Sunday, January 8, 2012

1MB Travel Prep Cheat Sheet

After about two and a half weeks' much needed, utopic vacation in Hong Kong and Singapore - I came home to LA to find that my car won't start.

Luckily, I planned my trip so I would return with time for laundry and contingencies before going back to work. I figured, with a car that's nearly 12 years old, the battery probably just stopped working due to inactivity. So it was a simple matter of getting AAA to give it a jump (grateful for the ever lifesaving AAA, and luckily I had just enough gas in my car to drive around for a half hour after to recharge the battery).

But, it got me thinking I should make myself a little cheat sheet of things to do in prep for BOTH leaving and returning from an international trip.

Some of this is obvious and/or pretty specific to my circumstances, so this sheet is probably more helpful to me for the next trip than anyone else - but hopefully at least one of you out there will find something of use in here as well!

Arrangements to Make Before You Leave
  • Travel alert for your credit/debit cards: If you plan to use your cards abroad, call the companies ahead of time to put a travel alert on them, so that they don't suspend services on suspicion of fraud, the first time an international charge hits your card
  • Make sure someone trustworthy has spare keys to your apt/house, just in case
  • Renters with coin-op laundry: set aside a roll of quarters, because you WILL be too tired to venture out in search of coins when you get back
  • Leave a clean bed: Wash your sheets before your leave, so that when you get home exhausted you can just collapse in it instead of having to wait while they go through the laundry
  • Car owners:
    • Stop and put gas in your car before you leave
    • If you're getting a ride from the airport, and you plan to be gone more than 2 weeks, and your car is old like mine - ask your kind friend if they could bring jump cables when they pick you up, just in case, and check your car before they leave. Otherwise, make sure you have your AAA card somewhere easily accessible.
Stuff to Have in Your Carry-On
  • Contact lens wearers: On flights over 9-10 hours total, your eyes are likely to get painfully dry (especially with the recycled air in the cabin). Better to wear glasses - and if you're like me and don't like wearing glasses until absolutely needed - bring your stuff with you to change on the plane once you're in the air, and just before you land.
    • Contact case
    • Contact solution, travel-size (in quart Ziploc bag per Homeland Security)
    • Compact mirror (so you can do this in your seat on tray table, not while trying to balance yourself in the claustrophia-inducing, germ-infested cabin restroom)
    • Anti-bacterial wipes (wipe hands and table surfaces down - don't want to get pink eye!)
    • Glasses with case
  • Snacks: For between meals, in case you get hungry. Again as plane air is so dry, I usually bring a snack that won't make me thirsty as well - like dorayaki (cake with red bean paste).
  • Pen: For filling out customs & immigration forms, so you don't have to wait for the flight attendant to bring you one.
  • Passport !!!
  • Neck pillow: uber-dorky, but lifesavers on long flights. Those flat, useless pillows provided by airlines are not only playgrounds for bacteria, they keep sliding out of place. A neck pillow is effortless, gives you the right amount of support where needed so you don't get neck strain from sleeping at contortionist angles. AND prevents you from swinging over to your neighbor when unconscious - because I have NEVER once been so lucky to be seated next to a stranger that I would WANT to find myself waking up on the shoulder of.
  • Extra tote bag: For your carry-on items, when you need to use the space in your rolling one for the purchases you made at the airport (especially at a place like Tokyo, where I SCHEDULE layovers just to shop, it's got such awesome edible and novelty gifts) - and to make your purchases less conspicuous when going through customs.
  • *Smartphone: Ask your carrier about unlimited international data plan (no voice if you don't want roaming charges). Super handy to have your phone GPS to navigate unfamiliar local roads, look for places to eat (and stay in touch with family/friends back home via email, Facebook, Twitter etc., if your whole purpose for the vacation isn't to go completely off the grid, that is...)
  • Superlong smartphone power cord: because power outlets at airports are few and far in between, and you don't want to have to sit on top of some stranger's lap in order to get your phone charged (while still being able to use it, because how else are you going to kill the time while waiting for your flight?).  I now actually bring my 10 foot-long cable with me wherever I go, not only while traveling.  You can find the 10' cable for iPhones at Best Buy for under $30, and use it with your existing power plug - well worth the investment.
  • Camera!!! With battery charger!

  • Headphones because most airlines charge even for that, nowadays - in coach, anyways. And you can't catch any of their programming without it (well it will be very frustrating without sound). Yes, it's exactly like being stranded on a desert island and them handing you a can without a can opener (well for $x... you can enjoy...). And anyways if you preloaded your iPhone/iPod you'll need to remember to bring headphones (and make sure they're plugged in all the way - I made this faux pas and learned the embarrassing way - yeah I was amusing myself by playing Calvin Harris' "Feel So Close" and everyone heard it...)


  • Reading material: Love catching up on the reading I don't have time to do during the rest of the year; also necessary in case the movie selection blows.
  • Pack of tissues



  • Business travelers: Bring an Envelope:So you can stuff your receipts (and write down/ track tips paid in cash) in one handy place for your expense report when you get back. "Hotels will have them" you say? Waiting til you get there is exactly how you're gonna lose $ on those tiny taxi receipts that are so easy to lose, and forgotten tips along the way for the bellman, etc.


  • Stuff to Have in Your Luggage (besides obvious clothing, shoes etc.)
    • Tweezers / Nail Clippers: For trips more than a few days, that stray eyebrow hair or nail chip is going to bug you big time. And I hate having to spend money, when I'm travelling, on things I already have at home that are highly portable.
    • Emergen-C or Airborne: The last thing you want on a trip is to get sick - and/or spend precious time searching for a drugstore. I take Emergen-C at the first sign of a cold and it usually helps keep it at bay / go away.
    • For those not staying at higher-end hotels, and planning to bring electronics: power adaptor: Check what's needed in your destination country. Most higher-end hotels will be able to provide these, but for everyone else - having that adaptor can be a life-saver if you plan to use your smartphone*, camera, curling iron etc.
    That's all I can think of for now. Will add to this list as more must haves come up.

    Got any tips from your travels? Please do share!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    LinkWithin

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...