“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” ~ Yogi Berra
Success equals preparation or is it that luck is when preparation and opportunity meet? Well, I’m a bit more pragmatic especially while I’m about to embark on living abroad, first time out in a long while, and I figure a bit of effort at preparation will set me up for a positive first step.
Something valuable to consider is that no matter how long we are away from home, and even when making a home in a new country, we are still guests in this new place; we always bring where we are from with us where we go, be it in our appearance or how we speak and sound. With this in mind I embark on knowing as much as possible about where I’m going, about the psyche of the people, the challenges of those intrepid adventurers that have gone before (as well as the fun and interesting things they make mention of), also wanting to be as comfortable safe and secure as possible. Note to you well traveled, well heeled readers this will read rather pedestrian for you, so perhaps you’ll engage by sharing your tricks for overseas travel, or even the crazy story or two.
An agreed upon best practice with international travel, is to secure your main source of travel as early as possible to get the best price and seat selection. A couple of recommends are to spend a little more for a seat above economy when traveling for long distances; not only do you want to be comfortable, you also want to arrive in good spirits and well rested. Further travel within the continent or country(s) you’re traveling to could be purchased prior to arrival, like say perhaps purchasing a rail pass, though most often getting the lay-of-the-land when you arrive affords you the choice to go by rail, rent an auto, or to fly a regional airline.
Baggage allowance is an important consideration depending on duration of stay and destination. Understand what the different seat classes allow for both carry-on and checked baggage (size, weight, and number of bags) and consider moving up a class where allowances are a bit more generous (could be a few additional kilo or even an extra bag) if that might make sense for you. This may be key if you’re planning to be away from home for a longer period of time and will require more clothing or comforts for the longer duration. Airlines have detailed baggage limits for size, weight and number of pieces that can be checked and carried-on. It is important to comply as overweight charges can be a bugger. This preparation of measuring what to pack for the duration of your stay (seasons, activities you expect to be doing while there, access to laundry facilities) along with the possible cost of excess baggage weight or additional baggage. So, become familiar with airline websites to be able to review the baggage allowances/requirements tab, and toggle back and forth while making your selection.
I’m also for the everything-in-one-bag and traveling light as possible when the duration and potential activities warrant it. The key with this sort of travel is to be flexible, though well informed about the area that you’re likely to be traveling within. The ease in which you can move and maneuver when packing light and with just what you need, is a great trade-off to having everything on hand.
When choosing an airline for overseas travel, it’s worth it to consider customer reviews as well as pricing. Checking reviews you will learn a good about flight and ground crews, food quality, movie and music quality, etc. I also found it was helpful to review the seating map of the aircraft for seat reviews as well. Sites like SeatGuru give you customer reviews of actual seat assignments! I found this really beneficial to learn of someone else’s experience in a space as well as with airline crew and amenities.
An important consideration is travel or ticket insurance, or at the very least to understand what the penalty charge would be if you have a need to make changes to your ticket (it’s good to be able to be flexible for longer stays or for the unexpected delay). Most ticket purchases are done electronically these days, which is nice as we can do this at our leisure while toggling between webpages of airlines and plane seat schematics, etc. However, all airlines have telephone representatives that can assist with first time purchases as well as with any changes you may need. Highly recommend working via phone for any changes you may have, so you can minimize cost (possibly avoid charges through a service oriented agent). Something I learned this go-round was that when purchasing tickets online, many airlines are requiring a looks-see at the credit/debit card used for purchase, along with the customary ID verification, at check-in.
Another thought for airplane travel, particularly for long international flights, is inflight food and amenities. Depending on who is meeting you upon arrival, and whether you care about this or not, the food you consume on the plane with altitude and sleep (or not) you want to drink loads of good ole’ fashioned water and avoid alcohol (truth be told, I’m not sure I can or want to avoid a gin … may depend on my seat mate and the turbulence). To avoid puffiness drink water and get up occasionally and walk the aisles. Also, avoid salt intake and maybe even try the vegetarian meal choice. Reviews on SeatGuru and airline forums will often have comments about meal quality and other amenities.
As for your carry-on bags, I received great advice from several people about having a change of clothes, any prescription medications, and your toiletries in your carry-on bag just in case you’re diverted from your checked baggage for some reason. Checking the airlines baggage policy you’ll know if you have the option of a carry-on and/or a computer bag, plus your handbag or briefcase. One bit of good advice was as far as the hand bag was concerned, to put my cross-body bag in a larger satchel type bag that could accommodate a refillable water bottle, reading material, laptop/tablet (stocked with a book, a couple of movies, and favorite music), earpiece for airplane music and movie watching, pair of socks, ear plugs, travel pillow and sleep mask, snacks, etc. (airlines will have light blankets and small pillows for your use, as well as earpieces for purchase).
These choices are of course yours and many will depend on budget, the length of your flight, expected duration of stay at your destination and what you’ll be doing while you’re there. Some may say time is a luxury, though for these sorts of trips, it is valuable to allow time for preparation on the outset. Successful preparation will enhance not only the flight experience, it will quite possibly set the tone for the whole of your upcoming experience ~ Bon Voyage!