Keep Your Dream Trip From Turning Into a Nightmare

By on September 1, 2011

By Sandra Glahn –

  • Have you begun the planning for a trip that you’ve dreamed about for months, maybe years?
  • Make sure the trip doesn’t turn into a nightmare from an oversight or mistake that so many international travelers make in poor planning and foresight, having to learn the hard way, what to do and what not to do.
  • Below is a list that can make your trip more enjoyable and worry free!
  • Search smartly for airline tickets. Most people don’t cancel their “hold” reservations when they change their minds. As such holds usually expire at midnight, 1 AM is a better time than 2 PM to grab good seats.
  • Use a credit card that offers generous points on air and hotel travel. For example, the Capital One Visa card allows a lot of flexibility and generous points on a variety of airlines.
  • If you fly only on American, you might prefer the AA Citicard Mastercard.
  • If you travel to do humanitarian work, know that some airlines, such as British Air, will allow you to take up to three bags of 50 pounds each without charging extra-luggage fees. (Remember to factor such fees into the price of your ticket.) Some airlines also extend to humanitarian travelers a longer “hold” period on reservations, and they will allow last-minute changes in transit without penalty. Investigate your options.
  • Once you book your lodging, check to make sure you belong to the hotel’s frequent-traveler program. Even if you plan to stay only once, enroll to receive benefits such as free Wifi, cookies on check-in, daily newspapers, and/or access to executive lounges.
  • Choose your airline seat with care. If you want the smoothest ride, select a place over the wings. If you need quiet, sit as far forward as possible, but avoid the galley and bathrooms. If you have long legs, go for the first row or select a seat beside an emergency exit. Consider whether you prefer a good view (window seat) over access to a restroom without having to crawl over anyone (aisle).
  • Buy luggage that’s not black (like everybody else’s), so you can quickly identify it in baggage claim. But avoid purchasing a brightly colored bag that will get you targeted as an American.
  • Create a checklist in your computer and print out a copy when it’s time to pack. Cross off each item as you pack it. If you travel with a pet, keep a list for Fido or Fluffy’s items, too. Make sure your list includes ticket, money, itinerary, and passport.
  • Complete the emergency contact information on your passport and keep it updated.
  • Forward a copy of your itinerary to a family member or trusted friend so at least one person knows how to find you if you don’t answer your phone.
  • Tuck a few thank-you notes inside a book or magazine you plan to keep. If you need to thank someone, you’ll have what you need.
  • Check the weather report for your destination, and pack accordingly. If you live in Houston or Maui, where it can stay warm at night, it’s easy to forget that August nights in the Pacific Northwest require sweatshirts.
  • Buy a good pair of shoes for travel that could pass for dress shoes and that slip on and off easily. Make sure they’re the kind that won’t hurt your feet if you have to run from one end of an airport to the other.
  • Keep a separate cosmetic kit for travel-only and fill it with a copies of your travel insurance card and eye-glass prescription, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, aspirin, cotton swabs, a brush, deodorant, extra contacts (with cases) and eye drops, nail clippers, purse-size tissues, an extra set of eyeglasses, your favorite make-up, shampoo, conditioner, curling iron, and an empty pill bottle. The latter will remind you to take medications with you. When it’s time to go, place in the empty bottle the number of pills you will need for your trip and stash in your carry-on.
  • Keep a flashlight in your luggage. Install the batteries upside down so if the light gets knocked on, the batteries won’t go dead.
  • Purchase an extra phone recharger cord and store it in the pocket of your luggage so you never get stranded without that necessary item.
  • Keep an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag. Once you get through security, fill it at a water fountain, and save yourself the cost of an airport-priced drink.
  • Carry everything on with you whenever possible. By doing so you can eliminate baggage fees, proceed to the curb without having to wait for luggage, and guarantee that all your bags arrive with you.
  • On international flights avoid the temptation to watch eight hours’ worth of movies, leaving you exhausted when you reach your destination. Make shut-eye a priority. Even if you don’t actually sleep, close your eyes and rest.
  • Stay hydrated. Fill up on water instead of soft drinks, and use eye drops to keep your eyes from drying out.
  • Carry two different kinds of credit cards. If one credit card company (such as Visa) puts a hold on your account because of unusual activity, you’ll still have access to another (like Discover).
  • Carry a Starbucks card for major international layovers. In some places you can use it to avoid changing funds just to buy a cup of joe.
  • If you must go through customs, pack your suitcase using groupings of items stashed in gallon-sized plastic bags. If officials rifle through your stuff, they can easily see everything without tossing items about. When they finish, you can throw everything back inside and zip in a hurry.
  • Dress for security. Pack, rather than wearing, heavy jewelry, belts with buckles, and clothing with snaps or studs. Also nix the under-wire bra. If you have body piercings, remove metal before heading to the airport.
  • Grab that stash of magazines you’ve been meaning to read and cut out your address. Take them with you, read them, and leave in the seat pocket when you’re finished.
  • Pack a peanut-butter sandwich, even if a meal is served. If you get stuck on the Tarmac, your stomach won’t grumble. If you don’t eat it, you’ll have something to snack on once you reach your destination.
  • Speaking of snacks, those mini-bar goodies can costs a mint. Include snacks on your checklist and pack a few of your favorites.
  • E-mail a copy of your talking points to yourself and the event coordinator “just in case.” Carry your presentation on a zip drive, which can save the day if your computer dies.
  • Print out the address of the hotel and how to get there from the airport. If your cab driver speaks little English or doesn’t know how to get there, you have what you need to give directions.
  • When staying as a guest in someone’s home, change the bed on your departure day, and stuff used linens in the pillowcase for easy transport to the laundry room.
  • Think ahead about gifts. Will you need to give something to a host or translator? Keep a stash of lightweight options (regional canned food, coffee, gift books, journals, bookmarks). Grab what you’ll need when it’s time to go.
  • Keep ten crisp one-dollar bills in an envelope at home. Grab it when it’s time to go so you won’t have to over-tip someone with a “five” because it’s the smallest bill you have.
  • Let a carry-on bag double as a purse/daypack once you reach your destination. Choose the kind you can wear strapped across you, so it’s tough to steal. When you repack upon arrival, toss in purse tissues, a local guidebook, nail clippers, your cell phone, a water bottle, and a copy of your hotel address with itinerary.
  • Do some research about your destination. Check out your local library for language tools and tour guides.
  • When traveling internationally, carry cash and credit cards in a money purse that goes inside your clothing. Keep only a few dollars in your carry-on. Print and fold a copy of your itinerary, and keep it with your cash and cards. Tuck in a business card or two.
  • Check out local customs. The iPhone has a free app called “World Customs and Cultures” that tells different country’s common greetings, communication styles, views of time, and taboos. Maybe you know to avoid showing the sole of your foot in Jordan, but you might need to know you should never rest your foot on the chair in front of you in Luxembourg or that laughing loudly in Macedonia is considered rude.
  • Some countries require women to cover their heads in sacred spaces. Find out if such is the case at your destination, and if so, pack a lightweight scarf you can throw on at the last minute. You don’t want to miss a chance to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Sandra Glahn’s job as editor-in-chief of Kindred Spirit magazine has taken her to numerous U. S. destinations as well as Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Kenya. She has authored or coauthored seventeen books. Find more of her work here: http://www.aspire2.com/.

About Sandra Glahn

Dr. Sandra Glahn is Associate Professor in Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where she is also editor-in-chief of DTS Magazine. She received her master's in theology from DTS and her PhD in Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/ Dallas. Dr. Glahn is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. https://twitter.com/sandraglahn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/sglahn.

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Keep Your Dream Trip From Turning Into a Nightmare