Planning and Organizing an Upcoming Trip

Tis the season! Are you like the many others who like to travel during this time of year? I know I’m ready for a break! It’s the perfect time to get away, relax for a few days, and prepare for another new year.

With all the potential stress packed into the next month, it certainly helps to be organized when planning a trip. [Actually, I may have a tiny problem of loving organization a bit too much..but that’s besides the point.] Here’s my personal method to lessen some of the holiday stress, which will hopefully be helpful to you too!

Make a list of all the potential stops you want to make. When starting my planning process, I spend the bulk of my time researching the area. While the best resource is a local resident [either past or present] who can direct you to less-known, non-touristy places, most of the time I can only resort to searching on Google and other travel blogs.

Nothing fancy. Just a very, very rough draft, with some top choices highlighted

Prioritize your top choices and plan around those. Chances are, you won’t have time to go to everything on your list, so prioritize! Then if there’s extra time, add in your secondary choices.

For more efficiency, map out your stops. Even within one city, things can be terribly far apart. I try to plan my days so that I’m not driving back and forth constantly. As much as possible, plan the trip in such a way that allows for smooth traffic flow. Group places that are closer together into one day/stop.

Look up weather conditions. Of course, depending on how far in advance you are planning the trip, weather may not be all that predictable. However, it should still be possible to anticipate general conditions.

Make an itinerary. Ok, this is my favorite part! After the previous steps, making the itinerary should be super fast and easy. Since making my first one, I’ve simply reused the same basic template. I divide it into 3 columns, as shown below. The last column is used for tips/notes that I may have come across while researching. Click here for a sample of the one I used for our Santa Barbara trip. Feel free make a copy for yourself and edit for your own future trips!

sample itinerary

Create a packing list. I made a “master” packing list, and adjust it accordingly before each trip. This makes my life a lot easier, since I don’t have to create a new one every time.


Something I’m reflecting on: being organized is all well and good, but I’m slowly learning to be more flexible and ok when things don’t go as planned. My love of predictability can sometimes hinder a healthy spontaneity, and cause the very anxiety that organizing was supposed to eradicate. But more importantly, an illusion of control is something I must let go of in order to create space for God to work.

That said, plan your trip well, but leave room for things to go wrong and view those incidents as unexpected blessings. Happy travels, everyone!