A couple of weeks ago, as I was in the midst of my trip planning for Spain, it occurred to me that, despite the many leaps forward in technology during recent years–smart phones, iPads, apps, travel planning websites–my personal method for organizing and planning my trips hasn’t changed in ten years. I still type up notes for my trip in a word document. What kind of an anachronism am I? I thought. I sadly tweeted my confession out to the Twitterverse and was pleasantly surprised when several followers replied that they, too, still organize their trips via notes. Whew. I felt so much better.
Given that I’m a bit of a geek and tend to embrace new technologies, you’d think I’d have moved on to something a bit more high-tech by now. But I’m also a big believer in the theory that “if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it.” I have a trip planner template that I’m quite comfortable with, and I haven’t found anything that does everything it does. (Then again, being the cheap–er, thrifty–person that I am, I also haven’t sprung for an iPad yet.)
I carry my trip planner with me everywhere in a clear plastic binder, so it doesn’t get wet. Sure, I could bring a guidebook and fumble through it on the spot, looking for the information I need, but I know that my notes contain only the essentials–no weeding through excess data is necessary. Plus the very act of writing typing the information helps me to remember it better.
What does it look like? Why, like this:
[Dates of trip]
PRE-TRIP ACTIONS: (things I must remember to do before I leave)
- Call bank and credit card companies to let them know my travel dates
- Put mail on hold
- Record vacation voicemail at work.
- Set work email on vacation mode.
- Buy snacks for plane ride
- Email family with flight and hotel information
(Sample categories; my actual list is more specific)
- Eye mask
FLIGHTS: (in case my e-tickets get lost)
Airline/Flight # – depart BTV at __time, arrive layover city __ time. Seat #.
Airline/Flight # – depart layover city __time, arrive vacation destination at __time. Seat #.
Airline/Flight # – depart vacation destination at __time, arrive layover city __ time. Seat #.
Airline/Flight # – depart layover city __time, arrive BTV at __time. Seat #.
TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM AIRPORT:
(taxi, shuttle, bus – whatever my options are)
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION INFORMATION and/or RENTAL CAR CONFIRMATION #:
- Confirmation #
- Nightly Rate/Total Amount (in case they try to tell me something different when I check in or out)
- Address, phone and email
- How to get there from the airport
- Misc. notes
Names of recommended restaurants, where they’re located, and price range.
Information about bars with good happy hours.
A List (my “must dos”):
(They’re listed here by category, but in my document they’re very specific, including hours open, admission fees, location, how to get there, etc.)
B List (other things I’d like to do if I have time):
- Same categories as A list, but different activities.
Rainy Day Activities
(Anything on the A or B list that would make a great rainy day activity–just in case.)
- Phone info (if foreign country)
- ATM info (if foreign country)
- Etiquette (if foreign country)
- Emergency numbers/Hospital info
- US embassy information (if foreign country)
You get the picture.
The great thing about this template is that some items can be copied and pasted from one trip document into another (like the packing list and pre-trip actions steps). I roll over my Vegas trip planner from year to year, just tweaking little bits of information, such as if a restaurant has closed or the hours of an attraction have changed.
I still have 6 months on my “dumb phone” contract, and I don’t see myself spending the money on an iPad any time soon, so I guess I’ll still be using the document a while longer. I love technology, but I’m not blind to its weaknesses. One of my greatest fears of migrating to an all-electronic organizational platform is: What happens if the smartphone, iPad, or netbook stops working during my trip? Or worse yet, it gets stolen? The information would be lost. . .and so would I. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure no self-respecting thief would be interested in my paper notes.
How do you get yourself organized for your trips? Are you a techie, a note-taker, or a guidebook person?