You guys know I like to plan things! So when it comes to travel planning, I spend months researching and planning and keep track of everything using my travel planner. Since travel planning is a form of planning, here’s a sneak peak into my detailed trip planning process.
I gave a brief over-view of how I use each printable in a previous post, but provide more detail below.
Keeping everything organized
A question that’s popping up more and more often these days with so much technology around, is ‘why do I still use printables / pen and paper?’
I use Google, blogs, YouTube videos, Visit a City and various other tools to do research. But when it comes time to the itinerary & the actual planning and keeping track of things, I much prefer to do this on paper. I have so many files on my computer already, I’d rather have things printed out and in front of me, instead of flicking between tabs in my internet browser.
Plus I prefer to have hard-copies of the itinerary, tour, accommodation and flight booking confirmations etc. while on the trip, just in case. Since I’m going to print them out anyway, I print them out as I book them and progress through the trip planning process.
Having hard copies of accommodation booking receipts in front of me as I’m planning means I don’t have to keep opening up the file on my computer when planning the distance between locations, airport transfers, restaurants near the accommodation etc.
I keep everything sorted using a plastic folder ($2 from Kmart) with separate plastic sleeves for each print-out. The folder feels like it weighs nothing and I can fit a lot of pages in without it getting too fat (since it doesn’t have a coil like in a binder). I also don’t need to worry about hole punching, I just slip the pages straight in.
I place them in the order I need to use / reference them. So the airline ticket goes first, followed by the first hotel’s booking confirmation etc.
Another option is to cluster accommodation booking confirmations, followed by day tours, flight tickets etc. I used this method when I went to America a few years ago (when I initially made the travel planner), but found it more time consuming to flick through the entire folder, than just to grab the next print out.
I also include the packing checklist at the back of the folder, which I designed to have multiple columns so you can do the initial pack before you go and also re-pack before you come home so you don’t forget anything (like I always used to do).
The sticky notes are just to block out my personal info.
Hotel and activity booking confirmations are arranged in the order they’ll be used.
If you’ll be country hopping and need to do things on certain dates such as if there’s a festival you want to see or you’ll be joining an organized group tour, I find a timeline is the best way to keep track of everything.
I use the lined notes page from the travel planner for this. I draw a line then plot the arrival and departure dates for each place. I then use a different colored highlighter for each country, so I can quickly find the location I’m looking for, to double check I have the correct date before making bookings.
I use this for jotting down ideas of what to do each day. There is a space to circle the day of the week which plays a big role in what days I choose to do things. For example, I try and avoid tourist hot spots on weekends. When trying to plan a lot of days this page is an essential to make sure you don’t get days and dates mixed up!
To keep you on track, you definitely need a travel budget. Travelling is expensive so establishing a budget in the early stage of trip planning will help guide your decisions.
Once you have your dates and what you want to see and do sorted, the next step is to find accommodation that is close to all of the things you want to see and do. You don’t want to waste time and money on public transport all day just to get into the city. Well that’s my opinion anyway – I’d rather pay more for a central hotel. I would’ve just paid a ton of money (plus spent a lot of time flying) to get to the other side of the world so the last thing I want to do is waste half the day in transit.
I’ll be sharing the detailed process I use to choose a hotel in an upcoming post!
I prefer to print all the pages of the travel planner and hand-write on them, however the printables are editable if you wanted to add the text before printing.
If you’ll be moving around your trip a lot then keeping track of bookings and dates required for hotels in each location can get a bit confusing, that’s where this page comes in handy.
Airline tickets are usually 1 page per flight i.e. equates to a lot of pages, I prefer to have a summary page with it all in the one place and keep the check in information e.g. QR code on my iPhone.
Daily travel planner
Some days you probably won’t need this page, for example, if you’re doing an organized tour where they take care of everything. But if you’re planning the entire day yourself this page is a must have. I really like using it for road trips.
If you’re planning multiple trips (or multiple destinations during the same trip), I recommend using a different colored pen (or highlighter) for each destination.
Similar to the trip planner page but a more condensed version – this is the main itinerary I refer to when travelling – it gives an over-view of what is happening each day. Because the printable is editable you can live update it as you make changes to the itinerary, before printing the final copy. Or you can still print it out if you prefer and use correction tape or the Frixion erasable pens.
This page is ideal if you’re booking a hire car. Hire cars are expensive and there are lots of things to check like insurance, pick up and drop of locations and times etc. Because I like to compare prices between companies this page is a good place to organize my thoughts.
Now that you know what you’re doing and where you’re staying you need to work out how you’re going to get from A to B each day. You may undertake this step concurrently with choosing a hotel. I.e. is it really better to stay farther out of the city and save $50 a night on accommodation when it means you’re going to waste half an hour each day getting into the city or pay for a taxi.
Tour company comparison
Since each tour company offers slightly different itineraries for the same attraction, I like to so do a side by side comparison.
My favorite starting place for day tours and things to do at a destination is Viator. Note that they tend to be more expensive than if you book directly through the company online. Some tour companies also offer a cheaper rate if you pay in cash on the day but will only state this on their website. Viator is a good starting point for research but I rarely book the tours through them.
Travel to do list
Use this for anything you like! I use it note the things that need to get done that are trip specific. For example ‘research Bratislava day tour’ is likely not going to be something that is a usual task when trip planning!
Getting ready to go
No travel planner would be complete without a packing list! It may seem weird with all the lines and columns, but I designed it that way so you don’t have to print a new packing list for every single trip. Plus with the multiple columns you can do the initial pack before you go and also re-pack before you come home so you don’t forget anything, as well as keep track of what you’ve packed if you’re packing for others e.g. if you have young kids.
Another option is to laminate and make it re-useable. If you’re using a plastic folder like this one, you could use a whiteboard marker to tick things off. I’ve done this before in the past but some whiteboard markers were prone to ink smearing. Plus I don’t want to carry a whiteboard marker with me on holiday but I’ll always have a pen, so I just use pen.
Before we leave checklist
To make sure all those ‘little things’ (and big things) don’t get forgetten. The tasks are broken down into timeline format (6 months, 1 month before the trip etc.) so it’s not as overwhelming
While on the trip
While we’re away
Leave this with the neighbours or whoever will be looking after your house, pet etc. Especially if you’re going overseas.
I take this whenever I’ll be travelling with other people. It helps me keep track of how much we owe each other as some places don’t want to split the bill, or the person I’m travelling with may need to get rid of cash of a certain currency that I’m out of.
It’s also helpful to keep a running balance of how much you have left on pre-paid travel cards.
To buy before we leave
The printables are editable so you can fill them in and leave them saved on your computer instead of printing if you prefer.
Why use a travel planner?
While I use a travel agent to book flights, I mostly book the rest of the trip myself as I can get a better rate when booking directly online. I also don’t like the format of itineraries travel agents give you. They include all the disclaimer clauses and other unnecessary info that is good to know when booking, but you don’t need to see when you’re on the trip. The travel agent quotes / itineraries can end up being 20 pages long! I don’t want to lug 20 pages filled with unnecessary info with me on a trip.
Want to save paper ? Print 2 copies per page to create A5 size. Officeworks have A5 plastic folders. See this post for printing tips.
I don’t recommend storing info on your phone in case the battery dies or you can’t get wifi to download something off an email. Plastic folders are lightweight and much less bulky than 3 ring binders.
If you’d like a copy of the travel planner it can be downloaded here!
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