There must be plenty of ways to do this but this is how I do it. It shows clearly where you are sleeping every night so that you book the flights and accommodation on the right dates. It also helps you plan your budget, your luggage and your activities.
Here is an example of a trip we did in 2014 with 4 kids.
As you can see, I have the following columns:
Travelling – details of any travelling we are doing on that day.
Activity (e.g. flying, train trip, snorkelling excursion, Disneyland, wandering around city, day off to relax, shopping spree etc)
Where sleeping (e.g. hotel name, Lena’s house, flying through the night etc).
You can also add in the cost of the accommodation so you can keep track of it, a box to tick off when you have paid for it (if you have lots of different places to pay for separately) or anything else you want.
The rows are the dates and also days of the week.
First you put in any days you have to be in a particular place, for example if you are going to a sporting event in a city that is only happening on a particular day, or a wedding. That is your Activity, then you know you will have to book your accommodation in that city at least the night before and the night after. Choose how many nights you want to stay there and then you can book that accommodation. Then you move to another place where you are staying with friends so you write that in. If you are going to Universal Studios, you probably don’t want to go on a weekend as it will be busier with locals so you see which weekdays you have in the city, choose one and then when you are certain, you can pre-book the tickets online.
A friend of mine does these really in-depth and puts things such as the predicted weather in that place on that day. If it’s months in advance, a general weather pattern based on the season will have to suffice. (Her kids are grown up – she has time for this amount of detail!).
Once the whole spreadsheet is filled you can see where you will be sleeping every night, then compare this to your email confirmations of all the places you’ve booked. All your activities should be planned but flexible if possible and all your flight times and numbers written in. These spreadsheets are also excellent to leave with someone at home so they know exactly where you’ll be on any given day.
I also like to have a day or two with no activity planned, especially if we have a week or so in that place. This is for two reasons:
Things you find out along the way, for example once you get to a city you discover there is a local festival that you didn’t know about, or a great attraction that didn’t come up in your TripAdvisor search but that someone has recommended.
For a rest. Getting out of your accommodation by 9am and traipsing around a city all day with kids is freaking exhausting, so a few days days out of a week you will want to just stay in and let the kids watch TV, hang around the pool or sleep in and spend longer eating breakfast. If you think this is a waste of valuable holiday time, plan for it anyway – you can always still do something but at least you have the option without having to miss out on something you wanted to do.
If I’m going somewhere with easy Wifi access then I keep all the email confirmations in an email folder but if I’m going somewhere remote, like a road trip north of Perth, then I print them all out, put them in order of time and stick them in a folder to take with me.