough to meet my needs. Then I use the front of the book to keep a journal on the trip. I include what we saw, what and where we ate, wines we liked, interesting things we observed (like the military band at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace played the Disney tune “Under the Sea.”)

    Then I’ve got a travel journal along with my own notes on good things to do and places to visit, plus the tips and recommendations I got from others.

    It’s a bit more tactile than yours, though less thorough, but I like how it all feels.

    Have a great time in Italy! Buon viaggio.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Ha. “NEVER live it down”… after the number of years we’ve been married, my wife is accustomed to my OCD tendencies. Actually, I think she appreciates how much I’ve done in terms of planning and organizing the trip. Go figure.

    Thanks, Scott.

    kc

    [Reply]

  3. Cindy H says:

    I use my iPhone to stay organized.

    I use the calendar function for setting up itineraries (plus reminders). I use the Notes function for making notes to myself. Camera is good for snapping pictures of your hotel sign (& street)

    I use Tripit, FlightTrack Pro and TripDesk to organize my travel. I just e-mail the flight, hotel, rental info to Tripit and it organizes it into my iPhone (works for iTouch too).

    I also use CutePDF to make pdf copies of all important info and then upload it to my iPhone using AirShare. I also store credit card and passport info in AirShare. It has a separate passcode so you can secure your information.

    In addition I download guidebooks using Kindle for IPhone.

    Other apps:
    Off Maps (downloaded ahead of time) for off-line maps
    Transit Maps (downloaded ahead of time) for transit maps
    Flight Sites for all airline info (including online check-in)
    Hotel Pal
    Airport Maps
    Gate Guru
    Skype
    Compass
    Weather Channel
    Sleep Machine
    Wi-Fi Finder (works offline if you download the sites ahead of time)
    Shape Travelista (hotel workouts)

    I also have lots of books and games stored on the iPhone.

    I also like texting because it is significantly less expensive overseas than making a phone call. I’ll save Skype for when I get connected to wi-fi.

    It is not as tactile as your solution (and I like tactile) But it all fits in my pocket.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Cindy,

    Great comment; thanks. Living in The Middle of Nowhere, iPhones are not available, and my company provides BlackBerries to some employees (me included). I love my iPod Touch, but finding hotspots is a PITA at times, and I end up waiting until I’m back at the hotel…. and then use my netbook, if I’ve brought it along. But I wish I had an iPhone!!!

    kc

    [Reply]

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