As a professional organizer, not only is my life (both personal and professional) über “organized,” but, as you can imagine, so are my get-away-from-it-all-what-mountain-to-climb-next adventure vacations. This being said, it probably won’t come as a surprise when I confess that even before the wheels tuck themselves up inside the belly of the plane, I’m already thinking about where to go next. Organizing your travel documents is paramount.

For me, part of the excitement is in doing all the planning and organizing on my own, but trust me, I understand completely why some people prefer having a travel professional take care of all the details for them.

But…no matter if you’re planning the vacation on your own or hiring a travel agent to do it for you, the more research, preparation and organizing you personally do before your trip, the more enjoyable your experience will be.

This being said, the $64,000 Question still remains; how do you organize your travel documents in order to keep track of, categorize and organize all the reservations, tickets and little scraps of paper you’ve collected while planning your trip? I hope the following list of ideas will help:

Write it down: The only way I can stay on top of things is to write everything down. And I mean everything!

Pre-trip travel checklist: The moment I decide to take a trip, I start a “to do” list, which may include, among other things, the following: dog sitter, alarm company, home watch, flights, rental car(s), hotel(s), airport parking, passport, visas and vacation holds (mail & newspapers).

Hardcopies: I know it sounds crazy, especially since I’m a self-proclaimed techie, but I actually print everything out, including boarding passes, museum tickets, airport shuttle vouchers and hotel reservations. I like having an actual “hard copy” in my hand, which comes in handy when dealing with yet another airline delay or flight cancellation with only minutes to spare and a weak, or worse, non-existent, Wi-Fi connection.

After printing the hardcopies, I use a bright yellow marker to highlight the “important” information, including: airline flight locator number and toll-free number, the departure day, date and time and the 3-letter airport codes. I also highlight the day/date, time and location for any events, attractions and museums, as well as the reservation number for each event. Remember: don’t get carried away with the highlighter, otherwise it defeats the purpose.

Note: Before you depart, make sure all airline, car rental and hotel loyalty numbers are included in your reservations, as it’s easier to deal with these tasks before a trip, rather than afterward.

Clear poly-zip envelope: When planning a trip, I cannot live without my clear poly-zip envelopes, which essentially act as a “file cabinet” from the moment I start planning my trip until the day I return. (One envelope per trip.) Using my trusty label maker, I label the clear envelope with my destination and travel dates and put the travel checklist (above) inside. As each item on my “to do” list is completed, I physically cross it off the list and print out a hardcopy of the corresponding reservation, which then goes inside the envelope.

Post-it Note Tabs: To keep track of airline, hotel and rental car reservations, as well as event and venue tickets/reservations, I put a clearly marked Post-it Note Tab on the top edge of each reservation, essentially creating a set of “files” inside the “file cabinet” (i.e.: the clear poly-zip envelope). I stagger the tabs, which makes it easier to keep all of my reservations organized.

Cognizant that a “picture is worth a thousand words,” I’m including several photos with today’s column to share with you how this system works.