How I keep the itinerary planning organized

I do the detail planning using Word tables with an initial table something like this:

 Initial planning table 

Initial planning table 

I base everything on nights since that is how many hotel reservations I have to make.  The example above is not the trip that we are actually doing now that this part of the trip is more fully planned.  For example, we are not doing a tour in Myanmar (Burma) because it was too expensive, but it was a early idea that I was planning around.  Having a physical globe has been extremely helpful in figuring out which order to visit cities and counties.  Plus I purchased paper travel books for all of the major stops so that I could determine how much time we may want to spend in each possible city.

This first table is an outline of the  possible dates and length of stay before I have checked on getting flights or ground transportation between the cities or the costs that are involved either getting to or staying in a particular place,  

The dates have also change based on the hotel deals that I may be able to get in that city.  For example, Hilton and Starwood give the 5th night free on points, so if I decide to use one of those chains, the nights for that city will become 5 nights and the number of nights in another city will change accordingly.

We have found that spending 4 or 5 nights per city works best for us. That gives us enough time to have a day off if we need a rest and still see the major sites.  I think of each stay as one day less than the number of nights because moving from one city to another takes most of a day by the time we pack, get to the airport or train, get to the next hotel and unpack.  So, a five night stay gives us four days at the most to see the sights.  If there is really only one significant thing to do in a place, then we will stay only 2 nights. Or if I already have a nonrefundable flight booked, we will either have to compress the schedule a little or skip a city to have a more leisurely pace.

After a lot more research and some reservations are made, the table looks something like this:

 eample table after some reservations have been made and showing IMPORTANT events such as sumo championships

eample table after some reservations have been made and showing IMPORTANT events such as sumo championships

I usually plan things in the following order:

  1. Potential tours or cruises, without booking them
  2. Research, find and book long distance flights
  3. Book the main tours since you can usually transfer the deposit to another tour with the same company
  4. Buy travel insurance now that some real money is on the line
  5. Decide which cities to visit between the long flights and the tours
  6. Make sure there is reliable and affordable transportation between all of the above
  7. Make refundable reservations at the first several hotels
  8. Reserve transportation between each destination (except for local buses and trains)
  9. Repeat 7 and 8 until the trip is fully planned

When each email confirmation arrives in my in box, I do three things with it.  

  • First I forward it to TripIt (more about that below)
  • Then I print the email, or at least the page that has the details
  • Last, the email gets moved to an email folder labeled for that part of the trip

On other trips, I have only carried printed copies of the major international flights and relied on TripIt and email in case something went wrong.  Which it hasn't so far.  However, with this trip my security blanket is having everything printed because I just cannot remember every reservation like I could on shorter trips.

My main back-up method is using a web page called TripIt that collects the forwarded emails and organizes them chronologically which I can then group into distinct trips.

 Screen shot from my TripIt page.

Screen shot from my TripIt page.

By using TirpIt  there is an online version of all of the reservations that Joe and I could access from any computer in the event we needed to.  And there is a TripIt app that lets us access everything from our phones which is great if the person at the hotel or airline counter cannot find the reservation.

 An example of what a flight on tripit looks like after the email is imported 

An example of what a flight on tripit looks like after the email is imported 

Even if you are taking simple trips, TripIt is a great travel tool to use in case something happens to those confirming email.