Through the ages tooling around travel plans has been cumbersome at best. These days many commercial businesses how all sorts of planning software to make planning more accessible. Yet, in the consumer world, the tooling for travel planning is almost non-existent. However, between my wife and I, we’ve found systems that work for us and have done some fantastic, complicated trips using these tools. They are essential and leave you yearning for more. But, let’s explore the best tools for coordinating travel plans.
I might note there are some solutions out there trying to improve on this in recent years, and Travel-Wise is deeply invested in being the best travel planner solution. We’ll review more of that at the end of this article.
Also, check out our high-level overview of travel planning and creating an itinerary here.
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Email Threads & Drafts
Every group trip starts with some communication means. Traditionally this is usually email threads where everyone replies with thoughts. After that, we have some high-level plans that take shape from back-and-forth communication. It sometimes gets quite messy! We often use WhatsApp or other real-time communication means today, but that can also get messy. It becomes straightforward to miss essential details if chatter starts up. It would be best if you had someone active and diligently taking the essential bits and assembling those somewhere.
This is often where a lot of planning starts. We have friends from different parts of our country or the world. Communication across time zones requires some remote-friendly communication. We have done some travel planning with friends over a local dinner. Even in those cases, you need to have someone diligent at taking notes as the free-form discussion can go all over the place.
This is a tool, and it is enough for simple trips (weekend trips and such). But, when things get too messy or complicated (and you’ll know it). Then, it is time to explore the bigger guns of tooling.
Time to upgrade to Google and Microsoft Documents! These have been our staple as it is just flexible document allowing you to format the information in a way that makes sense. These documents have helpful features that allow you to work amongst a group. Features such as the ability to share the document with others include researching, updating, and finalizing the travel plans. They also have helpful features to download the document locally and be available on your phone when you plan to be in remote areas or without a cellular signal.
They have some collaboration tooling built-in, but it generally is not quite as fluid as the free-form tooling I mentioned, from emailing to real-time communications tools. We generally evolve to using Google/Microsoft documents after we have done some of the initial trip planning. Then, generally, when the planning becomes more complicated.
One thing to note is that these plans are pretty free form. I have had friends ask me for our travel plans as itineraries in the past, and when I show them our chicken-scratch notes, it generally is not super helpful. It isn’t intended to be a super lovely format in this form. It is very objectionable, but it gets the job done.
One tool we’ve recently heard about and evolved into exploring is EverNote. It looks prettier and has a more snapper UI for building better-looking and formatted documents. Given Google/Microsoft documents are a raw form of tooling, EverNote builds on it to streamline it. It has most of the same features I mentioned above that also make Google/Microsoft Documents valid for travel. In addition, it includes additional features such as mapping items to calendar items and allows much better time-based tooling around your plans.
It does well to help coordinate travel plans with a group of people and keep to a schedule. However, it still allows you to access the information offline, ensuring you don’t lose access in critical situations. I’ve traveled enough to never count on having internet while on travel. It is losing access to flight tickets, hotel bookings, directions, etc., while on a trip can lose valuable time if not a show stopper in some cases.
We’ve grown a bit of distrust in technology from some trips where we in the great outdoors in a foreign country and lost access to our travel plans. We were so remote that we needed to handle the situation dynamically and lost track of critical information we stored in our travel plans. For example, it told us where to hop on and off a glacier and which saddle ridge we needed to climb in a particular area. Because we lost these plans, we had to guess what led us to a dangerous ridgeline, and we almost lost our lives that day. Fortunately, our skills circumvented that situation; however, imagine how bad things could be for you to lose access to the critical information you needed amidst a dangerous leg of your journey.
This brings us back to the old-fashioned printed documents. When you plan to be remote, plan to print your plans just in case. It may save your bacon as it would have done for us. Some of the tools above have hit or missed printing them out to document form. Whether you are printing the whole plan or a sub-section of it, do keep in mind that this should be an option for the more critical parts of your trip as a backup to technology.
How Travel-Wise Is Geared To Help
We built Travel-Wise with care and using our experience from the pain points mentioned above. However, there is a need for improvements in these areas, and Travel-Wise is committed to addressing these. Travel-Wise will not only give you the free-form documenting capability that Google and Microsoft bring. But also the structure, time tooling, and offline capability unique to travel. Travel is a demanding activity, and it is about time we, as a travel community, had better tooling to cater to our specific needs.
Further, the tools I mentioned above are not very easy to share in today’s world. What if you could enact your travel plans and want to make it an itinerary template to share with others? What if you wanted to document your trip and share it on social media or your travel blog in a friendly and neat format. No extra work to transfer all the information around and structure it; you get it free!
We are very passionate about making sure Travel-Wise is the best, and most of all, we want to hear from you on how we can do better! So please let us know in our community forums or directly! We hope to make your next adventure a breeze!