Papers, papers, everywhere. One of the more challenging aspects of traveling is the collection of documents and critical items that you must keep organized and available at all times. Passports, for example, are crucial when traveling out of the country, and yet they are far too easy to misplace. When factoring in all the confirmation e-mails, e-tickets for your flights and a host of other essentials that fall into the paperwork category, it can seem even more overwhelming—especially for longer trips.
While putting everything in your purse or computer bag is workable, there are better ways to keep your travel documents organized than flipping through a pile of loose paperwork in order to find your hotel reservation.
Back It Up
Consider those travel documents and items that would leave you stranded if you misplaced them— passport, driver’s license, credit cards and traveler’s checks, to name a few. Before you leave, scan copies of your passport and driver’s license and e-mail the scans to yourself and a trusted friend or family member not traveling with you. This way, in an emergency, you’ll have the information needed to remedy loss of these documents at embassies or consulates. Please note, though, that it’s illegal to make a color copy of your passport, so scan it in black and white.
Some sources say to e-mail yourself a list of your credit card numbers, but this is risky. Instead, e-mail yourself the phone numbers for each credit card company, so you can report a lost or stolen card immediately. Using several verification methods, your card companies will be able to pull the account numbers up with you on the phone. Include the numbers of your traveler’s checks in your e-mail, and forward yourself and your friend the confirmation numbers for your flights and hotel reservations.
It’s also good practice to back up your medical information. “If you take any prescription medications, it’s a good idea to get a letter from your doctor explaining what you take, including the generic name, how much you take, and why you need the medication,” says Ali Garland of Travel Made Simple. “You won’t often need it, but some countries do have different rules about medicine.” She also recommends keeping a copy of your prescription with you while you travel, including information on a generic alternative, in case you lose your medication and need to replace it while away from home.
Get a three-ring binder for a travel folder to keep everything together. You may think a binder is too big, but the beauty of its size is that it makes it harder to lose). Angie, for I’m an Organizing Junkie, recommends using page protectors in your binder. “Page protectors not only help to organize the documents, but protect them from liquid spills too,” she says. “I simply organize a page protector for each destination we are visiting and place all related documents inside.” She also recommends a separate page protector just for hotel reservations, placing them in chronological order, so they’re easier to find as needed.
Professional organizer Marilyn Bohn says, ”Create a packing list and keep this on your computer so each time you travel you can print it and check off items as you pack.” Print an additional copy of the list and keep it in your travel binder so you can make sure you have all your stuff each time you change destinations.
Bohn also recommends you divide your travel documents into categories to reduce rummaging for what you need. She suggests the following categories:
- Airline tickets and rental car reservations
- Emergency phone numbers
- Maps and directions
- Hotel reservations
If you’d rather not lug around a binder, Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times recommends several Apps that can organize your trip in helpful ways, such as TripIt for the app averse, or TripCase for the itinerary obsessed.
Whatever means of organization you choose to employ, make sure you do something. The last thing you want on a restful vacation is to become stressed because you’ve lost an important travel document.