Planning a trip can be really stressful for some people, and with good reason. You’re probably going somewhere you’ve never been before, where you may not even speak the same language, and yet you have to manage transportation, accommodations, a general itinerary, and that’s just the beginning.
Some people are very go-with-the-flow travelers, which I think is great; I, on the other hand, am a planner. It’s very important to be flexible an patient while traveling, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan. I like to at least have a rough plan so I can hit all the places I want to go.
Until recently, I’ve read blogs and Lonely Planet books and simply taken notes. I’ve made a list of all the places I’ve wanted to visit within a country or city (I love lists), and then I’ve casually planned each day the night before (sometimes even that morning). That’s when I would normally look up all the directions, addresses, contact info (if necessary), etc. This was pretty much my standard way of planning until I learned about Microsoft OneNote from The Rachael Way. I use it for pretty much everything, but I find it most beneficial for traveling. Here’s why:
- I can organize all of my travel into separate pages based on location.
- Within a page, you can click and type anywhere, adding text, tables, pictures, attachments, checklists, and more.
- You can easily arrange any parts you add at any time.
- You can zoom out to get a quick look at everything and easily find what you’re looking for in the document.
- It syncs with your phone, so you can take it with you anywhere you go!
So how do I actually use OneNote to plan a trip?
Step 1: BrainstormingOneNote allows me to take all the information I’ve gathered from blogs and easily copy it into the page I’ve created. I can choose activities, events, or sites and quickly add photos, hyperlinks, locations, or a bit of history if I want to be reminded why I became interested in a certain attraction in the first place.
Step 2: Create a List (optional, but preferred) After you’ve decided what it is you want to do, you can use the “To Do” button to create a list. I like to use this to list out the things that are most important for me to do and check them off as I go. Doing this allows me to make sure I don’t miss anything important. At this point, you could do two lists if you wanted, a list of must-dos and a list of other interesting activities if you have time. I haven’t done this yet, but it seems like a good idea to me!
Step 3: Mark Up a Map (especially if you’re touring a country) This was incredibly useful for organizing my drive around New Zealand. Find a clear map of wherever you’re traveling. In my case, I searched a map of the entire country of New Zealand and chose the best one, but you could use this for a city as well so that you know what is nearby for planning purposes! For New Zealand, using the list I created in Step 2, I plotted dots on my picture of all the locations we wanted to stop at by using the tools in the “Draw” tab of OneNote. I ended up with this lovely piece of work that really helped me with the next step!
Step 4: Set your Itinerary Some trips are more flexible than others. Setting an itinerary for a flexible trip helps you understand how much you should plan to do in a day. I planned Sydney like this until we booked our time slots for our big activities and checked the weather. Then, we did a little adjusting since we had the freedom to. Our trip around New Zealand, however, was not as flexible; we couldn’t exactly go around the South Island in a random order. After looking at where the airport is and deciding we wanted to travel clockwise around the island, I was able to build our itinerary. I created a list in the order we’d be stopping and added things to do in each location. Once I checked off the entire list from step 2, I removed the duplicated information from the page.
The Final Step: Put it into a Calendar Using the OneNote Insert > Table option, I built a calendar for our holiday. By having the itinerary on the same page, I was easily able to see how much we had scheduled for which cities and how long we would need to stay in each place. I quickly put everything in and adjusted the length of stays in certain areas if needed. It was also helpful to add prices, flight info, phone numbers, confirmation numbers, etc. to the appropriate days on the calendar. Here’s what our entire three week trip to Australia and New Zealand looked like.
I enjoy being able to zoom out and quickly pinpoint where my map, calendar, itinerary, tickets, and anything I added are located. I don’t have to scroll or flip through pages; it’s all there in one place, together!
Here’s a screenshot of the majority of the page and the planning. The left side is some of the brainstorming. I grabbed those photos from a blog I found on Pinterest: In a Faraway Land
I also added things like who on the trip has paid for what since often we do a lot of online bookings and one person pays for it on a card. When the trip is done and it’s time to settle up, we have everything we need. And having this on my phone at all times is pretty much the greatest thing for traveling. I have all the information I need at my fingertips, no internet required after it syncs. I’m obsessed with using this as a travel planning tool. There’s always an opportunity to get creative and find more ways to use it!
Have you ever used OneNote? What is your favorite planning tool for trips?