International Travel Hacks

Monday, June 22, 2015

That's me circa 2010 in Gleneagles, Scotland :)

International travel is an absolute blast. In fact, I actually prefer international flights over domestic ones (one of the many reasons being a guaranteed selection of movies depending on your airline).

I've blogged about international travel/packing tips before, but in this post, I want to round up some of the best ones - a collection of travel hacks, if you will - that I've come across over the years since I first flew overseas about 10 years ago (!!!). I'm dividing them up into categories, too.

With that said, let's get right to it. :)

Before You Start Packing
  • Make sure your suitcase meets regulation weight. You don't want to have to pay extra for your suitcase to board the plane with you, or worse, have to leave things behind. Check out your airline's website for more specific details.
  • On that note, check your phone carrier, bank, and other important places like that to let them know that you'll be leaving the country and to set any international modes/alerts.
  • Make sure you purchase the correct adaptors for your country, and that you double-check to make sure they're the right ones you need.
  • As far as your actual suitcase goes, make sure you bring one that's easy to spot at baggage claim (and won't get easily stolen), like one in a bright color or anything other than black. (EVERYONE carries a black suitcase.) Or, if you do have a black suitcase, just add bright belts or ribbons, or a pom-pom. :) The possibilities are endless. Also, ones that spin on four wheels are great to carry into larger airports.

  • Roll. up. your. clothes. I can't stress this one enough. Rolling reduces wrinkles and frees up TONS of space for more items, especially if you want to leave room for souvenirs. This works best for lighter items (T-Shirts, dresses, light shorts/pants, leggings). I would fold up jeans and heavier clothing, like raincoats.
  • Along those same lines, tiny rubber bands go well around rolled clothes in thinner material so they don't slip. This is purely optional, though.
  • I learned about packing cubes last year, and they're another great way to compartmentalize and further organize your travel gear. Amazon has a great selection.
  • Want to pack things flatter? Try two-gallon zip-loc bags. Pack/roll your items, stick them in the bag; zip up the bag until there's about an inch and a half-two inches open, then sit on the bag to let all the air out before zipping it fully closed. You've just created your own DIY vacuum-sealed bags.
  • Pack an extra change of clothes in your carry-on bag (whether or not you decide to pack checked luggage). You want to be prepared in case your bag gets delayed in transit or stolen.
  • Pack a copy of your passport to put in your suitcase, then carry your actual passport on your person. This is a safety regulation no matter where you fly outside the country.
  • Consolidate as much as you can. This means going for electronic books or a Kindle instead of bringing individual paperbacks, bringing things you can re-wear and/or wash, etc.
  • Make sure all of your liquids and gels are either packed in your checked luggage and/or all packed in a quart-sized zip-loc bag. If you're pressed for space, remember that you can buy a lot of your toiletries when you get to your destination, depending on where you're going. With that in mind, you'll be able to pack just the absolute necessities (like any medicines) and save a lot of room.
  • Plan on wearing your bulkiest items on the plane, like heavier shoes. This is another easy way to free up space.
Plane Travel
  • Don't bring any beverages into the airport (because they'll toss them at security), but it's a good idea to bring your favorite dry snacks from home. Otherwise, you can buy drinks and snacks after you get through security to bring on board. Airplane meals only happen twice, depending on how long your flight is, and you may want to snack on something you enjoy in the meantime.
  • This works for all plane travel, but bring or buy chewing gum if your ears tend to pop/you get headaches easily on planes.
  • Bring fuzzy socks to wear at your seat on the plane. The vents can get really, really cold, and you don't want frozen feet when you're trying to relax on a long flight.
  • I've said it before on this blog, and I'll say it again: scarves make great pillows or blankets on long flights. The same also applies to light sweaters or cardigans.
  • Other things I like to make sure I bring on the plane include:
    • Headphones (noise-canceling or not)
    • A book of some kind (usually my iPad so I can load up Kindle books for an entire trip)
    • LOTS of great music
    • Other things to do (work, getting a head-start on travel journaling, etc.)
When You Get There
  • If you're in need of buying toiletries (toothpaste and/or other liquid items), pharmacies are your friend (at least in Europe).
  • If you take underground transportation, take your time and read signs carefully to make sure you get where you need to go. This also applies to airports and train stations.
  • Make sure you have your camera, because you're going to want to take all the pictures and enjoy every second of your adventure, even after you come home. :)
  • Don't forget to document your trip! A journal is a great idea, and you can even use a glue stick to adhere business cards, programs, brochures, 
I hope these tips helped you out if you're planning on traveling internationally! :) Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments.

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