Trip planning tools 2.0

I love trip planning. Really love it. It could sustain me even when I’m dead tired as long as I’m one of the people going on the trip!

When I first start planning, my ideas are all over the place, literally. I’ll start lists everywhere: GTasks lists of things to do as they come to me since I have a Google Calendar open all day long in a Chrome tab, Google Docs list (in “Excel”) for packing that I start months in advance if I have that kind of notice, bookmarking webpages to take a deeper look, draft emails to myself with lists of links to check out. I’m just all about the Google web apps.

I try to enter as much itinerary information as is possible into a TripIt trip. I love entering complete flight information into TripIt and have it automatically figure out departure and arrival time and aircraft type. I love entering in reservations for restaurants or car rentals as I make them as they are “fixed points” in the trip.

I look for prices all of the time but am somewhat hopeless at getting the best price or even comparison shopping very well across different days. :( That part frustrates me the most because next after sharing about the delights of your trip, the next best part is if it didn’t cost you as much as the next person!

At some point, the lists of activities get overwhelming and I fire up Google Maps and create a map to drop pins for all of the destinations and get an idea of what is close to what, how to cluster the activities and sights into days. I wish Google Maps had better and more colourful pins to represent the activities we do. It also gives me an idea if we aren’t stuck in one area, one tourist strip too much.

When NPY and I travel together, we share a packing list in Google Docs “Excel” that we both access with our Google Accounts. I’m responsible for many of the things we share (of course) and these are set off in different typeface so he can be assured he does not have to cover it off.

Finding things to do for me is a serious of happy accidents. I kind of eschew travel books because (1) I’m not going to buy one that gathers dust after the trip and becomes out of date and (2) borrowed from the library is not instantly available or have that nice “new book” feel. The Internet is far better for that. “Things to do lists”, Tripadvisor comments and Wikipedia pages for background information are my go-to sources. I will especially pay attention if amongst my searches, bloggie friends of mine have posts about visiting somewhere I’m headed to.

This time around, professional blogger Jenny Cisney whom I’ve followed for many years went to Oahu in July and FourSquared her locations daily. I looked forward to each day’s tweets to look up where she’s been and see if it is something we would also enjoy. Another source of “recommendations”–don’t laugh–has been the currently airing Hawaii Five-O show. Because of Hawaii Five-O, I am quite adamant that we hike Koko Crater (in addition to Diamond Head) and get a good meal from a shrimp truck!

Finally, I started following Groupon Honolulu. I could start following all of the coupon sites as Groupon doesn’t seem to have new deals every day for Honolulu but that is information overload. Still, just imagine how the trip planning tools are so different these days.

I just switched phones so my iPhone is not under contract and not my current phone. Which means I can unlock it and pop in a US SIM card and enjoy US rates and full use of a cell/smartphone while traveling. NPY thinks that between free wi-fi (Starbucks and McDonalds to start) and What’s App? app, he has no additional needs but I already can see how we could really use a smartphone for navigation when we are driving to the north shore and on the highway.

When everything is laid out, I can put details into the TripIt itinerary and theĀ final, glorious step is printing out the itinerary. There is a TripIt app for iPhone and Android but sometimes the paper itinerary is so satisfying and more convenient.

On this day..