A Passion for Travel, Part 2: The Master Trip Calendar

Stopover in Tokyo, 2007
Tokyo, 2007


Like many of my fellow bloggers and world travellers, Clive and I love the process of planning and anticipating our trips.

The Planning Type

I recall a Myers-Briggs exercise in one of my corporate management classes, in which a colleague said he liked nothing better than to travel with no fixed itinerary and simply ‘go with the flow’.

Maybe it’s because I always travelled within the confines of limited vacation days, but in all of these personality and psychological profiles, I come down at the other end of the spectrum.  Only occasionally do I like winging it, especially where sleeping accommodation is concerned.

Most of the time, I like to have a plan.  Clive, on the other hand, has experienced both, including backpacking for three months, planning one day at a time.

We try to organise our trip calendar so we have enough clarity to relax about where we’ll be spending our nights, but also enough ‘blank space’ to allow flexibility in how we spend some of our days.

For us, the way to achieve this balance is by staying in one place, for several days up to two weeks.  We then have a base from which to explore (or to meet family obligations), and can easily modify our plans, depending on anything from the weather to a new discovery to an unexpected invitation.

The Master Trip Calendar: Simple but Effective

It all starts with what I call ‘the trip spreadsheet’, or master calendar.  Clive, aka IT guru, is a whiz at spreadsheets, so this tends to be our preferred method for calendars, checklists, and expense records.

We developed this 6-column template by trial and error a few years ago.  It looks, and is, simple, but has proven very useful to us in providing a one-page, big picture view and helping us juggle activities before and during our trips.

The spreadsheet format is easy to update if needed as we go along, and I always have a hardcopy in my purse.  It’s also easy to e-mail new versions to our children.

Here are the six columns:

1.      Day

2.      Date

3.      Daytime location and any major activities.  When filled in, it looks like ‘New Jersey, dinner with xxx’ or ‘Eurostar to London’ or best of all, just ‘Paris’ and blissfully blank.

4.      Specific flight or train numbers, where applicable

5.      Accommodation (where we will be sleeping), or ‘in flight’ if overnight flight

6.      Fixed dates, family birthdays and significant dates, and holidays in Australia, England, France, and the U.S. (and any other countries we’re visiting).  For this trip, the two most important fixed dates are Clive’s father’s vintage car rally in England in early May, and my mother’s 85th birthday in the U.S. in late May.  We also noted Easter weekend, 2 Mother’s Days (different in the UK and U.S./Australia), Clive’s mother’s birthday in Australia, 2 UK bank holidays, my father’s wife’s birthday in the U.S., and the start and end of Daylight Savings time in the UK/US and Australia, respectively, important to know when making overseas telephone calls.

Holidays are easy to find on hardcopy calendars or online.  For our current trip, we built our plans around (1) car rally = England, (2) my mother’s birthday = New Jersey, and (3) Easter = expensive, therefore the apartment in Paris.

An Extract


Filling It In

Once we have the basic information entered, we fill it in more and more, with flights, trains, accommodation, and appointments.

These tasks are part of our travel planning checklist, which will be the subject of my next post.

Related posts
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3: Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya

7 Responses

  1. WOW! That’s impressive and a really great tip!! It helps to be organized when taking a big trip like the one you guys will be taking!! My husband is good with that kind of stuff… I’m a little less organized… But, I usually really like to have things planned out – at least an outline – to keep track of the time and make sure it’s well spent!! Can’t wait to see you both!! Do you know the dates you’ll be arriving in Paris yet?
    Take care… Leesa

  2. This is great! I did a hand written one on my first visit to London years ago with my daughter and loved it. It made it much easier for me to relax and enjoy the trip.

    Mine had events, times, locations and when necessary, which tube to take to get there so I could see everything at a glance. I also had it set up so I could see an alternative day for seeing the things that were important to us if say the que was too long or my daughter wanted to sleep in a bit.

    I love the mix…knowing where I’m staying even roughly and wide open bits of time for lingering in the moment as they occur.

  3. Ditto, wow. I usually make up a hand calendar, I like being able to visualize where we’re going to be and which appointments are fixed for which days (friends for dinner, someplace we have to be, etc.). Remembering local holidays (and the advent/end of DST) is so important too! I always put important local phone #s as well.

    But I’ve never approached anything as sophisticated as this!

  4. You are very organized, like my husband. When we do a long trip, he does the same thing. I used to do it to a smaller extent but never planned each day-just where we would be staying and dates of plane flights. When we did an around the world trip we had pages of flights, hotels and lists of things to do and see.

  5. Hi Carolyn,
    Since you & Clive have fixed dates to respect & family to spend time with, I understand the usefulness of a calandar.

    Hubby & I tend to be sticklers for early ticket reservations ( in 2008, for our Sept trip, we had reserved our tickets in January for the best prices) & getting our lodging reserved beforehand.

    For the rest, when we don’t have family to visit, we are more free souls than strictly regimented ones, just noting a few priority stops or MUST SEES.

    Keep up the efficient planning !

    Bye for now.

  6. Leesa, that’s it exactly — about making sure the time away is well-spent. Elizabeth, your mother-daughter trip to London sounds brilliant! Kim, yes absolutely about being able to visualise the calendar – that really helps me too. Linda, your hubby definitely sounds organised 🙂 and Barbara, agree re early reservations are the best, when possible! It’s easier to be ‘free souls’ (nice term :)) when family isn’t involved, too.

    Cheers and thanks, everyone.

  7. […] Even though I don’t get much excitement in making the plans, I have personal experience with someone who doesn’t like surprises – so planning is good for everyone.  And it looks like there are plenty of other folks who get a kick out of planning for a trip. […]

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