Sunday, April 10, 2016

Staying Happy Travel Tips: The Folder

File this under marriage advice, as well.

We are lucky and get to travel quite a bit. And the actual travelling, transporting your body from home to somewhere else and back, is usually stressful, frustrating, and prone to error. Especially living in China, we hear a lot of horror stories from lost documents to messing up visas. Trying to make things as idiot proof as possible is key, whether you travel every couple of months or every few years.

Tired of searching for passports, fumbling in the airport for boarding passes, constantly forgetting where we put our Chinese Departure Cards (which they give you when you receive your Arrival Card. You don't actually need to keep the departure card side as there will be some available at the airport, but it's nice to not waste paper and to be able to fill out the form in advance), scrounging around for pens, etc, I put together The Folder.

Missing from the photo are paper clips and a couple of envelopes to sort out things like new vs. used boarding passes, keep maps and other paperwork organized, and have official forms together and on-hand.

We keep our passports in The Folder at all times (thieves, unless we're waiting for a visa renewal, it's in the black bookshelf to the right when you come into our apartment). We keep a handful of pens, highlighters, and Sharpies in there. Post-it notes are super handy. I like to use them to mark the last entry stamp into China and my visa page to speed things up when going through Immigration.

We are crazy about keeping everything in The Folder while we travel. The moment we get our boarding passes and baggage tickets, they go in there. Yes, we're constantly opening and closing The Folder while we go through various checkpoints, but it's easier than trying to remember which pocket you put it in and having moments of panic trying to figure out who had the passports last.

The only stress is figuring out who has The Folder. (Just kidding, it's always me.)

Presumably other people have similar strategies. If you care to share, please comment below!

Secondary travel tip - Check your passport & visa situation (duh?)

This should be common sense but over and over again we see people failing to do this. I think the more you travel, the more you take for granted. And this can be an expensive mistake to make. 

Many countries require at least 6 months before your passport expires when you visit. We know a family whose amazing spring break trip didn't happen because one of their children had a passport that is due for renewal in slightly less than 6 months. Which they found out at the airport. And they are super educated, well travelled people. Lesson: Teach your kindergarteners to maintain their own records. 

We also have friends who have had relatives rebook their flights at full cost because they didn't realize that you needed a visa (which EVERYONE does, basically, unless you are Chinese) to visit China. Or friends from the US who assumed they could get into Australia sans visa and had to pay a fee at the Shanghai airport to get a rush visa, right before their flight.

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