Recently I’ve just completed a trip outside of United States. I am not a world traveler and I learned a few hard lessons that I would like to share with you. Here are the top ten suggestions I’d like offer to make your overseas travel a more smooth experience than mine was.
I have written them from my perspective which is that of an American traveling to other countries. It is also worthy of note that I travel and thus write from the “coach” perspective as I have never traveled “first class” and so can not comment on that experience.
Here are some of the things I learned.
1. Airline Food. If you request a kosher meal you will probably be served before the other passengers. This may get you some grudging looks from the other passengers but at least it will give you time to actually eat something before the flight attendant comes back to take your tray. In addition some airlines offer a children’s menu. This is good to know just in case your son or daughter isn’t a great fan of steam leeks. It is a lesson I wish I had in advance and it particularly sinks in when the child in the next seat over is munching on chicken tenders rather than the aforementioned creamed leeks on your child’s tray (sorry girls).
2. Claim and Recheck Baggage. Much to my dismay, I learned upon my return to the United States that I needed to claim and recheck my luggage before I could make my connecting flight. If you don’t know this, then you don’t know to build an extra hour into the time you need to make your connecting flight and end up rushing about the terminal like a fool.
3. Travel Light. You may be able to expedite your entrance and departure from the airport by forgoing the use of checked baggage and using a carry-on only. In addition to the hassle of checking bags twice as mentioned in number 2, you save loads of time otherwise spent standing about the luggage carousel in the herd with the other travel beasts of burden, while you await the appearance of your luggage (which looks just like every other piece of luggage) then fighting your way to the front of the line before it disappears through to baggage handlers port of no return before your eyes.
4. Show Me the Money. Rather than exchanging for local currency before you begin your journey, you may wish to stop at an ATM in your network when you arrive for some walking around money. Large financial institutions get a better exchange rate than an individual can secure.
5. Protect Your Documentation. Scan copies of all your passports and travel documents. Then save them to a USB compatible storage device. I put mine on a lanyard around my neck. Wherever you put yours make sure it isn’t the same place as your passport. One of the things that make this so important is the brisk market for stolen travel documents. This is not a day in which you can easily explain how you indentification became involved in the commitment of some fraud on soil that is not your native home.
6. Share the Plan. Register with the U.S. State Department. This will provide a way for you to be contacted should there be a family emergency while you’re away. However, advise your family of what constitutes an emergency you should be contacted about. It may be callus but I tell my family, unless it is something I can do something about from 2,000 miles away don’t tell me until I get home. Another benefit of this service is that it provides a way for you to contact family if you encounter an emergency someone at home can help with while you are abroad. Plus, it’s free. I’m a big fan of free.
7. Are You Really in Good Hands? Advise your medical insurance providers that you will be traveling out of the country. You may need to purchase riders or supplemental coverage to protect you while you travel. There are also some quality policies you can purchase from independent providers who specialize in this type of protection.
8. Reach Out and Be Touched. Arrange for your airlines to email, text message (international travel cell phone required in some cases), call you with changes in your flight arrangements. This could have saved me several hours worried waiting when terrorists bombed a nearby airport on my trip.
9. Drink Bottled Water When Traveling. Request bottled beverages if you are not sure of the source of the water. Read this for more information on advices on water consumption.
10. Relax. You might as well. You’re traveling in a foreign country and your fate is in the hands of people you’ve never met before. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it so you might as well enjoy it. Life is about the journey, after all.
Editor update: Updated the title, introduction and #9 to avoid confusion.
Reg Adkins writes on behavior and the human experience at Elemental Truths.