Travel abroad can be exciting, adventurous, educational, and experiential. It can also create a bit of anxiety and fear. Much comfort and confidence comes from pre-trip preparation. Here are 8 tips for safe, relaxed, and enjoyable travel.
1. Once you know your travel dates, search for the best airfare. Keep in mind that reward point programs are changing so try to use your points before you lose them or cannot use them for the desired travel. We find the best search engines to be Hotwire, Travelocity and Kayak with best deals on Tuesday nights.
2. If you are travelling through multiple countries, be sure to check the most recent requirements for Visa’s. For instance, we just traveled to Turkey which requires a Visa for Americans. Until April 1, 2014, you could buy your Visa upon arrival. No longer can you do this. You must have it in advance. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be good for at least another six months beyond your trip.
Make copies of all security and identification documents like your passport and Visa. Keep the copies with you and lock your original documents in your room safe or hotel safe.
3. Create an organized binder of all documents. I keep a travel binder with dividers labeled itinerary, passage, maps and directions, and destinations.
Under itinerary I keep a chronological listing of destinations with contact names and phone numbers.
Passage includes airline tickets/itineraries, hotel reservation confirmations, destination/attraction reservations, copies of passport and visas.
Maps and directions include road maps of areas, detailed maps and directions for all destinations, regional maps of wine/viticultural areas.
Destinations include details of potential sites, restaurants, attractions, events, etc. for which I do not have reservations but may be interested in visiting. This section also includes Trip Advisor reviews.
4. Create systems for identification protection while travelling and site seeing.
If I do not need a purse, then I wear either a wallet around my waist or neck. In these I put my money, credit cards, and identification card, passport and visa copies.
If I need a purse/bag to carry camera, laptop, or notebook, then I use a shoulder bag with three straps. The two shorter straps go over my shoulder and the longer shoulder strap goes around my waist. This provides the extra security needed to minimize theft of the bag.
Men should always carry any valuables in their front pockets.
5. Develop a travel wardrobe. Every piece in your wardrobe should be hand washable with overnight dry time capacity. For example, if you are travelling 10 days, you really only need 2 pairs of pants and one skirt with four casual tops and one dressy top. Have all pieces mix and match. While one piece is drying, you have 2 other pieces you can wear. Chico’s offers a great travel line of just such clothes for women. As my wardrobe expands or as I replace items, the replacements are travel friendly. Paul recommends polyester shirts and no-wrinkle pants/suits for men. He uses black pants with mix and match shirts (colorful, of course).
For both men and women, it is better to travel with multiple lighter clothes that can be layered than to travel with heavy clothes unless you are travelling to very cold climates. Avoid cotton and wool anything. They take too long to dry.
If a coat is needed, try to find an all-weather style.
Also, take a hat (red beret for VIPs). Hats are stylish and provide warmth on the head and sun protection.
6. Check-in with your airline 24 hours in advance. Confirm that your flight itinerary has not changed, that reward miles were credited to your account if applicable and get your seats selected if appropriate.
If you are flying coach, always try to sit behind the wing as the view is much better there, food/beverage service usually starts at the wing and moves backwards, and if it is a wide bodied plane the last 2-3 rows are usually only 2 seats wide instead of three.
Using frequent flier miles for business class or first class upgrades is great if allowed. This is much more comfortable for long distance flights. Buy your economy ticket and then use the points to upgrade. This is usually cheaper than buying a first class ticket.
7. Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours prior to boarding for check-in. The minimum time required varies by airline and airport. However, we have had flight time change on us after online check-in.
Make sure that the airline has your phone number and email to alert you of changes.
Even with this we periodically check our flight status. There is a flight status app you can get for your smartphone that will give flight status for most airlines.
Make sure that your phone is fully charged before you leave for the airport. While on the plane turn off the phone in order to preserve battery life.
8. Checking through security
Paul recommends that you put all of your metal items and belt in your coat. Then put your coat in the tub. This is fast and efficient.
Avoid wearing boots as they have a metal shank that will set off the detector.
If you can get TSA pre-approved status and Global Entry, it saves much time.