Every spreadsheet you need to plan your next big family vacation

Every spreadsheet you need to plan your next big family vacation

Plus freebie travel recs for Porto, Southern Rhone, and Copenhagen!

When it comes to travel planning, I have this strange duality where on the one hand I love to research every little detail (pinning the very best food and drinks and sights to maps, comparing Airbnb options down to the last detail — and spoiler, using ChatGPT to make that wayyy faster) all while feeling totally allergic to a schedule. Let me explain: the extensive prep gives me everything I need to wander in an informed way, ensuring I’m stopping at my pre-curated picks but never feeling anchored to a schedule written by someone who had previously never been to this destination. I love to let the city unfold in front of me.

As a result of this personality quirk, my pre-planning spreadsheets are somewhat epic. And though I’ve always been this way, recently I faced a new challenge when taking my typical long, open-ended travel style and applying it to a family vacation through 3 European cities. Traveling with little kids (Lucas, 7 months, and Owen, 3 years) for 2 weeks is no joke between the nap schedules, the frequent food needs, the early bedtime, the jetlag, the tantrums, the inability to walk long distances and needing to be carried, and THE AMOUNT OF STUFF YOU HAVE TO BRING.

So if you too plan to brave a long overseas trip with kids, or even a weekend trip that might benefit from things like a kids pack list, read on.

After I’ve chosen my destination, I use 2 sheets to lock in my dates:

Travel date comparison

We usually have a couple days flexibility around our ideal dates, so I consider things like city sequencing, flight prices, how many days of school/work would be missed, and days that things in my destination cities are closed (like shockingly, wineries in France are closed on Saturdays and Sundays).

Flight research

It’s a pain to compare flights for all the possible dates, city sequences, carriers (ie, their different added fees), cost with points/miles, etc. This sheet simply logs the options to easily compare.

Airbnb comparison

I get pretty intense when comparing lodging. I’m always seeking the perfect balance of price, location, and charm. For this trip, I created different versions of this spreadsheet for each city, because the requirements were different. In Porto, I optimized for a location central (near cute restaurants and shops without being touristy), a nice view (because the city is so picturesque), and affordable but comfy accommodations for our family of 4 and our nanny. In France, knowing we would always be a drive away from everything, I optimized for a house that was within 15-30 minutes of fun stuff in every direction, had a ton of liveable indoor and outdoor areas for dinners at home, and of course had cute countryside vibes. Pro tip: instead of reading reviews for each Airbnb, copy and paste them into ChatGPT and ask for a summary.

Stuff to do

This spreadsheet is the most fun — it’s all the exciting stuff we’ll get to do on our trip. I organize it by kid friendliness and the amount of time the activity takes to help us quickly pick things to go do.


We’ve established I don’t like rigid plans, but I do want to know exactly what’s happening on travel days. I used this template to plan jetlag, nanny schedule, and all our travel day information, but you could easily add other reservations and activities into this format if you like to book things ahead of time. I also added the weather in each location and time change information to help me make a plan when transitioning our family to local time.

Reservation tracker

I used this for coordinating available wine tasting reservations because they had varied and limited availability and the locations were often far apart. Once I had the availability, I was able to finalize a few reservations based on proximity to one another.

Nanny schedule

I have written aaalllll about hiring a travel nanny but this spreadsheet was my way of working out a sample schedule when making early plans with our nanny before leaving.

To do list

Inevitably, a heap of tasks come up before travel — pay a bill, return a pair of jeans, buy a kid a swimsuit, etc — so this list was exclusively for travel related tasks needing to get done before taking off.

Pack vs Rent comparison

If you don’t do this already, this is your sign to consider renting gear at your destination if you’ve got small kids. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. On a past trip to Joshua Tree, we knew we’d need our hiking backpack, so we used that to carry one-year-old Owen through the airport. We did not bring a car seat, stroller, nor travel crib. When we landed, we got our car and picked up all 3 from a woman who rented the gear through BabyQuip. It allowed us to travel so light. For our recent Europe trip we had a travel crib in 2 of the 3 Airbnbs, so we rented in one city. After much deliberation on how we’d handle car seats and a stroller, we decided to borrow a Doona here in the US to use as both a car seat and stroller. Again, renting makes sense for some trips, not all, so it’s good to compare options.

Pack list

There’s no way I have everything in my sample pack list here, but it’s a really good starting point for remembering all the kid stuff. Nothing beats searching every drawer of your house for what you can overpack, though 🤪

Luggage planning

This might seem kind of redundant to the pack list, but this is more of a birds eye view of what you’re bringing and how it’ll fit into the luggage you have. In our case, we didn’t have enough luggage for our Europe trip, so this helped me determine what to buy. Additionally, pre-planning luggage allows you to pre-pay for checked bag fees, which can save you money (and time at the airport, maybe). Finally, consider if all your luggage will fit in your rental car, when applicable.

Download all of my travel planning spreadsheets here, including my real planning content for Porto, Southern Rhone and Copenhagen.

PLUS, here are all my Google Maps: Porto, Southern Rhone, Copenhagen (Restaurants, Coffee/BakeriesBars/Breweries, Playgrounds, Streets/Sights, Shopping)

Happy travels to you and yours! ✈️

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