New web-based tools make tracking your trips painless, filtering out important travel information from your confirmation emails. But keeping track of passport, visa, and credit card information requires more planning and work. Follow these tips to send all of your important information to the cloud, before your plane leaves the ground.
Forward to TripIt. This free web-based service (www.tripit.com) tracks all of your important travel information -- including flight confirmation numbers, hotel stay details, and even restaurant reservations -- with ease. Simply forward your reservation confirmation emails (the site is compatible with emails from hotels, airlines, third-party booking sites, and OpenTable) to TripIt, and the site will file your information in an intuitive format, allowing you to share details with social networking sites, create a calendar feed, or keep everything to yourself for easy access from the TripIt website, or from your smartphone on the go.
Use Your Camera. There's no faster way to capture important printed details than to pull out your camera and snap a photo. Take pictures of all of your important travel documents, including travel agency itineraries, passports and visas, and the front and back your credit cards. Simply label the files and email the photos to yourself, perhaps updating your email account with a more secure password if you don't already have one in place, and delete credit card photos from your camera -- it's painful enough to lose vacation photos; you don't want a thief to end up scoring photos of your credit cards as well.
Share with Friends. Consider emailing important trip information and document photos to a close friend or relative. If you happen to lose your passport or credit cards while abroad, your friend can help out from home by calling to cancel and replace your credit cards, and can even fax a photo of your passport if you need it -- some immigration offices may not have Internet access, but there's a good chance that you'll be able to find a fax machine nearby. Sharing your hotel and flight information with a friend may also assist officials from your home country get in touch with you abroad, to offer evacuation assistance during a natural disaster, for example.
Print it Out. Digital tools often make our lives easier, but occasionally they just can't compete with old-fashioned paper. Make photocopies of your passport and visa (if required), and slip one copy into your luggage, and another into a backpack or purse that will travel with you each day. Also make printouts of all of your flight itineraries -- especially if your trip abroad involves stops in multiple countries before you return home. On a trip from Bangkok to Seoul last week, an overzealous team of airport check-in agents refused to hand over my boarding pass until I produced printed evidence of my outbound flight from Korea, claiming that it was the airline's policy for one-way flights (my next flight was to Beijing, not back to Bangkok), in compliance with a South Korean immigration policy. The agents sent me to an Internet café at the other end of the airport to make a printout -- a confirmation number or email on my laptop did not suffice -- nearly causing me to miss my flight.
Have some document storage and tracking tips of your own? As always, feel free to share them in the comments section below!
Having visited nearly 30 countries on 5 continents in the last decade, Zach Honig's fascination with travel has clearly become an obsession. Follow Zach on Twitter (@zachhonig), or check out his blog, Tech, Travel and Tuna, to keep up to date on his latest adventures.