Summer travel season is upon us and I’m fielding quite a few questions from friends and thought – this is a great outlet for a blog post so I can just send people here! My comments are mostly geared towards someone who is going on a study abroad program or working/living overseas for a few weeks at a time, though I’m sure some of the advice may be helpful for short trips too. Please feel free to leave your suggestions, comments, tips & tricks!
GETTING FROM POINT A TO POINT B
Essentially, that’s what you’re doing, getting from here to there. I have learned quite a few habits of mind that help me with the travel experience. First and foremost, I am the one responsible for knowing how to get from here, to there. Before I head to a foreign location (domestic or international) I memorize Google maps, research transportation, how to get to and from the airport, etc. In my recent trip to India, I became too lax and (re)learned my lesson. Upon arrival in India I was told I would be met by a driver who would take me to my housing. Flights to India arrive at about 2am, so I was already exhausted and was relieved to see the driver with my name. Since I was told transportation was arranged, I didn’t bother writing down the address of my accommodation or trying to look it up on the map ahead of time. After a long drive, I noticed the car was circling and circling around a block. The driver did not have the exact address of the house. Luckily I had my phone and data to pull up my email (more about phones in a bit) and eventually was able to find phone numbers and an address. IF I was as prepared as I SHOULD have been, I would have had all of that info right at hand. Moral of the story, take responsibility for knowing where you are and how to get there.
Also, I have made the decision to remain as calm as possible on my travel day – getting on flights, delays, all of this is stressful, and much of it is beyond your control. If I’m on a flight and a couple or family has been split, I offer to switch seats. I make sure I can manage my carry-on and that everything fits neatly into where it is supposed to go. Just go with the flow as much as possible.
Pack light. I have to carry a lot of technology for our summer program, but I try to keep it as small and light as possible. I get the really large Ziploc bags to organize the stuff in my suitcase. Clothes go in one or two bags, tech in another, etc. This is extremely helpful if you ever have to open your bags at customs, then you’re not seen as the yahoo with all sorts of stuff flying and falling out of your bag. (Normally I travel carry on only, but have to check a bag when going over for that long.)
I prefer the flat packing method for my clothes – I lay all of them on top of each other and then fold the big bundle over once. Some people swear by the rolling method. Whatever works for you. If you’re staying for a few weeks you will have access to a laundry facility so pack light. For 5 weeks overseas I usually bring 5 pairs of pants, a few dresses and then shirts/tops/sweaters to mix and match. I wear my heavy shoes (usually tennis shoes) on the plane and pack a good pair of walking shoes/sandals and maybe one more lightweight shoe. I always leave room so I can bring back a treasure or two from my explorations.
POWER & DEVICE MANAGEMENT
I made this video a few years ago that you may find helpful.
Beyond technology, because I travel so frequently, I purchased a small UK hair dryer. Hair dryers and curling irons tend to have high power demands on adapters, so, I found it more worthwhile to purchase a “native” inexpensive one for my travel. If you are not going to return, you could always donate your purchase to a local shelter or thrift store at the end of your travel.
STAYING CONNECTED (CELL PHONES ABROAD)
I think this is the question I am asked most often. When I first started traveling it was tricky, but things have become much more easy to manage. I have an iPhone and my cell phone carrier is AT&T. On their online account management site you can easily add international capability to your phone. Because of my job, I need to add data, but, if you don’t need to be connected all the time, you can add an inexpensive roaming plan and bulk purchase text messages. SO many places overseas offer free wifi that you may not miss your data at all. If you need to be more connected, it has also fairly easy (at least in European countries) to purchase a SIM card that you can plug into an unlocked phone or a “disposable phone” that has prepaid minutes and texts. (Info on this can easily be googled so you can find out your options ahead of time.) I have found that for my short trips, it’s much more cost effective to use my US phone and just turn on/off the international features when needed.
If you are going to take a US phone overseas, the important thing to remember and learn on your phone is how to turn off data. This is where the crazy charges can rack up.
Hopefully this helps – safe travels!