How to make a DIY guidebook
April 6, 2013 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to create a DIY guidebook for my next trip, that will be available on my iPhone.

Planning for my next big trip, I realized that I no longer have to lug around paper guidebooks. They are all available as eBooks and I can take them on my iPhone and/or Kindle. Yay!

This got me to thinking that I could create my own personal guide as well, of places I have decided to visit, hotel and airline reservation info, relevant transit schedules and directions, maps with markers, reserved tours, museum hours, etc. It sounds so obvious but I can't figure out which software to use. Ideally I'd like something that I can create on my Mac as I'm browsing and taking notes, and then transfer to the iPhone. It would include images and text, even links to pages in my eBook guides if possible. I searched for software specific for this and couldn't find anything that had very good reviews in the app store. Guess I could make one long word document and PDF it to take with me for travel, but is there anything designed more specifically for this purpose?

What I don't want is anything that requires an internet connection while I am traveling, or one of those software packages that 'creates' an itinerary for me. I'll be doing the research on my own. It's more of a self-contained WIKI that will be easy to access on the road, that I'm looking for.

posted by bchaplin to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this with PDF files and it works OK. You can make multiple short files for convenience. I also put a map into PDF and looked at it (map showed locations of restaurants I wanted to visit).

Bear in mind that you can make the text any size you want, and the pages any size you want.

However, if you want something fancier, most of the "make your own iPhone app" thingies out there seem to just make little web sites, which is probably what you want.
posted by amtho at 7:05 AM on April 6, 2013

Sounds like a job for Evernote.
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:12 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Amtho, thanks for the idea! I just started looking at the make-your-own-apps, I hadn't realized they existed. Good thing to know.

Rad_Boy, I am not sure about evernote's offline capabilities. Since I'll be traveling out of the country, I am need to be 100% sure that whatever I take will be accessible without an internet connection.

I may end up doing a PDF after all.
posted by bchaplin at 7:19 AM on April 6, 2013

Seconding Evernote. Their Mac app syncs seamlessly with the iPhone app. The Web Clipper browser extension is quite handy as well, for quickly putting things found online into Evernote.

As for access: You would need a Premium account ($5/month) to have all your notes available offline in the iPhone app.
posted by Kronios at 7:22 AM on April 6, 2013

I use Google Maps and 'My Places' custom maps. You drop a marker somewhere on the map, and you can fill in relevant text in the accompanying bubble.

places I have decided to visit, hotel and airline reservation info, relevant transit schedules and directions, maps with markers, reserved tours, museum hours, etc.

For attractions and restaurants and that sort of thing I put the hours of operation and estimated cost. Maybe a link to the website or menu. I can drop in routes and driving directions that get picked up by my phone's navigation app, if wireless access isn't an option. My flight information is in the marker at the airport, my hotel reservation on the marker for the hotel. And I can print my tickets for the show that night from the link I put in the marker at the theater that takes me to the doc I saved.

Anyway, the whole thing can be downloaded as a KML file if you don't want to rely on wireless access.
posted by carsonb at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2013

I really think you would love Evernote. The basic account is free, so you could mess around with it for a little while to see if you like it before paying for Premium for offline access.

I use Evernote for exactly this purpose, among others. Here is what I love about it compared to a static PDF:

- Ability to stack multiple notes into a notebook. I have a stack called Travel and a folder for each destination. Then, within each destination folder, I have however many separate notes as make sense. For example, you could have a separate note for each arrondissement of Paris if you want to browse the city that way, or you could have a note for restaurants and food you want to try, another for museums, a third for getting around (maps, subway info), etc. You can create links from one note to another to let you navigate easily - you could even create one note that just serves as a linked table of contents to organize all your other notes.

- Multiple sharing options. If you are browsing the web and come across a cool article about Destination, you can use the web clipper to send it (photos, texts and all) to a note in your Destination folder in about three seconds. You can forward emails directly to your account and assign them to notebooks and tags from the subject line.

- Ability to delete and move stuff around. With a single PDF you will have to keep paging through information about sites you visited on the first few days of your trip. If those are separate notes in Evernote, you can simply delete them or reassign them to a different notebook so that they aren't cluttering your view on day 14.

- Drag-and-drop. You can really easily create your own illustrated itinerary or guidebook using the desktop version just by dragging pictures from a website into a note, then annotating each picture.

Evernote is really easy to get started with for basic features, and a few power tricks (like creating note links and emailing) are easy to learn. But it's also pretty powerful if you want to get fancy, and you can even look into some of its other apps, like Food for planning and remembering restaurant visits and Hello for keeping track of the people you meet on your travels.
posted by payoto at 8:16 AM on April 6, 2013

I use Evernote and Maps+ for this, along with TripIt.

With a free Evernote account, you can "star" notes on the iPhone that you want to have available offline. I usually create one note for each city and list interesting destinations in the note. For each destination I include enough info to remind me why it's interesting and where it is, plus a link to more info for when I'm online. I star the note so it's available offline.

I like Maps+ because you can tag pins. So as I'm preparing for a trip to a city, I put pins in the map for my hotel, cool stuff I want to see, etc. and tag them in Maps+ with the name of the city. That way, when I open my list of bookmarked pins, it's easy to scan the list of pins for that city only.

I use TripIt to store the details of flights, hotel reservations, and things that I've decided to do at specific times on specific days (shows, meetings, etc.). TripIt can be used offline on the iPhone, and it exports to iCal, so I don't have to open the app just to see my schedule for the day.

For transit schedules and such (shuttles from the airport, for example), I take screenshots of the relevant schedules and use AirSharing to put the image on my iPhone in a folder for that trip. If the resource is online, like a link to an online route planning site in a big city, it goes in that city's Evernote note, and I use it when I'm online.
posted by ceiba at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2013

Maybe something like Wikitouch .... a personal wiki hosted on your phone.
posted by notyou at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2013

For reservations and flight info, TripIt works pretty well. You could also use a wiki like VoodooPad.

A new app is Rego. You can search locations and plan a trip. Your destination has it's own page, and that page has the destinations location, pictures you take, and any notes. So you could make a page with a pub you want to visit, add a picture so you recognize it, make a note with the hours, and the drink you want to try.

So you can make a list of all the places you want to visit in a certain city. You open the list on your iPhone, and you can see exactly how far away each place is from your current location. You can then check your notes to make sure it's open, and then from the app you can tell it to give you directions in your map app.

I'm not affiliated with them, I just think it's a cool app. I'm currently using it to plan a trip. I have several lists for that city, including Favorite Restaurants, and Places to Visit.

And yeah, you can do all this with Evernote. You can do almost anything in Evernote. But I'm not a fan of the UI, and although I'm obviously in the minority, I feel it does everything Okay, but nothing great.
posted by justgary at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the answers! I'll look at all these options!
posted by bchaplin at 1:31 PM on April 6, 2013

Response by poster: I like the Rego concept a lot. Not just for travel, but for life.
posted by bchaplin at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2013

Response by poster: I don't really like marking 'best answers', since I appreciate everyone's input. I decided to use VoodooPad in the end, and have downloaded 'Rego' too.
posted by bchaplin at 6:05 AM on April 7, 2013

FYI, I've downloaded the Rego app, and with the 1.1 update that includes Location Search it's a lot more user friendly than it was before.

While it's marketed as a way to document favourite places that you've visited, I've really been using it to plan my upcoming holiday instead which is where I think its real strength lies.

I've been using it to research well reviewed restaurants, things to do, etc in the cities I'll be visiting, and add them to each city's map, categorising them into Food, Beer, Shopping, etc. so I can filter based on my needs at the time.

It seems to be a good mix of pre-planning and spontaneity. I'm eager to see what other features they'll add to it.
posted by Cattaby at 5:06 PM on April 14, 2013

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