AKA sometimes 36 hours of planning is a little too hardcore
Sometimes the best laid plans change, and that's never more true than when it comes to traveling. The Amsterdam trip I was planning for May is now postponed tentatively for 2017. It happens, but luckily it's early enough in the year for me to cancel my Cocomama reservation. While I was looking forward to seeing the canals and tulips, I'm repurposing that travel bug energy into trying to work out a mid-June trip to Italy instead. I figure, hey, it's better than being bummed and there's still some time to see if it can happen.
So my week, aside from catching up with day job work, has been barreling down to do some deep dive research and plotting out a potential itinerary. The first step, knowing I've picked Italy as the country, is to pick cities and I already have had a few places in mind so I pieced together what was going to be the most reasonable journey without having to rush between cities to try and cram a bunch in, what logistically worked, and based on airports that fly to the West Coast. In the end, the loose plan is fly into either Rome or Naples and spend three days in the Napoli/Amalfi coast area, then drive up to Florence for three days, and then finish with three and half days in Rome and fly home via Rome.
With destinations in mind, step 2 was taking a quick glance at Lonely Planet for inspiration, then combed through TripAdvisor and a quick sidestep over to Rick Steve's Forums, and with some ideas in mind set to reserving some rooms at a few different places in each city with free cancellation and no deposit via either Booking.com or Expedia so that while we decide what we want to do we have some rooms options. In general, it's usually better to book directly on the hotel's site, but I was having some issues with some pages loading, or not working out in English well, so in the end right now the third party booking sites were a bit easier for me, but as always, try booking direct first and if you're trip is flexible, try and book with free cancellation until a certain date closer to the trip.
Step 3- plug it all into a Google Sheet. The way I've set my sheet up is to have the first column be itinerary items- hotel/transport/etc. with the name and hyperlinking the hotels' TripAdvisor listings into the cell with the hotel name, the second column is the total cost for each, and in the third column dates for hotel stays when applicable. Below these items a few rows down, I made a row for the final total highlighted in green and used the Formula tool to create a SUM formula [(SUM=B3:B17), for example] to add up the cost of all the itinerary items so I have a budget in mind as I plan. Under that green total row line, I've put the different flight and hotel options and prices so that I can shift items around above the total line and work out what the different potential plan would look like budget-wise, all thanks to the magic of copy pasta.
I like doing this in a Google Sheet because it means I can access it via my Google Drive as long as I have an internet or data connection, and I can share it with others and give them the options to either also edit or be read-only.
This all seems like it might be a lot of work, but making the sheet actually didn't take much time and it makes it so much easier to plan when it's all in one document, especially when using formulas. You can just drop things in, remove things, move things around, and won't have to always keep redoing the math. Win win!