Spreadsheets for trip planning!

 How I plan our trips

The dream of exotic travel destinations can be a reality, especially with good planning. For me the planning phase is nearly as exciting as the travel itself. To explore the net and check out the possibilities gives me small happy moments. At the moment I am planning at least 8 different trips  and hopefully many of them will be realized. But if not – I have still had a great time planning them!

My main tool in the planning phase is Google Earth and Google Maps together with all other information you find on the net – like travelling blogs for instants – is an Excel spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is essential. I like to have control and it gives me an easy overview over the economy in the project. At the same time I can consider different alternatives for flights, other communications and accommodations. Especially useful when you plan trips involving many stops and a lot of transportation.

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In the spreadsheet I put in date and weekday for the start of the trip in the first column, this can change during the planning. Then alternative flights with prices and car hire if necessary. Then it’s a very important column, how far is it between the places we want to visit? Google Earth calculates this for you and gives you also a suggestion to how long time you normally will use on the distance. My experience is that this most often is correct. In the next coloumn I write continuously in the name of the places we want to visit. Next column the number of nights we want to stay in each place. Then a suggestion of accommodation with the link to their website or Trip Advicer. At last I put in the flight cost, accommodation costs and other costs in the last column.  I let the spreadsheet calculate the total and this sum will change if I change number of nights, accommodation standard or other things. For me this works perfect. But I have to add – I am an extremely systematic person and I love lists and tables.

This system makes it easy to do changes when you get more information and more accurate information about flights tickets, like which day or period its cheapest to fly. Changes are made when you find out more about your accommodation, prize level and if it’s vacant and if the distances will work for your trip.

To put in a link to the websites for hotels, rental car and special attractions is important. I work with a plan like this over a long period and it is easy to forget essential information.  With a link you can very fast visit the linked web site and fine the relevant information once again.

When the system is well in place and we have decided to actually do the trip, it’s about time to buy the flight tickets. Car rental and accommodation comes later. Some times you risk that the hotel get full before you reach to do the reservation. Then it can be changes in your system. But do not worry, the system is flexible and can easy be changed. You have full control with the spreadsheet.

Our round trip in Namibia was planned in this way and worked just perfect. All distances from Google Earth was correct. Here you see the first sheet of this spreadsheet for Namibia. It was 3 sheets all together and I put in a lot of useful links about driving on your own in Namibia.

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