I'm new to this board and I was just poking around to see what people usually do and use while planning their trips. I found this thread http://www.travellerspoint.com/forum.cfm?thread=48149 and I'm curious: for anyone who plans their trips, even if the trips are 50% planned, what tool do you use to plan them? Personally, I use Excel because it's easier, but I'm wondering if anyone actually uses a real "trip planning" tool?
Excel is the best way.
I also use Word. For most of my trips I do research online, then copy and paste the information I need into a Word document. This includes prices. Essentially I write my own guidebook, structured roughly in the order in which I plan to see things and in which I need certain information. I then discard the pages I do not need anymore as I go. It is cheap, as it saves me the cost of buying a guidebook. Plus I spent a lot of time online planning my trips anyway, so I might as well copy and paste the information I read and then print it.
So IMO the most essential tool in planning is the internet and google. (I am old enough to remember the time when people were excited about Windows 3.1 and Mosaic - and guidebooks were the only decent source of information, go figure.)
Excel is probably the only one I use (besides the internet), to make budgets and an overview of how much I will be spending.
I mean, to be honest, you can find everything on the internet nowadays, the travel guides here or on the lonelyplanet webpages contains everything you need... and if they don't, you can always join a chat or a forum and ask someone.
I use the spreadsheet at OpenOffice (free download with the same functions as MS Office) - not quite as fancy as Excel, but it gets the job done, it's easy to update, you can put a security lock on the spreadsheet if you have sensitive info, and you can read/write in the MS formats as well.
What did we ever do without the internet - guess we all used travel agents? How can they stay in business these days? I just found a great hotel search engine at hotelscombined.com
Does anyone have a good source for printable maps of foreign cities? I know all about google.
Yeah, I believe that in order to plan an awesome trip, Excel / Word is the best tool just to cut & paste stuff. I tried searching for some other "trip planners" out there but nothing seems to have Excel / Word's flexibility. This is how I ventured out to attempt to build a tool that fits my needs.
I like to do a lot of research and planning before going on the trip, and I find my tool to be quite useful. The goal is to replace Excel/Word with some bells and whistles, yet be as flexible as Excel or Word. Don't want to promote the tool on this forum, but I'm actually trying to work out something with Travellerspoint to let Excel trip planners, like you and I, to test drive it in exchange for an incentive. Feel free to ping me for more details. Would love to have some of your feedback on it!
I could not make any plan for any trips because my partner also busy in this work.
Wow, that's a lot of planning. I don't think I've ever written things down or made spreadsheets, used web tools etc... I always feel that if I plan that much, I ruin the surprise element of traveling.
The last big trip my girlfriend and I took (2 mo in SA), planning went something like this:
October 05: Decided we should go somewhere next summer, took a few days looking at a map and decided Peru would be interesting. Spent a few hours on this and other forums seeing how much ground we could cover in 2 months, and then bought tickets based on that.
March-April 06: Remembered that we had tickets to SA so bought a couple Lonely Planet guides for Peru and Bolivia that became bathroom reading for 2 months. From that we learned that we didn't need visas, that we had enough money, and got a few ideas on where to go. During this time I would from time to time check out travel forums to see what places people suggest to visit and circle them in the guidebook if it looked interesting.
Mid April: A week before we left we went to updated our vaccinations, bought a couple traveler's cheques, checked to see what the weather would be like in SA, and booked a hostel for our first night in Lima.
The night before we left, I did make a list (I may even have used Word and printed it out) of things that we can't forget to pack - passport, money, phone number of hostel, plane tickets, etc...
Once in Lima we planned everything as we went, keeping in mind the places we thought we would like to go, talking to travelers to get new ideas, and remembering that we had to get back to Lima 2 months later. We added Chile to the itinerary once we were in Bolivia.
I really can't imagine wanting to do so much research on a place or haven't every detail planned out. Maybe on a very short trip if you only have a week or so and want to make the most of it.