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10 Tips for the International Traveler

Fay Johnson

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Our Editor-in-Chief has done quite a bit of globe trotting in her day, so we asked her to share some of her go-to advice on what to consider when heading out on an international, cross-culture adventure. Here at 10 things to keep in mind before you head to the airport.

1) Pack Light- Washing is easy to do in most places, and if you’re in a country that doesn’t have laundry service where you are staying, it’s probably the kind of place where they don’t care if you wear the same thing twice. But remember flip-flops. If there is a monsoon or an earthquake you’ll want to be able to get moving quickly (or there just might be something nasty in the shower).

2) Bring A Refillable Water Bottle: But don’t have any liquid in it until you get through check-in. For long international trips it’s easier to fill up and keep with you, and it reduces the amount of trash you will produce while on the road.

3) All-In-One Adapters: Buy at least two; they solves the ‘Oh, I didn’t plan to get diverted to Erbil International and my BB is dead’ problem.

4) Electronic Overload: It’s 2014. Unless you’re shooting for National Geographic- your phone can probably serve as your GPS, computer, sound system and camera. Half the knots in my back could be attributed to carrying ½ the mac store and canon’s latest and greatest in my carry on- they make multifunctional gadgets so you don’t actually need to bring it all.

5) Back It Up: Before you hit the road, make sure you sync your computer and your phone to a device you leave at home. Traveling with your portable hard drive in the same bag as your laptop just means, when it’s stolen, the thief now has two copies of your entire life. Also- Bring a thumb drive. As shocking as it may seem, wifi does not actually form a universal umbrella and when you can’t transfer files via e-mail- thumb drive it.

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6) Multi-Functional Clothing: I always travel with a good-sized wrap/scarf. This serves as a blanket on cheap airlines and makes a good pillow when you need to nap on not-so-clean surfaces. Also, a good wrap will solve many culturally divergent fashion needs- my favorite has been worn as a beach sarong and as a hijab. Gentlemen- I recommend taking a light sweater and a collared shirt with you regardless of where you are traveling. In some cultures it is disrespectful to be in public without a collar.

7) Only Pack One Book: They are heavy and if you really fly through that page turner you haven’t picked up in two years- you can buy or trade for a new one on the road. You plan on catching up on your entire summer reading list on the 32-hour flight from here to there- but you won’t. You’ll more likely end up a) working b) getting stuck next to a talker c) sleeping/pretending to sleep or d) watch trash movies and enjoy every minute of it.

8) Long Flights: If you’re going to be on a plane for more then 24 hours, I suggest having the following in your carry on: ear plugs, eye mask, chapstick, NyQuil, lotion (a mini one), gum, and if you’ve got bad circulation- good socks.

9) Be Organized: If you can’t open your bag and remove whatever TSA wants from you in under a minute- you have too much stuff in your bag. In the same vein, don’t be one of those people who slows down the security check through. Think of it as a form of martial arts and get good at it. It shouldn’t be hard to remove your laptop, a ziplock bag and your shoes.

10) Breathe: They say it’s about the journey- so enjoy it!