Make a Family Travel Binder




Introduction: Make a Family Travel Binder

We like to travel; the trouble is, making plans ahead of time, and keeping everything together. This little binder project is easy enough to keep everything together on a trip, or handy for day trips. In a pinch, it wedges in neatly between the passenger seat and the center console on most cars, making it easy to pull out, and enter the next destination into your car’s navigation system, not to mention a way to keep notes, maps, and other materials handy and organized.

Given that everyone has a GPS Unit to help them navigate around in their car, this binder is intended to help you keep your itinerary in order and handy, so once you have finished visiting Attraction A, you can climb back into the car, open it up, and tell the GPS the address of Attraction B. While it never hurts to stop and enjoy the scenery or unexpected attraction, this will help you make the most out of your road trip, large or small.

Thanks to this project, we have driven from New England as far west as Utah and Wyoming, as far south as the Florida Keys, and as far north as Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada without any major problems to speak of.

To see where we have travelled using this project to help us on road trips, please visit Travels with Trixie.

Step 1: ​Make a Family Travel Binder #1: Materials


1. Avery Economy View Binder with 0.5 Inch Round Ring

2. Paper punch (get a 3-hole one if you can)

3. Paper

4. A computer, word processing program & printer

5. A GPS Unit for your car

6. Online Research & A Sense of Adventure!

Optional Materials:

1. Card stock or thin cardboard

2. Avery trading card holder sheet.

Online Resources:

1. The AAA Website offers excellent maps and attraction information with their Online TripTik page:

2. Tripadvisor offers review of many places that AAA does not cover; and helps with chosing hotels.

3. The National Park Service has its own site.

4. Check out state government and chamber of commerce websites for tourist information in the area you live in, or plan to visit. Most online maps also show some locations of parks and attractions.

Step 2: Make a Family Travel Binder #2: Outside

Back Cover Pocket

A good catchall place for maps and brouchures to help you find your way to your destination

Spine Pocket

Put in a great title like “Family Travel Plans”

Front Cover Pocket

Include information hotels will always ask you, including your name, address, phone number, e-mail, and your car information, which includes make, model and licence plate number.

Put photos of you and your car on the front to spiff it up!

For long trips, we will put a map showing our approximate route; just plot your entire route in an online map application, take a screen shot, then put the image into your cover document.

And if you forget the travel binder somewhere, people will know how to get in touch with you to retrieve it.

Step 3: Make a Family Travel Binder #3: Inside

Front Inside Pocket

Stash your hotel bills and receipts in the front pocket to keep track of your expenses on the road.

Back Inside Pocket

Keep spare paper and a pen in the back in case you need to write a note for someone.

Need more pockets?

If you have a lot of hotel, restaurant or store membership cards, get a trading card pocket sheet to store them in this binder. Use a full size sheet protector for an even larger pocket to store maps and brochures.

On the 3-Ring Binder:

Section 1:

Big Travel Plans! Use your computer to print out your full travel plans for your current trip. An example is on the next page.

Section 2

If you made arrangements through a travel agency, ask them to e-mail you the reservations, or get a hard copy; include it so you have proof of your reservations during your current trip.

Section 3:

A Bucket List! Keep your bucket list of nearby museums, parks, and attraction addresses that you might want to visit, so if you have a good free day there’s no excuse not to go.

Back Section:

Important Stuff! Keep a listing of any health issues or medicines you may have in the back, for quick reference. Copies of your car registration and insurance cards can be put here too for easier access. If you are travelling with a pet, keep copies of their rabies certificate and any important health records here.


Use cardboard or colored sheets of paper to divide up your sections to locate them more easily.

Step 4: Make a Family Travel Binder #4: Plans

Travel Plan Page:

Open a new document in a Word Processor program, and set it up like this.

The top in the example is your header area, and should be printed on the top of every page. For long trips, you will want to have one page per day. For such trips, I like to keep track of fuel cost and consumption.

Insert a table with three columns and ten rows to start with; at the top, put in the headings “GPS”, “Destination”, “Miles”, and “Hours”. This gives you a way to organize your itinerary, and figure out the time, and distance you need to drive. The “GPS” column is for general town and state entries in your GPS, the “Destination” column is for specific addresses and details. Add rows to the table as you add to your trip.

Using an online map application, such as the AAA TripTik map, have it plot a destination from Point A to Point B; you will get the overall distance and time to get there. Once you have the route, zoom in and follow it carefully; there are often good sites you never knew existed between stops. For instance, a drive between Brookings, SD and the Badlands passes near Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead in DeSmet.

This particular example is a day of a trip from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada to Amherst, Nova Scotia en route to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; the trip took about 12 days. While the total driving time for this leg of the trip was four hours, an hour or so is figured in for each site. Struck out items are alternative places to visit in case the important sites are closed.

In some cases, you will want to list down a WAYPOINT in these instructions to bypass areas where there is a lot of traffic. For instance, if you are following I-95 out of southern New England, you will want to tell your GPS to find your way to Nyack, NY; this will get you off of I-95, which comes to a standstill in New York City, and across the Tappanzee Bridge to the north, saving you time and aggravation.

Try to be reasonable on the times planned. I know I can only drive for five hours any given day, and it is easier to break it up, so we try to find sites to visit between Point A and Point B, and figure in the time for them.

Be sure to reserve a hotel ahead of time so you won’t be left in a lurch when you arrive, and try to have a “backup” hotel in case something is horribly wrong with the first one you picked.

TIP: Add in printouts of maps from your online map application to help you navigate.

Step 5: Make a Family Travel Binder #5: Day Trips

In a similar way, prepare some pages for day trips or destinations to have handy when you have a good free day to get away, or take your children on a trip. Call this your "Bucket List".

As we live in New England, we have seen plenty of things around Boston, but there is more to visit in the state that is further away. Anything that is a two hour drive away is fair game in this case, so we collected a listing of interesting sites on this table, with relevant contact information, approximate mileage and estimated driving times.

Some up with a list of things you want to view, or get photos of. In New England one of our pastimes is locating lighthouses to view and take photos of for our wall. To date, we have gotten to most of the ones within an easy drive from our home, so we don’t need to list them any longer.

Using tables and cells appears to be the easiest way to keep everything lined up and organized; and it provides a neat tick-off list for you as you explore your corner of the world - and beyond.

Trixie hopes this will help you with your travel plans. Have a safe and pleasant road trip!



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    11 Discussions

    The Beartooth is in northern WY, the couple was from WI and had no knowledge of local roads, they relied only on GPS.

    4 replies

    Just Googled the Beartooth Highway; we almost went on it visiting Yellowstone in Summer 2013, but opted for the southerly route out of Yellowstone via Cody WY (we arrived in Yellowstone via Jackson, WY) the idea behind a planning book is to let people plan trips ahead of time to figure out all the angles of a trek, rather than doing it by the seat of their pants.

    The Beartooth Highway is a great drive, I've been on it (summer was COLD!), and on the other roads into Yellowstone. Also on the three different ways to cross the Big Horn Mountains. ( I live in the Black Hills in SD). They are all great trips, too. I agree that planning your trip is a good idea and have nothing against GPS as such, I just think maps can be more reliable. And as I did on a few trips to AZ, and a few to Chicago, I always leave room in my travel plans to meander a bit if an alternative road looks interesting.

    Well, we hope to return to Yellowstone and try to make it to Glacier National Park someday, so we will keep the Beartooth Highway on the list of possible routes. Summertime routes (it was trying to snow in Mammoth Springs when we were there in late June!) During the day's drive from Cody WY to Spearfish SD on Route 14, the GPS was going bonkers here and there but overall it helped a lot and let us enjoy the scenery.

    Nothing wrong with being flexible; we use the binder to point the way from one hotel to the next, with a 'menu' of possible stops in between. Some are must-sees of course, while we might stumble on something remarkable in between the prime destinations, such as the scenery on Route 12 in Utah in the Dixie National Forest between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon.

    Be prepared for major switchbacks on the Beartooth if you go, and on the Chief Joseph road (between Cody, WY and the Beartooth if you go that way. I agree that the scenery in southern Utah is fantastic, from A(rches) to Z(ion) I went different ways through there on both trips to AZ. Someday if I ever get back to the eastern states, I hope to drive a parkway... the Blue Ridge. It's on my bucket list!

    It's best to also look at maps (I for one don't have GPS, don't want an electronic crutch) A couple last winter went over the Beartooth Highway because their GPS told them to. But it didn't tell them that the road was closed for the winter, so they got stuck in the mountains in the snow. Since they hadn't told anyone that they were going that way, they could have been there 'til spring. Luckily a rancher from miles away figured out that the missing couple might have done that so he went by snowmobile and found them. Maps of the area show that the Beartooth is closed in winter, so looking at one would have saved them a very cold and hungry time.

    3 replies

    Agreed, road maps are best to hang onto for reference, but if you do not know any better or someone tells you it is a "scenic drive" then you can run into troubles; we drove the Needles Highway (Route 87) in South Dakota a few summers ago, and while on the map it looks like a 'scenic' drive, it turned into a rather twisting slow slog to see some scenery, and had to negotiate some very tight tunnels in the car. As this was part of a drive through the Custer State Park, we assumed it might be easier driving, like the rest of the park, but it was not. It was far better than a drive listed in a National Geographic book for a route called the "Sandwich Notch Road" in New Hampshire that was more a wide woodland trail than a real road.
    GPS is certainly not perfect; I have driven in sections of Wyoming, Indiana, Georgia and Canada where the roads are simply not on the GPS map either, or attractions list an address that the GPS does not recognize.
    But given the option of GPS or no GPS, we have found that the GPS does make the drive easier - and you need to apply the proper amount of common sense as you travel too.

    I live in the Black Hills of SD, I've been on the Needles Highway many times. It's simply great on a motorcycle!

    I won't deny Needles Highway was a beautiful drive if you have the time, but on the East Coast we call such scenic rides with restricted access "Parkways" and were a little surprised at the very narrow tunnels and switchbacks along parts of the route which were not very evident on the road maps we got from AAA.

    As my cousin Isabelle tells us though, "If you can't put up with a little inconvenience when traveling, you had best stay home."

    You're welcome! I hope this proves helpful to folks planning their trips!