Welcome back, Weldonites. I hope you’ve found the first round of my international travel tips from my last post useful and you are all planning your next international journeys. “Preparing for International Travel” focuses on getting your shit together to have a successful trip – making sure you pick the perfect destination, getting your documents in order, packing your checked-luggage, and the importance of budgeting. By now, you are ready to embark on the actual journey – we want to make that processes as smooth as possible. Once all of the boring details are in order and your trip is planned and organized, it’s time to organize yourself. The night before/day of should be pretty easy since you’ve got the details ironed out. Let’s get started – you have a plane to catch.
Once your checked bag is packed (in addition to my last post, check out Shae’s packing post for more tips) it’s time to start figuring out what you will need with you while you are traveling. I like my carry-on to be a backpack with ample room and good compartments for organizing, although lately I’ve been thinking about trying out a leather tote to fill this need (let the budgeting begin). A backpack is nice because you can just throw it on your back and focus on the rest of your journey. Once you’ve picked your travel bag, it’s time to prepare what goes into it. Here is my list of things that should go into your carry-on:
- Toothbrush/small toothpaste
- Passport(s)/other travel documents – it’s important that these are very accessible and can be grabbed easily for going through security.
- Socks – your chosen airline may give you a pair in your seat-back pocket but the quality is typically pretty awful and will make your feet cry. Your feet will be cold though, so it’s best to BYOS.
- Zip-up hoodie or a flannel – basically, something to keep you warm on the plane. I think it’s best to wear something that doesn’t have to go over your head so it goes on and off a bit easier.
- 1 – 2 days worth of clothes – I always pack at least one pair of underwear and one clean shirt/dress when I travel. I’ve never had to use it but SHIT HAPPENS. You don’t want to disembark from in Chile only to realize your luggage has been lost and you have to wear stinky underwear (or none) until you get your bag back. Again, rare but be prepared.
- Chargers for your devices. I also have an external battery pack I bring just in case.
- Snacks – something non-perishable like nuts or a granola bar. I always have one or two granola bars tucked away in case the airplane food is horrendous. Chips should be avoided as they are generally high in sodium and you don’t want to raise your risk for dehydration. Fruit should be avoided as it is usually illegal to bring out of the country. I also brought a sandwich that I ate on my train up to JFK.
- All that cash money your bringing, tucked away in an un-marked envelope.
- Self entertainment – whether it be a good book or making sure the entirety of Serial is downloaded to your iPhone before you leave.
- Gum – helps with your ears popping on board.
And with that, you also need to think about what is not going in the suitcase. Here is a list of things to leave behind:
- Liquids greater than 3 oz – even though this has been a rule since 2001, I’ve still seen even the most experienced travelers get their favorite lotion or hair product or water bottle get taken away. It’s pretty depressing watching TSA throw out a $30 bottle of Clinique lotion. Don’t let this happen to you! If you want to bring your water bottle, make sure it is empty. For the lotion, either pack it in your checked bag or grab a mini-bottle for it at Target etc. These days I find the packaging is often labeled “travel ready” or even “TSA approved”, but so long as it doesn’t hold more than 3 oz. of liquid you will be fine.
- Razors, tweezers, and nail clippers – same deal as the liquids. I remember once traveling with my mom and her favorite pair of tweezers were taken away. She said, “I promise not to pluck anyone’s eyebrows”. Airport security did not find this funny and promptly threw them away right in front of us. Rude.
- Drugs – this should be obvious. I know people who have checked them and I don’t ask questions as to how they got away with it. I’m too much of a pussy and would rather not risk dealing with international law enforcement (or American law enforcement for that matter).
- Full makeup kit – I’ve seen many women bring their giant makeup bags in their carry-on bags but I just don’t think it’s worth it. I understand wanting to look cute after your thousand-hour flight. I typically will just pack a concealer for the bags under my eyes, an eyeliner, and a bronzer (depending on how pale I am feeling). This time around I checked all of my makeup – I’m visiting family, who cares.
- Fruit – as mentioned above, the country you are visiting more than likely has laws against bringing fruit and other perishable foods into their borders.
I would also consider whether or not you actually need your laptop. I have done trips with and without it. My opinion changes. Do what you wish – just keep in mind it adds a whole lot of extra bulk and unless you’re doing work, it could be a big distraction. In the age of the smartphone, you can probably get your internet fix without a computer.
Another note about electronics, which may only apply if you have family & friends abroad: if you are bringing electronics as a gift to someone abroad, take it out of its packaging and pretend it is your own. I know this seems extreme but taxes on electronics out of the U.S. are really insane and that is the reason why you’ve been asked to bring said electronic. You can still bring the box, just not sealed.
Dressing to Minimize Stress
The night before I fly out, after I have packed my carry-on bag, I put aside what I am wearing the next day. Although I admire women in heels and men in suits at the airport, I cannot imagine this is comfortable. I typically try to wear slip on sandals when I am traveling, but because it is currently the dead of winter I opted for short ankle boots that can easily be taken on and off. Your feet will most likely swell on the plane and so make sure to wear a shoe that doesn’t fit too tight. I’ve known people to pack a pair of flip-flops in their carry-on, especially when traveling to warmer places. Kind of wish I’d done that for this trip. I wore the socks I would’ve packed in my carry-on because it was so cold out. I have thought long and hard about the jeans v. leggings debate and I’ve decided that I prefer both. I wear jeans to and throughout the airport for one reason – pockets. I never know when I’ll need free hands or what not and I appreciate having a place to stick my phone/passport quickly. My iPhone survived a terrible drop one year that could’ve very well resulted in a cracked screen because I was rushing through security and stuck it under my arm. Once I’ve made it to my gate, I head to the nearest bathroom and get my leggings on. Boom – instant comfort. I also layer a lot. I wear a tank-top over a long-sleeve. This time I wore a jean jacket while traveling even though on the East Coast it is parka weather – there is just no reason for the extra bulk at the airport and I can make it through a couple of hours of land-travel feeling a little cold.
For an international vacation, you should plan to get to the airport no less than three hours before your flight time. This may seem excessive but international flights can be huge and packed with people and the check-in line alone can take up to an hour. Security can also take a great deal of time and, depending on the airport, your gate could be a ways away. Most flights start boarding an hour before the scheduled departure time and it’s a good idea to be comfortably at your gate (in leggings/comfy pants) before then. Sometimes, you are lucky (like me on this trip!) and there is no line to check in and you get TSA pre-approved and security is a breeze (does anyone know the method to this? I guess I look trusting). I got to the airport at four o’clock for my 7pm flight and made it to my gate by 4:30. In this case, you head to the airport bar, get yourself a beer and some french fries/a burger, and enjoy the mini date you get to take yourself on. Also, it isn’t a bad idea to eat before your flight. I’ve been on some where the only food I can stomach is the buttered roll served with the meal. I would rather have two hours to kill at the bar than be frantically running through JFK to get on my plane before the doors close (or worse – before my tickets are given away to pesky stand-by passengers).
Be ready at the gate by the boarding time printed on your boarding pass. Only in the most perfect world will you actually be on the plane at that time, but this is when any imperative information will be announced. Wait until your row is called, wait in line, smile, and get on board. Grab everything you think you’ll need out of your carry-on before sitting down and putting your bag above your seat. You can always grab what you need while you’re in-flight but I just like to be prepared/lazy.
Look at you! You’ve made it. You are on the plane. Enjoy whatever in-flight entertainment you’ve chosen and get some sleep. If you choose to drink alcohol on board, please drink water as well. Planes are very dehydrating. Avoid caffeine until morning so you can actually get some sleep. Triple-check your seat-back pockets before you disembark – that’s how 15-year-old Jules lost her iPod Classic on a flight to Hong Kong.
Enjoy your international vacation. Remember to reference my last post to make it a full success. I am always here so please, ask as many questions as you have – I’d be happy to give you my take on things. Tag your favorite vacation photos #30thandweldon on instagram(I KNOW YOU ALL HAVE THEM. SHOW THEM OFF). I would love to see photos of where you have been and I’ll do the same.
Now, it’s time for me to quit looking at screens and head to the beach!