So, how to organize a big destination trip with more than one person? Hmmm.
Besides showing up, crossing those fingers and hoping for the best—my strategy—there are a few worthy travel planning tools available for groups that need to be more organized. The other option is a Dropbox'ed Word doc calendar template. (Really?)
Some platforms, like Pinterest, have obvious uses for travel planning; other tools like Prava and Travefy are more specialized and will require everyone to sign up. Meanwhile, for some, the best platform, though, may be one that everyone is already on like Google. In short, each tool ranged in its ease of use, but was definitely impacted by how granular trip planning can become.
Here's a brief guide on a few suggested tools for putting together a group trip, depending on everyone's comfort level and flexibility. The tools are sorted by "easiest to use" to the most complex.
(Interestingly enough, the "easiest" tools tend to be more visually focused.)
The nice thing about traveling is that its big, bold, beautiful, and completely visual. Pinterest, in many ways, is Evernote on Instagram steroids. It's not a terrible idea to marry the two together.
There's not a ton of great guides on how to use Pinterest for travel planning, but because the boards are shareable, people can start pinning pictures and pages that might strike their interest. (This bookmarklet will probably be crucial; check this extremely brief overview from The Blonde Abroad.)
For: People don't care about details so much, love Instagram
Google Maps isn't just for one person, or plotting restaurant suggestions, but also comes in handy for big trips where lots of people may be involved. (Forget about having a Gcal integration or a printable itinerary, though.)
Traveler Stephen Lioy suggested it on Facebook, mentioning:
Google My Maps is one of my favs, especially for big multi-destination trips… Give everybody open access to pin restaurants, sights, cities, whatever they find that looks interesting. [We like to] use the comments field to save URLs about the place so others can check them out.
For those, customized markers (which can be given different shapes and colors) can help sort out who marked things where.
The one nice thing is it sorts out sights in relation to destinations or pre-planned routes, requiring everyone to stay semi-flexible. That's kind of a huge thing when traveling with others, right?
For: Groups that want to keep things flexible
Project manager OCD hat time! Engineer Jake Bartlett may have perfected the ultimate Trello planning list in his apartment hunt ever. If he can coordinate an entire apartment search through Trello and Google Maps with a significant other, why can't we do the same for group travel planning? Pure inspiration.
The upside to all of this is that Trello has some nice integrations in the ability to assign dates, creating a workable Google calendar. Bartlett then goes on to plot out the apartments (in our case, destinations) that pass the test on a Google Map.
To get an idea of how this might work for a trip centered around Europe, we attempted to create a board sort of resembling that (before giving up). The below layout might provide some insight for those willing to create their own Trello board, even though we didn't get very far.
In short, the basic idea is to make each list a city or country. Since this trip focused on Europe, we segmented cards by these lists: Wales, Scotland, London, Margate, Brussels and Zurich. Luckily, Trello's drag-and-drop feature is helpful for rearranging particular routes each traveler might want to take.
To further expand on Bartlett's ordering system, we also used the following card labels:
Honestly, though Bartlett's methods seem more involved than what I'd frankly be willing to do, his pure organization skills do impress me. If you'd ever like a job, give me a call, Jake.
For: Those feeling slightly Type A
Prava is a mobile-only app basically geared toward group travel planning. Members can add activities, share photos(!), figure out expenses (with bill photo), post their location, and chat with each other (kinda great when you're in the middle of the trip and you're not sure what international plan or app everybody is on. Users can see their own agenda and personalized adds to the itinerary.
The main downside is that adding confirmation details is more cumbersome, since there is no option to plan or edit the itinerary online. Everything is mobile, as opposed to the next tool on the list...
For: Millennials who can never seem to get off their phone
Travefy is newfangled trip itinerary planning software, primarily aimed at travel agents. However, Travefy Personal, an offshoot, is also aimed at those who are interested in using the same software for personal use. Not only does it import booking confirmations, it syncs calendars (until April 3, 2018), saves trip ideas and/or adds them to the itinerary, and plots destinations via Google Map. (It won't import into Google My Maps.)
It is also seems little bit more collaborative than TripIt, letting people chat about plans. Users can track expenses as well as help facilitate, cough, payments for an small fee.
It basically seems like a nicer TripIt, which then had a cute little baby with Splitwise.
The main downside is that most if not all of the travel planning has to be done online, since it's not possible for personal users to edit the itin through the mobile app. Travelers can access the plans on the mobile app, though.
For: People that want it all, never mind that you can never truly have it all
The old kid on the block still does the job? If it ain't broke, don't fix it?
For: Legacy TripIt users that don't feel like signing up for something new