Travel tip: keep important docs in a separate pouch in your carry-on

By John Walton, August 6 2012
Travel tip: keep important docs in a separate pouch in your carry-on

With carry on bags getting smaller and less briefcase-like as laptops and other personal electronics shrinking in size and weight, we see many travellers fumbling to organise the pieces of paper we all use to travel.

Airline ticket confirmations, hotel booking printouts, rental car reservations, directions... watch at the airline or hotel check-in counter to see how many people are hunting around for pieces of paper.

I like to solve this problem with a brightly coloured memo pouch or document wallet -- brightly coloured so that it stands out in my bag and is obvious if I happen to forget it where I've put it.

A cheaper though slightly less elegant solution: corporate document wallets
A cheaper though slightly less elegant solution: corporate document wallets

That way, if it's still dark on the hotel bus to the airport in the morning, and you suddenly realise your printed boarding pass isn't in your pocket, you can easily find it in the dark without things spilling everywhere.

When you're booking flights, hotels and rental cars, keep the document wallet near your desk, slotting in things like airline confirmations, hotel bookings and rental car reservations. Taking multiple trips? You or your PA can use different wallets for each trip.

If you're on a longer, multi-stage trip, consider a concertina-style pouch like the one I use, or separate the different segments out with sticky notes. Slap a sticky note with the destination written on it sideways on each airline confirmation, and use the confirmations as dividers in your file.

The document wallet is also a top place to store receipts for when it comes time to submit those vital expense reports. If you have an assistant or accountant who does them, you can send them all off lock-stock. Even if you're doing the accounts yourself, at least everything's uncrumpled and in one place.

Top tip: if you're on a multi-country trip where different currencies are involved, it's very helpful to separate out receipts by currency in one of the pockets of a concertina-style pouch or a separate document wallet.

Full-size or half-size?

You probably don't need one that's full A4 paper size unless you're wrangling a serious amount of paper. Larger document wallets are good for regular pieces of paper, but smaller bits of paper like receipts, baggage tags and boarding passes tend to go astray in the bottom.

Consider a pouch that's half the size of a piece of paper or the size of a piece of paper folded into thirds.

I use a Moleskine Memo Pocket -- large size, and in a bright red -- but your workplace stationery cupboard or an office supply store should yield something equally suitable.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2553

I've got some of those A4 plastic document sleeves for this purpose - most of them are just a single sleeve but somewhere I found one which opens into two sleeves, which is ideal for quick and undemanding trips.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 157

I too use a plastic A4 sleeve with my carry on but I also have PDF copies of all my relevent travel documents stored on my iPhone as well as storing them on my GMAIL documents. Having them in more than one place and especially accessible online provides just that extra safeguard.

The other important document to always have readily available is the one with the details of your travel insurance.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

I use a travel wallet that I've had for years when I travel. It fits about ten cards (ie frequent flyer card, spare credit card, health insurance etc), has a zip up pocket for some spare currency, a space for passports, a pen and 3 very handy boarding pass sized slots which easily fit pages of A4 paper that have been folded to DL size. It's so handy to be able to carry everything through the airport, especially overseas if immigration wants to see a hotel booking or something and you can just whip it out without having to open up your bag.

21 Apr 2011

Total posts 42

I just use the iPad and store the PDF's for airline eTickets, Hotels and other bookings. Sure there's a remote chance that I'll be left with a flat battery, but not a great one, IMO.

Even in India, where you were required to have a printout of an eTicket to access the airport, they people that matter have been ok sighting an electronic copy!

Printing out "e-bookings" just seems counter intuitive to me.

Qantas Platinum

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 48

I'm using a Victorinox travel wallet. It does not win the design price but the interior is very handy with pockets for currency, passports, boarding passes, cards, pen, etc. It has a separate zipped pocket that I use for all the receipts so that they are handy when returning at the office for my expense claim. Also an exterior slip in pocket to have your boarding pass handy. And for 25 dollars it's not difficult to forgive the aesthetic shortcomings.

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