For the past four vacations our family has gone on, I’ve assembled a simple Family Vacation Folder. Prior to this, I used to suffer from what I’d call Vacation Planning Anxiety. You know, those nagging thoughts that may come: Did I book the airfare for the correct dates? Do our hotel check-in/check-out dates line up with our schedule? Have we forgotten anything?
Not only has putting a folder together like this reduced so much stress, it’s become a wonderful document to refer back to. We can see where we stayed, how much the trip cost, and how we laid out past itineraries. I keep the folder in the car or plane with me and typically find I use it constantly during the trip. Even if you’re a person that likes to handle everything via mobile, I believe you would find a folder like this to be of good use and a nice “back up” plan.
I like to use a simple pronged portfolio with 2-folders on the inside. You can often find these on sale during back-to-school season in the summer. Even off-season, you can probably find one for under a $1.
Here are some of the components I put in mine. Of course, you could add whatever applies to your particular trip:
I love having these high-level pieces in place. We have an upcoming Disneyland trip and we’ve been budgeting for it since last June. It really helps to pay for things in stages like this! On my budget I’ve made notes about how we paid for it, if we still need to pay for it, etc. I’ve also estimated incidentals.
An itinerary is useful, particularly if you’ll be going to different places on different days.
I loved the way I laid out my itinerary on last year’s roadtrip: I included important phone and confirmation numbers right on the sheet. I loved being able to email this to a few family members for emergency reference, too.
Here’s another easy method for laying out a rough itinerary:
I just printed out a blank calendar for the month of our trip in Outlook (but you could also find a similar template online, I’m sure). Then I made rough notes about where we’d be, and when. This may be useful for the initial planning stages of your vacation too.
Hotel and Transportation Reservations.
I know many people may like to have this available on their phone, but I personally like to print out this information as well and keep it tucked in my folder. Our folder for our upcoming Disney trip includes reservation print outs for hotel, air, rental car, and dog boarding. I still need to reserve our airport parking.
Maps, directions, and other helpful notes.
I don’t print many maps, because we do use a phone and atlas for bigger roadtrips, but I may print out directions to points of interest or things that I’m curious about during my vacation planning. Here, I printed out a map with directions from our hotel to Disneyland because I was curious about the distance.
Envelopes for Receipts.
I very much use this folder throughout the trip, which means stuff often gets added to it along the way. One tip you might find useful is to put some envelopes for sorting receipts. At the end of the trip, you’ll be able to see how much you spent on food, gas, souveniers, etc. This can help you more effectively budget for your next trip.
Here are a few additional things I’ve put in my folders before:
- Copies of insurance cards and paperwork. Good idea if you’re planning on renting a car! Last year, I also ended up at an urgent care clinic on a trip (don’t worry – nothing too serious!), and realized I’d left my insurance card at home. Thank goodness my husband had his in his wallet. I now have a copy of all four of our cards that goes in the folder, along with a copy of our most current car insurance policy and roadside assistance information. You may wish to use this as a gentle nudge to call your insurance rep prior to your trip to make sure you’re adequately covered.
- Car rental agreement. If we rent a car, I like to put the agreement with any receipts into the folder for safekeeping.
- Attraction & event information. One of the reasons we’re headed to Disney is so I can run the Star Wars Half Marathon. It’s important to me that I’ve included information about the Expo, my race waiver, and course map in my folder. If you have a special event or attraction you’re hoping to hit on your trip, you could include necessary information in your folder.
- Brochures and mementos. A trip folder is a good way to keep those postcards, brochures, and other similar souveniers neatly organized when you get back from your trip!
I love having these vacation folders as reminders of special memories our family has shared. Not only do they help you stay organized for your vacation, they serve as a nice token of your trip after you return, too.
Now it’s your turn: have you ever put a folder like this together before? Do you have any ideas on what else you might include?
PS you might want to check out these posts for more reading:
- 21 Things We did on our Vacation in the South
- Roadtrip Report (2013 Yellowstone Trip)
- 6 Things We did to Save on our Disneyland Vacation
- How We Saved on our Disney World Vacation (Post 1 of 2)
- How We Saved on our Disney World Vacation (Post 2 of 2)
- Is the Disney Dining Plan at Disney World a Good Deal?
- Even more tips on the Travel Page of my Blog