When preparing for an epic trip—whether it be a few states over or across the globe—packing appropriately and planning ahead can make all the difference. Though flying may seem daunting, research and organization allow for an enjoyable experience at the airport and in the air. And of course, once you have your toes in the sand and your fingers wrapped around a margarita, all of that time spent arranging equipment and setting plans will seem totally worth it. Here are some simple air travel tips to keep in mind on your next vacation.
Tips for Airplane Travel
1. Pack light and remember laundry is an option: Remember that smaller is almost always quicker and more convenient. And when it comes to clothing, less is more. Because access to laundry exists nearly everywhere in the world—whether it’s by hand in the middle of a jungle or in a posh resort’s laundry room—you’re certainly able to keep clean. And with the ability to wash clothes, there’s no need to pack 10 pairs of underwear or five workout outfits. Bring multi-use products, a small bottle of camp soap, and light, reusable wear to save room in your bags for the fun stuff!
2. Keep a journal: Not only will you want to keep track of your airport codes and flight information, but you’ll want to document your trip. Having a dirt bag diary is the greatest souvenir you can give yourself!
3. Pack Food for the airport: It’s no secret that airport food isn’t exactly low-cal. With easy access to McDonalds, Five Guys, and Starbucks, it’s incredibly easy to have a “cheat day” while meandering through the airport. Temptation is inevitable. That said, not all concourse eateries are created equally; and a Jamba Juice or Panera might be just around the corner. Check an airport map to locate quality foods. Or, think about bringing your own healthy, homemade snacks from home. Even though you aren’t allowed to carry liquids past security, you are allowed to bring food. You may be glad you took a few extra minutes at home to prepare a PB+J sandwich and some freshly sliced fruit.
4. Bring a water bottle: To save yourself from having to buy a plastic water bottle once you’ve cleared security, bring along a canteen from home that you can fill up at the nearest fountain. Not only will this save money and plastic, but it will also come in handy later in your trip.
5. Carry-on luggage could be your new best friend: Though checking bags is generally easier than carrying them onto your flight, carry-ons can also be extremely simplistic. Plus, carrying baggage saves you from having to worry whether or not your checked bag made it onto the correct flight! Bringing a carry-on with both a backpack and roller option allows you to quickly wheel your luggage through the airport, but also to carry it comfortably on your back; and packing lightly in a small pack will undoubtedly relieve you from the unnecessary stress of trying to cram a large duffel into the tight overhead bin.
6. Remember your in-flight essentials: To ensure comfortability during a lengthy flight, be sure to bring along varied forms of entertainment—i.e. books, magazines, headphones with a music device, a tablet, a phone charger and preloaded movies etc.—in your carry-on. You’ll also want to bring your own blanket and neck pillow, because as we all know, getting cozy sleep on an airplane is borderline impossible. Packing deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush in your carry-on will also be of use close to landing—especially after a 10+ hour international flight. Lastly, if you take any medication, be sure to include this in your carry-on luggage or that you have it on you at all times.
7. Dress appropriately on the plane: Airplanes can be pretty cold, so it’s smart to bring a comfy jacket or sweatshirt. Whatever you layer up in during the flight, you’ll want to have an outfit on beneath that is befitting of your destination. If you’re headed to a tropical beach, it doesn’t make much sense to only dress in sweatpants and a polar fleece hoodie. Additionally, you’ll want to take into account modesty and clothing expectations, if traveling abroad. In certain places, shorts or tank tops may be considered inappropriate or taboo. To respect culture and not immediately stick out as an obvious tourist, research temperatures and clothing; and do as the locals do. Lastly, consider wearing your hiking boots or bulkiest, heaviest shoes during your travels. Not only will this keep your feet warm while in air, but it will save room in your packed bags.
8. Check your bank for travel perks: Depending on which credit card you use, you may be eligible for miscellaneous airport and in-flight privileges! With the right credit card, you can accumulate frequent flier miles and points, check your bags for free, have priority boarding and/or sign-up for numerous bonuses. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives you a 20 percent discount if you book your trip through the Ultimate Rewards site; and it doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees for international purchases. The Citi AADvantage card is the only card that includes access to American Airlines’ Admirals Club, and it provides 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Unlike other cards that don’t offer additional generous mileage bonuses, this card also include one free checked bag, priority check-in and boarding, and double miles for every American Airline purchase. American Express offers several variations of its Platinum Charge Card which includes a Priority Pass Select membership, access to the Delta Sky Club, and a $200 annual airline credit that can be put towards purchasing lounge day passes.
9. Consider applying for TSA Pre✓® : Transportation Security Administration allows individuals to apply for a pre-check status, meaning you can freely use expedited security lines. Becoming approved costs money, but the amount of time it saves waiting in line and not having to dig through luggage to separate laptops and quart-sized bags is arguably worth it!
10. Perhaps apply for Global Entry: Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows advanced clearance for pre-approved travelers upon arrival into the United States. With membership, you can utilize automated kiosks at select airports to save time during authorization.
11. Exchange a bit of money ahead of time into necessary foreign currencies: When traveling abroad, it’s always wise to exchange your USD for foreign currency ahead prior to departure. This way, when you land, you’ll be confident in any necessary, immediate transactions. That said, carrying too much cash can be risky. Safely store credit cards and cash in a secure spot. (When I travel, I generally store a number of cash envelopes in different locations; that way, if one envelope gets stolen or misplaced, I didn’t lose all my money!)
12. Purchase travel insurance: It’s never a bad idea to get travel insurance—protection intended to cover all medical expenses, accidents, trip cancellations or lost luggage while traveling internally or externally. Additionally, you may want to insure some of your belongings. (For example, as a photographer, I always purchase insurance specifically for my photo gear and equipment.)
13. Plan how you allot time at the airport, according to the gap between flights: When booking travels, make sure to give yourself at least an hour gap between connecting flights. Once in route to the airport, double check how narrow of a timeframe you have between flights, so that you know the amount of time to allot towards bathroom breaks and snack lines. It’s one thing to miss a business trip, but it’s a totally different story when you’re headed to your ultimate bucket list vacation spot!
14. Check all foreign document requirements: Researching necessary documents can be vital. Depending on where you’re headed, you may need to apply for and purchase a visa prior to arrival; and many countries have specific instructions on how to do this. For example, when traveling to Vietnam, you have to procure a visa before arrival; while in other countries, a visa can be purchased after landing. Prices also vary country to country. In other countries, you may have to show a birth certificate when clearing customs, or have a certain number of blank, unstamped pages in your Passport to enter. Some rules are strange, but regardless, if you want in, you’ve got to know the requirements.
15. Arrange ground transportation: Having ground transportation sorted out ahead of time may save you money, time, and stress. Double check with your hotel to see if airport pick-up is included in the booking cost. Similarly, weigh your package options. It may make more sense to book a fancy hotel that provides transportation, than to book a cheap hotel that requires a super expensive car ride. Lastly, if you plan to travel by train or subway, attain a map and try to figure out the rail system ahead of time.
Rock/Creek’s Must-Have Travel Gear:
- There are several bags that we like, but the Osprey Meridian 28 is one of our favorites. It has a removable day pack that zips on/off the front of the pack which makes it great for trips where you will need versatility. Rock/Creek’s Osprey Luggage sale starts on May 17!
- If you’re into duffle bags, check out the Patagonia Black Hole, or The North Face Base Camp Duffle. Both are amazingly durable and a great value if you don’t mind carrying your luggage through the airport.
- Sea to Summit’s packing organization products help prevent the contents of your luggage becoming a vortex of disorganization. Their shirt folders keep your shirts from wrinkling out of control and the storage cubes make finding items in your luggage a breeze — particularly if you need to access something mid-travel (the contents of your luggage won’t spill out and become public for everyone to see.)
- Take a neck pillow and eye shades. They are the often overlooked simple luxuries that make a big difference. We’ve all had the moment on a plane where you look across the aisle and see someone decked out with a neck pillow and eye shades and think, “man, why don’t I just go ahead and get those, already?!”
- Treat yourself to some Sockwell Compression socks. Wearing compression socks during travel will make you feel more energetic and refreshed when you arrive at your destination. We like Sockwell, not only because they’re a great product, but they’re a Chattanooga company who makes their socks in Tennessee!
- If you haven’t tried Ex-Officio underwear yet, you should! Designed specifically for travel, they are super comfy and dry quick — which makes them perfect for rinsing out in a sink and drying over night. Theoretically, you could travel indefinitely with two pair; one to wear, one to wash.
At the end of your trip, evaluate what you didn’t use, so that for your next trip you can leave it behind; and take notes of items you wish you would have had. Traveling is a learning process, no matter how many places you’ve visited or endless flights you’ve sat through. Sometimes it’s best to just laugh it off and enjoy the ride—literally!
All in all, if you do the front-end homework ahead of time, traveling by plane will be a breeze. You’ll be so thankful you spent the extra time and effort researching, preparing, and carefully packing. The moment you exit the airplane, your sole responsibility will be to simply revel in the trip of a lifetime!
Originally written by RootsRated for Rock/Creek.
Featured image provided by Robert Couse-Baker.