I recently had a chat with a friend who revealed they were headed out of the country on a family vacation and knowing my travel habits they asked if I had any tips for making travel less stressful. As I wrote a response I thought some of these tips might be useful for others as well and here we are.
1) Talk to your Hotel Staff
If you’re like me, you probably aren’t comfortable talking to new people. Especially when it’s a stranger and your very first interaction with them is face to face. For whatever reason it’s just never been my thing. Talking to large groups of people? No problem. Talking to people on the internet I’ve never met before? Sure why not. Have a person to person interaction and ask them for information when I’ve never met them before? NOPE.
With all of that in mind something I can’t stress enough is to leverage your hotels hospitality staff. Ask them questions about the area especially about things that matter to you. Not only are they usually some of the most helpful people out there but it’s part of their job to be social and help you so ask. I can’t tell you the number of times where I’ve learned of some fantastic places to eat by asking, or about some upcoming local community event that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of.
It’s amazing to me how often people just think of the front desk as the place they “check in and check out” of the hotel. It’s so much more.
2) Locate closest grocery & coffee shop ASAP
Find the closest grocery store and coffee shop (if you drink coffee) on day one. There is nothing worse than forgetting something and then you need it. Doesn’t matter how essential, or non-essential that thing is. If you need it. You need it. It makes your entire trip, business or personal significantly more stress free if you have a semblance of an idea on where to go if you need something.
3) Jet lag sucks
Jet lag sucks. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 45 it just flat out sucks. Now you might think “Oh but I’m not changing time zones it will be fine” – ahahaha. While jet lag is significantly worse when you change time zones, just getting on a plane is rough on the human body especially if you’re not used to it. Your ears will pop, you’re breathing the same air as a TON of other humans with varying degrees of healthiness and the air will dry you out. Do not underestimate the power of chewing gum, and drinking a TON of water. Not coffee, not soda (pop if you from Michigan), not alcohol but actual water.
There is a reason why they serve salty snacks on the flight and it’s not just because they are cheap. Eat some salt and drink a ton of water and it will help not only with the jet lag bug just in general how you feel after sitting on a plane for 2 – 4 hours.
Finally, if you are changing time zones make sure that you do your absolute best to stay up until 10PM – 11PM in the local time zone and get up no later than 8AM in the local time zone the following day. Yep you’ll feel miserable and tired the next day but it will help you acclimate faster. Bonus points if you drink even more water for at least the first day and maybe some Vitamin-C booster.
4) Bring power outlet converter
If this is your first time traveling outside of the United States, or too the United States, make sure you bring your outlet converter. Due to different countries being built in different time periods with different regulations they have different outlets. If you’re traveling abroad check every country that you are planning to go to and what style of outlet they have and make sure you bring a converter.
I can’t repeat this enough times. Check the night before you leave. Check the day you leave. Check at the airport, check before you get on the plane. Whatever you have to do to make sure you have one. There is nothing worse than scrambling to find one when you arrive at your destination, hoping that your phone will live long enough to direct you where you need to go to get a converter.
Additionally, you can get a batter pack that will last about a week for $50 on Amazon. If you don’t have one and you do any type of travel at all, you should get one and keep it in your carry on.
5) Credit/Debit Cards check for foreign transaction fees before you go and have cash just in case.
Depending on what country you are going to your credit or debit card might charge you a percentage fee on the conversation rate to foreign currency. Make sure that you account for this with your employer and in your spending as well. Additionally there are some cards, usually business oriented cards and some of the fee based cards that don’t have any types of fees no matter where you use them in the world.
It’s also important to note some countries have a strong preference for cash and some have a preference for cards. Example, I was recently in Sweden and overheard someone attempting to pay for McDonald’s with cash and they couldn’t accept it because of the time of day it was. It was a truly bizarre experience. However in Germany, there is a preference for cash over cards the same as Japan. Japan also has a strange preference for EXACT change. If the country has a heavy focus on cash, research if they tend to use coins, or bills for their small denominations and ensure that you have something appropriate to put coins in if needed.
6) Notify your bank about upcoming travel a week ahead of time.
While most banks have gotten a lot better about this, especially if you have a banking application on your phone, some banks will panic if they see a charge in another country. It’s one of the first indicators of fraud especially if you don’t travel consistently. Notifying the bank ahead of time that you will be out of the country will help avoid any awkward moments where you are unable to purchase something you’ve brought to the register.
7) Cell Phone Planning
There is nothing worse than a surprise phone bill. While most wireless carriers have gotten a lot better about traveling abroad, there are some carriers where you need to take proactive action with them. I highly recommend investigating what your options are as depending on the type of phone you have and more it can impact your choices.
Carry Cards from different banks/vendors (Visa/MasterCard/AMEX) – This can be a life saver as some business don’t take certain card types and if one card gets blocked.
Place all important items like medications, eye care and a change of clothes in your carry on just in case your checked bag doesn’t make it right away.
Toothbrush! – Take it with you and brush your teeth when you land helps you wake up and feel human. Also, snag a paper copy of your ticket at the gate. There are few things more stressful than a grumpy TSA agent because your cell phone died and you don’t have your ticket.