This brief proposes a motion planning-based adaptive control strategy for an underactuated overhead crane system. To improve the transportation efficiency and enhance the safety of the crane system, the trolley is required to reach the desired position fast enough, while the swing of the payload needs to be within an acceptable domain. To achieve these objectives, a novel two-step design strategy consisting of a motion planning stage and an adaptive tracking control design stage, is proposed to control such an underactuated system as an overhead crane. Specifically, a novel desired trajectory, which satisfies physical constraints of an overhead crane, is proposed for the trolley by fusing theoretical analysis results with the conventional empirical trajectory planning methods. An adaptive control law is then constructed in the second step to make the trolley track the planned trajectory, where some online update mechanism is introduced to ensure that the controller works well with different working conditions. As shown by Lyapunov techniques, the proposed adaptive controller guarantees asymptotic tracking result even in the presence of uncertainties including system parameters and various disturbance. Some experiment results demonstrate that the proposed control method achieves superior performance for the underactuated cranes.