Travel Planners MY WAY, Please
January 18, 2023 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting ready for a trip. I'm also trying not to bring 187 guide books. So I'm looking for something I can use to plan ahead, gather all the information I want, and then print it out to carry with me. I've just looked at a whole bunch of travel planner printables but none seem quite right. Can anyone assist?

In a sense, I'm looking for a sort of DIY "Not for tourists" guide, where I can capture my flight info, hotel info, some general info about the place where I'm going (i.e., the public transit web site, general temperature, etc.), and info about the specific attractions I want to see. I do not need a budget tracker or a "journal about my day" kind of thing because I do that separately. I also do not need a packing list.

The problem I keep running into is that nearly all the online printable templates either have a lot of cruft I don't need (packing lists, budget trackers, "notes for your dog sitter", etc.) and not enough of the things I do want. Or they have a gabillion "cute" pictures on them; while some whimsy is okay, a cute picture of an airplane that takes up half the page is just wasting space in my mind. One of the big things travel planners like this are missing is the ability to capture restaurants I want to try; I could always just edit an "attractions I want to visit" template, though.

Also - I cannot stress enough the fact that I do not want to use an app for this. I go analog when I travel, and I would very, very much want to avoid an app; I want to stick to printing things. I explored the templates because I can print one page more than once to capture everything I need, but too many of the online printers I'm finding would require me to do way too much editing of the layout itself or give me way too much cruft.

posted by EmpressCallipygos to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I use Google Docs for this. Lots of big headings and sub-headings keep everything organised and auto-generate a table of contents / outline. You can paste in photos and hyperlinks.

You can then print it out (WYSIWYG), and you can make it available when offline in the Google Docs app on your phone, in case you lose the printouts.
posted by snarfois at 7:30 AM on January 18

Yep, google docs!! I usually print a copy and stick it in my luggage in case it goes missing, since all my hotel and contact info for the trip is on there. I've used both a spreadsheet and a regular doc, both work well but I tend toward the spreadsheet.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:35 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, I think I forgot a detail - those of you recommending Google Docs, can you link me to an editable template? I'd rather use a template than build everything from the ground up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 AM on January 18

It would never have occurred to me to use a template. I always use Google Docs with vanilla styles - just the standard Title, Subtitle, Heading 1, 2, 3 and so on.

You probably have a good idea what sections you want in your planner. Make those your Heading 1s. (Eg. Flight info, Accommodation info, Local travel info, Museums, Parks, Shops, Restaurants, etc.)
posted by snarfois at 7:48 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Are you looking for a “cute” template, or just a general template?

Like others, I use google docs but then just format mostly as a day by day itinerary or broken down by attractions, etc
posted by raccoon409 at 8:37 AM on January 18

I want to stick to printing things.

Pre-trip I check books for the destination out of the library and photocopy relevant pages, which I then discard as the journey progresses.
posted by Rash at 8:49 AM on January 18

I don't use Google Docs, but I use a text editor so it's pretty much the same thing. And I don't have a standard template. I build as I go, letting the needs of each trip dictate what I include. Some things are common, yes, but mostly I make stuff up as I go.

Here, I'm taking a trip in two weeks. Let me show you what I have in my text document so far...


Monday, 30 January 2023
13:14 EUG --> UA431 --> DEN 16:40
confirmation # 000000
* meet Miranda at airport

Thrifty Car Rental [small SUV]
address of agency -- 17:00
confirmation # 000000

Aloft Denver Airport @ Gateway Park
address of hotel
confirmation # 000000

Tuesday, 31 January 2023
* pick up Ashley from airport at around noon
* Ashley, Kate, and Miranda confirmed for ride in rental

Rental House
address of rental and check-in time

Friday, 03 February 2023
19:23 DEN --> UA261 --> EUG 21:17

Where I'm going and what I'm doing dictate what I include in this document. For international trips, for instance, I'll include my passport number, my Known Traveler number, and my Priority Pass number. The document always includes any info about reservations I've made. Basically, any confirmed info regarding a trip goes into this text document.

But I also include info on stuff I'd like to do. When I took a two-week driving tour of northwest France, for instance, I included addresses and opening hours for various attractions.

I've been using this method for 15+ years, and it works like a charm. Even for trips as long as five weeks, I've managed to get everything onto a single piece of paper. (Although for those longer trips, I often have to print double sided and two-up, so I'm essentially putting four pages on a single piece of paper.) I carry multiple copies of this document with me. It's my lifeline.
posted by jdroth at 8:49 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]

Before my last trip, I made one GDoc that was free-form text: alllllll my possible ideas of dates and times and places and prices and descriptions and notes, just dumped onto a page.

Then I went through it and sorted them into categories like sights, costs, restaurants, etc. Finally I copied only the items that we decided to do into a second GDoc, one-by-one, organized by day. And that is the one that I printed out and shared with others.

A template would only have been useful after the final "sorting" stage...but I admit that it would have been an improvement to get an auto-generated map, plus a grid of dates, and other niceties.

(ObDisc: I currently have an AskMe open about this myself!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:53 AM on January 18

Re-reading your question, I think your best bet is to build things from the ground up each trip, as the responders here seem to be doing. Any template is going to have cruft because each person does things differently. In essence, I'm suggesting that you build your own template if you want a template.

Really, though, you don't need a template. Start each trip with a blank slate. Dump details into the document as you need them.
posted by jdroth at 8:56 AM on January 18

A question: are you just putting "travel planner template" into Google's search box, or manually exploring places like Gumroad, the GDocs templates gallery, etc.?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:58 AM on January 18

Response by poster: Apologies first, I have a feeling I'm going to sound some weird combination of contradictory and stubborn; but it's more a matter of "i don't quite know what I want but I'll know it when I see it" happening.

* I'm not necessarily looking for a CUTE template, but I would prefer some kind of template, even a minimalist one; the visual impact of things in somewhat orderly form format would be better for me to handle than a basic list. Also, sometimes templates remind me of categories that I may overlook ("oh, hey, yeah, a page with a list of addresses for people to send postcards to WOULD be useful").

* I do get that not every template is ideal; I can deal with some cruft, but there was way more chaff than wheat in what I was finding. I have no problems simply not printing certain pages in a template collection.

* For executive-functioning reasons, I was hoping for a template so in the months before my trip I could print out a few blank pages and carry them around to handwrite in some info as I find it, as opposed to "found a thing, now I have to turn on the computer, let it boot up, navigate to my planner, and THEN finally type in the info" as opposed to "Oh look, a thing! Lemme grab a pen and write that down!"

* To add insult to injury: I cannot access Google Docs on my work computer (our network has issues with it for some reason). So if I did something on Google Docs I'd have to save everything and then painstakingly transcribe it all when I get home, as opposed to "oh, look, a thing! Lemme grab a pen and fill that page in!"

* Photocopying pages was something I considered, but the guidebooks I've been finding at the library have things spread out a little too much (i.e., I'd be copying one full page but I only want one paragraph on it, and I have no way to put it with the paragraph of info on a different page). That's another reason I was hoping for a template, for the catch-all approach.

* I admit there IS a bit of stubborn temper-tantrum also going on, all "why can't I find this exact unicorn of a thing I want waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: there IS a bit of stubborn temper-tantrum also going on.

I totally hear you, and I think the same issue is basically at the root of my own AskMe: I want a tool for brainstorming over time, that also can be used during the trip itself.

I'm afraid I don't know of any document templates that fill that niche. I would suggest browsing a ton of them, and stealing the headings out of any that you find appealing. :7)

My own most-likely path is a Google Sheets document with tabs for Ideas and Cost in the early stages, and then when it's time to finalize things I will selectively copy-and-paste into a new Google Doc organized as an itinerary. I'll have another one as a packing list, and also a Google Map of my hotel and all the planned sights.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:00 AM on January 18

Response by poster: Last comment and then I go away again so as not to threadsit:

Another problem I was running into with some templates was that they seemed to be designed for a secretary who is doing the travel planning for a group of people to take a business trip, as opposed to being a single person who is planning a vacation for herself. I only need space for ONE round-trip flight on the "flight details" page, not eighteen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Templates - try Canva (their free version has a ton of templates in it) to see if there's something close to what you want, layout-wise. I suggest this because they are SO EASY to edit in Canva, and SAVE as a "project", so you can reuse it. It's basically a really slick WYSIWYG editor, and dead simple to make header updates and things. As a watch-out, you may not be able to access on a work computer (I can't).
posted by ersatzkat at 11:48 AM on January 18

Response by poster: Ooh.

Ersatzkat, this looks promising - I've played with a template, now is there any way to fill out the template itself while I'm there? If not, I have NO issues with just getting a template the exact way I want it to look and then printing it out and filling it in by hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on January 18

Not quite the template you're looking for, but are you aware of Travelers Notebooks? They are portfolios meant to gather your papers and small notebooks that you insert into them. You can combine these with your printed Canva items.
posted by hydra77 at 3:29 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am indeed aware of the Traveler's Notebooks, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to print something out - so I could put it in my Traveler's Notebook along with the blank book I said I had for the journal already.

Know of any Canva templates?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 PM on January 18

Consider these templates in Notion which is sort of a more structured and dynamic Google Docs for collaboration and documentation. It presents as pages so will print elegantly.
posted by artificialard at 2:38 AM on January 19

Response by poster: While all of you have been giving me good ideas, I think the fact that I'm not really knowing what I want is just throwing a huge road block in the way here. I also am remembering I ran into a similar problem looking for a similar printable thing.

So...I think I'm going to throw in the towel and accept that if I'm gonna be this much of a special snowflake, I should suck it up and build what I want my own self. Thank you all for trying nevertheless!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:19 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

I would love to see (and probably -- if I'm being honest -- rip off) whatever you come up with!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:50 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]

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