Lets talk about Evernote, the most useful virtual tool in my life. I usually refer to it as my backup brain, but it is more than that. It is a place where my work and personal life live in perfect harmony. I use it on every single device I own, and it’s the first thing I open and last thing I close on my computer every day. Many people have asked me how I use Evernote, so I wanted to give a quick overview of how I use it to plan trips. I use it for many other things as well, but it would take me a year to go over everything! This is how Evernote makes me a better traveler, and it can make you one, too.

Capturing a trip report with the Evernote chrome Web Clipper
Capturing a trip report with the Evernote chrome Web Clipper

1. Collect Ideas and Inspiration

During my internet travels I often stumble across interesting trip reports, places, events, photos, and activities. Maybe it’s a trip report with directions to a great fishing lake, or a GPS track from a 4×4 road in Death Valley, or photos of a tricky route up a peak. I’ll clip it with the Evernote Web clipper and drop it into a notebook that I named “Future Trips”. A notebook is a collection of notes, and each of my clippings is a separate note in this notebook. Anything that I think I may one day want to visit will get thrown in this notebook.

I use Evernote’s tagging feature to tag each note with the location or potential trip (‘Sierra’, ‘Thanksgiving’, ‘Snow’, ‘desert’). This helps me later on, but don’t be afraid of disorganized content – Evernote excels at helping you find the signal in all the noise.

The brand new update of the Web Clipper adds a lot of annotation features such as highlighting, text, and arrows that you can add right on top of the web content that you are clipping. It just came out the other day so I have barely had a chance to use it, but I have a feeling I will really like it!

Stack of Trip Notebooks
Stack of Trip Notebooks

2. Create a Notebook for Each Trip

Once a trip is on the calendar I create a notebook for it. This notebook goes into a stack (a collection of notebooks) called “Trips”, and I name the Notebook by date. The screenshot to the right shows my Trips stack with the older notebooks from trips earlier this year. The dated naming pattern just helps with the sort order, and also helps me skim back through my trip history as well as upcoming trips.

A trip notebook is usually created far in advance of the trip, so I have often not planned any kind of detail yet. I’ll drag in any notes from my “Future Trips” notebook that might apply. If I’ve made any hotel reservations or flight bookings, the confirmation emails go in this notebook.
[box color=”green” icon=”check”]
Tip: you can email to Evernote, and I’ve set up a contact in my Gmail for my unique Evernote email. When I get any kind of confirmation related to the trip (tickets, reservations, receipts, permits, etc) I just forward the email to that Evernote contact.[/box]

3. Start Collecting Information to the Trip Notebook

As I go through the months or weeks leading up to a trip I’ll start to research it in more detail. All information I find gets dropped into the notebook, even if I might not need it later. For example, on an upcoming trip we’ll be in southern Utah. When we first put the trip on the calendar I wasn’t sure what route we’d take through the area, so I pulled in everything for that area from my Future Trips notebook. I read a bunch of trip reports and browsed lots of photos, dumping everything that appealed to me into the trip notebook. I gathered everything that would help me make the ‘which route’ decision in one place.

There are also three notes that I create for almost every trip: Itinerary, Packing List, and Shopping List. I keep a master template for each of these notes and copy them to the trip notebook when I create it. As the trip comes together each note gets modified and customized to that particular trip’s requirements.

4. Organize and Finalize

As the trip gets closer, I start to organize the notes in the trip’s notebook. The ‘Itinerary’ note helps me organize my thoughts around the trip, and I use the handy Note Links feature to link from that note into the notes with more detailed information. I’ll clean up the notebook, and information that ends up being irrelevant gets moved back to the ‘Future Trips’ notebook or deleted. In the trip described above, we settled on a route through Southern Utah that would get us to some of the places I’d researched but not others. The notes related to those unvisited places have been moved to “Future Trips”.

Notebook for our upcoming trip
Notebook for our upcoming trip

The screenshot above shows a piece of my notebook of mostly finalized details for that trip. I had submitted permit requests to both the Wave and Subway lotteries, and when we got the Subway permits (and not the Wave) that decided our route. In the above screenshot, I have removed all of the notes relating to the Wave area and put them back into my Future Trips notebook. The remaining notes are specific to our intended route and activities – lots of canyons!

For hiking and backpacking I will have usually created Topo maps, so I’ll upload those images or PDFs to notes. I’ll also create a note to hold my .GPX (gps data) with waypoints and routes. I’ll refine the packing list to meet that particular trip’s needs, and create a shopping list if I need to pick up any supplies (which I can later pull up on my phone when I’m at the store thanks to Evernote’s mobile app).

By the time I leave on my trip, I have a virtual notebook containing all of the information I need. I make sure to offline sync it on my mobile devices, as well as print off anything I might want on paper (such as maps).

Note with GPS Tracks attached
Note with GPS Tracks attached

5. Post-Trip Wrap Up

While I’m traveling I collect additional data: GPS tracks and waypoints, maps, brochures, permits, etc. After the trip I will add this new information to the trip notebook, uploading the new .GPX files and scanning any paper artifacts in via my Doxie scanner or the camera on my phone. The screenshot to the right shows my note from this summer’s Sierra trip containing the backup of all my GPS tracks.

Sometimes I want to annotate my photos with route information like I did here. I use Skitch, an Evernote product, to do this. My annotated notes go into the trip notebook.

Once all this data is collected, the notebook is complete. I make sure it is tagged by location so that I can easily browse to it using the Evernote Atlas feature (a map visualization of all notes). All of this information remains searchable and easily retrievable should I need it again for a future trip.


Are you an Evernote fan? If you are in the Bay Area and love it as much as I do, I highly recommend attending the Evernote Conference coming up later this month (Sept 26-27) in San Francisco. It’s one of the best tech conferences I’ve attended since the user base is so diverse and everyone finds different and unique ways to use Evernote to support their career or hobby. I get so many great ideas about how to improve my Evernote experience and learn about the creative extensions and tools that extend Evernote’s usefulness in my life.

Use EC25 to get 25% off the conference fee! And let me know if you’re attending – I’ll be there!


This post was filed under: How-To


Leave a Reply

  1. Jonathan King

    You’re way more organized than I am, but I still find Evernote very helpful in trip planning. I’m going to Southeast Asia this winter, and have been sending almost all the info I find to Evernote for use in itinerary building. Thanks for the tip about creating a GMail folder for email notes … that’s going to be helpful too!

  2. Threefrenchs

    Do you add scheduled events to your Evernote trip planner? I’m trying to find the smoothest way to incorporate scheduled activities into an Evernote notebook without cluttering it up. I use outlook at work that syncs with my iPhone, but I don’t want to add personal items to my work outlook. The Evernote reminders is helpful, but not the easiest to get to on my phone when I’m just checking my availability.

    1. calipidder

      Good question. I don’t really use scheduled events in my specific Evernote trip planning workflow, but I do use it in my daily GTD process. I use a tool called Zendone and it acts as kind of a glue between Evernote and my Google Calendar. I basically dump all of my todos in evernote and use Zendone to sort them into projects/trips/single tasks. Then they sync to my calendar where I manage them by dragging them around to open times. It all syncs seamlessly back and forth – I can manage my tasks on whatever platform is convenient at the time (mostly in GCal).

      1. Threefrenchs

        Zendone looks cool, but it’s confusing the hell out of me (prob just me). I pulled in a bunch of notes from Evernote. As I reviewed them in the app, it moved them to a new notebook…weird. I guess I need to review the help section a little bit more.

  3. Threefrenchs

    BTW, I love how the FWIBF is already on your schedule.

    1. calipidder

      🙂 I have my hotel booked for next year already, which means a notebook has been created!

  4. 100Peaks

    Thanks for this. All of my stuff is usually scattered all over. It will be interesting to see it all in one place.

    1. 100Peaks

      And this lets me know that my next phone is going to get the max storage for better offline data. I am already hitting a wall with what I have (offline map GPS app).

  5. Essential Reading – Campfire Chic

    […] Trip planning with Evernote in 5 steps […]

  6. Giacomo

    We have recently launched a website to help managing itineraries and trip agendas, together with your co-travelers. http://www.travellution.com Would love to hear your feedback, Giacomo

  7. Link Love

    […] of Strange & Charmed is at it again! Make your own Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte at home! ? Trip Planning with Evernote in 5 Steps (it’s no secret how much I love Evernote for all of my organizational needs. I can’t […]

Leave a Reply