Last summer, my family embarked on a 23-day road trip that was all coordinated while my husband was working out-of-state for the 5 weeks before we left. Sharing information and ideas back and forth was difficult, and although I was responsible for most of the travel planning, I would have greatly enjoyed an easy way to coordinate everything from what to pack to where we were going to be staying when.
As a longtime PC and Microsoft user, I’m extremely familiar with the basic Microsoft Office programs – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access, but I had never used OneNote and only had a few files stored in my Skydrive cloud account, until recently. Now I know just what powerful tools these are, both for everyday tasks as well as travel planning – and I’m making the most of what Microsoft Office 365 and Skydrive have to offer.Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium takes things to a new level, as it allows for download and installation on up to 5 PCs, MACs and/or Windows tablets per license, so the entire family can utilize the latest versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, OneNote, Outlook and Publisher. I love seeing the new features in these familiar programs and have been having a lot of fun testing them out! Plus you also get an additional 20GB of Skydrive storage, as well as other features (such as Skype minutes, free future upgrades and more). All of your files and settings are automatically saved to Skydrive, so even on the road you’ve got full access to everything you need.
Not only can Microsoft Office 365 keep you connected anywhere you go, but their new free Travel Notebook for OneNote can help you get there too. OneNote lets you put everything from notes, reservations, confirmation numbers, directions, and phone numbers, to photos, website links, and more in one easy-to-access notebook. The Travel Notebook comes with preset suggestions for packing and ‘remember to’ lists that you can easily customize and fit to your own family’s needs, as well as expert tips from Travel + Leisure magazine for making your travel planning as easy and stress-free as possible. There’s also space set up to share photos, journal entries, daily schedules and you can even import your budget right from Excel and see changes as soon as they’re made. OneNote also gives you an easy way to store scanned copies of passports, medication labels, drivers licenses, etc. so that you have backup copies easily accessible if the originals are lost or stolen while you’re traveling.
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I can easily see exactly how helpful the OneNote Travel Notebook would have been for our travel planning last year, and am looking forward to utilizing it for our next family adventure. I’ve already pulled some hotel ideas into it for a quick trip that we’re planning next month to visit family – it’s so easy to grab a screen capture and send it directly to the exact page in the travel notebook that I want it to go to. And having everything all in one place, that I can see not only from my laptop, but that my husband can look at from his work computer, or that I can access even from my smartphone (utilizing Microsoft’s OneNote app) is a huge timesaver.
I think that Microsoft 365 Home Premium and the OneNote travel notebook would be extremely useful anyone planning a vacation, but especially for extended or multi-generational families – not only for trip planning, but to share thoughts and photos with each other during the vacation and afterward. I especially love that OneNote 2013 keeps track of who edits what with identity profiles for each collaborator.
My only caution about Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium is that it is subscription-based and costs $99.99 annually – although that breaks down to only $8.34/month, which is actually comparable to or even less expensive than other services my family subscribes to. Not to mention the extra Skydrive storage that you get too – I love being able to store my documents, spreadsheets and such in the cloud so that I can access them from any of my devices no matter where I go. To help with your decision-making, there is a 30-day free trial available online at Office.com.