Traveling is a lot of fun, but let’s be honest: it can be quite stressful at times! The day before departure I’m always a walking train wreck wandering around the room nervously, checking everything at least three times, and packing my suitcase at the very last minute. Thankfully, being a seasoned traveler means I have collected some tricks to start my trip over the years as to how to start my trips as relaxed as possible. Here they are!
1. Use mobile boarding passes
This is definitely my #1 tip. I don’t understand people still struggle with paper boarding passes, I would just get scared I’d lose it! Pretty much all airlines allow you to check in online and to download your boarding pass onto your mobile phone. Sometimes you’ll need a special app from the airline, but in most cases you don’t. This way you’ll always have your boarding pass on you, and you won’t even need wifi to load it. Super easy when you need to scan it, and it will be pretty hard to lose it! The less stuff you have on you, the better!
2. Create a packing list
I always use the app ‘Wunderlist’ to create packing lists. With this app you can easily tick off the items you’ve already packed, and it also allows you to save a list for your next trip. It’s easy to add items or to cross them out if you don’t need them. Perfect! For me it’s a great way to see in a glance what I need to pack, otherwise I’d go completely nuts trying to remember everything.
3. Leave early
I always try to be at the airport at least two hours in advance. Yes, even when I’ve already checked in online. Because who knows you’ll end up in a traffic jam, a train that suddenly doesn’t run (happened to me!) or the queue at security is suddenly super long. I actually experienced all of these at least once. Once I nearly missed my flight because my train stopped at a station and didn’t go on, and I never want to experience that again. So now I always leave early, and just do some work while waiting to board my flight.
4. Keep your personal belongings with you
I can’t stress enough how important this is. There’s been reports people have had their belongings stolen from their bag while midflight. So please make sure to put your personal belongings in your hand luggage (preferably underneath the seat in front of you) and check if you still have everything before you land. I might sound like a bit of a control freak, but I never had anything stolen while traveling so I guess it pays off (knock on wood). Did you know your travel insurance doesn’t cover anything when you leave your luggage unattended? Yep.
5. Make sure your passport is up to date
Not a lot of people know this, but when visiting some countries (including the United States) your passport has to be valid for at least another six months from the date that you start your trip. And obviously your passport can’t expire while you’re still on your trip either. It regularly happens that people aren’t aware of this and have to rush to get an emergency passport at the airport because otherwise they can’t get on the flight. In a lot of cases people still miss their flight because of this. So pay attention! Last summer I renewed my passport only two days before I left for the US, so it’s still possible quite close to departure :). But of course the sooner the better!
6. Put a survival kit in your hand luggage
God forbid, but it does happen: your luggage doesn’t get to your final destination. Suddenly you’re in Barbados dressed in a knitted sweater and winter coat. Not a chance! That’s why I always have some clean underwear and toiletries in my hand luggage, just in case. I can always buy a summer dress and bikini once I’m there, but it’s nice to have some clean undies!
7. Always bring earplugs and a sleeping mask
Another item for your survival kit. I never travel without earplugs and a sleeping mask (I have one from Ööloom), I even use them at home. I really can’t go without them anymore! You just get addicted to the total peace and silence. When I was in Asia I woke up at 4 am from a super loud call to prayer by the local mosque in Yogyakarta, but after a few minutes I just fell back to sleep with my earplugs. The sleeping mask is also great for when you want to nap for a few hours during the day.
8. Wear comfy clothes and don’t wear too much jewellery
Airports are stressful enough as it is, especially if you have to take out half of your belongings in order to get through security like me. I often travel with just hand luggage, which usually contains a laptop, cameras, chargers and liquids. That’s why I try to keep it simple when it comes to clothing. No boots or lots of jewellery and as little layers as possible, so I don’t have to take off any coats. Simple is the key!
9. Bring a nice book
Or a magazine, or some music… Whichever. Long flights usually have on board entertainment (tens of movies for instance!) but short flights don’t. Suddenly your three or four hour flight can feel quite long! I always like to have a book with me to spend some lost hours. I actually use a Kindle Paperweight which I adore as it’s super light, takes up zero space, and stores loads of books. I only have to charge it every few weeks or so. Highly recommend looking into one!
10. Look up local travel information while you wait for your flight
Of course you want to be prepared for your trip. You want to know what to do once you’re there, what the name of your hotel is and where it is exactly. But the rest I only look up once I’m already at the airport waiting for my flight. It’s super easy to google which bus or train to catch to get to the city center, plus you have more than enough time to look it all up while you wait for boarding. It’s perfect!
11. Make sure to bring an international bank card
Another small but important detail: don’t forget to check if you can use your bank card abroad! Having a credit card is even better, but an international bank card usually works quite well too. I can use mine everywhere in Europe, but I recently put it on ‘international’ just so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. Nice! One of my travel friends couldn’t use the ATM in Indonesia which was really annoying! (Though I obviously borrowed her some money :-))
12. Have your medicine with you
For the full nine days in Indonesia, my body was totally fine. Not a care in the world. When suddenly… one hour before our plane was due to land in The Netherlands I ran to the toilet with the biggest stomach cramps ever. And believe me. An airport toilet is not a place where you want to have bowel problems… Once I exited the toilet I immediately grabbed my pills. I’ve never been a bigger believer of bringing some medicine into your hand luggage: some pain killers, anti-diarrheas, maybe some sleeping pills. Knowing you’ve got everything you need with you is a comforting idea!
13. Buy international data
What if I forget to research how to get to my hotel and Google Maps won’t load anymore? What if I forget the actual name of the hotel? Or what if I just want to use social media while I’m there? My phone provider makes it super easy to buy data abroad at reasonable prices, and ever since I’ve started doing that, my travels have gotten 200% more relaxed. In the Netherlands I am using a company called Tele2, and in the UK I used to have a phone plan with Three, which I loved. This isn’t sponsored, by the way, I’m just sharing my favorites with you!