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Lesson learned for detailed paper or photo document trail

Hi fellow tourists,

I’ve been busy corresponding with several hotels, through for other reservations and the airline to obtain refunds for this year’s cancelled trip. Thankfully, all of the refundable and even most of the non refundable ones are giving me either vouchers or refunds.

But I have learned how vital it is to keep either a paper copy or screenshot photos of every step - from the initial reservations to any responses through, credit card statements, etc. I have one reservation where the date was changed and then cancelled. Once the date was changed, the previous conversations through disappeared from that reservation. Fortunately, each time I received any info, I had kept a photo screenshot of it; otherwise, now I couldn’t verify what happened and it would look like I just cancelled the reservation - still in conversation to obtain a previously promised refund.

Also, I have had an airline reservation one year where my paper copy was the proof needed of my actual final destination!

When I’m creating an itinerary, I also create an iCloud folder to hold every reservation, payment on cc, etc. It’s been so helpful this year to have all of those in one handy location since each one has been needed.

Posted by
990 posts

Good tips. I tend to print all my correspondence as well. I just keep as much paperwork and backups as possible. I always use the free cancellation to book any accommodation through and so far I have not had any issues. But, I still keep all correspondence just in case.


Posted by
6287 posts

Great tips. I had an experience with ebay; I ordered two copies of a hardback book. Somewhere between the time I ordered and the time I got the "shipping" notice, the merchandise had become 2 copies of an e-book. I know what I ordered, because my husband was looking over my shoulder, nodding as I read the description (the books were for him.)

Had it occurred to me to take a screenshot, I might have had recourse. Lesson learned, I hope.

Posted by
13899 posts

Great ideas!

Maybe on our next CdA/Spokane meet up you can teach me how to create an iCloud folder, lol. I literally have no idea!

Posted by
9541 posts

This is a really great tip, Jean.

Jane’s hardback-to-eBook is a great example!

Posted by
3961 posts

Jean- excellent tips! You might say I'm obsessed with keeping a document trail- emails, photocopies, screen shots... ;) I was happy to have all the emails from our accommodations when we cancelled for Sept. I just forwarded the details with a personal message. I like the idea of an iCloud folder for the future. Grazie.

Posted by
420 posts

Create a special folder in your email. Move all email conformations for your trip to that folder. At least everything will be in one place. I make reservations over the course of 9 months so my reservations would be everywhere.

When we travel I make multiple hard copies of all tickets, reservations, etc. I put a complete packet in each family members carryon/suitcase as well as my personal bag.

Posted by
7234 posts

UPDATE: The detailed paper trail was a success! I received the voucher from my Venice hotel for three nights for 2021. Whew!

My only remaining non-refundable apartment is waiting until the date to see if Americans are allowed to travel. If so, he won’t refund it. But, out of 8 lodging reservations, this is the only one where I didn’t receive a refund or voucher. I am very grateful regardless!

Posted by
1 posts

Great thread! Super idea, I did almost the same thing. Since I often travel, and this is my job. I have to deal with some nuances. therefore, i constantly photograph all kinds of documents, copies, passport, tickets and so on. I have had several cases where I was literally told directly that I was wrong, but when I showed a photo, airport employees or staff immediately changed their minds, knowing that I was really right and could prove it. i usually convert photos to and I don't worry about their quality, since I'm always sure that all the numbers of the word, seals, and so on are visible on them.

Posted by
2207 posts

Great suggestions! As mentioned above, in my Gmail account, I've created "folders" (which they call labels) to separate each year and each trip. In addition, I forward and BCC all emails to my Evernote account. Here you can attach tags to each email/post which makes it much easier to sort (they also allow you to use a folder system). There is a free version of Evernote available and it's a great resource for "storage" of information.

As I also use some of this info for business, I also back it up to OneDrive and to a 2 TB hard drive. Paranoia is sometimes a good thing!

Posted by
25 posts

Paranoia is indeed good. Most people should be a lot more paranoid than they are (have you read the news lately?). Two things to remember:

  1. All computers, all devices, all hard drives will die some day. Every one of them. There are no exceptions to this axiom, it is a basic, foundational truth. That device/hard drive may last a long time, or it may fail right when you need it most. When that day comes, you better have a good, available backup/alternative that works.

  2. Online services and accounts get compromised. They get hacked, they shut down without notice. One would be wise to assume that every online account and service will get compromised eventually (because few haven't).

Personally, I put all my documents on my home computer. Each trip gets its own place (I maintain places for previous trips and future/potential trips). That computer has multiple backups (backups are automated so they require me to actually remember to run them). I also have print-outs on paper of all important travel documents.

Before a trip, I copy every important document to multiple places: a PDF version of every document gets printed out (2 copies, one booklet goes with me, another booklet goes to my wife). An electronic version goes on my iPad, my phone and my wife's phone. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) is always within reach, electronically and in our paper "trip booklet".

Yes, this adds a task. But I have found that it's not terribly burdensome, and it completely eliminates most of the stress. Everything about our trip is immediately and easily available, everything from receipts and confirmation documents, flight details, each day's plan, to the hotel's GPS coordinates - it's all immediately available. It eliminates all sorts of hassles and headaches. You do have to be disciplined to ensure you record every detail as you start booking and planning things, but doing that makes me feel good.

I keep multiple devices backed up, but prefer not to put things online, since having access to the internet is not always available while traveling, and there have been many times when I needed something quickly but had no internet (eg: immediately upon landing in a foreign country). I also have credit card/bank info that I do not want to trust to online services (email is NOT a secure place to store or transmit anything you don't want compromised).

Bottom line: Save everything. Keep it well-organized. Keep it backed up. Get it in a form that can travel with you, and have multiple ways to get that info and keep it at hand.

Paranoid? Who, me?

Posted by
44 posts

I too make numerous copies of everything and put them in plastic sheet protectors. I have been told several times by hotel staff--in the USA and abroad, including at a castle in Germany--that paper trumps electronic info EVERY TIME even in this day and age. That is how we were able to stay in the bridal suite at the castle, certainly not what we booked. We showed upon the dark, in the pouring rain and the manager insisted they did not have my reservation. I pulled out my trusty paper email confirmation from them and my husband of 45 years and I enjoyed a complimentary glass of wine while the manager/owner prepped the incredible room. I don't know what we would have done without written proof as it was the last available room. (The next morning the day clerk acknowledged, in a whisper, that yes it was their computer mistake that caused the problem.)

Posted by
3207 posts

While I am pretty organized on my devices with paperwork, I ALWAYS keep paper copies. I've had my travel device freeze twice at inopportune moments. Luckily, Apple stores are ubiquitous and they correct the issue, which is usually somewhat my fault. ;) I also provide paper copies to my H if he's with me, incase we are separated so he can get to where ever we are traveling, and he also always knows where the master pack of paper is in my bag as well.

I mainly fly BA. I chit chat with the employees. I have been told many times (before covid) that they much prefer paper boarding passes, so I just put my device away and use the paper. I find managing device and passport awkward anyway. YMMV