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From Idea to Adventure: How I plan trips using Notion

This post explains how I organize my From Idea to Adventure trip planning database in Notion. Below, I give you a video tour of my own system, and a short tutorial video of how to set up your own. I am planning on releasing a template version of my system soon at some point (sorry!), as well as a free series of emails to walk you through setting up and using your own version. Hop on the email list for those (see subscribe form below).

If you use a Travel Dashboard like me, you probably use some digital tool to chart out your trips. Not just when you might take them, but your itinerary, who is joining you, and all the other relevant details, too.

I use an app called Notion for this. The free version is sufficient, it works across devices, and also allows for easy collaboration. Notion can be hard to describe; it’s sort of a cross between a note-taking app, a nested database system, and a personal wiki. Because it’s so powerful, it can be a bit intimidating at first. But it’s actually pretty easy to use.

My wife and I chose Notion for our Travel Dashboard because it was easy to bring together all of our travel related information: the seasonal trip brainstorming pages (since replaced by the system below), our quests, our Adventure Maps and Adventure Files, our travel budget and trip costs, Life Block Planning, as well as other planning and reference docs. It’s all in one single place, accessible to both of us.

Since then, I’ve rethought how we do our trip planning and built my own travel calendar database instead. It may sound complicated—ugh, a “database” sounds boring and tedious, right?—but it really does make things so, so much easier.

From trip idea to upcoming adventure

The best part of our From Idea to Adventure system is that it does most of the work for you.

You enter some basic trip ideas, whether they’re shorter day trips or longer international adventures, and add a few tags to note which season it works in and whether it’s a short or longer trip. Then, when you run across something useful for that trip, like a blog post, you simply add it to the trip idea using Notion’s simple web clipper. Just a couple clicks saves the page right to your trip.

We add all of our available weekends to the calendar, so we know when we’re free. Then, it’s just a matter of choosing which trip ideas to add to which free periods.

This is where the system really shines. Because this whole thing is a database, you can easily use custom views to show you just the relevant entries.

For instance, to plan a trip for the July 4th holiday weekend, I simply select the “Summer long weekend trip ideas” database view I set up, and bam, there’s a list of our existing destination ideas.

After choosing an idea, I just add the dates to the trip entry, and it now shows up as an upcoming trip (as opposed to just being an idea we saved). Now that it’s an upcoming trip, I add a few status tags (like “make reservations” or “invite”) so we can see what still needs to be done at a quick glance. One more click loads my long weekend road trip template, which includes all the sections I use, including a default packing list, other more detailed tasks (like turn down the thermostat when we leave), and a dedicated place to upload digital tickets and reservation confirmations.

Each of these trip entries can have countless things nested within it. You could have table databases to lay out your daily itinerary and keep track of expenses, and a place to embed a custom road trip map if you make one. You could have sub-pages dedicated to your travel journaling. Or it could just be a mostly blank page with a few quick notes. It’s all up to you, how detailed you want to be, and what the specific trip requires.

Because each of these trip entries are in this larger database, you can also have custom views for various statuses. I have one view that shows me all the trips where I still need to make reservations, for instance. We have another custom view set up to show us all the long weekends we still have available to plan a trip. We have other views to show us which group trips we’ve talked to friends about, but haven’t quite scheduled yet.

And once the trip dates pass, it automatically moves off the “upcoming trips” view and into the “archive” view, to help keep things tidy and uncluttered. And because we use these trip entries to aggregate all sorts of info about each trip we take—including the final expense tally, links to our photo albums from the trip, our travel journals, and so forth—each of these entries becomes its own Trip Dashboard. And so we also have a view set up to display the trips where we still need to complete these items.

And as you’d expect, having our travel history archived like this is an easy way to implement my Return on Adventure (#BetterROA) system.

A quick tour of my own From Idea to Adventure system

Here is a short, rather informal walk-through of my own system. I’ve made some additional modifications since then and plan on recording a more detailed screencast in the future.

How to build your own

While I am planning on releasing a template for this entire system—get on the email list for that—you may want to get started building your own right now. So I also recorded an abbreviated tutorial below, which shows you the basics of the main database.

Set up trip templates

Skip the videos, get on the email list instead

If you’re not into building your own, don’t despair. I’m working on improving and releasing a free template you can steal for yourself. (note: not sure when this will happen)

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