Friends, Readers, Countrymen… It’s time to talk about travel tips for the hopelessly disorganised.
Who am I to talk about this? Well, I’ve travelled professionally for the best part of a decade and unprofessionally for a decade or so before that. We’re talking all around the globe, on my own, as a couple, in a group and with a baby.
And, once upon a time, I was hopelessly disorganised.
Time was, I set an alarm 40 minutes after I’d finished packing in order to go to the airport. Then there was the time I arrived in Dublin with no underwear. And four pairs of trousers.
And while there is plenty to be said for living in the moment and keeping plans flexible, there are also a lot of good things to be said about having a clean pair of pants.
Plus, as the adrenaline fades with age, it’s just no longer enjoyable to be careering from one crisis to another.
Fortunately, with age comes experience and after travelling to 50 or so countries, I have improved. My innate loathing of administrative tasks has also led me to find travel tips and tricks that save time and cut out the boring bits, which leaves more time to travel.
So, without further ado, here are seven travel tips for the terminally disorganised.
Some people write lists every time they do something but that wastes time as you write out the list .
On the other hand, not having a list means that you are using up precious brain energy in remembering a whole load of dull information. OR you forget said information (and, ultimately, pants.)
The solution? A master list, a trick picked up from my surgical days.
To get a patient ready for theatre, lots of fairly trivial things need to take place. Patients need to wear ID tags, complete consent forms, have their limbs marked, stay nil by mouth and so on. If any one of these is wrong then big problems result.
So, hospitals have a master checklist stapled to the front of a patient’s notes. When someone completes the consent form, they add the paperwork to the folder and tick the task off the list.
Likewise putting ID tags around a patient’s wrist and so on.
So that’s what I do with big trips. I have a master travel checklist saved on my computer and print out a few copies every now and then.
Every time a new trip comes up, it’s time for a new plastic folder and a pre-printed list.
The master list sits at the front and I can tell at a glance what needs to be done. I don’t have to rifle through everything, trying to remember whether or not I have the car parking details or the check in time or the booking confirmation or whatever.
The task is done, the paperwork goes into the folder, the master sheet is ticked, ta-dah!
It also reminds me of things I otherwise forget (like transfers from the airport, online check-in deadlines etc.)
This has saved me more time than I can fathom. You know all those things you ONLY use when travelling? Plug adapters, money belts, passports, suncream ;-)
Why put them away all over the house?
Chuck them in the travel drawer. Easy to find when packing. Even easier to unpack into – just tip the contents of your suitcase out and you’re done. Plus, you’re more likely to remember all those annoying little things you otherwise forget (bag for laundry, cases for glasses, blister protection. Stuff.)
Hm, so OK, you can’t stretch to a full time PA just yet. Opt for a part time virtual one instead. There are plenty of different options, with some directed squarely at travel, but the best one I’ve found is the more generic Fancy Hands.
You purchase a number of tasks in advance and then ask the online team to do anything you like (within reason.) You can submit requests on your phone or online and assistants are available 24-7. They can place phone calls for you and spend up to around 50USD on your behalf.
I use them for preliminary hotel research, directions to and from the airport, calling a hotel if I’m going to be late, asking them to sort out alternative arrangements if a flight is delayed and so on.
Plus, if you sign up over here, I get a small amount of money and you get 50% off your first month. Everyone’s happy :-)
Ah, passports. There’s no easy way around this one I’m afraid.
You just need to become obsessive about it. Is it in date? Does it have enough blank pages for the country of your choice?
Will you need a visa? How long will that take?
Are you going to have to become fancy and schedule things because you need more than one visa and have to factor in that each embassy will hold onto your passport for a certain amount of time?
Do the photographs you need for the visa have strange size requirements? (I’m looking at you, India.)
Check, check and check again.
I don’t mean the really terrifying worst case scenario (plane falls out of sky) but the more everyday aggravations like lost luggage, delayed connections and so on.
What would you really, really struggle to replace? What would leave you injured or well and truly inconvenienced?
Typical examples include prescription drugs, glasses and contact lenses and clothes for extreme weather. Make sure that you have these (!) and that they go into your hand luggage. If you’ve well and truly run out of time, then all the rest can wait.
Yes, that’s right. Simply drive up to the airport and let someone else worry about the parking. Swap hauling luggage (and possibly children) on and off infrequent buses for gliding right into the terminal. Fewer details to remember, too.
A good place to look for comparing prices is SkyPark Secure – and if you use my readers’ code, you get 10% off (plus I get a a small percentage, at no cost to you.)
Here’s the code: ITL10
Sometimes, it’s liberating to admit defeat. For the most part, I love independent travel.
I like setting my own itinerary and I like having the breathing space to adjust according to the weather, jet lag, and tips from someone I’ve met on the ground.
But, sometimes, even I have to admit it can be helpful for someone else to take care of everything else. AND pick you up. And get you where you need to be.
When I’m working, that’s often a fixer or tourist board rep but there are some good travel companies who will do all this for you without it feeling like you’re on a cookie-cutter mass produced mess. To date, I’d really recommend Audley but as I find others I’ll let you know.
So that’s it: my seven travel tips for the hopelessly disorganised.
Disclosure – some of these links earn me money at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend services I use myself and that I feel would be valuable to you. Otherwise, well, life’s just too darn depressing. Also, not every link I recommend results in anything financially useful for me (alas!) I just include it for the same reason: that I think it will be useful and it’s something I’d use myself. Happy travels!