How a 50-Cent Folder Can Keep You Sane on Your Next Family Road Trip

When you are faced with the task of preparing for your family vacation, Pinterest is riddled with fancy ideas for a smooth trip. You could get lost in the searches for license plate games, maps to color, and new games to make for the road. I find such lists exhausting, since I am not the over-achieving type of mom. Maybe you are not one either? Never fear, there is a simple way to save your trip from chaos, and it starts with a fifty-cent folder.

The cost or style of the folder does not matter, just find the closest empty folder and make it work. All that you really need is a pocket or two, but if you want to take the time to punch holes, buy a folder with clasps and you will be set. Or just buy a few zipper pouches and you will not have to worry about anything falling out. The next step is to fill your folder with the essentials for your trip.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Confirmations

You are likely to have at least one confirmation for your adventure, whether you are flying or driving. It helps to put all of those papers in the same place and have them handy at the rental car counter or the hotel check-in desk. If you print them before you leave you will not have to worry about your phone’s battery dying or searching through your emails when everyone is cranky at the end of your traveling. This also gives you all of the phone numbers and addresses you may need and you will be glad to have them if you need to change any reservations due to flight delays or detours.

2. Maps

I am well aware that I am the only millennial who keeps an atlas (a giant book with paper maps for all 50 states—think Google Maps before the internet) in her car, but I prefer the paper. We live in a rural area where all map apps frequently lose their signal. We also have a minimalistic data plan, so the paper maps are frequently lifesavers for my family. Nothing proves more stressful on vacation than being lost in a new place with a malfunctioning GPS, so if you like paper maps, store them in your folder too. That way you can save Google Maps for when you are in a real pinch, rather than using them for the entire trip across the country.

3. Tickets for Attractions

My family enjoys taking in a baseball game when we travel. We enjoy seeing new ballparks and my son collects a souvenir bat at each stadium he visits with his grandpa. We print our baseball tickets and add them to the travel folder so they are never left behind. The same works for concert tickets, museum tours, theme parks and any other stops you make.

4. Brochures You Collect Along the Way

Every rest stop offers a chance to scout out new attractions in the brochure rack. You could find the best stop ever on the way home, but without a designated retention spot, that brochure will get lost. You can often find discount offers or learn about fun stops on the way to your planned museum stop by spending a few extra minutes perusing. Putt-putt scorecards and any other paper souvenirs also fit nicely with these brochures.

5. Receipt Collecting

If your vacation is on a tight budget, you will need to keep track of how much money is left. If you are planning for next year’s budget, it will be a good idea to know how much to save for lodging, food, gas, and souvenirs. A folder gives you a great place for collecting all of your receipts to help keep your finances on track.

6. Busy Papers

I know I promised not to be an overachiever, but when it comes to traveling with kids, it is best to plan for the worst. You’ll likely have a bag with toys, books, crayons, snacks, etc., but back up may come in handy when you hit your third construction zone of the morning or another flight delay. Print off some coloring sheets, a license plate search, or a fun game the whole family can play so you can be prepared for boredom. Just a few options could get you through the day with your sanity intact.

So head to the nearest shopping center and fork over a half-a-dollar and keep your family’s next road trip on track. A cheap folder and a bit of organization in the few days before your trip can make you the family’s vacation hero.