I’m on Rick Steves’ email distribution list and just received his January 2015 issue of Travel News. It includes a great article about his 15 top travel skills for 2015, but what really caught my eye was his video of the month: “Planning Your Itinerary.” I’ve embedded it here so you can see how he approaches the initial stage of trip planning.

Imagine taking what he starts doing with paper and pencil, but instead using an online tool that then lets you add details about travel to, from and between destinations as well as plans for lodging, rental cars, activities and travel within a destination. That’s the essence of Trip30.

I love the fact that Rick points out the “Doesn’t this kill the spontaneity and freedom of travel?” concern. And I completely agree with him in that it only does so if you insist on sticking with that itinerary regardless of your desire and willingness to be spontaneous on your trip.

Too many times, I’ve found myself in a “once-in-a-lifetime” location only to learn there was a fantastic festival the day before, or that the museum or restaurant I really wanted to visit was closed when I showed up. That’s where planning can really help. At least when you decide to be spontaneous, you’ll know what you may have to give up as a result!

Back to the video, though. We have Trip30 built out enough that I was able to enter Rick’s pencil and paper itinerary. It took me about 10 minutes and when I looked at the result, our timeline was showing the trip took 22 days; not the 21 mentioned in the video. After checking and re-checking the entries I had made, I decided to do Rick’s math for him and sure enough; he needed to chop one more day from his trip to get down to his 21-day goal. It looks like 3 days in London will have to be sufficient. Hey, it can happen to the best of us!

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Posted by Jim Ball