The Trip Binder

I’m gearing up to publish Itinerary #2 soon, but there are just a couple more things I want to get posted before doing so.  Today is about the all-important Trip Binder.  This idea is a consequence of my obsessive need to get these trips as organized as possible before taking off for weeks on end with three kids and a car stuffed full of supplies.  They keep everything in one place… itinerary, maps, reservation confirmations, and all the stuff we collect along the way.   Make sure to have your trip binder organized and ready before you leave on your vacation, and keep it close to you the whole way through!  I keep mine lodged right between the driver and passenger seats throughout the trip.

To get started, purchase one 2-inch 3-ring binder, a set of dividers, and a package of transparent sheet protectors.  First, print out a final copy of your itinerary to put in the book.  You can either place it inside the transparent front cover, or put it in a sheet protector as the first page in the binder.  If you’ve made a calendar (which sometimes helps on long trips), you can also print that out and place it inside the front or back cover.


Next, you are going to label your dividers.  I don’t make a divider for every day, but rather for every major destination.  This way each divider holds all information necessary for a few days at a time.  For example, one section might be Crater Lake National Park and hold all information for Crater Lake and your visit to nearby Bend.  Another section might be Portland, and hold everything related to your plans in the city.  Create your sections in ways that make sense to you, but make sure to line them up in chronological order of your trip!


Next start adding in your pages.  Here is a list (in order) of things I print out, 3-hole punch, and place in the binder under the appropriate divider:

  • A copy of your campground or hotel reservation so you always have proof on-hand that a reservation was made, and so that you have any posted instructions for arrival at your fingertips.
  • Directions for every drive.  I carry a road map in the car and have my phone, so this might seem redundant, but you never know when you might need them.  I still use them to cross-reference where the navigator on my phone is sending me and to drive into remote areas where my phone doesn’t always have service.  Plus your navigation devices might send you to the wrong area in the same park, so you want directions that you’ve looked at and confirmed on hand before you leave on your trip!
  • Safety information for each area you are visiting.  Make sure to look online and see if there are any posted articles about road construction or animal sightings that might influence your activities.   A lot of park websites will have handouts posted for ongoing safety issues at their park.  I often print these out and have them in the binder so I can talk to the kids about them when we are at the campsite.
  • Printed tickets for any activity for which you’ve made reservations.  I’ve pre-purchased and printed tickets out for museums, zoos, rodeos, festivals, ferry crossings, historical tours, and rafting excursions.  It’s easiest to put these in a page protector and insert into the binder.
  • Brochures, day hike lists, and maps of the specific area you will be.  Spend time researching each area online before you leave and print out the important information about things you want to do.  I love having  a list of popular day hikes for each national park we are visiting in my binder.
  • Any interesting historical or scientific information that you definitely want to share with your family while you are out.  If you can’t find a printable handout, just copy info to a word document, print it out, and stick it in your binder!  It all makes for good reading material while you are driving.  Well, not for you, obviously, but for the people in the car who aren’t driving.
  • Make sure to insert at least one extra (empty) page protector into the binder for each divider section.  I use this to store the maps, postcards, receipts, stickers, park literature, brochures, parking tickets, and other small “souvenirs” we collect a long the way.  It’s great to have one place to put all that stuff, or your car becomes cluttered with paper very quickly.


The best part of all?  When you arrive home, exhausted, and have the first day of school staring straight at you, you can rest easy knowing your ‘scrapbooking’ for the trip is basically done.  Everything is already in one place, in the order that you did it, complete with not only your plans, but all the bits and pieces you collected along the way.   If you’re like me and hate to scrapbook, then feel comfortable shelving these little binders away knowing that the job is done and neatly organized.  However, if you love to scrapbook, you can still shelve the binder away knowing that when you find the time to start the project, everything you need is there waiting for you to make something creative and beautiful with it.

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I hope I’ve sold you on the Trip Binder concept.  When you are living out of your car for thirty days, I think it is very important that you have everything you might need at your fingertips.  Not only does it minimize potentially dangerous distractions while you are driving, but it also makes it a lot easier to keep track of all the little things related to your trip, and when you’re dog tired and have a car full of restless kids, making everything as easy as possible is just a part of good planning.

That’s it for today!  I hope everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors this weekend!

Happy Trails.