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How do you organize your paperwork? Organizing tips?

I love to plan, research. I have a spreadsheet with days, times, tours that always helps me. One thing I learned the last time we went was to put all paperwork for each city in its own Manila folder. (I also have files located on my iPad, but I find it helpful to have the actual hotel reservation, etc).

Another tip I remember was to put the address of the hotels on an index card and carried it with me at all times, to give to taxi drivers. I used this a lot and DH thought it was brilliant.

I’m trying to think if there are any other things I can out on a card?

I also have been using mapquest (Satallite version) to show how to get to restaurants. I know there is google map, yet this dinosaur likes to sort of see the whole picture. I then print it out.

Any other organizing and “get ready” tips that make your trip smoother?

Posted by
6364 posts

I also like printed copies of everything. I don't have separate folders for each city, but I do have all the hotel and other reservation and ticket information in chronological order. I used to keep them in a manila folder that fits in the back pocket of my "personal item," but last year travel friend Kim gave me a wonderful see-through plastic pouch that zips closed, and still fits in that pocket. (Thanks, Kim!)

We also use paper maps. I want to be able to, as you say, see the whole picture. And (speaking of dinosaurs) I also carry a compass to help orient me, especially in places like Rome where the twisty back streets can be very disorienting.

Posted by
2575 posts

I like using Dropbox to have necessary documents in there. I mark all documents also as "offline available" and re-open them once again on my smartphone.

Sygic is a good map & navigation app which you can use permanently offline. Also others available.

Some other tools / apps you shall always have available:

  • Local weather
  • Currency converter (Oanda)
  • Translation (DeepL if connection available and language is OK, Google Translate only as backup)
  • Local tips, e.g. TripAdvisor or Yelp

What I want to try is to us Dropbox paper - one for the documents but also for day trip reports.

Posted by
899 posts

I create a word document on my computer as I'm researching information I want handy like sights, restaurants, addresses, hours, admission charges, best way to travel to them from the hotel, etc. Keep adding to it as I plan our trip then print out a copy before we go. One thing to add is any emergency numbers I might need - especially those to cancel credit cards. If the card gets stolen that number on the back isn't going to do me much good.

I too like to see a map layout and have experimented with using Google maps to create a personalized plan. Not happy with the results but still learning how to use.

I also take photos with my phone of documents and any other info I want handy. I have a screen lock on my phone so access is limited.

Posted by
6364 posts

Cj-traveler, that's a great point about including emergency phone numbers and other contact information in your documents. I definitely need to do that! My DH lost his cards one year, and fortunately i had the numbers on my cards, but tucking them away in a safe place would also be smart. We have also in the past made photocopies of our cards, front and back, then stored the copies in our money belts.

Posted by
1329 posts

I keep it simple, just screen shots of the confirmation emails, I should just make a separate email folder. I don’t print out anything unless it’s a reservation for a place that requires hard copy, getting rarer every year

Posted by
2873 posts

It was suggested on the forum a couple years ago to put hotels, car rentals and tours into your phone for instant access to phone numbers and addresses. Although I didn’t need to call, I had all the info available.

I used a plastic folder for paper copies of all reservations, clipping together type by date or city, ie tours, plane/trains, hotels. I have email folders on my phone with confirmations and web folders by category/city for restaurant and sightseeing ideas.

Posted by
2161 posts

I have a red folder that I have used for years for trips. I print out any hotel confirmations, excursion confirmations, copies of our passports and our travel insurance. All paper copies are in chronological order of when they are needed. I rotate the most up to date one in front, and used ones in back. I don't toss them as I go as they usually have personal information on them, so I wait to get home to put them through the shredder.

I have all of that on my phone too, but like to have a backup in case I lose either the phone or my folder.

On my phone, I take screen shots of confirmations as well as any tips I see in travel forums, and have a planning folder for each country on my phone. That way it is super easy to access and I don't need to dig for it.

For maps, I have the citymaps2go app on my phone which is fantastic!!! I just used it for our most recent trip, which was 3 different cities.

Posted by
2768 posts

I bring very little paper. I just find it contrary to the pack light philosophy. Why bring folders when tech makes it so easy to go 90% paperless? And paper is too easy to loose. That’s just me though.

The paper I do bring is in a plastic sheet protector. One per city if there’s a lot of paper, or just one if there’s not much. Usually it’s only a couple tickets with no e-ticket option and some medical info in translation (might have to give it to a doctor if I get sick).

But in order for this to be reliable all documents must be offline (no need for internet to access them) and also backed up off the device (so if I loose my phone I can get my info from any internet connected device, like a public computer). So - I make everything into PDF and store it on my phone and iPad (kindle app for me). The PDFs are also in my email and google docs so if disaster strikes I can find an internet cafe or hotel computer and print, or redownload to my device.

What’s in the PDFs? All my logistical info - hotel confirmations, my outline of dates and plans each day, notes, helpful blog posts about a sight, copies of e tickets to sights, everything.

Then my #1 most useful tip - an electronic offline map with everything of interest to me marked on it. I use city maps 2go, and my map is in my account so I can access it again if there’s a tech issue - just reinstall the app. I put a star (color coded) on sights, restaurants, my hotel, stores, everything I may want or need to go to. I put notes, like sight hours or reasons I marked something. Example would be “cafe, open 8-8, famous for macaroons”. Then I can see at a glance what’s nearby and go when it makes sense. Maybe I finished at the museum and see that the aforementioned cafe is between the museum and a church I want to go to next. Macaroon time! If I didn’t have the map I might not have remembered the cafe when I was near it.

Posted by
726 posts

I do things mostly electronically on an iPhone, but I still keep paper copies of the really important stuff, such as my passport and reservation information, just as a backup. I also print out one page sheets with my hotel and tour company contact information in every bag and piece of luggage, just in case my luggage gets lost.

A few electronic tips:

  • As others have mentioned, Dropbox is great for storing important information.

  • Excel is great for a lot of the logistics and budgeting. I also keep spreadsheets for wardrobe/packing planning and weather.

  • I use Google Maps a lot in the planning stages to mark place I want to see. Then, I look at where things are clustering to figure out an exact walking route between places.

  • I use MapsWithMe heavily once I arrive at my destination. It used to have the advantage of working offline without a data connection, but, of course, nowadays Google Maps can do that, too. Still, I stick with MapsWithMe. I find that in some places -- Venice, in particular -- MapsWithMe is far more accurate than Google Maps.

  • There's a simple app called Checklist+ that is handy for checklists. I use it especially for things like checking that I have everything when I check out of the hotel (e.g. - did I check the safe? bathroom? closet? drawers? did I leave a tip for housekeeping?) or making sure that my camera gear is ready at the beginning of the day (e.g. - are the batteries in the camera and charged? Is there space on the memory card? Are all the settings back to normal? Are the date and time set correctly?) The nice thing about Checklist+ is that after I have gone through the list and checked off everything, I can reset every back to unchecked with a single click.

  • A good note taking app --- a place to hold all those miscellaneous scraps of planning info --- helps a lot with planning. I am using Bear these days.

Posted by
4872 posts

Mira, I do much the same as you, including with maps. I like your way of adding notes to places. I'll start doing that!

I use OneNote, available offline and across devices, to create my own mini guide book with my plan for each day, map snippets, web links, notes about hours and admissions. Each trip is a notebook. Each city has a section. Significant activites may have their own page.

Posted by
7404 posts

Hi Lulu, I love to plan & research, too, and even used to get paid to organize processes at work before I retired.

For many years, I had paper copies of our plane ticket, each hotel reservation, train tickets, activity reservations, Google map of route from train station to hotel, a set of papers for each city of ideas paper clipped with the section of the RS book for that city. The cover page was an Excel summary page of Day, Hotel & address, whether it was already paid, train departure & arrival, and the main activities planned for each day. Activities with reservations were color-coded in turquoise, hotels already paid were highlighted in green, and Sunday dates were highlighted in yellow (to avoid train travel).

Two years ago, I started using the TripIt app. The first year, I printed out the list from TripIt, so I could refer to it on the train without pulling out my phone. I still brought paper copies of everything listed above, except I didn’t need the papers of possible activities- those were loaded into TripIt into days I would be in that city with just a placeholder time. In other words, I would choose a subset of those activities but had the options in TripIt. I liked that I could insert a possible restaurant or gelato shop, and TripIt auto loads the address. The sections from the RS guidebook were only a couple of pages each. Since that trip was my first solo trip (celebrated by retirement with three weeks in Italy!), I also included an Excel summary page just of train travel: Date, city departure train station name, arrival name, departure & arrival time, reservation code, PLUS I added Plan B & C if I were to miss that train.

Last year was another solo trip for two weeks, and my husband joined me for the last week. I organized everything the same, except I didn’t bring the paper Google map, and I didn’t print out the TripIt details. I did take photos of maps, etc. and kept those in iCloud folders of each town. The biggest benefit over the past two years is that I don’t have all of the activity option papers to carry. But, I really missed the printed paper Google map. It was nice to orient myself to the town, and I always marked a few highlights on the map besides the train station & hotel. Reading that from a paper vs. a phone display had been much easier - I missed it and will add it back this year.

Two other things I do: if I book a reservation with, I always use the option to print the reservation in the hotel’s language - just a courtesy to them vs. handing them a reservation written in English. And, if my husband is traveling with me, I always give him the same papers of the Excel summary & all printed reservations as a backup plan in case my suitcase was stolen.

Another helpful item to write on a paper - I usually purchase my train tickets on-line ahead of time, but I bought one at the French Riviera last year. Noticing the slow-moving line & interactions, I wrote “my destination city, one person, and requested departure time” in French on a Post-it note. Wow, my transaction was so much faster and appreciated by the desk clerk!

Posted by
43 posts

I use Google Drive. Everything gets stored there. My e-tickets, my spreadsheet with all hotels, transport and things to do along with their respective costs. I make this available off line. I also store all hotels and venues in my iphone contacts so I can show the listing to the cab driver. Works wonderfully. This way all I need is my phone - no folders, no binders.

Posted by
16004 posts

Maps: we still use old-fashioned paper ones, and I mark the points of most interest on a really good one before the trip. We like paper because light fingers are not interested in lifting them, it's not a big deal if they get lost, they don't need to be recharged, and they give us a much bigger overview/point-of-reference picture than what we can comfortably see on a phone.

I have a lightweight accordion envelope for tickets and 8.5" by 11" original documents and important notes folded into thirds We split Xerox copies of those documents between us.

Posted by
978 posts

These are great! Keep them coming. I want to download some of these apps and put your ideas to use! I have to admit, I rarely use apps, so this will be a learning curve for me. It will be nice to research this stuff while I’m not in a hurry.

Posted by
7404 posts

Lulu, forgot to mention that anytime I have paid for something ahead of time - a hotel, concert ticket, train ticket, etc., I capture a screenshot photo of it and store those in the iCloud in the “Trip Name Paid Tickets” folder. All of the other screenshots are just in the separate “Trip Name” folder.

This may be slightly off-topic, but I also note prices paid for meals in a tiny journal, and I like to keep activity paper souvenirs as momentos. After a trip, I enter the prices of everything in an Excel spreadsheet that organizes everything into categories and by city, creating a nice finale piechart. I print that page of details & summary and place it in the plastic folder envelope with all of the paper momentos, mark the Country & Year, and store it with the other ones. It’s fun to go back and look at them or to find a specific restaurant, and the price summary is good to give an idea for future trips’ costs.

Posted by
302 posts

During planning I like Google Docs, day by day starting with departure flights and confirmation code. Prior to travel I make a copy, first deleting all the confirmations and notes about paid ( green) and still needing payment ( red), etc to share, view only option, with family.
I make a size 8 font copy to print, just as backup- it is usually only a page, folded to fit in my moneybelt. I have a 3 by 5 card size, also size 8 font, paper with credit card contact info, #s, medical, etc. Unless something had changed I keep using it each trip. Lastly, 2 passport pics and a copy of the passport. None of this takes up space or adds weight.
I do print pre-paid vouchers, etc and those are in order they will be used in a plastic pouch.

Posted by
14175 posts

Like Karen, I use GoogleDocs. I do a table for my itinerary with confirmation numbers, daily itineraries, suggestions for back up sights and restaurants I want to try. I tried Trip-it (the free version) and it didn't organize things the way I wanted them, lol. The google doc table is simple and easier for me to work with.

This last time although I printed most stuff out I used my Apple Watch for train tickets and that worked well. I'm not totally comfortable with tech stuff so had back up paper stuff but I was able to have tickets up on my watch for the conductor to scan on the TGV. I also had e-tickets for some museum things although for the Louvre I printed them out. I also place them in sheet protectors.

I learned something on the Louvre entry that I've mentioned on some of the Louvre threads. The woman in line behind me had her printed at home ticket folded in her pocket and some of the bar code had rubbed off. The staff member who was scanning tickets was not going to let her in because her ticket wouldn't scan properly but the husband talked the staffer in to allowing her to enter. So yes, sheet protectors for any printed tickets that have a bar code!

I use the index card for the taxi from the airport method and then keep the card in my purse in case I am out and about and need to take a taxi "home". The one time I didn't I was able to quickly write out the hotel name and address into the notes section on my phone and show that to the driver. It's my regular hotel in Paris so I knew the complete address and "75" code number.

I don't have data in Europe so if I'm going somewhere unfamiliar or with a tricky street routing, I'll plot it on googlemaps in the hotel and then screen shot it to use when I'm out and about.

Posted by
11361 posts

I send everything to TripIt. I upgraded to TripItPro after a trial run. I also print out the reservations and put them in a folder. One time when checking out of a BnB in rural Italy, the owner said the price was a lot higher but I could prove the price he gave me. Other guests without printed reservation proof were forced to pay higher prices.

Posted by
82 posts

SO many great suggestions in this thread! It is also great to know that there are fellow travelers MORE obsessed and certainly more skilled at organizing travel information and back up data. Here are the methods I use:

1) I create a Word document which includes:

a) Flight Dates, times & fight numbers - also confirmation numbers & help phone

b) Cruise, Train or other transit dates, times, confirmation numbers & help phone

c) Lodging Dates, addresses, phone numbers, confirmation

d) Travel Insurance info & phone

e) Emergency contact info at home

f) Medical Info including prescriptions

g) Passport numbers

h) Credit card numbers & emergency phone

i) Names & Addresses for post cards

j) Maps to lodging locations - with directions I understand

Note: I include phone numbers even if they are on my phone - which may be lost.

2) I print two copies of this document for me & my travel companion. I also email this document to myself, fellow traveler and emergency contact person(s) at home.

3) Next I make several jpegs from this document, usually transit info, medical info, lodging info, post card addresses & maps. I also scan my passport photo page. I can then store these images on my phone or tablet. (This is similar to cj-traveler's idea of taking document photos).

4) We include our contact info on cards inside all of our luggage items.

I hope these ideas are helpful. I'll be using some of yours!


Posted by
5697 posts

Paper copies of lodging confirmations, train tickets, prepaid tour confirmations / tickets all in a manila folder with ACCO fasteners (transportation on one side, accomodations on the other.) Since my personal item is a RS Eurotote with a low front opening, the manila folder provides a useful barrier to keep items inside.
All that stuff also on Tripit, which my husband also has a copy. I forward all confirmations to his phone so we have electronic backup.
And my packing list is on my phone in OneNote.

Posted by
1004 posts

I go to the Dollarstore and buy the cheap binder pencil pouches in a variety of colors. I fold and place my papers in order for when I will need it. Then I will throw the papers away as I go through my trip. If I am going to two countries, then I may have two pouches of different colors. Orange for the Netherlands, Green for Ireland, etc. All my travel buddies do the same thing. We have had a lot of success with this system. I also keep electronic files.

Posted by
2213 posts

I take papers (way too many!), but no folders or other extraneous material. I just paper clip the papers for each stop together.

Posted by
7404 posts

Suki, yes, the proof for the actual price is important! And I’ve had a couple of hotels try to have me pay double for a prepaid hotel reservation! The latest one was last year at a nice hotel in Paris. When I handed her the proof I had paid confirmation of payment, (also was ready to show her the associated amount paid on my credit card statement, if needed), she “suddenly “ found the correct information of payment completed.

Posted by
100 posts

When I'm researching my trip online, I use Pinterest to create a page for that destination as a place to bookmark all the sights, restaurants, hotels, etc. that I might be interested in. I add sub-folders for each of those categories, to make it a little easier to find things when I'm ready to start making concrete plans. Then, when we're out and about, and need to alter our plans (weather, sore feet, too-long lines), I can open the Pinterest app on my phone and have pre-researched options to look at. It's a great way to have easy access to websites, menus, timetables, etc., all at your fingertips.

I have an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for budget, packing list and itinerary (including reservation info), which I send to myself via email, so I can access it on my phone. I scan all important documents, including passports, drivers licenses, paper tickets, and anything else that I don't already have an electronic copy of, and email them to myself, my husband and my mom. I have a separate email folder that all these things go into (can you tell I use my phone for everything?) I also print out any necessary paperwork, which goes into page protectors in a thin, flexible 3-ring binder.

Posted by
139 posts

Here’s my hi tech tip: use an 8x5” Manila clasp envelope for trip paperwork. This size fits much better in my purse or day bag. No bent folders, no poky corners on full-size binders. I fold 8x11” papers in half (they stay tidy). I toss paperwork as the trip continues, and use the envelope for trip receipts. You could use more than one — by city, topic (Hotel, Train, etc). I often use 2 — 1 for reservations, info etc., and the other for critical info (emergency phone list, passport copies, etc.)

I also use Evernote for travel info and digital trip journal, as well as Dropbox (folders marked as downloaded offline, as previously suggested). I carry a small Moleskine for daily notes—love the back pocket for receipts, spare $20 bill, souvenir Metro tickets or restaurant cards. I’m a writer; I take lots of notes. As Eric Maisel quotes in “A Writer’s Paris”....”Always carry your little pad.”

Posted by
1019 posts

I don’t take computer or tablet, all I have is my phone. So I just copy all my info that I need, make a spreadsheet with info. Keep in a double zippy plastic pouch ( bought at my work) and fits perfectly in my side pocket of my backpack.

And your welcome Jane.


Edit.... I also toss when done and use my plastic pouch for receipts, postcards or other items that I need to bring back home.

Posted by
2161 posts

tavapeak--I like that idea of a manilla envelope! My folder is that same size, and thin, but not as easily bendable as the envelope. I need to try that for our summer trip, thanks!

Posted by
3208 posts

I too take paper copies of reservations for flights, apartments, hotels, and any tours.
I take a screen shot of each one of these so I can access it without a wifi connection on my phone.
I also have a really small notebook, about 3X5", that I write all my info in.
This never leaves my person or crossbody bag; and I use it as a daily journal too.
It's also got my medical info, and emergency contacts in it.
After the trip, it's kind of a resource and a journal to look back on.
Sounds like overkill, but I'm solo a lot of the time.