How We Kept Organised Planning 4 Months of Travel

Everyone has their own way of organising and managing things and everyone definitely has their own way of planning travel and enjoying time away; 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 to say both Mr. LLC and I 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 (when we really began to travel), 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 whilst we’ve been in America we’ve continued to tailor very specific trips to our interests.

Organising is in Our Nature

Our decision to go travelling for 4 months and the ensuing planning that it has involved hasn’t blindsided us. We’re used to planning trips this way and we’ve taken the approach we’ve always taken – to basically just curate our own trip from the ground up – except we’ve supersized it from our longest trip to date (3 weeks) to 4 months on the road.

And that’s been a task! Many, many an hour has been spent with both of us on computers, organising different elements. Some people may look at what we’ve done and think we’re crazy – why not just go with the flow, see where we fancy going when we’re on the road?

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”; at least we aren’t yet. When we are financially independent and have all the time in the world to travel if we so choose, we can truly see where the wind takes us.

Even though we’ve quit our jobs to take this trip, we still do need to return to the UK at some point to carry on saving towards FIRE. And this trip we’re taking has been a dream of ours for over 10 years now. If we were going to take any trip right now, when we aren’t FI but do have the flexibility and financial means to travel, it was going to be this trip, with these specific destinations.

So…. how have we managed to stay cool, calm and organised? One word.

Google.

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!

Google Drive

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 have created folders of every place we are visiting on our trip (affectionately known in the LLC household as Big Trip) and in those folders are any info guides we’ve found on the destination and more importantly a Google doc of ‘Essential Information’.

Organisation of Big Trip on Google Drive

In the ‘Essential Information’ document I have 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 are stopping 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 on this 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.

I have also stored copies of our passports in Google Drive, just in case the worst was to happen and we lose our passports on the trip, we have a backup.

Another advantage of Google Drive is the ability to make documents available offline. So, we’re connected even when we’re not.

Google Sheets

We’ve always organised our trips in Google Sheets. I love that we can both be in the document, editing at the same time and we’re never writing over each other or working on an older version of the spreadsheet.

For this trip we used the same system we’ve always used – the spreadsheet’s just a little bigger!

We have 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 keep Mr. LLC’s accountant heart happy.
  • 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.
ALL the tabs!!

Our ‘booking confirmations’ tab is probably the most important tab on our spreadsheet. We are planning to be away 120 nights, going to 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 need booking, hence our wonderfully constructed booking confirmations tab!

It’s split out by type;

  • Accommodation
  • Flights
  • Trains
  • Car rental
  • Activities
  • Other

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 this trip (which you can read about here) 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 have not planned out every single day. All we’ve done with this is given 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 have 3 nights in Berlin but only really 2 good days of sightseeing as the days surrounding Berlin are longish travel days.

Mr. LLC also ran formulas in our travel and accommodation cost columns, so we can keep an eye on average spend per night. We’re aiming for $100 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. LLC remarked to me, after a 4 hour planning session, that he’s so glad we’ve done all the leg work planning before the trip rather than when we’re 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 won’t be researching activities to do in Japan or hikes we might want to try out in Hawaii whilst we’re in Europe but we just won’t feel constrained by the pressure of having to find accommodation or car hire in those places whilst we’re trying to enjoy a walking tour in Brugges.

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.

We’ve also found the cheapest train fares for long distance travel in Europe are 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!

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