The Big Day is here – an overseas holiday! You are packed and anxious to go. You have everything you need: your passport, plane ticket and some money to pay for your next few weeks. Let’s check a few things before you go, so you can enjoy your vacation.
Before you go
Pack as little as possible. You should have no more than one suitcases and one carry-on (check the baggage allowance for your flights). If you are going to a tropical climate it will be even easier packing just shorts and T-shirts. Remember, you can always pick up some new clothes at your destination.
Ensure that you have all of your medications (if you take any) and copies of your prescriptions. Check on the latest rules for carrying liquids in your carry-on. The rules and regulations change frequently – so keep updated.
Re-confirm your flight and do your check-in before you go to the airport. Sometimes, due to extreme weather conditions, flights get cancelled or delayed. While re-confirming, get your seat assignment, according to your preferences.
Check and double check that you have everything. Use a checklist and check it 2 or 3 times before you go. Really make sure that you have your passport, tickets and some way to pay – cash, ATM card, credit card or traveler’s checks (do not carry too much cash with you. I recommend traveler’s checks – even if they are stolen, they are worthless for the thiefJ). A combination is a good way to make sure that you have alternative means of paying. If you are going to a country that has its own currency, plan to exchange a day or two’s worth at the destination airport. Make sure you exchange the money at the exchange office, NEVER EVER on the street, even if they offer you a “better rate” and don’t change money in your home country – you will get a terrible rate.
At your home airport
Plan to get to your airport about 3 hours ahead of your flight departure. Check-in and security lines can be long and slow. Have your travel documents handy and ready to show wherever you go. Again, check on the rules for what you can bring with your on the flight – especially in your carry-on.
You should have enough time to get a meal at the airport before you take off. At least you have a better choice than the airline food (unless you travel business, of course). Get some trail mix (or snacks) with you to munch on during the flight.
Visit the duty free shops. Get your booze, cigarettes and other goodies for tax-free prices BUT check the limitations at your destination country before you buy 6 bottles of whiskey and find out you are only allowed to bring in one. Also check to see if you can carry liquids on flights that have a layover or two, otherwise your stuff will be confiscated. You may have to make your purchase at the layover before your last leg.
Wireless can be found in most airports. It is a chance to let your friends know you are on your way to a fantastic holiday!
On the flight
Just relax and sleep as much as possible. The time zone changes and jet lag will be lessened. Drink plenty of water (especially on longer flights) and avoid alcohol. Dehydration comes easily on long flights in dry cabin air. You can drink something else later.
Read and/or watch a movie. Do some of the puzzles in the on-board magazines. Keep busy as much as possible. Have some mints and gum to alleviate the air pressure during take-off and landing.
Try to avoid the main course of the airline food. Maybe you should eat the salad, bread and dessert. The main meal is rarely edible. This is why it’s a good idea to eat before you go and have your own snacks.
You will have to fill out a customs declaration form on the plane to turn in to the Custom’s officer. Do this on the plane and stick it with your passport in order to waste time when you arrive .
Head out of the plane as quickly as possible. Everybody will have to go through Immigration/Customs – and sometimes there are lots of landings in a short period of time. It is easy to find the Immigration/Customs desks - just follow the signs and the people going in the same direction. Choose the shortest line and have your passport and the customs declaration ready. Keep a copy of your boarding pass with you, just in case.
Be courteous and polite to the Custom’s officer, get your passport stamped, turn in your customs declaration, and head for the luggage carousels. Make sure you have your own luggage and find the currency exchange.
Change enough money to last you a day or two. ATMs are conveniently located around the world, so a debit card is the easiest way to get local currency. It can be a little more risky using a credit card. Get your money and head for the exit.
Find the taxi or train/bus/shuttle line and head to your hotel. I would suggest to go to the Information desk at the airport and ask how you can get to the hotel using public transportation (I had a very unpleasant surprise in Paris when the taxi cost me 50 Euros to get to the hotel).
You made it! Now, enjoy your vacation.