How do you organize your research and planning?

Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 08:04 AM
  #1  
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How do you organize your research and planning?

Iíd love to hear how you organize your travel research and your trip planning ó two different tasks.

As I read trip reports and guide books I have one notebook - divided by country - that I write notes in, but it quickly got filled up and is unorganized... attractions mixed in with restaurant recommendations, cities noted throughout. Its now a mess and not helpful.

I am relatively new to travel (have done some amazing ďonce overĒ trips to the big cities of Europe, but not the deep dives that so many on this Board seem to do.) As my husband and I start a new phase of life as empty nesters, Iíd like to approach my research and planing in a more thoughtful manner. I hope youíll share your methods. Files folders, notebooks by country, electronic excel spreadsheets?

Thanks in advance! #Europe
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 08:07 AM
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I keep a folder of printed out reservations and bookmark it all on my computer.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 09:41 AM
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"Files folders, notebooks by country, electronic excel spreadsheets?"

None of the above really

I don't 'organize' much of anything. Not sure why but planning trips just comes naturally for me and I don't need to 'organize' much. When I make bookings I do save the email confirmations/tickets to a folder in my inbox and I print out a hard copy as a back up which I stick in envelopes in my suitcase and discard as the trip progresses.

Only do spreadsheets when I'm taking a group and have to collect money for various things pre-trip. For group trips I do print out calendars and lists to distribute to the others.

For me/my own trips, I just enter activities on my calendar as I make them.

If I don't already know a place well I may read a guide book to get the lay of the land.

My lates trip in Dec to London (TR here 'Non-report' London Trip Report ) I just searched on line for special events happening during my dates and booked what I needed to. But not a spread sheet or file folder in sight . . .
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:01 PM
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Welcome to Empty Nesterhood! Our youngest departed for University last August.

I am a planner, but my planning depends on the focus of the particular trip and the length of time. Though we have traveled extensively we still consider it a luxury to be able to do so, and so I am willing and happy to do the research to make the logistics (airport transportation, City Passes, things like that) go smoothly, even on repeat visits to places.

For a short "City Break" I'm inclined to pick a handful of sights/activities that appeal to us and perhaps reserve a restaurant table for one meal. Everything else is left to whim. With few cities being the exception, we're not going to see "everything" in a couple of days so why rush around? I don't rely much on those "36 Hours in XX" articles that are everywhere because inevitably they include activities that are not of interest and so I end up cobbling together my own itinerary anyway.

If our holiday is museum or important-site intensive (usually a "first visit" destination), I will use Excel to keep inventory of the days the museums are closed; and which museums have evening hours. I'll also plot everything on Google Maps, along with possible restaurants of interest in the near. There are few things worse on holiday for us than developing the hangries and finding no places at which to dine. (This was a lifesaver on a family trip to Berlin.)

I only read travel blogs for less well-known destinations; most of the "Top Ten Things You MUST Do in XX" blogs are boilerplate with or sometimes without bad grammar. The most helpful travel blog to date was that written by a couple who posted their DIY walking tour of Minsk. I adopted their route to add in a couple of things, and took the time to thank them for their sharing their hard work.

I'll pick up a guidebook for destinations that seem, to us, warrant doing so. Paris or NYC? No. The Greek Islands? Yes, because it gave us insight into little villages that we were passing as we drove around the island of Corfu.

For "major" holidays (my 16-day jaunt through Singapore, Seoul, and Japan in 2018) my inner analyst pulled out all the stops: guide books, the Internet, and reading travel reports. For this holiday I intensely investigated the food scene for Singapore (and was happy that I had); left flexibility for Seoul because there were a number of moving parts (a friend was flying over from Tokyo to join me; plus, I was catching up with a personal friend who lived in Seoul); and with one exception (I needed to see the Snow Monkeys in Nagano), let my Tokyo friend plan my visit to her city. We had been to Tokyo a decade earlier, so I was ready for all things old being new again, with a local twist. For this holiday I also did a "practice pack" of my case, because I needed three season clothing plus dress attire and would not have easy access to laundry until the final segment, and had to keep the weight in check.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:24 PM
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re fourfortravel's post -- I also certainly research/plan and pick things to do ahead of time. Sometimes extensively research. It is just that I don't use any organizational 'system' like you seem to be asking about. No spreadsheets or anything like that. Too much like work . . .
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:38 PM
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Well I don't research or organize like it sounds like you want to. Just use your computer. Word or Excel either one work OK.

I only plan one trip at a time. So before I started taking notes I'd already have it narrowed down to only a couple cities or countries max.

Plus I don't research restaurants or attractions in advance.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 05:23 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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A combination!

I rarely mix countries on a single trip, and so that's not an issue for me.
I start with pages of notes on areas of interest as I'm getting rough ideas.
I move to notes by location (as in city or town, not region or country) as I hone my plans and develop a list of likely destinations.
I then move to planning documents, in whatever format.
One key for me: Make sure I know where I read what!

I suspect that, as with travel itself, there are as many strategies as there are travelers, and our preferences probably change over time and trip to trip. Should be interesting to see what different people say!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 09:36 PM
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I make heavy use of Google maps

If I find something that seems interesting I first check the location . How easy is it to combine with others? How hard to get to? If it still seems of interest I mark it on the map. Google maps for most places will show the Wiki information. The opening hours. Crowds during the course of the day. All that means if I'm walking around lost during the day I can look at my phone and see if anything nearby is on my list of interesting.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:04 AM
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Oh that's another thing. I know some people just do some pretty in depth generalized research about places they might want to go to in the future. If I'm doing research, it's because I've already booked a trip!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 12:31 PM
  #10  
mms
 
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I do a mix of stuff for planning. I like to see the big picture all at once, so I tend to write stuff down on paper to get the general itinerary. I do a lot of screenshots for planning, and make an album on my phone for just the planning stages. We just got back from two countries, so I had two albums and I could quickly go see what things I thought we might like to do. I also make dinner reservations, so those screenshots are in there as well. I like the CityMaps2Go app on my phone as well as Googlemaps to see what is nearby and what might be of interest and the hours etc.

For our Iceland trip this summer, I really had to plan that as we are doing the Ring Road. I have everything in chronological order so I don't mess anything up. That is way too expensive of a trip to screw up, lol.

I have a red folder that I have used for years that I keep hard copies of reservations in. I can use my phone too, but sometimes the hard copies are good if I can't get to my glasses right away and want to be able to see it I retired the red folder this morning from the trip we returned from last night, and it is in the pile for the Iceland stuff ready to go again.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 03:05 PM
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For trip ideas I have a word doc that I will add things to in different countries that I want to visit. Restaurants, museums, towns, hikes etc... I have separated it by country. If I am researching the internet, Fodor’s, blogs etc. and find things that I want to save I have a folder for each country. That way when I do start planning a trip I will be able to refer to things.

For trip planning I do a spreadsheet and will put information in there for the whole trip. I do not obsess about sticking to a certain itinerary though. There are things my DH or I would like to see or do and we try to do them. But, I also love to go with the flow of the day and see where our wandering takes us. I really feel like that is the best part of our trips.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Paqngo View Post
For trip ideas I have a word doc that I will add things to in different countries that I want to visit. Restaurants, museums, towns, hikes etc... I have separated it by country. If I am researching the internet, Fodorís, blogs etc. and find things that I want to save I have a folder for each country. That way when I do start planning a trip I will be able to refer to thinngs.
​​​​​​Yes, this is what I do. I sometimes make my folders for 2-3 countries if I hope to visit them all in one trip.

And due too of my past jobs, I do like to be consistent in how I name documents. I always do things like
DC HOTELS--The Hay Adams
DC SIGHTS--Library of Congress
Then if you do an alphabetical sort, "like" items end up together

If you are retired, you might clean up your desktop or laptop computer, if you haven't already... no need to Marie Kondo everything, but do move your documents from parenting, past volunteering and past employment into a few virtual folders.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 01:18 AM
  #13  
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It sounds like those of you who do research prior to trips and make notes about restaurants or sights keep electronic files and lists. Maybe thatís my answer. I want to get off my computer after work so I lean toward pen and notebook but I just canít keep it organized. My notebooks need cut and paste keys. Lol.

I need to practice with Google Maps. I set it up for London and Edinburgh last summer but hated walking around with my phone in my hand. I also used an app called Mapstr which I loved. A place (they I put on the map) would alert me when we walked by. But again, I just donít want to walk around a city with my phone in my hand.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:45 AM
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I rarely have my phone in my hand. If I'm lost or want some information I'll check it. If I'm walking and using directions I'll keep the voice up load and the phone in my pocket.

But if I stop for a moment it's nice being able to just glance at the map and see what's nearby.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 11:47 AM
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I don't travel with a phone. So no. And I do have a laptop, but I don't use that for trip planning, other than being able to access emails.

I have one plastic sleeve (like you'd put in a 3-ring binder) and outbound it has my plane ticket info, my hotel reservation, and airport transportation. Then during the trip I use that sleeve to collect maps, business cards, post cards, other trip information I want to save. I use a 3x5" spiral notebook in my purse to jot down what I do each day, prices, and any other details I want to be able to remember (or post about).
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 05:51 PM
  #16  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by lrice View Post
It sounds like those of you who do research prior to trips and make notes about restaurants or sights keep electronic files and lists.
I don't even have a cell phone!
I use paper for a lot of my notes -- especially anything I glean from guide books, and that's the majority of my research. Separate pages for each location, so I can file them alphabetically.
I generally use electonic files only as I actually pull the details of a trip together.

I'm not saying there's a right or wrong strategy -- just responding to your conclusion.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 09:56 PM
  #17  
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All very helpful! I can run a small business but canít seem to get to the places Iíve researched for a vacation 😂 I will keep on trying. Thank you!
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 04:41 AM
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Hi lrice,

Well.... if you want to avoid using computers/tablets and want to stay flexible, try 3x5 cards. Old Army officers lived by them. Use one per day/region (city walks in the 7th, with restaurants & cafes, for instance), or one for restaurants and one for hikes and one for museums, etc. You can store them in folders or punch a hole in them and string them on clasp. If you don't want to travel with a bunch of paper, just use your phone to take a photo of each card once they are final.

If you don't want to walk around holding your phone with Google maps, you can print out the maps. Use one layer per day (sights, restaurants, etc), then print it.

One trip to Paris, I copied text from my own guidebook, printed it, printed a google map, then laminated the map & text onto an 8x10 sheet of paper. I had about 7 or 8 walks arranged like that. Worked great.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 10:12 AM
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I like the note card idea! I wouldn't pair it with a phone myself, but that way she can sort and organize without having to rewrite things like in a notebook. Shuffle them up, rubberband or binder clip by city. Toss (or keep as a record) as you go along. Smart!!
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 08:00 AM
  #20  
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I actually used 3x5 index cards to organize our trip to London. I put all of the sights I wanted to see on their own individual cards and then could lay them out and rearrange. My family thought I was crazy but I had a great time doing it! 😊

My issue was with restaurants though. We would be finished with say.... the Tower of London, I had a handful of pubs in the area to try for lunch but it meant getting out my phone, looking at my Google doc, then finding the place on Google Maps. Otherwise we would stroll to see what we ďfoundĒ which didnít really work out. I think that I learned from our trip to London that meals need to be planned.
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