Tag Archives: organization

Travel Tip: Making a Custom Map

2 Feb

Every time I’m mid-planning for a big trip, I reach a point where, after my head has been buried in a Fodor’s guide and my subsequent notes for hours, I suddenly look up, remember to inhale, and mutter, “How am I ever going to remember all this??”

Because despite my best attempts, other than a couple of main sights to see and food to eat, I feel like I forget most of what I’m planning, or I don’t know where things are in relation to each other. I write everything down, but I don’t want to spend vacation time poring over notes. Perhaps I’m missing the best restaurant in the city because I didn’t realize it was between the museum in the morning and the tour in the afternoon! It’s SO STRESSFUL.

I always put sticky flags all over the guide books, but then I’m stuck carrying the heavy travel book (along with all of the other crap I end up carrying for myself and everyone else). And I can’t easily flip to exactly the page of restaurants that I want. Besides, restaurants are usually arranged in the books by price and general area, not Exactly Where Allie Is At This Moment sections. (But Fodor’s, seriously, that would be really helpful.)

Elad and I found a site one time that aimed to help you plan your route when traveling, and it was so close to being helpful. It ended up being extraordinarily cumbersome and difficult to work with, and caused us more headaches than it was worth.

So as I’ve been planning our upcoming trip to Spain, I’ve been shaking my fist at the Internet for want of the exactly perfect travel planning app/website that does everything I want. But today I realized… I haven’t exactly searched for one. Oops. So I searched for the phrase “map lets you mark points of interest”. Not one of my finest search queries, but it got the job done. Because I discovered… Google’s My Maps.


It’s beautiful!

(I know I’m late to the game on this. In fact, I used a custom Google map for years when working at Chicago-Kent because an excellent librarian made a custom of nearby restaurants. But it never occurred to me to make one myself – until today!)

The essence of the site is that you can create pins on a Google map pointing to places of interest. You can color-code them, you can give them different symbols, you can add notes and photos to them, and you can make them in layers to be turned on or off at will.

This was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Instead of getting stressed about trying to remember which tapas restaurants are recommended near which museums, I have it all laid out for me. Everything I’m interested in is highlighted, it’s on a trustworthy map, it’s color-coded, it’s got my notes, and it’s PERFECT.

To give you an idea of what I mean, check out my map for Madrid. (And if you have suggestions for my trip, let me know!)

I decided to have different layers for activities, my hotel, and restaurants – so if we want to see just one or two of the sets of pins at a time, it’s easy to turn off the others. I color-coded them by type (red for restaurants, blue for activities) and by priority (the darker color means we HAVE to go, the lighter color means it’s on the list). I added notes, and now that I’ve played with the photos function, I’m considering taking photos of the relevant pages from my travel guide to attach to more complex pins.

If you’d like an excellent step-by-step tutorial, you should check out this one. You can skip the “how to access it” part at the end, though. You can share the link (to edit or to view) just like you would with any Google Drive document, and send it to yourself to have on your phone.

For the organized traveler who likes to plan ahead, I cannot recommend this strategy enough. The only potential downside I see is making sure we have data when we’re out and about. But even that can be sidestepped through screenshots, regular wifi access throughout the day, and planning at the hotel in the mornings or evenings.

I’m so excited to use this! Any other amazing travel apps/sites I need to know about? Tell me in the comments!


The Neverending To-Do Lists

28 Nov

My dad once told me that when my grandfather retired, he remarked, “You know, I have absolutely nothing to do…and no time to get it all done in!”

Unemployment is a lot like that. I don’t exactly have something that takes up all of my time every day, but I feel like there are a million things that I should be doing.

Here’s a quick list of the things I prioritize every day:

  • Job hunting (obviously)
  • Putting together and submitting job applications (very different from the previous task)
  • Investigating job hunting resources, like alumni networks and career counseling and networking events
  • Working out
  • Learning Hebrew
  • Going through my personal emails (so many emails)
  • Clearing out photos from my computer and uploading to cloud
  • Clearing out photos from my phone and uploading to cloud
  • Taking advantage of time off to spend with family and friends
  • Blogging a few times each month (hello!)

And here are some things I need to do over the next few weeks:

  • Get a new registration sticker for my car
  • Figure out insurance for 2017
  • Write a letter of recommendation for a former researcher
  • Deal with American Airlines (don’t ask)
  • Figure out if I’m auditioning for a local play (and if so, spiff up my resume and memorize a monologue)
  • Gather holiday presents for loved ones
  • Get a refund from insurance that seems far more complicated than it should be
  • Organize those last few items I moved in with and never quite got around to

And here are the fun things I’m also trying to do so that I don’t want to spend every day curled up in a corner huddled against the constant storm of job applications:

  • Finishing my reading challenge strong (on book 32 of the year now!)
  • Watching various Netflix shows on my own
  • Watching various shows with my family
  • Meeting loved ones for meals, coffee, and fun
  • Playing my ukulele
  • Reading anything from the stack of magazines that pile up on my nightstand
  • Listening to the constantly growing number of podcasts virtually piling up on my phone
  • Digging out and playing games on old video game systems (my gaming prowess never quite passed the level of GameCube and PlayStation 2)

What’s on your never-ending to-do lists for how you spend your free time?


It’s in your head forever now. You’re welcome.

Move Over, Leslie Knope

12 Sep


I’m filling out an application for a job that requires being very organized. In fact, one of the questions asks what my daily planner looks like – and it’s taking a lot of self-control not to submit the application RIGHT NOW so I can fill out everything about how lovely and wonderful my planner is. (No, self, no – edit your cover letter again later!)

But I have an itch to pull out my planner and show someone…and since I’m sitting alone in a coffee shop, I can either tell the blogosphere or walk back to the nearby statue of A Man And A Cat Named Yitz. In the case of the latter, I would show Yitz, not the man. At least Yitz has the decency to have a name.

Yitz, come see my planner! Yitz? Eyes on me, Yitz. Ugh, forget it.

Ok, blog, are you ready to meet my planner? It doesn’t have a name (yet), but it’s very pretty! The cover says “Not all those who wander are lost,” which is one of my favorite literary quotes, and the spine both repeats this sentiment and even pleads “take me with you!” How can I argue with such a polite planner?

I have four tabs sticking out of the planner for easy access to the most important sections. Let’s explore them, shall we?

  • The purple tab on top is the most important one (hence its position at the top of the page). It marks the week of the planner I’m on, and the week features a big blank space for each day. The day boxes include notes about my plans and the relevant plans of my loved ones, but more importantly they feature checklists of tasks I need to do that day. I feel SO MUCH BETTER when everything is written down, and having a little box next to each task for me to check it off makes me feel accomplished. Plus I’m trying to write down what I did at the end of each day as a substitute for journaling. I like remembering what I did.
  • The blue tab on the side has a little list I started of tasks I want to do while I’m in Israel. These were mostly dreams for the future that I made while I was stressed in America. I had so much to do that I had to wait for the fun tasks. But now I have time for things like writing in my blog again (ta da!) and finishing a belated addition to the boyfriend’s birthday present.
  • The pink tab on the side has my list of job hunting websites and apps. ‘Nuff said.
  • The green tab on the side has the list of Hebrew words and phrases I ask about. I have a habit of asking someone “what’s this in Hebrew?”, learning it, repeating it, and then promptly forgetting it. Well, with my planner, I shall forget no more.

The planner has lots more fun to explore, but I think that’s enough geeking out for now. Except now it’s PHOTO TIME!

What? I don’t have a baby or a pet…