Your twenties are filled with opportunities to travel abroad, including exchange programs, working abroad, or backpacking adventures. I’ve already written about creating a capsule wardrobe to get you through a lengthy stay abroad, so now I’ll share some general advice on packing and surviving airports.
Let’s be honest, packing is not something to be complained about unless you’re moving back into your parent’s basement. So hold back on the woe is me Facebook status update, and check out these tips:
- If you’re traveling for a month or more, then you’re going to want to invest in a large, light-weight suitcase. Be sure to check with your airline to ensure that you meet the dimension requirements before you dole out a fortune on a matching set. And this goes double for your carry-on bag! Luggage manufacturers don’t keep up with each airline’s requirements and their self-described carry-ons are impossible to stow overheard.
- Many airlines allow you to carry two carry-on’s; a normal sized carry-on and a purse (or as my Dad would say “a man’s lunch-bag”). Of course, this can change in an instant when security tightens – so make sure that you can fit your purse comfortably inside your main carry-on bag.
- When it comes to packing your carry-on, keep it as light as possible. You will want your valuables on hand (laptop, camera, medications, etc), as well as a book/magazine and a change of clothes, but that’s about it. Leave as much extra space as possible for your coat or any snacks you buy after security.
- Keep unnecessary electronics to a minimum. You’ll probably want a laptop and camera, but do you really need an alarm clock? Also, ensure that you have at least one adaptor or power converter on hand, and research whether it will be compatible with of your electronics. (Check out sites like this About.com British travel guide that explains the power requirements for the country you’ll be staying in)
- What about your cell phone? If you have a tri or quad-band phone, you might be able to use it overseas with a pay-as-you-go sim card. Internet phone services like Skype are the best way to connect with your loved ones back home provided you have access to an internet connection. If you won’t have internet upon arrival, research local internet-cafes and their offerings before you head overseas.
- Test out an easily maintained hairstyle. Leave your hair dryer/straightener/curling iron at home. You’ll thank yourself when you can jump out of bed and get start your new adventure.
- Facecloths and towels can be purchased upon arrival. Or you can try packing one of those microtowels – although after a couple of months they start to stink.
- You can also purchase personal hygiene products when you reach your destination. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, tooth paste, and contact solution are easy to find at your (new) neighborhood drug store – so don’t weigh yourself down with more than you’ll need for a couple of days while you find your.
- Keep personal mementos to a minimum. They’ll weigh your suitcase down and generally stress you out if you misplace them. Instead, keep some digital photos on hand if you get homesick.
- Leave the dishes at home. A semester or year spend studying/working abroad is a great time to learn to live off the land. In modern day times that means you need to learn how to make empty glass bottles into reusable cups, to find super cheap dishes second hand, and how to make meals using just one pot. Learn to improvise!
- Wear your heaviest jacket to the airport. I know, this sounds like a disaster and goes against everything that you’ve ever heard when reading those god-awful ‘what to wear on an airplane’ articles, but you’ll be glad for the extra luggage space. And the coat might come in handy as a pillow or blanket.
- Bonus: check out this list of what not to pack. Leave your high maintenance behaviors at home!
- Learn the in’s and outs of checking in before showing up to the airport.
- Don’t be one of those portfolio-toting disasters. Keep your passport, visas, and plane tickets close at hand while traversing airports, but store the rest in your carry-on. Honestly, no one wants to watch you fumble through your endless papers!
- Have a plan for what you’ll take off while waiting in the security line. Traveling without a belt and metal jewellery can be a serious time saver, especially when you have to worry about getting your shoes off, your laptop out, and that little baggie of liquids.
- About the liquids. If you’ve not an idiot, you know that you can only take 100ml of one thing in a clear baggie that holds no more than 1 litre total of liquids. That’s the rule. Live by it.
- You can, however, take an empty water bottle. Refill it once you’ve gone through security and remember to empty it before going through security again when transferring between planes. This will save you a bunch on expensive airport water.