Keep in mind that we were moving internationally in this photo. Don't pack like this for a 10 day trip.
Whatever happened to that blue suitcase?
Having traveled and lived internationally, one might expect that I will bless my little sister with extraordinary wisdom and insight that I've gleaned from my experiences as an expert traveler. Ironically, Micah and I travel poorly. Forget international travel, even a weekend trip turns into an ordeal. We get over-tired, we are cranky, we get lost, and we say things to each other that we have to apologize for later. But we have learned a lot along the way and maybe if you're planning a big trip you can learn not to do it like us :)
A lot of these things are precautions that I have never had to use. (But that's what precautions are, things you prepare for (that you hope you never have to deal with) but you don't have to worry about anymore because you are prepared.) Some are little hacks that work for me, and if they don't work for you that's ok too.
The important thing is to embrace the journey. If you get on and off the plane in the right places, experience something new and have fun: Travel success!! If you spend the whole trip worrying about all the things you "Should" do and stressing about everything that could go wrong: Vacation Fail.
Anyway, here's the sum of all my travel wisdom. Take it with a grain of salt:
Before you leave
- Make 2 copies of your Passports. Leave one with someone who is NOT traveling. Tuck another in your suitcase. When you're out and about in-country, carry the copy and leave the real thing locked in your suitcase.
- Pay all the bills that will be due while you're gone.
- Set a timer on a lamp and leave a radio playing at your house.
- Get someone to check on your house.
- Put a hold on your mail and newspaper, or have someone get it every day.
- Warn your bank and your credit card companies that you will be accessing your money from some really cool places.
- Write down your bank and CC contact info and tuck it somewhere (other than your wallet, duh) where you will hopefully not need to use it.
- Call your health insurance and find out what to do in case of Emergency. Write down the instructions and phone numbers, don't worry about it any more.
- Learn to say: where is the bathroom, please, thank you, you're welcome, I don't speak...., yes and no, help, and water. Anything else is nice but not necessary, this is just a short trip. Ice Cream is another good one to know if you have room in your brain. Make yourself a cheat sheet.
- Start taking Vitamin C now, keep it up through your trip. Very little is worse than being sick on vacation.
- Gradually start to shift your bedtime and the time you wake up an hour or two in the direction of your jet lag. (I have only managed to do this once, but it was a big help)
- Make a packing list - ONE. single. list. - before you start packing. Do not put things in your bag that are not on the list. (if you get an attack of last-minute-but-what-if-I-need-this, explain your reasoning and ask Mark to put it in his bag. If he won't, you probably don't NEED it.)
- Put something bright and unique on your suitcase handle. Put the same bright thing on your carry-on.
- Put a note with your name and contact info INSIDE your suitcase, right on top.
- Only put your initial, last name and e-mail on the outside tag.
- Take everything you won't need out of your wallet. (SS Card, extra credit cards, bank cards, etc.) Or pack yourself a "travel" wallet with the bare minimum. I use a little over the shoulder purse/wallet. Put your passport, ID, tickets, money, cards, & iPod in it. This is good through the airport so you have everything you need right at hand and don't have to worry about setting it down and losing it. (I wear a jacket over it so it's extra hard to snatch). You can always drop it into a bigger bag or backpack later.
- Leave your cell phones in the car glovebox. Unless you are paying for an international plan, they will not work overseas and will just be another thing to worry about. If you use them for your alarm, go to Walmart and buy a $5 travel clock, much less of a big deal if it breaks or you forget it in a hotel.
- Put one car and one house key in your suitcase. Leave the rest of your keys at home or in the glove box. Same as with the cell phones, just another thing to worry about.
- Pack a first aid kit. If you have a headache, you don't want to be trying to figure out the French word for Pharmacy or Asprin.
- I like to pack a sleep aid it helps me doze on the plane and a lower dose soothes jangled nerves. (I use Hyland's Calms Forte. It's Homeopathic and 100% natural, non-addicting, and no "hangover").
- Two words. Hand sanitizer. (99 cents for travel sized peace of mind)
- Two more words. Shout wipes. (so you can wear that shirt another day)
- Pack your carry-on with whatever you will need in case your luggage takes a side trip.
- A backpack makes a GREAT carry on and frees up your hands.
- Plan to dress in layers and pack things you can Mix & Match. Jewelry and scarves are little but can really make an outfit look different. You don't need a different shirt for each day, and certainly not more than one option.
- Ami, cute shoes will not be your friend, they will give you blisters and tired feet. Pack a limited number of sensible comfortable shoes. Mark already loves you and you do not need to impress a bunch of high-schoolers and people you will never see again.
- If you pack it you will have to carry it, take some things out.
- Check your airline's restrictions and weigh your bags before you leave the house. Remember to leave room for all those cool souvenirs you are bringing me :)
- Pick up your packed bag and carry-on. Walk around the house, up and down stairs for 15 minutes without stopping or putting anything down. Is there anything else you'd like to take out?
On your way
- Pack a pair of warm fuzzy socks for the plane. I have no clue why airlines try and freeze your toes off, but they DO.
- A pashmina can do double duty as a light blanket or balled up as a pillow on the plane and as a cool accessory on the ground,
- Carry an empty water bottle through airport security - fill it at the water fountain (or ask for a free cup of water at a restaurant) once you're in.
- HYDRATE - like it is your job. The Whole Trip, but especially on the airplane.
- The second you step on the plane, adopt your new time zone. If you don't power through it at the start you spend much longer in a fog.
- Wear slip on shoes through security and PLEASE for the love of all that's good, use the time you're standing in line to take off your jewelry and empty your pockets into your purse/carry on, take off your jacket and belt, unzip your laptop case, and get your ticket and Photo ID in your hand.
- Pack granola bars, nuts & cracker sandwiches. They're good for the flight and if you need a boost to get though a long morning of sightseeing. Once you're on the ground, duck into a grocery store and get some fruit.
On the ground
- DO NOT BE AN UGLY AMERICAN! Speak softly, be polite, listen, and follow instructions. You are a guest and you do not know the best and truest way to do everything, try it their way.
- You might look like a nerd if you carry a notebook and take notes on tours. The trade off is that two weeks later you will not be the one saying "what castle was this? Why did I take a picture of this chair?" You will not remember, don't fool yourself.
- At least journal a little each night. (http://www.gadanke.com/product/journey-travel-journal)
- Don't carry a huge day bag. A small bag with your wallet, water bottle, granola bar, piece of fruit, camera, notebook and pen will be enough. A big bag full of what-if-I-needs will make your shoulder sore.
- Write down the address of your hotel and your itinerary for the day, tuck it in your pocket, just in case.
- Do not put yourself in dangerous situations.
- Do not be to proud to say, "I need help"
- Do. not. panic.
- You might have to pay to use the toilet. Just be aware.
- Go with the flow. Enjoy the moment you're in.
- Eat all the Gelato you can. Every chance you get.
- Buy postcards even if you never send them.
- Get dessert, you will walk it off.
- Resist the urge to put artifacts in your mouth. (Seriously, I had this urge in Prague. I did not act on it. You should not either.)
- Take lots of pictures. If you can, empty your camera card each night (can your iPad do this?) You will have a fresh start each day and not have to worry about running out of room or losing all your photos if something happens to your camera.
- Get pictures of you and Mark in front of stuff as well as just stuff.
In Conclusion, Dad's rules always apply: Do your best, respect your teammates, have fun (and always take a travel buddy).