So, you’re getting ready to go on a trip. Whether it’s business or pleasure, organization is key! Ever forgotten something at home? Brought too much? Lost something? Had a toiletries make a mess in your suitcase or carry-on? Yep, it seems to happen to the best of us.

Well, fear no more! Here are some tips on how to be more prepared and become the best travel organizer you can be.

Write out Your Travel Itinerary and the Activities You Want to Do

Just like you can’t build a beautiful house without a solid blueprint, you can’t have a successful, organized trip without a proper itinerary. The planning process is essential to any trip, and if you’re going to be organized on your travels you’ll have to begin by being organized while making your plans.

Sure, you can start with some general ideas and abstract brainstorming, but eventually you need to decide exactly where your travels will take you and what you’ll do at every destination. Be sure to write out this information in a neat, organized way so that you can refer back to it without causing confusion. This document will be your touchstone throughout the process of making reservations, and it will then guide you on your trip.

If you doubt the importance of this step, imagine arriving at your destination without a plan, looking around an unfamiliar place and wondering, “now what?” That can be a pretty lousy feeling, so head it off my getting your itinerary right from the start.

Make a Detailed Checklist, Prioritizing Your Items

Do you always seem to forget something every time you travel? We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun to be halfway around the world when you realize you forgot your prescription medication on the kitchen counter at home. The solution? Make a detailed checklist!

Write down each specific item you plan to bring with you — from that necklace with the green accent gems right down to your trusty tube socks. Be as detailed as you can, deciding exactly what it is that you want to bring before you actually start packing. You should a;sp refer to your travel itinerary and activities list to help figure out what you to bring.  When you’re done, you can just throw it all in your suitcase! Easy enough, huh?

It’s also helpful to list your packing items by priority — pants, for example, should prooobably be more of a priority than that third extra pair of shoes that you miiight want to wear with that one outfit. That way, if you want to whittle down your list and lighten up your bag, you’ll already have a good sense of which items can most easily be left at home.

Also, remember that hotels provide many amenities — towels, toiletries, hairdryer, etc. So you can save space AND won’t need to bring that big bottle of shampoo that will, inevitably, no matter what you wrap it in, leak all over your suitcase.

Make Copies of Travel Documents

Things can get lost or stolen at any time, but the items that can cause you the most grief if they disappear? Your travel documents!

Make copies of your passport (just the ID page is fine), driver’s license, flight itinerary, hotel confirmation, credit cards, airline ticket (if available beforehand), foreign visa, and traveler’s check serial numbers (if applicable). You should scan them and email them to yourself so you have them on your phone, but also be sure to print out paper copies of them as well because it’s possible to lose your phone, too! Without those documents, you’re basically unidentifiable.

You’ll thank yourself so many times over, especially if you run into any problems.

Download Apps to Organize Your Trip

Technology can go a long way toward making your trip more organized, both while planning and while traveling. There are applications specially designed to be a travel organizer and make your life easier on the road, and seasoned travelers have been swearing by them for years.

TripIt is a favorite for its ease of use and incredible utility. Just uploading confirmation emails allows the app to make a complete itinerary and store all the information is an easy-to-digest format. There is a paid version of the app, but many users insist that the free variant is all they really need.

App in the Air is another great option for frequent flyers, because it gathers all flight details into one place and even accounts for mileage programs. Like “TripIT,” only email confirmations are necessary for the app to learn everything it needs to know.

All this itinerary-making work can of course be done manually, but the travel organizer applications are wonderful time savers for busy travelers.

Manage Your Money

There are a few things to keep in mind with money, especially when you’re taking advantage of cheap international flights to travel outside the country.

First, be sure to notify your credit or debit card company before traveling internationally so that you’re authorized for purchases – otherwise, they can interpret international purchases as fraud and freeze your account – NOT good! You need access to your money!

Also, be sure to check and understand the exchange rate before you travel. This way, there won’t be any surprises when you check your account balance.

Finally, research the tipping etiquette of wherever you’re traveling. Tips tend to be more modest in Europe than in America, for example. It’d be a shame to spend money that you didn’t have to, and on the flip side, you don’t want to be that jerk who stiffed the server at a restaurant. Know before you go!

Check Out the Parking Situation Before You Arrive at the Airport

Imagine this: After what seemed like a ten-hour long drive to the airport, you’ve finally arrived. You’re running tight on time, and now you have to deal with – PARKING? Where do you go? Who do you ask? There seems to be no one around to ask, and there are angry, rushed drivers all around you.

Which garage/lot is the correct one for your terminal? Can you park there overnight? It’s $50/night?!

Yep. Stressful, right? We’ve all been there. Go online or call the airport to ask about parking beforehand. If it’s too much of a hassle in your mind, you can always take a car service or public transportation to the airport – two options that often end up being cheaper or equivalent to parking, anyway.

Unpack as Soon as You Can

Rummaging in a suitcase every time you need something is a serious pain. You clothes are liable to get wrinkled, and nothing is as annoying as rifling through a bag full of clothes in search of a needed belt with an impatient taxi driver honking the horn outside. Avoid these hassles by unpacking your bags as soon as you can.

Suitcases and backpacks are great for getting all your things from one place to another, but they’re not much fun to live out of. Once you get to your hostel, hotel, or rental apartment, get everything out of the bag and into cupboards, shelves, or drawers. This one little step will save you endless frustrations during your trip and allow you to recreate the organization you’re used to in your settled home life. Even if you will only be at your destination for a short amount of time, life is easier when everything has its proper place.

Have any tips on being organized while traveling? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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