How to Stay Organized for a Big Family Trip

When you’re traveling with little ones in tow, there is a lot to keep track of. You’ve got to make sure you have all the essentials for their care in transit and at the destination, and luggage doesn’t always lend itself well to being able to get what you need quickly without a lot of digging and rearranging. On top of that, you’ve got to make sure that everyone in your family gets something to eat when they need it, has a chance for a diaper change or bathroom break on a regular basis, and gets enough sleep on the go. It’s a lot to keep track of, which is why I don’t like to leave anything to chance when it comes to knowing our itinerary and having all necessary paperwork and information for travel at hand. In order to stay organized, I put together a trip binder to stow with the laptop. If I need to know what flight we’re on, the itinerary is right there. If we’ve got to fill out customs forms with passport numbers and where we’re staying on arrival, the information is all in one place. Particularly in the case of multi-destination or international travel, I find this to be a must have. Here’s how I put it together, and what goes inside.

Our current trip binder is just a simple plastic report cover with page protector sheets inside, available at any office supply store. Each page protector holds specific information, and I use stick-on neon tabs to make it easy to flip to the right page in a hurry. Below is what I put in the binder.

Basic Itinerary This is a very simple itinerary that lists where we are going and when. I include flight numbers for the flights and addresses and phone numbers for the hotels where we are staying. This page goes first, and I also include our contact information in case the binder is lost.

Flight Itineraries This is usually just the printed page from the flight confirmation that I receive in my email inbox. It lists our flights and includes a phone number for the airline and our confirmation number, should we need to make flight changes.


Boarding Passes If we can print at home in advance, we do. Otherwise, we put the boarding passes in this pocket once they are printed at the airport. It’s easy to retrieve them when it’s time to go through security, then again when it’s time to board. They don’t get lost or rumpled in someone’s pocket, and the trip binder is off limits to our children, so no one has a chance to pull them out and play with them.

Hotel Reservations/Confirmation This is more detailed information than I put on the basic itinerary, and similar to the flight itinerary, is simply the confirmation email, printed off. It’s got our reservation confirmation number, as well as any specifications we’ve listed when we booked, such as a request for a travel cot for Elvie or pre-paid meals at the hotel restaurant. Because different hotels offer different amenities, this is also a nice reminder of what has been reserved or requested for that particular hotel stay.

Passport Picture Page Copies In the event that a passport is lost or stolen, a copy of the picture page of each family member’s passport can be the difference between a quick embassy visit and an extended one. If we have extra passport photos, I put those in as well.

Pertinent Medical Information Especially now that Elvie is traveling with us, it is important that we have all the basic information related to her healthcare needs in an accessible place. For each member of the family, I list medications, allergies, and diagnoses that are being treated. I learned the hard way that it’s quite difficult to get medical information from one doctor to another over the phone, so now I bring essential medical records along with me.

Maps I am not good at navigating by smartphone alone; I like to see a big overview, and I do better with a map in my hands. In one of the pockets, I put a laminated map for each of the cities we will visit.

Miscellaneous Information This pocket holds everything from bank phone numbers in case of lost or stolen credit cards to our travel insurance policy to contact information for local friends in the cities we’ll be visiting. It’s the catchall of, well, miscellaneous information.

Once everything is in the binder, my mind is at ease. I know that if we need something, it will be at our fingertips, and it frees me up to focus on all the other tasks of travel. With the help of our binder, before we know it, we’re settled in our hotel and ready to enjoy our destination. Ah, that feels good.

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