There’s another way custom maps save time. When your friends are visiting a country you have traveled to and bug you for your “bucket list” recommendations, you can simply send a Google invitation to the friend to view your map. That is far more useful than sharing a list of places to go.
Pulling up itineraries can be a hassle because over the course of a longer vacation, there are so many items to juggle for flights, car rentals and hotel reservations for each city you visit.
There are plenty of tech tools that automatically organize itineraries. My favorites are the free mobile apps TripIt and Google Trips. They can scan your inbox for itineraries, hotel bookings and car rental reservations, and then compile that information into an all-in-one itinerary.
Between the two apps, I prefer TripIt. It has a simpler interface that shows my trip information in a cohesive timeline; Google crams extra features into its app like coupons and recommendations for things to do.
Here’s how TripIt fits into my planning. I create a separate email account just for trip itineraries. After booking a flight, a car rental or a hotel, I forward the confirmation emails to that email account. When I am booking hotels or figuring out what to do each day, my TripIt timeline serves as a reference for where I am going to be.
Spreadsheets Are Your Friend
If you want to be an extra-thorough planner, a spreadsheet can go a long way. My partner, who is a self-proclaimed power traveler, enjoys compiling travel spreadsheets containing information about the country, a pre-trip checklist, a summary of the general itinerary and a list of lodging.
Here’s an overview of how a travel spreadsheet looks. One sheet labeled About includes information about the country, like the exchange rate or cultural etiquette (to tip or not to tip?). Another sheet, labeled Pre-trip Checklist, contains a packing list and tasks like informing your credit card company that you are about to travel. An itinerary sheet summarizes the general trip plan, including the cities you will be in on each date. Finally, the Lodging sheet has a quick list of hotels along with their addresses and the check-in and checkout dates.
Does compiling a spreadsheet sound overwhelming to you? Fret not, traveler: We created a blank template that you can download and customize for your trip with whichever spreadsheet app you prefer. (I like the Google Sheets mobile app, which can save a copy of the spreadsheet to be viewable without an internet connection.)