Everyone has their own way of organising and managing things and everyone definitely has their own way of planning and enjoying travel; even down to the type of trips people prefer to take. Some enjoy cruises, some enjoy backpacking – others enjoy resorts and some are really into all inclusive deals.
What all of these trips and travel have in common though, is they need to be planned, booked and organised.
our travel type
I think it’s fair we both have strong elements of Type A personality traits – for better or for worse. And the type of trip we like to take is very tailored to our interests. Our honeymoon, in 2011, was when we really began to travel and is indicative of the type of travellers we are. We went to Las Vegas and two Hawaiian Islands – we took a road trip to the Grand Canyon from Vegas and then we toured all around the Big Island and Oahu, stopping for a couple nights in each location we visited on the Islands. We love multi location trips.
We did a similar thing in 2012 in Italy (Venice, Rome and Naples), in 2013 we road tripped around Sicily and when we moved abroad to live in another country for a time, we continued to tailor very specific trips to our interests.
organising is in our nature
Back in 2017, we went travelling for a few months. The planning involved in a big trip like that didn’t blindside us – it was pretty much a large extension of holidays we’ve always taken. We’re used to planning trips this way and we took the approach with that trip that we’ve always taken.
Although, it was quite the task! Many, many an hour was spent with both of us on a computer, organising different elements of the trip. Some people may look at what we did and think we’re crazy – why not just go with the flow? See where you fancy going when you’re on the road?
Well, reader. That’s just not us. Perhaps when we reach financial independence & have all the time in the world to travel, we won’t be so detailed in the planning stage. Or maybe we will be? Old habits die hard, after all. Just like the clothes we buy are highly personal to the style we each possess, organising travel is highly personal to the individual. We are not “see where the wind takes us types”.
So, how did we manage to stay cool, calm and organised? One word.
Whether you love it or you hate it (we’re big Google fans over here), Google has revolutionised many, many facets of our lives. And they’ve made organising travel so easy!
If you sign up for a email account with Google, you get your very own Google Drive – a place to store and organise documents. Everyone gets 15GB of storage free – more than enough to store your travel documents.
I created folders of every place we visited on trip and in those folders I put any info guides we found on the destination and more importantly a Google doc of ‘Essential Information’.
In the ‘Essential Information’ document I recorded
- Transportation arrival/departure time from the destination.
- Accommodation details, including address and check in/check out times.
- Travel details from the airport/train station to our accommodation including method of travel and estimated cost.
- Details of any activities we have arranged/activities we could do if we wanted.
- Any food places I’ve found online that we might want to try out.
As we stopped in so many places along the way, I found it much easier to compartmentalise and split out the information for every location (and not only because it makes my brain happy). Normally we have the information all in one document but for a supersize trip, I didn’t want to be scrolling through details of places we’d already visited to get the info I need on our 14th destination, for example.
Another advantage of Google Drive is the ability to make documents available offline. So, we were connected even when we weren’t with the Google Drive app on our phones.
For the trip we used the same system we’ve always used – the spreadsheet’s just a little bigger!
We had 11 tabs on our spreadsheet
- TO DO: Our to-do tasks (in caps so we know it’s important)
- Calendar: A high level overview of our trip, with important details such as flight days or travel days (so we don’t inadvertently book an activity on the day we’re meant to be leaving). Also includes a running tally of accommodation cost per night to check we were staying in budget.
- Booking Confirmations: Perhaps the most important tab on the whole spreadsheet (more details below).
- Budget: Self explanatory.
- Location tabs: Tabs for every place we’re visiting on the macro level (‘Australia’ for example) and then details with that tab of what nights are going to spent where around said country/continent.
- Packing List: So we don’t forget to pack the tweezers.
- Resources: Any good travel websites/blogs we’ve come across that we want to keep a record of.
Our booking confirmation tab is probably the most important tab on our spreadsheet. We were away 120 nights, on 4 different continents, visiting over 40 cities/places within those 4 continents and using planes, trains, buses and cars to get us around. That’s alot of things that needed booking, hence our wonderfully constructed booking confirmations tab!
It’s split out by type;
- Car rental
And includes information
- The date we booked
- What we booked
- The date we booked for
- Which of us booked it
- What credit card we used*
- What email address we used
- The amount
- If we paid upfront (we recorded if it was just a deposit with balance due at a later date)
- Flight number (where needed)
- What website we booked on
- The confirmation/booking number
*We credit card churned alot for the trip to maximise points & rewards and so it was important for us to keep a track of what card we used for each transaction.
People may look at our ‘calendar’ tab and think we might just be a little too anally retentive in our planning. But, fear not! I did not plan out every single day. All I did was give ourselves a broad overview of where we are when and what are the important travel days. Travel days are important to note as you may think you have more time in one place than you do. For example, we had 3 nights in Berlin but only really 2 good days of sightseeing as the days surrounding Berlin are longish travel days.
We built in formulas in our travel and accommodation cost columns, so we could keep an eye on average spend per night. We were aiming for £80 or less a night on accommodation – I feel like it’s a challenge to have the final average come under this number!!
for every minute spent organising, an hour is earned
Mr. NC remarked to me during one of our mammoth 4 hour planning sessions, that he was so glad we did all the leg work planning before the trip rather than when we were on it. Yes, we could absolutely have planned the back end of the trip whilst we were in our first few weeks travelling but we ultimately didn’t want to because we want to spend our time on the trip enjoying the sights and having the down time to spend on our hobbies and passion projects.
That’s not to say we didn’t research activities to do in Japan whilst we were in New Zealand or hikes we wanted to do in Hawaii whilst in Japan but we just didn’t feel constrained by the pressure of having to find accommodation or car hire in those places whilst we were trying to enjoy a walking tour in Tokyo.
Planning ahead also suits our travel style. We’ve never been people who just book the cheapest last minute break they can find, not caring what destination they’re actually going to. As we have a specific itinerary in mind, it makes sense to book ahead to try and get a decent deal on accommodation. I also have quite bad anxiety and so have a plan makes me feel so much better and in control.
We also found the cheapest train fares for long distance travel in Europe were generally when the tickets are released a few months ahead and once those fares are gone – they’re gone. So, we’ve definitely saved some money there by planning ahead.
Whatever your travel style and inclinations, Google Drive and Google Sheets are an excellent way to keep organised (and sane) when travelling!