Babies, Travel, and OneNote

Hey folks, this is a quick note to let you know first of all that I am back on the blog after a 2 month hiatus for baby leave. I've just spent the last hour clearing out hundreds of fairly nasty comment spam so sorry if you had to endure that in your visits while I was gone.

Skye is growing up already (13lbs after 10 weeks!) and I have to say he's got quite a pair of lungs after a slow start in that dep't. He sleeps incrementally more each night but 3hrs is still lucky. Gee was Ciarán this hard on the sleep cycle?

I actually got to use OneNote quite a bit during my leave for one of my favorite activities to use it for, which is trip planning. We decided that if we were going to have sleepless nights anyway, we might as well have them visiting friends on the East Coast and slumming in Europe rather than Seattle (no movie jokes please). This is the fourth or fifth trip I have planned using OneNote and it really works well. Here's how I do it:

  1. Decide more or less where you want to go (e.g. Europe)

  2. Get a map of Europe and clip it to OneNote

  3. Highlight (with your mouse or pen) some places you definitely want to go. In our case, it was Paris (friends there plus hey, its Paris) and Schwetzingen, Germany (more friends there). After that, it was sort of wide open.

  4. I already knew we were going to drive, as with two kids and more gear than we could carry going through crowded train stations with loads of steps was not going to work. So I proceeded to connect the dots on the map with places to go no more than about 3hrs drive apart. For each potential place I created a sub page in OneNote (e.g. Bruges/Brugge). I also used Rick Steve's travel guide to make it easier to pick spots to stop. FWIW I find his books, while kinda middle brow (and let it be known that I am strictly low brow), are really good at exactly what I used them for - sorting through where to go since they get right to it with what's worthwhile and what's not and how long each place deserves relative to the others and don’t gush about how wonderful all possible places are. For example, here's a suggested itinerary for Germany and Austria. And he lives in Seattle (well, nearby).

  5. Next I did a bunch of web research on these places, and followed side tracks to other places that I found mentioned. When I saw some interesting activity or hotel described I copied that bit onto the subpage for that location.

  6. Each location subpage had a table at the top with vital info such as the name, address and tel number of the hotel we would stay at, departure date, time we needed to depart by to make the next destination's activities, map to the hotel, confirmation number for reservation, etc. These pages got filled in at different times - some places had loads of info really quickly, others were blank for a long time. Often people would email me with ideas for each location so I'd dump those in there too.

  7. I created an itinerary page with a big table showing where we would be on each date, tentative activities each day, where we would stay, time we had to leave, flight numbers if applicable, etc. Each location was a hyperlink to the subpage where there was more data about that place. This page was very useful as I could see how the whole trip was shaping up, and could adjust the time in each place if we looked like we'd be rushed, or add days to the overall trip, etc. When my wife wanted to see the plan, it was easy to browse the trip by following the hyperlinks to the detail pages.

  8. Any travel info off the web such as flight data and rental car info I clipped and placed on that itinerary page too so it was all in one place.

  9. Here's what it looked like (this is a preliminary version). Notice the page titles on the right with each location having its own page.

  10. Finally, since I wasn't planning to bring my computer with me, I printed out the whole thing so each location had its own page(s). Each day I just peeled off those pages and worked from those notes.

Best European experiences (in order of impact at the time):

  1. 0,5l (x3) of chill Leffe Blond in a hot Bruges Markt square after a long drive. Love that Leffe!
  2. Walking along the Seine at twilight.
  3. Stumbling into a hole in the wall restaurant near St Germain des Prés just as it started to rain and finding it just awesome.
  4. Dining 3 levels deep in a private Viennese wine cellar
  5. Sitting on top of the U Prince hotel in Prague having dinner at sunset

I suppose I should also include leaning into the back seat of our ridiculous rented Renault Kangoo to feed screaming Skye a bottle with my right hand while steering with my left doing 150km/h on the autobahn...