Hi Frugalistas! Once you’ve decided on an itinerary how do you go about booking the individual components? How do you keep track of what is booked and confirmed and what you are yet to organise? Do you have a system for keeping track of bookings?
Obviously, you’ve got a number of options. Going through a travel agent definitely makes life easy – you tell them exactly what you want and they do it for you. Presto, finished! Even if you do it yourself, some trips don’t require complex booking tools – a simple resort holiday or package tour for example. But if you are planning anything more complicated involving multiple flights, locations and reservations a system really is necessary to make sure you don’t miss anything.
This is the system I use:
It is a simple Excel spreadsheet, that uses two basic business project planning principles – a simple Gant chart used by project managers everywhere, and an even simpler dashboard colour coding system based on traffic lights. These two tools combined make a simple tool that enables me to see exactly what I’ve booked and what I haven’t.
So, here’s how I go about booking my trip, regardless of its complexity:
1. The first thing I do is put each day of the trip by date across the top of the spread sheet. Then I put each item I need to book down the side in a vertical column. Think carefully as you do this to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Don’t worry about things you don’t need to book – for example, if you already know you are going to get into town by taxi, bus or train you don’t need to book that. In my particular example, I am using airlines that provide chauffeur transfers for First and Business Class passengers. I need to book those transfers myself, so I include them. You could also include prebookings for specific sites or activities you want to see or do.
I also add in a separate section at the bottom for extra things I need to remember to book or buy – such as travel insurance.
2. Then I highlight the dates that each activity needs to occur and mark them in red. This allows me to see at a glance what activity is happening when and therefore when everything needs to be booked for.
3. Once I’ve marked them in red, I then type in the details such as the flight numbers and names of the hotels I am planning on booking. Because I am planning on traveling about by train, I have numbered each train trip – then when it comes time to book I can easily compare the price of a Rail pass with individual point to point tickets.
4. Once I’ve started requesting my bookings I move that activity to yellow – booked, but not confirmed. Sometimes it takes 24hours for a hotel to confirm. Similarly, if you are getting a travel agent or other third party agent to organise something for you, you don’t get an immediate response and confirmation. So anything I’ve requested, but I haven’t got written confirmation for, goes yellow.
5. Things that are confirmed, I highlight in green, so I know I can forget about those. I type in all my booking reference and flight numbers, so I can see at a glance exactly where everything is up to.
6. The confirmation emails go into a separate folder I keep in my email account. This keeps them all in one place.
7. When every highlighted area is green I know I am done. I’m ready to go!
So, even if you’ve never used an Excel spreadsheet, or never heard of a Gant chart, this is easy, so have a go! I’d love to know how you get on.
This is part of a series of posts on Itinerary Planning: