We all have nightmare travel stories about forgetting your passport at home, not having a confirmation number or getting your dates mixed up for your flight. Staying organized while traveling can be a Herculean task, especially if, like me, you dump all your belongings in a backpack quite regularly. There are a few useful and inexpensive items that can prevent you from having those “Oh my god, I’m such an idiot” travel moments.
Apps are the new way to store information and keep yourself organized. They help you wake up on time, remind you to pay your credit card bill and can store important information. Here are my picks for best organizational apps.
- Kayak (Free): I’m a huge fan of this app for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can track your flight status and it will update when information changes. It also includes a currency converter, airport map by GateGuru, packing list and airline baggage fees. You can store your trips and bookings for hotels, flights and cars that you’ve booked on Kayak. The app also lets you set alerts to let you know when your preferred flight is at it’s cheapest.
- UsingMiles (Free): If you’re like me and travel with whichever airline is the cheapest, it can get confusing to remember which ones you have frequent flier miles to use with. I downloaded UsingMiles back when it was in beta and have been very happy with it. It tracks loyalty programs for airlines, hotels, rental cars and other companies and lets you know when they expire. It also allows you to book with your miles on whichever airlines you have points with.
- PassBook (Free): If you’re an iPhone user, this new iOS app takes the apps you’ve already downloaded, like airline apps, hotel apps and discount apps, and puts them all into one place. It offers notifications if your flights change gates and lets you use a QR code as a boarding pass to go paper-free. If you’re an Android user you can still use your airline of choice’s app.
- Evernote (Free): When it comes to organization in travel and life, Evernote is king. I use the web clipper to save information I might need at a later date, which I can then access on my phone. This is especially useful for addresses, subway maps and online travel guides. Alternatively, you can use Dropbox or Google Drive with much of the same functionality.
- Calendar and Reminders (Free): Luckily for me, most phones come with calendars and reminders already installed. Mark down when your trains leave and set reminders for what you need to remember before you go.
Some people prefer to be prepared and print out every confirmation page and email “just in case.” Don’t worry, I’m also one of those people. I typically carry a folder on every trip that has my itinerary, directions to each of my hostels and the booking numbers for each. Here’s what I like to bring on every trip.
- Planner: I carry a planner everywhere in my everyday life and it is no different in travel. Sometimes you are on the go so much that you don’t know what day it is. It might be a national holiday in the city you are visiting when everything is closed.
- Folder with printouts of documents: While I always save this information in my email account there will always be times when you can’t access internet or the person at the desk says you can’t check in unless you have something printed out. It never hurts to be prepared.
- Pens: As a former waitress and current writer, I cannot stress enough the importance of writing utensils! There are some things you can’t do with a smartphone.
- Coupon holder: You can find these accordion file coupon holders at the $1 store, which are useful for storing ticket stubs and other mementoes, as well as in saving business cards of where you are staying in case you get lost.
- Grid It: If I had known about this product sooner I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. It has lots of bands that keep your phone charger, iPod and other knicknacks in one place.
Brooke recommends using a money belt to store credit cards and passport. Wearing your money belt should be like wearing underwear, and you’ll then never forget your passport!
Tips Before You Go
1. Keep a copy of your itinerary with someone responsible back home. Also give them a copy of your passport. Make another copy of your passport to stash somewhere in your bag away from the original. If you’re really ambitious, scan a copy and save it into your email account or Google Docs account so you can access it if you need to.
2. Call your bank or credit card company before you leave to let them know you will be out of the country. You don’t want them to cut off your card under suspicious circumstances when you really need it.
3. Place your documents in the order you will need them. This will cut down your time fumbling around in your backpack. I also like to color code my documents with tabs so I can keep my rail pass separate from my hostel bookings.
How do you stay organized while traveling?