Your Must-Have Travel Binder

vacation

So, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I love lists. I love writing lists, crossing things off lists, and adding silly things to my lists just so I can cross more things off.

One of my favorite things about traveling is all the anticipation and prep work. I love planning and organizing trips. We do our fair share of traveling as a family, usually 3 to 4 trips a year, so I have this down to a science. Meet the Travel Binder!

I get a three hole pronged folder (it has to be flexible enough to carry wherever you go), and add these things to it:

1. Basic Itinerary
We don’t like to be locked into anything on any specific day, but we do like to have a basic idea of how each day is going to unfold. There’s nothing more aggravating than wasting half a day trying to figure out what you’re going to be doing that day. Remember, this doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can add or subtract or switch days. It’s less of a schedule and more a way to organize your “must-dos” and “must sees” along with any important information (such as dinner reservations, special events, etc.) For example, if I know the kids want to go swimming at the hotel pool every morning after breakfast, I’ll put “Breakfast at hotel, swim at hotel pool, afternoon TBD.” It gives an outline without giving a schedule.

2. Want-to-Try Restaurants
Thanks to restaurant review sites, you no longer have to pick a place to eat and hope for the best. Before we go anywhere, I check Yelp and TripAdvisor for the best restaurants in the area, and make a list, dividing it up by cuisine and part of town. That way, when we’re driving around, we can simply pick something off our list. We’ve found some great hole-in-the-wall places we never would have thought to try anyway, just by checking the reviews.

3. Activities List
I have a special needs kid. The first few days of any vacation are just plain stressful as he’s trying to get into a routine, and truth be told, he doesn’t sleep well away from home so there are some days where we don’t do much besides sit in the hotel room and rest. But, I always have a list of activities I would like to get to. Every morning when we wake up, we check the weather, see how the kids are doing, and choose something off the list. This also helps with the major time waster of:
“What do you want to do today?”
“I don’t know. What about you?”
“I don’t care, you choose.”
Three hours later, you’re still sitting there!

4. Phone Numbers
Phone numbers at the ready for hotels, airlines, attractions, and restaurants (to make reservations) are a huge time saver. Sure, you can pull it up on your phone, but having everything in one place is a lot more convenient and you don’t have to worry about having internet connection or not.

5. Directions
I always print directions and maps to and from some of the more important destinations. Things like Airport to Hotel and Hotel to Main Attractions. Cell phone reception can be spotty depending on where you’re going, and I’ve found that my cell phone often gives me the “cannot find destination” excuse. Having a hard copy of important directions or a map of the area can really come in handy.

What Is Your Best Tip for Staying Organized on Vacation?

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