Helpline Question of the Month: Anyone have any suggestions on organizing all of our travel documents?
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Kate from Columbus is feeling "swamped" by paper and needs advice on how to organize and pack her guidebooks, maps, hotel confirmations, etc.
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Anyone have any suggestions on organizing all of our travel documents? Between RS book, printed emails of hotel/B&B/rental car confirmations, maps, itineraries, etc. we are swamped!
Manchester, CT USA
I have a big envelope (plastic with zip) and I put colored paper dividers/separators marked appropriately with hotel reservations, train tickets, plane eticket copies/docs, other paper copies like passport, credit card info, etc. so I know where to find them in one place and pull them out of the envelope easily when needed.
baton rouge, la US
I use slash pocket folders, which are quite thin and compact, and use them to divide information up into destination-specific paperwork, one for each city we're visiting (guidebook copies, hotel confirmations, specific directions to/from hotels, etc), then use one for general trip information (passport copies, financial institution information, important phone numbers, etc) I only keep one in my daybag/carryon at any given time. The rest go in my luggage, where they take up no space at all.
Pinole, CA USA
We always buy a plastic folder that closes with velcro and put all of our travel documents in there. I print out all of our airline/hotel reservations, boarding passes etc and place them in chronological order in a stapled or paper-clipped pile. That way I can rip off pages as needed when we are done with that leg. Seems to work quite well.
I also use it to collect tickets, passes, receipts, etc from our trips. It's fun to go back and look at the files later on and see things you may have forgotten about.
I use two 8.5" x 11" plastic sleeves to keep documents easily accessible. One is used for my Itinerary (which is very detailed and often about 16 pages!), with the current page on top. Hotel information and Maps are kept in the second sleeve. I like to photocopy some Maps from the Guidebooks showing the Hotel locations. That way it's relatively easy to find my Hotel when I first arrive in a new and unfamiliar city.
Salem, Oregon USA
I am using TripIt to keep track of my itinerary. Access on web at tripit.com. You can forward all those confirmation emails and it automatically plops most of them in for you (a few exceptions for some of the emails from hotels). My iPhone can access it remotely. I try to take as little paper as possible, but what does get brought along goes in plastic folders.
Rocky Mountain High, Colorado USA
I use my computer. I do all my planning on my desktop, save everything to a flash drive, then download it to my netbook when I go. I don't worry about Rick's books, because I go to so many places he doesn't mention, but apparently I could save them like to a Kindle with free download software from Amazon. I do copy Google maps and information off of the town's website. I can also save emails in the directory of my trip.
My major file is an Excel workbook with work sheets for each day and for each town. I save train schedules on the day worksheets and a list of hotels and maps on the town work sheet. Then I start with an index, with links to all of the days and towns, and another worksheet for the itinerary, with links to the days and towns. I use this workbook for the planning phase, on my desktop, and when I am ready for the trip, I transfer it to my netbook.
There isn't anything that you can't save to a computer file. Any piece of paper can be scanned and filed. My netbook doesn't weigh any more than a guidebook, and has everything one it, organized so I can get to it easily.
I also use the netbook to save and organize my pictures, keep my expenses, and write my journal.
Brentwood, CA USA
For our 8 week trip to 8 countries I used 3-ring report binders with tabs. For example we flew into A'Dam: 1st tab label: A'Dam I had info about Schiphol, nearest ATM machine...how to get to hotel and points of interest, etc. 2nd Tab - Brugge, Belgium Printed timetable of all trains leaving A'Dam to Brugge and detail which listed platforms, etc. Copy of Hotel web page listing address, etc. Points of interest, etc. 3rd...
We knew our travel days (we spent approx 4 days in each city) and printed the timetables/schedules for the trains for our travel days. We found those invaluable.
Upon our arrival in a city, we bought our tickets for our departure. That way we were not rushed.
I would advise you to reconfirm your reservations prior to leaving home, keep a printed copy for you file AND reconfirm a couple of days in advance of arriving to your hotel.
We did not have a single problem during our 8 weeks.
I prefer the DieBand timetables for some countries. The are easy to read and accurate. Print details and it will show you all the stops the train will make enroute to your destination....which I found interesting. Give you time to gather all you stuff up and in their proper place.
In addition, I prepared an Excel spread sheet that had the arrival dates and departures dates for each city, where were were staying, address, email addy, web page and phone number.
In addition, I emailed all travel and contact information links to my yahoo mail. Which included family and friends, hotels, etc.
Since I now have a Mini and a laptop...I will do basically what Lee posted. Prepared on desktop and transfer to laptop for trip.
I worked with spread sheets for many many years and must have all to see at a glance.
Leaving soon for my month in Paris
I use Tripit.com for itineraries. I can forward any emails I have from reservations and they will try to put it all in order for you. If not, you do some editing to put it in the right place. Add other stuff manually.
This is also great for sharing, you can send the link to family so they know everything you do about your drop. Great in emergencies if you've loaded it with dates, phone numbers, and addresses.
Then you can print out a nice long copy of everything for safekeeping, and access it online from anywhere. They also have an iPhone app to let you view your plans on the fly.
Bloomington, IL USA
I put confirmations, maps, city info, etc., in the chronological order that I will need them in one of those little folders with pockets in both covers and brads in the middle for holding the papers. I put a second copy of confirmations that I need to turn in the pockets, and also use them to collect receipts and ticket stubs along the way.
We just returned from 4-5 days in 4 different cities. I made 'destination packets' for each city and it worked well for us. In each packet, I included the following:
-blank weekly calendar tailored for that particular city with the pertinent museum hours/info/closures listed for the day, plus a basic flexible idea of what we should see/do on a daily basis. I used one page, even if we arrived in the middle of the week. Here's the link to the one I liked: http://www.vertex42.com/calendars/pdfs/simple-weekly-planner.pdf
-specific tube/metro directions delineating the stops and transfers needed to arrive between the airport and hotel. This was great for me since I was clueless and intimidated! I found these directions and maps on the transit web sites and was able to input addresses for my destination and it did the rest of the work. Usually after the initial destination, the rest gets easier, plus you have more time to check out maps.
-Torn out sections of the guidebook for each city-these usually included maps.
-Copies of 'essential' language phrases from the guidebooks
-Copies of other info I found relevant-I'd widen my margins and copy and paste to save space and paper.
I also carried a 'master copy' of our plan: a blank monthly calendar that I customized for our dates of travel and included all countries and reservation numbers. I kept this deep in my pack along with our printable boarding passes. And a copy in the money belt too, for backup. It was my 'big picture' plan so I could see our travel plans at a glance and not miss anything (like setting clocks forward for daylight saving time). This is the calendar I used:
I folded the packets in half and put each city in a separate gallon sized ziploc baggie to keep it safe and dry. Yes, it's primitive, but it worked well and we knew what was going on at each city by looking at a single page.
I do not bring any Travel Guide book. I did carry a Rick Steves travel guide book with me, in some trips to Europe. But I did not use the books when I was in Europe, except the small maps of cities. Here is what I do : Using a computer, I compose, as E-mail, my complete itinerary for the trip. I send that E-mail to my E-mail address, and I send that E-mail to the E-mail address of a person (in the U.S.A.) who knows me. And I print that E-mail (my trip itinerary) onto standard size paper. My printed itinerary is on a maximum of two sheets of paper. The printing can be on both sides of a sheet of paper, for a total of four "pages" on two sheets of paper. I make two copies of that. In my trip itinerary I put confirmation numbers for hotel reservations, etc. I do not bring the printed E-mails from Hotels, B & B. I also write the confirmation numbers on a very small sheet of paper that I put in my hidden wallet. I put the two copies of my printed itinerary in two bags.
I bring an envelope (6 inches X 9 inches) for each country that I will be at. I put a few small photocopies of small maps (from books) in the envelopes. And in each envelope I put some index cards (size = 4 inches X 6 inches). I bring one index card for each day of my trip. On each card I write my directions and instructions for me, for one day (Bus numbers, train destinations, train departure times, name of a cafe', latest time for entering a museum, ...). That can be completed, on a card, the night before the day that the card is for. Each day, I carry only the card for that day. The other cards stay in my bag at the hotel.
I make a photocopy of information that is on my important travel documents (U.S.A. Passport, Driver's License, Airline tickets, insurance card, ...) onto one sheet of paper (as suggested by Rick Steves, in his books). Two copies of it. The two copies are put in two places. And, in each envelope for a country that I will travel in, I put a small sheet of paper on which is written or printed information of alternative hotels, and telephone numbers of U.S.A. embassies and Consulate offices, and any other important information that I think I might need. It is simple system, I like using it. And, of course, my important travel documents (U.S.A. Passport, Driver's License, Airline Tickets, Express Train seat reservations, insurance card) and credit cards and Bank ATM card are in my hidden wallet. I put paper money and an extra credit card and a small paper on which is written important numbers and phone numbers and names, in other hidden places. And, I put in my travel bag a big envelope (9 inches x 11 inches) for each country that I will be at. In each of those envelopes I can put photographs cut from brochures and magazines, admission ticket stubs, menues, and a souvenir map, ..., that I will acquire in that country.
Honolulu, HI USA
We print one page per itinerary item (res., rental, etc.) and write the date in bold, black (Sharpie) print in the upper right corner, as a 'sequence number' (e.g., 10.05.10). We toss the used ones as we go. The current/upcoming days are always on top, for ready reference. We also use TripIt for electronic copies (on phone and for browser availability, as a backup) - but we find that having the paper is handy/reassuring.
The key is to limit it to one physical page per item -- sometimes print on the back side, but usually just the front page is adequate for the key data (dates, res. nbr.). Less paper to carry - less prep time to print/organize.
WOW!!! Lots of great ideas!! Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions. I hope to get my iPhone before we leave for Ireland (I can upgrade June 30th, right in the middle of our trip, I'm hoping to charm them into getting it early), so I will try to keep everything online.
However, if it looks like we need to have hard copies, you have given some great ideas!
I'm pretty much zip-lock bags and paper clips. As the trip progresses, I ditch the paperwork I no longer need but keep the zip-locks for other uses.
Madison, WI USA
On my last trip I used something that I just loved. It was a smaller size accordion file. Just slightly larger than a standard size envelope. I bought it at Staples and it had 15 or so dividers in it.
The size was perfect because it could fit in a day bag or medium size purse. The dividers kept each leg of our trip organized with each tab containing the hotel info, map/directions, train sched pertinent to that area...whatever it might be.
It is definitely my new organizer for all EU trips.
Another vote for TripIt. Everything you need in one place, plus more essential tools. I don't know how I ever traveled without it. They also have an app for Android and a plain old mobile site for everyone else
Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
I bought the clear plastic report sleeves and slid my information into them. I began with our first flight info, rental car confirmation, hotel confirmation with addresses/directions/and confirmation of price, ideas for things to do and costs, etc., I put all of the pages and some extra paper into a report folder (paper-with those metal post thingies??) and then I could just turn the page to see what we had going on at the next location. I even printed the train schedules so it was easy for me to point and show it when I was buying tickets from a non-English speaker. It worked well for us, maybe old fashioned, but I just slipped it into the side of our backpack and all was good- (also, important info copies in husbands bag too)
"I hope to get my iPhone before we leave for Ireland (I can upgrade June 30th, right in the middle of our trip, I'm hoping to charm them into getting it early), so I will try to keep everything online"
I wanted to mention that it would be a good idea to disable the data portion of your IPhone while you're travelling, and use only the Wi-Fi portion (in places where this is available). The data roaming charges in Europe can be horrendous, and there have been a few posts about early IPhone users coming home to find a $3000 bill waiting for them!
AT&T does have roaming plans that will reduce the charges somewhat, so you may want to contact them for details.
Thank you so much for your reply. I have read those posts and plan to speak with AT&T if I get the iPhone before our trip. I am so thankful for people like you who share tips and tricks, otherwise we'd all come home to a $3000 bill!
Everett, WA United States
This topic warms the OCD cockles of my heart.
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