Things to Consider When Flying or Traveling:
Choose Nonstop Flights:
If possible, this is one of the best ways to avoid a delay in getting to your destination. If there's a choice - this is always worth a shorter travel day, even if it costs a bit more.
Book Directly with Airlines:
It's easier dealing with airline changes and cancellations without having to go through a third party booking site. It's also less hassle if you are entitled to a refund. This will save you numerous future headaches!
Carry On Luggage:
You've seen the photos of the thousands of bags piled up (especially at European airports) due to striking baggage handlers and staffing shortages. Pack lighter (lay out the bare essentials before you go, and then just take half of those!). Keep in mind many items can be purchased at your destination (sun screen, toiletry items, hats, umbrellas, etc). Be sure to check your airlines' bag size requirements and any additional fees they have for extra weight or pieces of luggage as these can add up quickly (Budget airlines like Wizz Air or Ryan Air are notorious for these kinds of surcharges). Pack the essentials you will need for a day or two in your carry-on (ie, medications, light change of clothes, etc) in the event that your luggage is lost or delayed.
Early Morning Flights:
Statistics show that the first flights of the day have the least chance of being cancelled. Just something to consider if you have a choice…
If you can't escape a layover, be sure to allow yourself at least a few hours for your connection. With long customs lines, having an hour or two may not be enough time for an international connection. Also, with most planes flying at capacity, it'll be harder to get on the next flight if you miss yours.
Arrival at Airport:
Arrive with twice as much time as you think you may need! Airports are also short staffed and you will most likely encounter long lines (even if you have TSA Pre). Save yourself some stress and allow plenty of extra time.
Be sure to make a reservation if you plan on parking at the airport. Everyone is on the move and parking lots may be full if you haven’t planned ahead.
If you're departing on a cruise or tour or have a special event to attend, plan on arriving 1-2 days prior. If you encounter a delay or cancellation you'll still have a buffer to get there on time.
Locator Air Tags/Tiles:
Consider attaching these to your luggage and/or carry-ons (purses, backpacks, hand bags, etc). These devices can be attached to almost anything and then tracked via a free app on a smartphone or tablet. The main purpose is to help you find things that are often misplaced, but can also be used to locate things that have been lost or stolen
While I have typically avoided getting travel insurance in the past, these days with COVID and all of the airline cancellations, luggage problems, and logistics issues, travel insurance is a very good idea, particularly for more expensive cruises or long distance flights. They often cover lost luggage replacement and medical costs as well refunding or re-purchasing tickets as necessary.
Photocopy all your travel documents:
Make sure to take a photo of all of your important travel documents (passport, drivers license, tickets, vaccination card, itinerary, etc). Keep a copy on your phone, email yourself a copy (in case your phone is stolen), and if possible, keep a paper copy on your person as you travel. It will help expedite things if you need to contact an embassy or the police.
I highly recommend getting a small travel pouch that you can wear around your waist (inside your clothes) or that hangs around your neck and tucks inside your shirt while you are in travel commute mode. Put your important documents there (passport, tickets, cash money, vaccine records) so that you can keep these safe even if your luggage is stolen or you are pick-pocketed
Put Unique Identifiers on your Luggage:
These days so many pieces of luggage look alike. If you don’t have a piece of luggage that already stands out (ie, it's bright green; has a fun unique pattern on it; has stickers on it, etc), attach some colorful ribbons or some other unique identifier to the handle so you can locate it right away. This can help save time and anxiety at the airport and protect you from others who may mistake your luggage for theirs.
Be Efficient When Packing Clothes, etc: Here are some things to think about:
1) Bring a minimum of any type of clothing (ie, 1-2 T-shirts; 1 shorts; 1 long pants; 1 warm item; 1 walking shoes, 1 comfortable shoes (sandals etc), 2-3 underwear/socks; 1 sleeping item; 1 bathing suit, etc). Remember, you can always buy anything you might need on the road. Rather than pack more clothes, bring a little bottle of laundry soap and plan to wash items in the sink at your hotel.
2) Try to make all of your clothes fit one color pallet (ie, white -> light blue -> dark blue -> black; or white -> tan -> brown -> black) so that you can mix and match everything you brought in any way you like.
3) Don’t bring or wear anything that you would regret losing or getting stolen. This holds true especially for jewelry, watches, etc.
4) Don’t bring or wear anything that might attract the attention of a pick-pocket or thief (this not only holds true for jewelry and watches, but also for handbags and purses)
5) Don’t pack anything that requires special care or that can’t easily be washed in the sink and hung up to dry. Light non-wrinkle items are great, as are silk clothes if you’re in warm climates.
6) Label everything you have. Put your name on all your items; put your business card in all of your bags, purses, and travel pouches; engrave your name on all your valuable metal items (cameras phones, etc)
7) Take a picture of everything you are packing so you can show it to the insurance company, police, etc, if needed
8) If size and weight are an issue, plan to wear your largest and heaviest items on the plane. On airlines with limited weight constraints, I always wear my heaviest jacket, shoes, and trousers, and pack my pockets with any heavy items I might have.
Computers & Plugs:
- Back up all your computer drives, thumb drives, etc, before you leave home. If possible, make two external hard-drive backups and leave one at a friends or family members house in case your home is robbed while you are gone (I only mention this because it has happened).
- Be sure you know what kind of plug or outlet they have in the places you will be traveling. It is much easier to buy a universal adapter before you leave than to locate one wherever you are headed. I always bring a universal adapter plus a small multi-plug extension cord or adapter so that I can plug several things into the wall at once (computer, phone, etc), or so I can still plug something in at the airport or on the plane/bus if all of the available outlets are currently in use.
- It’s well worth bringing a small portable external battery pack for your phone. They are not that heavy or expensive, and are incredibly useful if you plan to spend the day walking around a city, or if you're on a long flight or drive without plugs available.
- Be sure to carry at least two different credit cards or means of electronic payment in case one of them is lost, rejected, or stolen. Take a photo of your cards so you have a backup if needed. If you can, bring cards that don’t charge you foreign transaction fees (ie Alaska Airlines Visa doesn’t and certain United Travel Awards Programs don’t, but most others do). Check with your bank to see what your card allows and what the charges are.
- Credit Cards will often cover primary or secondary car rental insurance. Be sure to check with your bank about this to avoid having to purchase unnecessary (and expensive) insurance from the agency where you are renting. Renting a car with a credit card that offers primary car rental insurance can save you hundreds of dollars by allowing you to decline the car rental agency's collision damage waiver offer.
- Before you leave, call your credit card company to let them know your travel plans, otherwise they may initially decline any purchases made abroad if they think your card had been stolen.
- Although it’s extremely unlikely to happen, you may consider getting a special sleeve for your credit card that prohibits thieves from scanning your card through your clothes. Credit card protection sleeves are readily available on Amazon — OR — instead of buying a special sleeve, you can also wrap each credit card in aluminum foil and place the wrapped cards in your wallet. The foil shields the card from scanners.
Check with your mobile phone carrier to see what their international calling/texting charges are and consider the following options:
1) Many of the major service companies (Verizon, AT&T, etc) will offer a daily, weekly, or monthly plan with a per-day charge that will help you avoid expensive roaming fees while abroad. Check with your phone carrier directly to learn more.
2) You can purchase a local SIM card from most any phone service shop in your destination country once you arrive. These shops are often located in the airport or train stations themselves. It will require that you take your current SIM card out of your mobile phone and store it somewhere safely. There are usually a variety of plans and price options to choose from. The new SIM card will come with a new phone number. Your old number will be returned back to you once you put your original SIM card back in the phone.
3) You can rent or purchase a prepaid or "burner" phone (a "burner" phone is a term that describes cheap, discardable phones someone uses for privacy protection with the intention to dispose of them after a few uses, especially if a number is compromised). Prepaid phones can usually be found in retail electronic and discount stores, many of which are located in the airport you'll be arriving at or in the train stations you'll be using. Burner phones allow you to bypass expensive international call rates and protect your phone number privacy when you're overseas. It’s also an advantage if you don't want to risk losing or damaging your cell phone while traveling. The disadvantage is that it will not have your address book, pictures, apps, accounts, or anything else available to you that you normally store on your cell phone
4) There are also digital eSIM card companies that have plans you can purchase. An eSIM is an industry-standard digital SIM that allows you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without having to use a physical SIM. You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone and use two phone numbers at the same time. The advantage to these is that you don't have to take your physical SIM card out of the phone and thereby risk losing or damaging it. The digital SIM cards can work in multiple countries and the pricing is usually pretty cheap. It's also easier to find your phone in case it is lost or stolen since network providers can control eSIM's remotely. The disadvantage is that they are un-usable in countries that don't support eSIM technology.
Here is the list of eSIM carriers in North America:
- United States: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon.
- Mexico: AT&T, Telcel, Movistar
- Canada: Bell, Fido, Freedom, Koodo, Lucky Mobile, Rogers, Telus and Virgin.
To convert a physical SIM to an eSIM on your iPhone:
1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular.
2. Tap Convert to eSIM. If you don't see Convert to eSIM, your carrier doesn't support this option. ...
3. Tap Convert Cellular Plan.
4. Tap Convert to eSIM.5
5. Wait for your eSIM to activate. ...
6. Remove the physical SIM from your iPhone.
5) While sometimes less convenient but usually not hard to do, put your phone on airplane mode (this will prevent your phone from automatically roaming and racking up bills), and just plan to go online when you can get access to Wi-Fi. Most hotels and AirBnB's will provide you with WiFi, as will libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, and many places of business. Apps like Google Maps will download regional maps to your phone so you can still use them for travel and planning routes in cities even if you are not connected to WiFi. In order to download the map(s) to your phone, just remember to do your first local search from the airport or from some place that has WiFi in that region.