I’m leaving for Spain and Portugal next week! I’m leaving for Spain and Portugal next week! Did you hear? I’m leaving for Spain and Portugal next week!
So, now is the time I usually start gathering all of my important paperwork, so to speak. Copies of passports, itineraries, confirmation numbers, etc. Basically, I’m making sure I have my shit together. I’m not one for surprises because I’ve lacked in planning. I’ll probably spend more time being mad at myself than fixing the issue at hand because I planned poorly. Did I mention I have mad problems?
Below is a list of what I organize prior to leaving for an international trip. Some people just like having an email trail with correspondence they can access and some people like carrying a binder of their entire trip, day-by-day. These are what work for me and I think would be useful for anyone, regardless of how you decide to organize. Obviously if you’re traveling for business, much of this won’t apply.
This upcoming trip to Spain and Portugal is straight-forward; I know where I’m staying the whole time. When we went to Southeast Asia we decided on accommodations and cities where were going to next, on the fly. We sometimes didn’t even know where we were staying until the day before. (We live on the edge. It was actually a blast to travel like that.) So basically, what I’m saying is, adjust as necessary for your needs.
Spreadsheet of Hotels and Flights
The hubster actually created this puppy for our trip to Thailand and Cambodia. It was inspired by a friend who had traveled there and put together a similar spreadsheet. Travelers like helping travelers. We’re good people. It was extra handy to have. You could simply add a column in the spreadsheet for costs, like we did, and this could double as your budget sheet as well.
I’m sure you could really get detailed and include seat numbers, rooms requested, people you talked to etc. But this works for me.
Print-outs of City Information or Tour Correspondence
If you’re like me, you’ve investigated some areas you’d like to see along the way. I usually print some things out, including email correspondences I’ve possibly had with arranged tours. I like having stuff to leaf through on the flight or in the evening while winding down to make sure I haven’t “missed” anything. I mainly use my iPad now to explore cities. I personally love the Trip Advisor app.
Fun Fact: Did you know I’m in the top 10% of reviewers in Fort Lauderdale on Trip Advisor? It’s true. And no, no one has paid me to say that. Sadly.
But having a few print-outs from websites never hurt. Plus, the emails can serve as proof you’ve booked tours if you ever need it.
Passport, Drivers License, Credit Cards and Insurance Cards
Get all of these bad boys out and in one place. Only take credit cards on the trip that you know you’ll use. For instance, I’m not bringing any cards that have a foreign transaction fee. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Plus, if something happens and you lose your cards, you at the very least have some at home if you don’t bring. every. single. one. with. you. Make sure you call each credit card company and let them know you’re traveling internationally so they don’t put a hold on your account for what they may think are fraudulent international charges, when all you want is a freakin’ frozen chocolate banana from 7-11 in Bangkok. What? I was hungry!
Insurance cards. Why would you need your insurance card? Because you could also get hurt abroad. In fact, I take the extra precaution and buy travel insurance (Not trip insurance, there’s a difference.) because my medical insurance, and most in fact, don’t cover medical expenses abroad. I usually use World Nomads. And again, I sadly was not paid for saying that. They’re easy to use and you can quickly extend insurance as you need it if you’re staying longer than anticipated. This is a nominal fee for the major expense it would be if I twisted my ankle or got a sinus infection or, you know, couldn’t recover from bad oysters and the Immodium AD just wasn’t working. Also, Travel Insurance protects you (essentially) from political unrest if you need to be evacuated out of the country. Do I think this will happen in Spain and Portugal? No. Not if my Flamenco dancing skills have anything to say about it. It can create world peace, man.
You can also gather your hotel and airline membership cards, if you so desire. I don’t feel like these are totally necessary. If I ever need to prove my status with an airline, I can show my boarding pass, which has what level elite I am. Same with a hotel, it’s usually already in your reservation.
Once you’ve gathered all of the above, follow these steps:
- Make 2 copies of everything. I like to put all of my ID’s, credit cards and passport on one individual page, space permitting. Copy the FRONT and BACK. The important phone #’s are on the back.
- Give the additional copies of everything to someone who is sadly staying at home. Not a stranger, someone you can count on in a pinch and who won’t freak out. So, probably not your mom. Also, make sure they won’t head to Macy’s and buy new heels with your credit cards info. Not that this has crossed my mind.
- Scan all paper copies and email everything to yourself in one email, including any digital docs. For instance, if your itinerary spreadsheet is in Excel.
- Take your set of copies and bring them with you on the trip.
I like to keep the copies I have of everything in an obscure manilla folder with “Don’t steal my shit” written on the tab. Make sure all the printed copies you take are kept in a safe in your room or secured in a bag with a lock.
If you’re ever in a crappy situation where you need to cancel a credit card, prove citizenship, access funds immediately or clarify reservations, you now have 3 options to choose from:
- Call a lifeline (your pal at home with the paperwork)
- Pull up your email
- Grab your folder with all your copies
All of these steps are precautions and give me peace at mind, even if the only thing I pull out of the manilla folder is my confirmation number for a flight. It’s better safe than sorry. Some say it’s anal. But I like anal. Wait. That didn’t come out right.
Did I forget anything? How do you organize for a big trip?