As a road warrior who has clocked something like two million miles of business travel over the past twenty years, experience has taught me that international travel is neither glamorous nor for the faint of heart. Delays, crowds, and unappetizing food are all outside of our control. But we don’t have to let unexpected surprises add to our dismay.
As I return from my travels in Asia, I wanted to share my eight top travel tips with you (remember, 8 is an auspicious number in China!). The more of these tips you adopt, the greater your chance of having a pleasant and satisfying trip.
1. Travel Health. Allow plenty of time to schedule an appointment with a travel clinic doctor or nurse to assess your need for inoculations (see also the advisories issued on the US State Department and World Health Organization websites). Travel to certain areas of the globe requires knowledge, precautions and immunization. The 2012 Yellow Book is an excellent resource.
2. Global Entry. Consider applying to the Global Entry Program, which allows approved members to use automated kiosks in most major international U.S. airports to speed up the arrival process. Check their website here to see if you are eligible.
3. Luggage: Invest in the best luggage that you can afford. Check whether the wheels rotate 360 degrees and roll quietly over hard flooring, not just soft carpeting. Read Consumer Reports and check on-line reviews written by pilots and flight attendants for recommendations. Once you have purchased your new luggage, place a current business card inside each bag and fill in an external luggage tag with your contact details.
4. Travel & Other Documents: Make copies and laminate the photo and visa pages of your passport. Place a copy in your suitcase in the event it is mislaid and keep a second copy with you – separate from where you keep the passport itself. Pack twice as many business cards that you think you will need. Bring copies of all travel confirmations. Type all your frequent flyer numbers and memberships on a small card, laminate, and keep in your wallet – and email the information to yourself as well.
5. Hydrate: Don’t just focus on drinking water during your flight. Begin your hydration by increasing your fluid intake at least the day before. Remember that alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee will dehydrate you. Drink plenty of bottled water throughout the flight.
6. Jet Lag Preparation: Prepare to acclimate to your destination by setting your watch to that time zone in advance. Consider bringing noise-reducing headphones on board to get sleep on the plane. Upon arrival, plan to spend time exercising or sitting in sunlight. Download soothing music, sounds of nature or “white noise” to your iPod to facilitate sleep in your hotel. Pack melatonin or natural sleep aids, if helpful. If possible, schedule a massage to ease those stiff joints.
7. What to Wear? While traveling by plane, train or automobile, consider wearing dark, comfortable, stretchable clothing for sleeping in transit, and to avoid looking rumpled upon arrival. Wear booties inside slip-on shoes or ballet slippers to avoid having to walk barefoot through security. Remember that tie-up-shoes, hard-to-remove boots and lots of jewelry, sunglasses, hats and hair accessories slow down the security process. There is a reason why frequent flyers have a priority-lane!
8. Returning Home: Be cautious with duty free perfume and liquor on return flights. When arriving into the US, once you pass through Immigration and Customs, you must claim your bags, and then re-check them for domestic connections. Carry-on bags must be cleared again through U.S. security for connecting flights; so duty free liquor or perfume over 3-4 ounces must be placed in checked bags and cannot be carried through security.
Remember: Blessed are the flexible – for they never get bent out of shape!