6 Pro Tips for International Travel
Travel today has become simple. Well, simpler than what it used to be. With some who travel frequently and the summer upon us, a chance or need to visit a new destination may arise for a lot of people. However, with a lot to consider when traveling to new lands; from modes of transport to lodging and getting around. It has become more a stressful exercise. Having spent the early part of 2014 and 2015 traveling from one part of the world to another, I have come across people who seem fearful of said experience. They find what is supposed to be a fun exercise, a torture or a stressful endeavour.
Here are a few of my tips to overclock your travel experience and hack into making everything work better for you when you travel.
1. Pro Packing
The one thing you must educate yourself with before you travel, is the general atmospheric nature of the region to where you are headed. This will help you determine what all you need to take with you. Take only what you must, and as little as possible, you might end up shopping more than you expected to. If splurging on consumerism is not your thing, traveling light has many benefits. With Airlines trying to extract the profit balance, the Allowed weight of baggage is becoming lesser and lesser. If you do go on a shopping frenzy, always keep a digital luggage scale handy, so that you know when you have reached your limit.
While everyone is an expert in packing their own things, few tips like rolling up clothes, and lining the bottles to the side of your luggage really works to free up that space. Stuff your shoes with socks and other soft small clothing items, double pack your liquids in sealed plastic bags to avoid those unwanted shampoo stains on your favorite business suit.
An extra set of clothing in your carry on luggage goes a long way, especially when your luggage is delayed or lost in transit. Never put anything of value in checked in baggage and wrap fragile items in layers of newspaper or bubble wrap.
Lock your checked in bags with a TSA approved locks. This type of lock will allow security agencies to open and check the bag if they so need to, then re lock it safely. Travel size is the way to go, so ensure that, if you carry any liquids in your carry-on bags they are within the carry-on size limits (below 100ml in most cases).
2. Beat The Airline
When you travel, it seems that everything is chargeable. Extra luggage, food and even basic comfort is a paid luxury. When possible, plan in advance; buy tickets early and even pay for the extra luggage online. This will save over 50% of what airlines call “opportunity earnings”. Always check in online, this helps you beat the queue, find a fairly comfortable seat and also mostly get away with slightly heavier baggage. Use the bag drop service, when available, after checking in online, to avoid the luggage being weighed when traveling within countries.
If you can afford to, then always only buy business class tickets, use the same airline as often as you can and always join that airlines frequent flyer program. If booked well in time, business class tickets can be had for only a slight percentage more than the economy tickets. The business class service is fantastic , seats are very spacious, enough to be sleep-worthy on a long haul and food is actually edible and healthy, while alcohol is poured in generous quantities.
Tanking up on frequent flyer miles miles can have its privileges, once you progress from silver to gold to platinum, you will see a host of possibilities open up. An additional bag, priority check-in, free lounge access, porter service at most international airports all this for basically being loyal to the airline. You will also get free upgrade vouchers, and freebie gifts as a frequent flyer.
Your miles always come in handy too, pay excess baggage fee, get upgrades, or even buy tickets using up your miles as modes of payment. You can often end up traveling for free if you are smart from the get go.
3. Pick Your Transport
Depending on the kind of person you are pick your transport and plan for it in advance. The best way to get around in a new city is to use what the locals use. For example, New York city is best seen with the use of the underground rail and the bus network.
If you are traveling for a week or more, buying a weekly/monthly pass may come in handy. This card allows free unlimited rides on the train and bus network within the city, also a month long pass usually ends up being cheaper than one single taxi ride.
Some cities are easily accessible on foot, and some using cycles available for rent. Barcelona is one such place, where travelers can get around best using rented bicycles. Goa is best seen by renting motorbikes, or even cars and open trucks. You can even rent vehicles when traveling considerable distances, an hour or two hours drive away from your place of stay. Most rental companies will accept foreign Drivers licenses and offer great discounts and upgrades when booked well in time. These rental companies also have loyalty programs which almost work like frequent flyer programs, allowing free upgrades, priority service, etc.
Airport transfers can be tricky too, always plan these in advance. Usually governments arrange bus services from Airports to downtown areas. New York has the “NYC Airporter” service which is run by the city, this service costs US $ 15 one way VS the one way taxi fare which is roughly US $ 70. New Delhi Airport has shuttles that run for free and sometimes for a very nominal fee. If you cannot find such a service, try using the local public transport when available. Berlin for example ( and most European destinations) has a great bus networks that connects to the airport.
Pro-Tip: Pre booking a taxi or finding a govt. authorized taxi service works well.
4. Pro Lodging
Depending on the kind of person you are, there are always lots of options available when booking a place to stay. If you are okay sharing spaces, websites like AirBnB have proven to be pocket friendly.
If you are booking a hotel that you have never stayed at before, always only book for the first night. Your epic vacation could come to a screeching halt if the pictures you saw while booking lied about the exact state or locality of said hotel. If you have paid only for the first night you can always go look for a better place incase your existing spot does not cut it for you.
If the place of stay is known by you or those around you, then always book well in advance to get the best possible deals. Try booking directly with the hotels from their websites, using coupons or by emailing hotels. This usually turns out much cheaper than using websites that claim to be cheapest, and you often get deals like free breakfast and room upgrades.
5. Eat and Party where the Locals Do
Make friends before you arrive! The best way to know a place is to actually have friends who live there. Lots of travel forums and social networks allow you to get to know people before you arrive to a new city.
Avoid going to “touristy” places, they usually end up being a disappointment. As far as food goes, there is no better way to experience the food of new place than to eat where the locals eat. This will have the most authentic flavors and the best prices, you will meet fun people and have a blast.
6. Pro Connectivity
While travel sim cards are available a plenty, staying connected nowadays is more than just phone calls. Data is a very important need of the modern day traveller, and it’s best had by getting a local number. Most countries issue Sim cards to tourist almost instantly, after taking a copy of your passport. Find out the best phone and data plans for pre paid cards and simply get there and get connected. Retain these cards and activate online account for your numbers, so you can simply recharge your number before you travel again, to be connected on arrival.
Coffee shops and Cafes like Starbucks provide free Wi-Fi and power sockets to charge your devices. Never miss an opportunity to grab a hot cuppa, or a mocha frappuchino and get connected while you recharge your portable.
Most airlines now have Apps that not only allow you to check in and get your boarding cards on your phone, but also send instant notifications on delays, gate closing times and last minute gate change. Just so you don’t miss the last call announcement while listening to music on your fancy noise canceling headphones. If you own an iPhone, Passbook will scan your emails and remind you about your flights and add boarding cards to the book.
Bonus : Tech Travel
While most travel to enjoy visiting a new place, there are some with a fixed agenda. If you fly often, a long battery life tablet like an iPad and noise cancellation headphones may as well become your best friends.
A tablet allows you to carry millions of books, games , movies and a lot more to keep you busy. The noise cancellation headphones with active noise cancellation will almost entirely eliminate the loud airline engine hum and also prevent babies from waking you up with their first flight in a pressurised torture tube.
A travel adapter you own, will save you upto US $ 100 that some hotels may charge you, for not owning one. Some hotels don’t even carry these, so you might get stuck at a hotel without being able to charge your phone, your laptop or even your shaver. Different countries and regions have different power sockets and a multi country travel adapter is a must for a frequent flyer to international destinations.
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Enjoy you Summer, plan well and if you do end up in some disaster let us know!