Does anyone else spend the first few weeks of the new year getting organized? Something about putting the Christmas decorations away seems to inspire a cleaning and decluttering spree for me. Although my closets and garage can definitely use some serious attention, my travel life often needs a good refresh as well.
Let’s face it – travel requires a lot of planning. From getting the right kid travel gear to packing it all to booking all the pieces of a trip like airfare, hotels, and rental cars, traveling isn’t for the disorganized. Why not start the new year off right by getting your travel life in order too?
Here are my best tips (including some things I’m doing this very weekend myself) for getting organized for travel in the new year. The garage and the closets can wait… planning for travel is much more fun, after all!
1. Make a family packing list
One of the most basic ways I streamline and organize my family’s travel life is by having a comprehensive packing list saved on our computer. Before every trip, I pull it up and make a few modifications based on the destination. I can then can start my packing almost immediately. Having a list at the ready is such a time saver.
2. Stock up on travel toiletries
There are some items you need to take on every trip: toothpaste, shampoo, first aid, etc. I find it saves a ton of time in the days before a trip to already have those key toiletry items somewhere in my medicine cabinet. In the new year, take stock of what travel size toiletries you have and make a drugstore or Target run to grab any missing ones. You’ll thank yourself when packing time comes for your next trip.
And, if you are feeling particularly ambitious, consider pre-packing a toiletry kit for everyone in your family. I keep a mostly-packed toiletry kit with essentials always ready for my kids and for me.
3. Sign up for frequent flyer accounts
Do you have frequent flyer accounts for everyone in the family for each airline you fly? If not, why not? I can’t tell you how many friends I know who forget to get accounts for themselves when they fly an airline for the first time. Even more common is that they forget to sign their kids up for frequent flyer accounts at all. Don’t leave miles (and free travel) on the table!
My just barely 2 year old already has United and Southwest frequent flyer accounts and is accruing some serious points towards a free flight. I won’t even tell you how many programs my 6 year old participates in…
If you already anticipate flying a new airline in 2016, go ahead and get mileage accounts set up. Also watch for any refer-a-friend promotions during the year that might allow you to refer your kids to get bonus miles for both them and you when you sign them up for a new account.
4. Get Award Wallet
Does the idea of having so many frequent flyer accounts and needing to track them all hold you back from doing more with miles? Never fear – there’s an app for that. Award Wallet is the gold standard for tracking all of your airline and hotel loyalty accounts. Best of all – the basic version is free. You can also track everyone in the family under a single account. Sign up and enter your account numbers and passwords so you can begin monitoring everything in one place.
5. Get the right apps for your next trip
Having the right travel apps on your phone is extremely important for use while traveling. Depending on WiFi and cell service, you may not always be able to download them at the moment you need them. I always have the app for any airline on which I travel on my phone at all times.
Some of my other travel app favorites: TripIt (for tracking travel reservations), FlightAware (for tracking delays and information like where your flight is coming from), GateGuru (shows restaurants and shopping near you while in an airport), and Hipmunk (for easy flight searches).
And, of course, if you are headed to Anaheim, these are the Disneyland apps you need.
6. Start booking!
Have you booked any travel for 2016 yet? If you are eyeing a last minute trip for January and February, there are deals to be had right now. And it’s already time to book for the busy spring break travel season as well as for many summer destinations.
Happy 2016 travel planning!