404 How paperclips make organizing passports easier

How paperclips make organizing passports easier

I used to fumble around airports and immigration offices looking through our stack of passports to find the one they needed at the moment. Not as fun as it looks with crying babies, disgruntled customs employees, and a line of people whispering about your obvious disorganization.

Then I learned of the trick to make things easier: using color paperclips on each passport. So simple. Whenever we need a specific passport, we just look at the paperclips. Now my kids don’t cry, customs employees smile and suggest the best local restaurants, and the line behind me breaks out in applause when they see my paperclips. Ok, maybe not, but that’s what I like to think they’re doing.

If you can’t find or don’t want to spend money on color paperclips, just tie a different color string or ribbon on each paperclip. Or attach a cute piece of washi tape to a paperclip. You can also attach nice washi tape directly to the passport, but my husband likes to keep things simple.

Other ways we organize our physical documents for travel:

  • We have a travel wallet for all things travel related. One travel wallet for the family. We keep our passports, membership cards, and local currency to our 2 most travelled areas (in our case we have USD and EUR). If we have tickets that we printed online and need to show, we store it in the travel wallet so we don’t have to look for it later. TIP: Buy a travel wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to spot and zips all the way around so nothing falls out.
  • Most travel wallets I see don’t seem like they can hold more than 4 passports. If your family has more than 4 passports, I hate to tell you, you just might need to buy two wallets.
  • We email copies of our passports and other important documents to ourselves so we know where to go to find them.
  • If, for some reason, we have more documents than what will fit in our travel wallet, we use a folder or binder. We put each document in their own page protector. It’s easier to find things when we flip through the pages.
The easiest solutions are the simplest. Using different colored paperclips to distinguish different family member's passports.

The best solutions are the simplest. (At a glance I can tell you my husband’s passport is not included in this photograph – he was traveling when I took the picture.)

So, this is how I handle paper documents, do you have any tips? Also, I know it’s becoming easier to use apps to organize digital information. Which apps do you recommend?

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.car battery for 2012 nissan altimadildo discount


  1. Love the paperclip idea! For some reason we have several passport covers so we just put the passports in their own, but set them in and not insert them, since the immigration people usually want them out. And so for Finn and Lila we put both theirs in one cover, so they each have 2 passports in one cover. We use a bright pink travel wallet, and put all our passports (and we have 6) in it, along with some money, Lee’s UK driving license, and other info, in it. It just closes 🙂 I love tripit as an app.

  2. What a brilliant idea!!!!! Totally bookmarking this.

  3. Great tips! I’ve thought about using a travel wallet, but have yet to decide if it’s worth it for us. I do use L-mapjes (as the Dutch call them); clear plastic paper holders for storing our e-tickets, maps and hotel confirmations. I may have to start using the colored paperclips for our passports. Even though there are only 2 of us, I hate flipping through them to figure out which is which 🙂 Thanks for the tip!!

  4. Great idea using colored paperclips! I put different colored sticky notes with our names written and they stick up past the top of the passport just enough to recognize the color and read the name. This usually works pretty well as long as you use the small super sticky post it notes. I like passport covers too but like Andrea said, the immigration officers often take the passports out anyway.

  5. Thanks everyone! And thanks for the tripit app tip, Andrea. I need to look into it. Gayla, I wish I was doing it even when it was just two of us. I also hate flipping the passports looking for the right one. Chamisa, I’ve heard of people using sticky notes especially with marking off certain pages for the stamp. If your passport is almost full and you need space to put in a visa or something, the sticky note helps direct the stamper into not using a blank page that’s needed for something else. They don’t do visas in the passport in Germany anymore, thank goodness!

  6. This is absolute genius! I am totally doing this.

  7. I really like this idea. We actually have 2 passports per family, one for official military travel and one for tourist travel. We always carry both just in case, and would be nice to see at a quick glance which is our tourist passport.

    • I’m surprised that you have to carry two passports. We didn’t have to do that when my dad was in the military, but things change. This would definitely help in your case.

  8. smart tip!

  9. You’re right about the best solutions being the simplest. Great tip.

  10. Brilliant. Going out to find colored paperclips ASAP. And we, too, love using Tripit to keep track of travel itinerary details as well as recommendations we get along the way.

  11. Great tip. We have a folder that we keep everything in- but in a rush- those colored clips would make a big difference!

  12. Great tips — staying organized is always a challenge!

  13. Once my husband became a citizen and we had four US passports, I put a small smiliey face sticker on each passport, each in a different color. Now I know whose is who when I give the passports to immigration!