I’m the one that books all of the travel arrangements–so naturally, I’m the one that keeps things organized and ensures that we have all the documents we need, when we need them.
Yes, I am aware “there is an app for that”, but I’ve found that relying on devices isn’t always a great idea, particularly traveling internationally. I have a propensity to always be with a dead iphone (and I’m too cheap to pay for international data). So, here is my five-step process for a quick, simple, and almost no-cost way of keeping your trip organized so you know that you have all the documentation for your trip and so it’s accessible.
1. Mentally index your itinerary and reservations before you leave. I spend some time making sure “the trip” is in order. Usually this includes reviewing the flight itinerary/receipt, hotel booking confirmation, and confirmation of transfers or rental car. If I have prepaid for any activities, I always have and check those documents as well. Sometimes we also have restaurant reservations. Walk through your itinerary day by day, and make sure you aren’t missing anything. Checking dates can also be helpful. And by helpful, I mean do it.
2. Print everything for international trips. There have been one too many circumstances in recent memory where we (or someone I know) would have been screwed without paper copies. For example, we would have had to completely exit security in Tokyo without an itinerary of our flights, printed, on paper. Some friends would have been stranded because the airline had absolutely no electronic record of their reservation–and only admitted it was a system goof because of the hard copies. I was laughed at when I once tried to show someone something on my ipad. There may be a day when paper really isn’t relevant, but today is not that day.
3. Make sure you keep an electronic back-up of all files. While I always have paper copies (except on domestic trips), for each and every trip I make sure I also have electronic copies of everything I need. Again, this would include flight itinerary/receipt, hotel booking confirmation, transfers, etc. I usually just leave them in my gmail so I know where they are and they are easy to search for and get to. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, leave them as “unread” so they all float at the top of your inbox. If that makes you crazy, just make a folder for the trip.
4. Organize your paper copies in something waterproof. I have a plastic envelope that snaps, as well as an Eagle Creek waterproof zip bag (like this). Put your papers in them, just in case. You can also slide your iphone/ipad, etc in here if you get caught in a storm (or a boat where the surf is flying over the side). Then, organize. Put your first flight on top, then transfer/rental car, then hotel, then next flight, etc. You get the idea–everything should be in the order you will need it. That way you are never scrambling for papers or at the check-in counter with a paper flurry around you.
5. Don’t lose your organization during your trip. It takes literally twenty seconds, when you arrive, to move what you’ve already “used” to the back of the pile. That way, the next activity will be at the top. If you like to save your receipts, you can slip those right in the pile, too (hint: this works for work travel as well when you need to itemize). Then, each night, just pull out the envelope, file your receipts and put the completed stuff in the back. It takes absolutely no time, and when you get home, you won’t have the fun of digging through ever bag and coat pocket looking for receipts. We’ve all done that, and it’s not fun.
There you have it: how I stay organized with literally no money and no tech. How do you stay organized on a trip?