Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Practical Evernote: Tips on Using Evernote to Plan a Vacation

Clever use of (temporary) notebooks and tags can make Evernote the ultimate vacation planning tool. Here's my process, step by step.

1) Find useful information. Travel guidebooks are outdated the instant they're printed. Instead of depending on them, I leverage the wisdom of crowds at TripAdvisor.com. There's no faster way to get a solid overview of sight-seeing options for any city in the world.

2) Clip only what's needed. When I first started using Evernote, I tended to capture entire pages with the web clipper. Then it occurred to me: when I'm actually on the road, do I want *every* review of the place I'm interested in? Do I want to see *every* ad that TripAdvisor squeezed onto the page?

Now, I highlight and capture only what's essential: the name of the attraction, its address, its operating hours, and a link to its web page. Conveniently, most TripAdvisor entries put all this information at the top of a page:

Tripadvisor1

I highlight this information, click the Evernote web clipper button, and move on. (PS: If you want to see the entire page later, remember: Evernote saves the web address of every snippet you capture. Should seeing the original page become important, just click that link to revisit the site.)

PowerUser Tip: If there's a detail from a review, a photo, or a map image you want to save in addition to basic location and contact information, highlight these separately, creating an Evernote for each. Later, in the Inbox, you can combine these little fragments into one note containing everything about a specific sight or restaurant using the Merge Notes command.

3) Create useful tags. Back in my Evernote Inbox, I start the process of tagging each note I've captured. These tags work well for me:

- City tags. Just the name of the city where the attraction is located, like "Helsingborg" or "Oslo."

- Attraction tags. I use tags to indicate the type of attraction: sights, markets, museums, shopping, sacredsites, battlefields, restaurants, breweries.

- Open What Day? tags. It sounds crazy, and it may take a little extra time to research and capture, but the utility of my "Open What Day?" tags makes the investment of time and effort needed to create them worthwhile. Almost every attraction is closed on certain days, and there's nothing more disappointing than schlepping across town, only to be confronted by locked gates and dark windows.

So now, I add tags indicating the days of the week an attraction is open or the day a market takes place. That way, if we find ourselves with free time during the vacation, I can do a search on city and day tags ("Oslo" + "Thursday," for example) and generate an instant list of all attractions open in Oslo on Thursdays!

PowerUser Tip: You can use a similar system for tagging restaurants. Add a tag for each day of the week the restaurant is open, plus a tag indicating when you'd most like to go (breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks). Later, it's easy to use a simple search ("Wednesday" + "Dinner") to generate a list of perfect options on the fly. (If you're really anal retentive, add a tag for the neighborhood or district name, too. Then you can use a search to tell Evernote, "Show me a list of breakfast spots in Midtown that are open on Sunday morning!)

4) Save your notes to a (temporary) project notebook. Create a notebook specifically for this trip, and, after tagging every note in useful ways, move your trip-related notes from the Inbox to this notebook. (For my upcoming cruise, I created a temporary notebook called "EuroCruise2011.")

Sending all new notes to the Inbox reminds you to tag them appropriately ... and, once they're tagged, having a project- or vacation-specific notebook gives you a place to put them once the tagging is done.

If you use an iPad, you can also designate your vacation notebook for replication to your device. That way, you'll have access to all your valuable vacation material, even if you don't have access to an Internet connection.

When the vacation is over, tag *every* note inside this notebook with the notebook title. (When I do this, I'll tag all the notes in my cruise-related notebook with "EuroCruise2011.")

PowerUser Tip: To add the same tag to multiple notes, tag *one* note first. Then, highlight all notes you want to associate with that tag and drag them to the appropriate tag in Evernote's list of tags.

With that done, I move all my vacation notes from the temporary, vacation-specific notebook to my Archives notebook. As a result, I can:

- summon these vacation notes if they're needed in the future. A quick search on the new "EuroCruise2011" tag will instantly recreate the contents of this notebook on the fly.

- delete the vacation-specific notebook. Why maintain the visual clutter and distraction of an extra notebook once the trip is over?

Do you use Evernote to plan vacations? If so, please share your tips and strategies with me. I'm always on the lookout for strategies that will make the process smoother and more efficient!

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