Tag: international

Nightborn’s Essential International Travel Checklist

My latest trip to New Zealand really challenged me to use all my travel-planning skills and know-how that I’ve acquired through my own (sometimes haphazard) experiences and advice from more-seasoned travelers. I thought I’d do you a favor, dear readers, and compile a checklist for you here to help tick off the boxes when you’re planning your next great adventure.

1) Save yourself a lot of trouble and look up any specific travel requirements for the country(ies) that you’ll be visiting.

  • Agriculture/Souvenirs- Many countries are very strict about what you can bring in and what you can bring back.
  • Visas – Do you need to apply for a visa to travel here? No joke – some countries require a visa just to pass customs and enter the country to collect your baggage for a connecting flight.
  • International Driver’s License – Pretty self-explanatory. Check if you’ll need one to drive in your destination.
  • Passport – DON’T FORGET IT. Also, make sure you’ve given yourself enough time, in case it needs to be renewed.

2) Put some thought into where you’re going to stay.

This is really at the traveler’s discretion and depends on what you have planned for your trip.

  • Affordability – Hostels are often the cheapest, and are a good choice if you don’t plan to spend much time in your room and don’t mind communal spaces.
  • Experience – I really can’t recommend AirBnB enough. You can find some really neat spaces for a excellent prices if you do your research ahead of time. If it’s your first time AirBnBing (or really, every time), you should check the reviews that people have left about the location and its host(s) and make sure that you review the amenities included, house rules/guest requirements and refund/date change policy.
  • Location – It’s a given that if your accommodation is in a city center/downtown, it’s going to be pricier. I find that being 10-15 minutes out puts you close enough to most attractions, without paying the same prices. But once again, it’s traveler’s choice – just think about how much walking/driving/using public transportation you want to do.

Speaking of which…

3) Know how you’re going to get around.

Planning ahead will help you get to places safely, on time and also use the most affordable mode of transportation. Is there:

  • Reliable public transportation – Do they have buses, train, light rail, etc. and are they safe/clean/easy to use? Remember that with public transportation you’ll either need to carry a good amount of cash with you or purchase a transportation pass.
  • Rental cars – When renting, consider more than just getting the cheapest car. Is it automatic or manual? Does it have USB/other outlets to charge your devices if you really need to? How old/reliable is it? The last thing you want to do is be driving in a strange place and break down.
  • Planes – I know people don’t always want to hop on another airplane after they’ve taken that big international flight, but sometimes domestic flights are cheaper than driving, and they’ll definitely save you the time.
  • UBER/Lyft/Taxis – Useful option when it’s not feasible or unneeded to to use the other options above. Just always use your discretion and be safe – know where you’re leaving from and where you need to go.
  • Good old-fashioned walking – If areas are walkable, always an enjoyable way to see your destination. Wear those comfy shoes and be prepared for weather.

4) Know your mobile device options before you leave.

Traveling to another country no longer means being completely cut off from communications (which can be both a great and terrible thing). Here are a few things to consider:

  • What your carrier already offers –  Do you have free/unlimited texting? How much do calls cost? Do you have data usage without an extra charge for roaming?
  • Purchasing an international data plan – find out if you can and if it’s worth it.
  • Mobile hotspot – if you already use your phone as a hotspot, this is a good and secure substitute for wifi, plus you won’t need to rely on another device for internet. Check the rates out with your carrier.
  • PocWifi – It’s a basically what it sounds like – a pocket wifi device you can carry with you for internet access. We were able to rent one at the Auckland airport for a pretty affordable rate, with unlimited data usage. Like any wifi device, connection got fiddly at some points (especially in high mountain areas or on the outskirts of town) but we were always able to connect and it was life-saver when it came to connecting to the internet to use our phones to navigate.

5) Annnnd most importantly, be flexible!

Weather, flight changes/delays/etc., and other unforeseen challenges will pop up when traveling. And yes, it is a bummer when your day doesn’t go as planned, but you’ve come all this way, so try to make the most of it. It’s not a bad idea to do research some ideas for what to do on these off-days, and, you can always ask locals for their advice.

Travel well,
Katie

5 Things I’ve Learned from Getting Stuck at Airports

I’ve gotten stuck waiting at a LOT of airports, so naturally I’ve picked up a few things that have made it a little easier for me when faced with traveling inconveniences.

1) Travel delays are less of an ‘if’ and more of a ‘when’, so try to plan accordingly.

These days, it feels like a delay at some airport is almost inevitable, if even for a short amount of time. Unfortunately, sometimes even the slightest delay can throw everything off schedule. I know it’s not always possible, but for big events (usually weddings), it’s a good idea to give yourself a couple days leeway before the occasion to account for any hiccups.

For example, I was traveling from the U.S. to Manila for a cousin’s wedding. All of my connecting flights went smoothly, until the very last one at the Narita Airpot. I was supposed to board at six, which turned to seven, eight and nine and when we finally boarded the plane, they herded us back off because by the time we would arrive in the early a.m., there would be no crew to welcome us. Oh, and the next available flight? Not until 1 p.m. the next day.  I lost nearly an entire day, making me extremely glad the wedding was later in the week.

2) Travel as light as you can…

Good advice for when:
a) Your gate suddenly changes after your last flight delay made you late, and you have to haul your butt across three airport concourses to make it to you connection in time.
b) You’re traveling solo and need to drag your bags everywhere with you. There’s nothing like trying to cram yourself into an airport bathroom with a bunch of luggage.
c) Your connecting flight, for whatever reason, doesn’t transfer your bags with you and you have to go through the whole rigmarole of baggage claim and check-in AGAIN.

3) … But, bring back-up essentials in your carry-on.

This has come through for me AT LEAST twice. I mentioned my sweet stay at the Narita Airport up above – after spending more than 12 hours at the same airport gate, I’m SO glad I had clothes to change into and toiletries to refresh myself. The second time, having learned from Narita, I was flying to Manila again with maybe two or three days worth of extra clothing in my backpack. It served me well after my having to switch flights – I arrived fine, but my baggage took three days to find me, having flown on my ORIGINAL connecting flight.

Things to Keep Handy:
– Extra clothing (especially undies)
– Toothbrush/toothpaste (just remember to keep that tube small enough size for TSA approval)
– Face wipes (good for make-up removal/other face gunk and generally TSA-approved)
– Small stick of deodorant
– Portable phone charger/power bank (in case you’re faced with full or broken outlets)

4) Learn about the airport beforehand, especially if you have multiple connections.

It’s just a great idea to know the layout of the airport(s) you’re traveling to you’re not surprised by what you’ll find when you arrive. If you have the time, then you’ll know where you want to eat, shop and relax. If you don’t have time, then you can move around with ease and book it to your next destination. It also helps to know some other miscellaneous details like if the airport has wi-fi (and is it free?), what currency the airport will accept if you’re traveling to another country (Narita actually accepted USD, which was pretty convenient) and if they have places to stay inside the airport should you need a rest (Narita actually had hotel rooms available – but when I was delayed we were asked to remain by the gate – booooooo).

5) Don’t panic.

If delays happen, if you get stuck in an airport like I did, try your very best not to freak out, take a deep breath and then figure out your next steps.

When I ended up chillin’ like a villain in Narita I:
a) Used the wi-fi to use my messaging apps to see of my family members was online so I could get in contact with them and let them know what’s up and not to worry.
b) Didn’t get mad or berate the staff for a weather delay they couldn’t control, but stuck around, listened to what updates they had and did what they asked of us.
c) Made the best of it. I got to try consommé-flavored Pringles (which I didn’t even know existed) and learned how to make a curry MRE (which actually tasted pretty dang good), I talked to an extremely nice missionary couple that ended up watching out for me while I got some nap time in (still using my carry-on as pillow so I would know if anybody was trying to mess with it) and explored the Narita Airport while purchasing enough green tea Kit-Kats to keep me happy.

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Mmmmm. Soup.

Really, my hope for every flight and for you is that you don’t get stuck with your buns warming an uncomfortable airport gate seat for hours. However, if you do, remember my advice and perhaps it’ll make things a bit more bearable.

Bisous,
Katie

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