[NOTE #2: Some of the comments interspersed through this document about a certain carrier that some considered snarky have been removed. This should make this blog post more suitable for sharing and forwarding. AG 2014-02-06 9:50PM]
[NOTE #1: I originally wrote this as a reply in a private Facebook group to someone who is flying for the first time. I am not the most experienced traveler in the world, but hopefully this will be of help to some of you. AG 2013-04-24 1:00AM ]
- Clean the house a little before you leave. Coming home to a dirty house that needs to be cleaned is… suboptimal.
- Pack everything the night before and have your luggage ready to go. Don’t put it in the car overnight, though, in case something happens to the car. Leaving it by the door works for me.
- Pack a spare set of undergarments in your carry-on bag, in case the airline decides not to deliver your checked bag with your clothes and toiletries for four days, lying to you saying they will bring you your bag that day and refusing to pay for any clothes or toiletries you had to buy (on a very expensive international business-class ticket). Some clear plastic Zip-Loc™ style sandwich bags are also useful to have in your carry on to separate… things you might be carrying.
- Traveling for N days? Pack N+1 days of clothing, in case you get stuck for a day, or require an additional change of clothes due to inclement/sweaty/inclement-and-sweaty weather.
- Charge all the things! Have everything that uses electrons filled up. Bringing a penlight? Fresh battery/batteries in that before you leave, too.
- If you typically carry things other than keys on your keychain (penknife, keychain-sized tool, etc.) remove it before you leave. It either doesn’t go on vacation with you, or travels in the checked bag.
- Inside your checked bag? A pen light, perhaps a small travel power bar, if you’re traveling somewhere that is more a tourist than a business destination, and 1-3 unused, empty plastic garbage bag(s) (takes up no space on the way out, holds all your dirty laundry on the way back). Taking anything fragile and/or liquid? Wrap securely in another garbage bag (or two) and place in center of luggage, where clothes + everything around it act as a shock absorber. Returning with anything liquid and/or fragile? Same thing, but put it in the middle of your stinky sack, er, laundry bag for shock absorption and extra isolation from people who steal out of luggage. You should also have your noise-cancelling headphones, canalphones (in-ear phones, ear buds, or whatever term you use) or ear plugs in your carry on, as well.
- Not inside your checked back? Anything valuable/fragile like a radio, MP3 player, camera, ebook reader, cell phone, laptop, external hard disk drive, etc. Those go in your carry-on luggage.
- Carrying on? I recommend a backpack for your computer, as it distributes the weight of your laptop/notebook/slate/tablet/desktop-replacement/(whatever) evenly across both your shoulders so you don’t end up aching the first night from walking miles with a laptop bag over your shoulder in airports where the staff is very unhelpful and unprofessional. If you don’t have a backpack specifically for your laptop, look into adding a padded travel sleeve for it. If getting a bag, make sure it has a padded storage compartment for your laptop, as well lots of little, separate pockets/holders for things like AC adapter, spare battery, digital camera, backup HDD (you do back up your data regularly don’t you?), cables, USB flash drives and other electronic devices. I find zipper mesh bags (your local dollar store, or try a travel store for more upscale packing versions) great for storing little electronic things in. You can use those sandwich bags from (3) in a pinch, but they’ll start dissolving by your second trip.
- Print out all travel documents and have them available in a transparent plastic folder easily accessible from your carry-on bag, in addition to electronic copies loaded on to everything you can load them on to and show someone.
- Check in as soon as you can online (may be 12-24 hours before flight). Join the airlines frequent flier program, even if you think you’ll never fly on them again. Leave extra early and show up extra early for your flight. This allows you to take your time checking in, inquire about a first-class upgrade at check-in, and make your way through the TSA checkpoint. Do not go through a body scanner. Nobody actually knows what the long-term effects of mm wave scanners or backscatter X-ray technology are as they simply have not been in use long enough for any scientific studies to be performed. Always be friendly and polite to the TSA employee–it’s not their fault; just say you opt-out and want a pat-down, instead. It takes 5-10 minutes at most, and is completely safe.
- It’s best to buy magazines, non-liquid consumables (candy, gum), ear plugs, and, if traveling internationally, power plug adapters before you leave, as they cost more at the airport. Make sure all your power adapters are world compatible (automatically switching between 110 and 220V, or even 100V if going to Japan and 240V if going to former British colonies), but mostly 110/220V. About the only exception is your laptop AC power supply: If the AC line cord is detachable, you should still carry a power plug converter for it, but look for replacement AC line cord in the host country. The common two prong one is usually a C7 (non polarized) or C8 connector (polarized) and often referred to locally as a teapot or kettle power cable. Just bring your old one with you and pantomime.
Good fortunes and safe travels!
Have a travel tip to share? Please leave a comment, below!