After traveling very recently to come back home for spring break, I thought I would list my top 3 tips concerning international travel preparation. This runs parallel to the post I did recently about packing specifically. I will follow this with tips for the actual day of traveling, but there will be more in this one since the day of actual travel goes a lot easier when all of these have been done in advance. (Please keep in mind that this is particularly international travel.)
1. Give yourself plenty of time.
Literally. Plenty. If it is going to take you a week to pack, then keep that in mind and set aside the proper times. For me, I do everything that I can the day before I leave. This way, where everything is located is fresh in my brain. I completely set aside the entire day before to do nothing else but prepare. Packing, organizing transportation, etc. all included in one day.
This also applies for organizing transportation. For international travel it is best to be at the airport at least 2 hours in advance. Keep that in mind when figuring out how to get there. Since I don’t have a car with me I can not just get in and drive there. (Taxis are an option but I recommend finding another way as taxis can be more expensive but it depends really on how close you are to the airport you will use.) I have to look at train and coach times online and pick the correct times that will get me there just at or before that 2 hour window. And to be extra careful I like to give myself extra time just in case the coach is running late or something else that I couldn’t necessarily predict. This way if a ride actually is delayed, I’m not late because of it, and it’s overall less stressful.
All of this I do on my prep day. If it makes you more comfortable to do this further in advance than of course do that. As long as you don’t leave it until the morning of travel anytime in advance is great.
2. Locate your passport.
This is the very first thing that you should do when it comes to packing (assuming that you already have one), because this is by far one of the most important steps. You will not get to your destination without it. And the last thing that anyone wants to do on a day of crazy traveling is go back to the start because they forgot their passport. My advice would be to find it the day before and put it somewhere impossible to miss. I got mine out of the purse where I had always kept it and placed it on a completely cleared section of my desk. Do not (I repeat) DO NOT leave the next day without it.
3. Pack as light as possible.
Regardless of where you are going or how long you are staying, the best thing I could say would be to pack as light as you possibly can. Most airlines will allow one free checked bag as long as it’s under 50 lbs. as well as one carry-on and a personal item (such as a purse or computer bag/backpack) so try to not exceed that as much as possible. I was able to fit everything I brought with me to university in England into those three things, and while I wish I could have brought more, I was glad I did not. As I said in my previous post, trying to get through multiple airports with connecting flights and then trains followed by coaches and lots of walking is all that much harder after long days of traveling if the bags are extra heavy. I packed for my three week break in just one suitcase and tried to make sure each thing I put in was necessary and practical, and this helped so much. Keep them as light as possible!