How my travel wallet reduces travel stress

If you’re like me, you have lots of stuff that ought to be with you when you travel.  When preparing for a trip, it used to be a bit stressful trying to ensure that I had packed the right ID cards, credit cards, lounge passes, etc.  And, invariably I’d realize later that I got it wrong.  For example, I’ve previously forgotten to bring a hotel gift card that I had planned to use when checking out.  Similarly, I once forgot my Amex Platinum card for accessing an airport lounge (but that particular lounge let me in after giving them my Amex Platinum credit card number which I keep electronically for such purposes).

I completely eliminated this particular stress of travel a few years ago when I bought a simple travel wallet.  My travel wallet contains all of those fit-in-a-wallet things that I might need when traveling.  The only exceptions are the cards that I keep in my everyday wallet (which also travels with me), and travel things that don’t fit in a wallet such as a spare phone charger, ginger pills for motion sickness, etc. (these stay in my travel backpack).

I keep my travel wallet at all times in my travel backpack.  That way, my travel wallet is always with me when I travel.  I never travel without my travel backpack!

What to put into your travel wallet

  • ID cards that you don’t keep in your everyday wallet.  Your passport, for example.
  • Foreign currency for those countries that you visit often.
  • Credit cards that are useful when traveling, but not for everyday spend (hotel cards, Amex Platinum cards, cards that refund incidental airline fees, etc.)
  • A debit card with no foreign exchange fees and which refunds ATM charges (but only if you don’t keep it in your everyday wallet)
  • Airport lounge access cards, such as Priority Pass
  • Public transportation cards (e.g. metro card)
  • Travel related gift cards
  • Discount cards
  • Membership cards

Here are specific examples found in my travel wallet:

ID Cards

From left to right: PADI Dive Certification, Global Entry ID, and Passport

Credit Cards I use for travel, but not at home

The Amex Platinum card is great for access to certain airport lounges. It is also useful to have on hand for emergencies (it offers Emergency Medical Evacuation, for example). The Citi Prestige card has a great perk: 4th Night Free on hotel stays, but you must check-out with this card. By keeping it in my travel wallet, I’ll never forget to have it on-hand during a 4th Night Free stay.  If I had the Hilton Aspire card it would belong in this wallet too since it offers 14 points per dollar at Hilton properties and $250 in annual credits for spend at Hilton resorts.

Lounge Access Cards

My Amex Platinum and Priority Pass cards offer access to many airport lounges around the world. The latter now includes free meals at many restaurants. Also shown is an expired United Club one-time pass. United now issues these electronically, but I kept it in the photo to show the type of lounge access cards I keep in my travel wallet.

Public Transportation Cards

Public transportation cards for DC, NYC, and London

Gift Cards, Discount Cards, and Miscellaneous Other Stuff

From left to right: Delta employee recognition voucher, Gogo free in-flight internet pass, Heathrow Rewards membership card (not sure why I keep this), and a Fairmont gift card

Wallet recommendations?

At the time of this writing, I don’t have a specific recommendation for a travel wallet that you can buy.  The one I have is good enough, but doesn’t have a change purse which would be very helpful with foreign currency.  I’d also like one with more card slots.

What about you?  Are you happy with a particular wallet that we can recommend?  Please comment below.

Update: Our own Stephen Pepper highly recommends a brand called “Big Skinny”.  Here’s our Amazon affiliate link to the Big Skinny passport wallet selection.  Also check out his post about his wallet on his No Home Just Roam blog: Review: Big Skinny Wallet With Zippered Pocket

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Gene
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Gene

OMG, your photos could be of my travel wallet contents (except your photo, as that would be super-weird 🙂 ).

Matthew @ airsicktravel.blogspot.com
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Matthew @ airsicktravel.blogspot.com

I use a thick rubber band to hold all my travel cards that I keep in my backpack, cheaper than a wallet!

Belinda
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Belinda

Excellent idea! I will adopt. Right now I have a travel drawer in my kitchen. I keep passports, foreign currency (per country in a snack size ziplock with change and subway card included), small plastic rain ponchos (for any Disney destinations), etc etc. But, my lounge cards are all over…and so are my credit cards. Some on my desk, some in wallet. Once I book a trip I start making a pile of the stuff like this we need. On my kitchen counter. It’s really a mess. I take more of this kind of stuff on a trip than I actually do clothing! It’s so stupid we still have all these plastic cards and cash I think. And cords! Ugh. I wish everything everywhere was just usb and your hotel provided cords for you. And the airline! So the foreign currency coins are really the thing that gets me…I noticed at Hilton’s in Japan they leave a small envelope on the nightstand to donate coins to some cause. I always leave my coins there. No tipping in Japan. Coins are heavy, can be easily mixed up at home…I can’t tell the Hong Kong from the Japan ones anymore…that’s why I use the Ziplocs. My other trick is to give the coins to a kid back at home…as a souvenir. But that only works about once per kid. I heard someone say they load their Starbucks card at the fioreign destination with excess currency. But USA Starbucks cards are are only compatible with a few countries…Hong Kong, England…not japan, I don’t know who else. Once in London I had my husband apply our excess currency to our Hilton bill before checkout. The clerk was annoyed and actually told us “you know you could just use this money to buy stuff at the airport if you wanted to get rid of it!” Really? And then carry it all home?

Spencer
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Spencer

Before my trips I make sure I know which priority pass membership cards pair with which credit cards. The first time I realized I had 3 very similar priority pass cards I saw the need for this!

Lynn
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Lynn

I cannot believe I never thought of this. I actually DO have a wallet I use for travel only that is smaller than my everyday wallet, but never thought to permanently keep things in there. I usually just move everything I want to bring with me over. Genius!

Julien
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Julien

I like the Bellroy stuff, they have a whole travel wallet section
https://bellroy.com/products/category/travel-wallets

ZeroMile
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ZeroMile

I have a travel wallet too, with some additional items: a Charles Schwab Bank Debit card , International driving Permit, and a pen.

docntx
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docntx

MY “Big Skinny” by now looks like George Constanza’s wallet after it ate 25 Big Macs.
Oversize currency (like Euros) is a pain.

Geo
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Geo

What do you use for a travel backpack

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[…] Confusing New Baggage Policies May Alienate Passengers Last Week At The Lounge: September 29, 2018 How my travel wallet reduces travel stress Hyatt Takes a Stand Against Free Speech, Will Ban Disfavored Groups From Holding Events  JetBlue […]

J Cannon
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J Cannon

We had to rethink my husband’s long time travel wallet during our recent trip to Paris. He had a bifold travel wallet with velcro closure that was very strong. The wallet also had a strong chain that attached to his belt loop. He’s taken many trips with that wallet with no incident – until Paris. When boarding a train to the airport he was surrounded by three pickpockets that bumped and pushed him about, being very loud in the process. My husband is in good shape and the aggressiveness of these men took us totally by surprise. Next thing we knew they were hoping off the train before the doors closed and my husband barely made it on. My husband spotted his wallet lying on the floor of the train! The chain had been cut and fortunately they dropped the wallet in the process. It left us shaken and so thankful he grabbed his wallet off the floor before they did. As soon as we returned home we looked into other options. Now he has a small front pocket wallet that only holds five cards (not all credit cards) and an ID. He will never keep his money and credit cards and passport together. The passport (if not locked in a safe) will be around his neck and inside his clothing. Same for any large amounts of money. His credit card and limited cash will be in his front pocket or a inside zipper pocket in his coat. It will not be carried in a backpack because we have seen pickpockets grab and run with backpacks. Now that we know how aggressive they are willing to be, we will be that much more prepared. As a final note – we both always travel with different credit cards. Should one credit card be stolen the other person has a credit card that wasn’t affected.

Chucks
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Chucks

Why not just use the Priority Pass app digital membership and kill a card? App is pretty handy for checking lounges and keeping track of all the new restaurants as well.

You don’t need your global entry ID unless you’re hopping between Mexico and Canada, I believe.

askmrlee
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askmrlee

Yes you typically don’t need the Global Entry ID, but the program materials mention that should the kiosks not be operational you can show GE ID and get front of line privileges, thus they recommend you carry the card. A colleague of mine complained about long lines at SJC upon arriving from LHR because the kiosks didn’t work that day. I keep my GE card in my passport cover/wallet.

asdfas
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asdfas

top 10 travel article of the year imo. too often find myself wishing i had my PP card or lounge pass or gogo code.

great idea to get organized

A++

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[…] writes an article on Frequent Miler about keeping a “travel wallet”. Since I was just burned by not having the correct cards with me and having to pay for a lounge […]

David
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David

I do the same thing but I use a PacSafe RFID-tec 225 RFID-Blocking Ticket Organizer (Vertical card pocket on the right hand side)
Not sure if it is made any more

nadball
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nadball

I use Big Skinny wallets. https://www.bigskinny.net/travel-wallets.html. These guys have somehow made a wallet that fits all my stuff without bursting at the seams. The nylon ones are machine-washable, and all the wallets are fairly slim when you load them with cards. I like the Polka Accordian Card case (https://www.bigskinny.net/polka-accordion-card-case2.html) to organize my “sock drawer collection” of cards.