This year has been filled with a plethora of trips and at this point I feel like an expert on traveling, even though I haven’t been doing it long. There are so many ways to plan and prepare for trips that it’ll make your head hurt. My goal here is to give you some quick tips and tricks to cut down on the stress.
Packing can be difficult because it depends on how long you’ll be gone. The main trick here is to simply NOT overpack. Something I like to do that you could try is to go through your closet or dresser and take out everything you want to bring, make a big ol’ pile. Then as you are putting things into your suitcase, reevaluate every item ensuring you will want to bring it and will use it. This decision may also be made with certain items simply because you run out of room. The main idea is to pack only the essentials and not to make up fantasy situations in your head where you might need a certain outfit; if that happens you can buy something there and ship it back (but don’t do this because it will probably be expensive). Also, just keep in mind that there will likely be a washer and dryer at your disposal depending on where you are staying so don’t pack 20 pairs of underwear. One hack I use to fit a lot of things in a suitcase is buying sealed storage bags that you press all the air out of. This will lead to you having far more room in your bag, but beware, they can make it heavy.
When I was packing to study abroad, I knew I was going to be gone for three months and with that you have to plan ahead. I had to make sure I would have enough of my medication to last me three months, this is important because in some situations you might not be able to have your medications sent to you. Something that I did that you shouldn’t is pack three months worth of toiletries. Don’t ask me why but I questioned whether or not there would be contact solution in the UK and decided to bring my own three-month supply (totally unnecessary, they have contact solution here). Instead, make sure you pack enough contacts in case one rips or falls out, those won’t be as easily accessible.
Preparing for the airport and plane:
Something that everyone should do before even arriving at the airport is making sure you have all your documentation ready and close by. Whether you just need your license or need your passport and other paperwork such as a visa, keep it in your purse or carry-on bag so you can have it ready before you even get to security. This ensures you won’t be holding up the line and angering not only security but the people behind you. Something I haven’t done but seems like it would save loads of time is doing the Clear screening [https://www.clearme.com/] which requires signing up ahead of time. Once you’re through security (hopefully with a decent amount of time to find your gate and grab any last-minute items) relax and wait for your plane to arrive. Consider checking out the stores in the airport and grab a book or magazine in case your electronic devices die, which brings me to my next point. Make sure you charge all your devices ahead of time. Most planes have USB ports but in case they don’t, charge up your phone, Bluetooth headphones, tablet/laptop and whatever else you bring to keep yourself occupied.
One more thing to consider is being comfortable on the plane. I will never understand how some people fly in jeans, let alone blazers and dress pants. My go-to is always leggings/joggers and a hoodie with a layer underneath in case you get too warm. If you are traveling longer distances, I recommend bringing along a neck pillow to ensure comfort, and while planes usually provide blankets and pillows for overseas flights, having your own will make you that much more comfortable. Other things to keep in mind for long flights are having gum in case you can’t brush your teeth, snacks if you need to eat every two hours like me, a bottle of water for when the attendants take more time between rounds and nausea/headache medication if being on a plane for that long makes you feel sick. Doing all that you can to make the flight more enjoyable for yourself will make a huge impact on your flying experience.
The number one thing you can do to make customs go faster for all involved is to make sure you are in the right line. There will usually be more than one line so read the signs carefully or ask an employee if you aren’t sure. Depending on the type of traveling you are doing you might have to talk to a customs agent rather than just scanning your passport and getting a picture taken such as if you need a specific stamp or have a visa that needs to be looked at. That leads me to my next point of making sure you have all the documentation prepared if you have to talk to an agent. When entering into the UK my program advisor advised me to bring not only my short-term study visa but also my acceptance into the university I would be attending, a bank statement to prove I can afford to live in London for the allotted time and a checklist provided by my program to ensure I obtained everything I would need. It is all about being prepared to show documentation and answer any questions the agent might have.
Traveling is a wonderful thing and will bring you many new, great experiences. And while it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the whole process, simply take time and review all that you need. Being prepared is key in ensuring you have a smooth transition from location to location. Consider the tips and tricks here for happy travels!