Whether you’re new to international travel or you’re a long-time frequent traveler, your international finesse may not be as honed as you’d like. For an enjoyable and stress-free journey, you’ll want to plan ahead and expect the unexpected.
Here are my six best secrets to enjoying your next international trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure.
Make Sure Documents and Cards Aren’t Close to Expiration
The more prepared you are, the more enjoyable your travels will be. Start by creating a checklist to ensure you don’t head out without your important belongings. While documents should be renewed well in advance of your travels and companies are usually ahead of time in sending updated cards, a quick check while packing assures you of valid identification documents and credit cards. You wouldn’t want to realize your new card hasn’t arrived when expiration occurs while you’re overseas!
You should also inform your credit card company and bank of your upcoming travels. This way, any credit or debit cards you use while traveling won’t be flagged or frozen from “unusual” activity.
Pack Only What You Need
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Savvy travelers know that packing light is the way to go. Now, packing light doesn’t mean packing one set of clothes and re-wearing them day after day. If your destination hotel has a guest laundry area, consider using it midway through your trip to cut down on the packing. You can also bring mix-and-match items that create new bold looks with fewer pieces. Consider items that are wrinkle-free or lightweight knits. Remember that changing accessories can often create a whole different outfit.
Consider a translation app or paperback dictionary if unfamiliar with the language, and always plan for your destination weather. Pack a pair of flats or casual dress shoes, and wear your heavier shoes or boots through the airport.
Arrive Early, and Check the Monitors Regularly
You should always arrive early for international trips; most airports recommend three hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. Also remember to have your cards and documents in a secure pouch, so you will have ready access without the worry of dropped pieces. Remember to keep a phone charger with you, and a bottle of water. I’ve learned I’ll never be thirstier than when I’m waiting for service, and keeping a pre-purchased bottle with me gets me through.
Sign up for airline notifications on your smartphone, but remember that glitches can happen. In-person observation is always the safest way to keep tabs on your journey. You should read the departure monitors from time to time, checking that your plane hasn’t changed gates or departure times unexpectedly. Alerts over the speakers can get monotonous and there’s nothing quite like being jarred out of your thoughts to hear your gate has changed and is “now boarding!”
Take Advantage of Airport Amenities
Most business and first-class tickets come with priority lines, guest lounges, deluxe dining, and quiet centers for business and relaxation. Of course, these amenities vary from airport to airport, but they are certainly part of your overall travel experience and if available, I urge you to take advantage of them. You’ll have an enhanced experience with quality comfort and convenience at your disposal. Sometimes simply the noise of the airport can be distracting; utilizing the airline lounge is a great way to unwind and recharge.
If you have arrived at the airport to find a delay, find a spot conducive to focusing and use the time to knock out some emails rather than watching the news.
Use Your Flight Time Effectively
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Before you settle into your seat, set out items you’ll want to use during the trip, thus ensuring easy access. Remember that using time effectively doesn’t mean working furiously. You can take a well-deserved nap, catch up on your novel (writing or reading), or watch a movie on your tablet, all while having room to move around without disturbing your fellow travelers. I often put on a movie after knocking out some work; then pull the laptop back out after the movie. It helps me not get burned out, but I’m also making the most of my environment.
Many airlines also offer amenity kits, which may include toiletries, high-quality skin products, blankets, eye masks, shoe horns, pajamas or socks. Take advantage of them. It feels great to freshen up just before landing, especially after a long international flight.
Proceed to the Hotel Upon Arrival
Whether you have traveled to your final destination before or are experiencing it for the first time, you’ll likely need an adjustment period. Just remember to follow the local time immediately and fine-tune your routines accordingly to minimize the effects of jet lag. Remember to look like you know what you’re doing, even if you are faking it til you make it! Travelers who look lost or unsure are targets for predators. Stride confidently and if necessary, find a loo to check your mapping or destination information.
Safety in a new country means having a secure place to return to each night. To ensure you have your (temporary) home base secured, head straight to the hotel, even if it is across town. Once you check in and stow your belongings, you can head out to enjoy the sights or conduct your business with confidence. For ultimate security while in your room, I suggest a personal alarm (like the Night Watchmen Pro-Tec Door Alarm), which emits a shrieking alarm if anyone touches your doorknob.
Last but not least, the ultimate hassle-free tip for international travel is to simply relax! Enjoy yourself! Breathe in the sights, sounds, and smells and celebrate life as it is in another country!
Brandon Vallorani is a practiced entrepreneur and accomplished CEO, author of The Wolves and the Mandolin (ForbesBooks; 2017), and third generation Italian-American.
Founder of a media conglomerate recognized on the Inc. 5000 for five consecutive years, Brandon sold to a colleague in the business, and has more recently shifted focus to his other entrepreneurial endeavors.
Vallorani graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, and began his career in the non-profit sector. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Executive Vice President in a few short years, simultaneously earning his Master of Business Administration from Thomas More College.
He lives in Metro-Atlanta, with his wife with whom he shares seven children, a son-in-law, and a grandson. In his free time, Brandon enjoys playing in casinos around the country, his three dogs, and learning Italian.