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 - 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, contact your financial institutions ahead of time to put a travel alert on, so that they don't suspend services on suspicion of fraud the first time an international charge hits your card
  • Give spare keys to your apt/house to someone trustworthy, 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 sheets before you leave, so when you get home exhausted you can just collapse in it instead of having to wait while they go through the laundry
  • Car owners (especially of older cars):
    • Put gas in your car before you leave
    • If 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, 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 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 I don't even like wearing glasses until absolutely needed - bring your stuff with you to remove contacts on the plane once you're in the air, and put them back in just before you land.
    • Contact case
    • Contact solution, travel-size (in quart Ziploc bag)
    • Compact mirror (so you can do this in your seat on tray table, not while trying to balance yourself in the cabin restroom)
    • Anti-bacterial wipes (wipe hands and table surfaces down before touching your contacts - don't want to get pink eye!)
    • Glasses with case
  • Snacks: 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) or chestnuts.
  • Pen: For filling out customs & immigration forms, so you don't have to be dependent on /wait for the flight attendant to bring you one.
  • Passport !!!
  • Neck pillow: super-dorky, but lifesavers on long haul flights. These give 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 carry-on items, when you need to use every inch of your rolling one for things  you bought 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 can be few and far in between, and you don't want to have to sit on some stranger's lap in order to get your phone charged (while still using 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 spare battery and battery charger!

  • Headphones because most airlines charge for that in coach. And you can't catch any of their programming without it (well it will be very frustrating without sound). Even if you preloaded your iPhone/iPad it will be beneficial to bring two sets of headphones: one for your iPhone / iPad and one for plugging into the seatback entertainment system in case you want to mix it up or spot a good movie you've been wanting to see.  

  • Reading material: Love catching up on reading I don't have time to do rest of year; also necessary in case the movie selection is not what I was hoping for.
  • Pack of tissues

  • Business travelers: Bring an Envelope: So you can stuff your receipts (and write down 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 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 big time. And I hate spending money, when 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 / under control.
    • 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.
    • Bandaids and Neosporin
    • Dramamine if you'll be out at sea and susceptible to seasickness.  Depending on your destination, it may not always be easy to find Dramamine when you arrive.
    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!

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