This is a guest post written by Mona. Her first post was on organizing clothes and how to pack. This post is how to organize travel plans and documents. I’m not saying she’s OCD but she’s certainly organized!
When traveling it is important to stay organized. This is especially true if it requires airline flights, visas, travel insurance, cruises and/or hotel stays including multiple hotels. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you thought you were staying 5 nights in one hotel only to find out that you are really only staying 4 and now you have to scramble to find a hotel room for an additional night!
Over the years we’ve developed a few tips and tricks to keeping our various trips in order. Hopefully, these will come in handy as you plan your future trips!
1. We try to plan most trips approximately a year in advance. We have a 12 x 17 inch paper calendar where we pencil in the trips we are planning (or have scheduled) for the next twelve months. Planning this far in advance helps us ensure we have enough hotel points and airline miles for each trip.
2. We split up our duties; one person researches and books the hotel, one researches and books the cruise and investigates visa requirements on the State Department’s website (www.state.gov) , etc. Then we double check each other’s work.
3.We book our airline reservations on 2 different laptops sitting side by side since we each have our own frequent flyer accounts and we want to ensure we book the same exact flights and get seats next to each other on the airplane.
4. We have an expandable folder for each trip we are planning. This helps ensure we have all the correct documents that we need. We store these folders with our hardcopy calendar in the same location.
5. We check with The Center for Disease Control’s website (www.cdc.gov) and also our doctor to determine if there are any vaccinations required. We do this several months before our trip as some vaccinations require a followup injection a month or two after the first one.
6. Additionally, we will determine what, if any, trip insurance we need and we purchase it as soon as we’ve firmed up the dates for the trip. For us this is a must when we travel outside the United States. (When buying insurance be sure that it covers the entire trip from your first travel day to the day you are scheduled to be back home.)
7. As a particular trip gets closer (generally within a month) we gather our documents and begin double checking everything! We can’t emphasize this enough! It is a must to go back through every single reservation and triple check any visa requirements. Also re-verifying dates. It can get tricky when you are flying into one place and then flying out of another or coming into a city via a cruise ship, staying a few days and then flying out from there.
8. We review our credit cards to determine which ones we are taking and record the card numbers and customer service phone numbers for each. We keep this information stored locally on our iPhones. Additionally, when traveling abroad, we ensure we are carrying the cards that do not incur foreign transaction fees.
9. We ensure we have pictures of our passports stored locally on our iPhones as well as hardcopies in our suitcases…just in case something happens to our original passports. This way, should the need arise, we can provide the passport numbers and any other information from those documents to the local authorities.
10. We put our itinerary on our iPhone calendar which we share via the cloud. This helps us keep track of where we are supposed to be as we travel.
11. We send our itinerary electronically to our family. We also leave this information in hardcopy with a designee (generally a sister) back home, along with copies of our passport and credit card information.
12. A few weeks before we leave for our trip we double check the US Department of State website (http://www.state.gov) to see whether there are any travel warnings for the area(s) we are visiting. We have only changed our plans once due to a travel warning. Our thought is “it’s better to be safe than sorry”.
We welcome your comments on our approach and would love to hear any ideas you have that help you organize your trips!
One final note: We prefer to have both hardcopies and electronic copies of our reservations and other documents. (The hardcopies are our backup copies.) While that might seem old fashioned it really helps us when it comes to double checking everything before we leave. Also if something happens to our iPhone we still have paper to prove we have a particular reservation. One might think this amount of paper would be heavy and cumbersome to carry along with us. However we simply throw each reservation paper copy away as we complete that leg of the trip thus lightening our load as we go.