I travel A LOT! As much as I possibly can, I find it hard to breath if I don’t have a plane ticket booked and ready. Right now, as I write this blog I have 3 tickets for this year, and I promise to share these adventures with you when they happen.
I love the whole process of going abroad from beginning to end; booking flights, booking a hotel/Airbnb, making a packing list, packing, getting to the airport, even going through security, and knowing that all those will eventually get me to the departure gate, to those magical words: “passport and boarding pass please” and to my beloved window seat on my way to another adventure. Be it an old destination or new, a weekend or several months, the excitement is always at a maximum. What can I say?! I have the soul of a wanderer.
Through the years and during my many trips I learned some things that I take with me, things that make my life easier during the whole process of flight preparation, at the airport and more often than not abroad as well. Since sharing is caring please allow me to introduce my Full Pre-Flight Guide. It has a slightly less story telling vibe than usual and it is a bit more informative but if I manage to save you some time at security or a few dollars to be used later during your adventure it will all be worth it.
Booking a flight – When I come to book a flight I start off with two main websites: The firs and also the one I use as a main resource is SkyScanner and the second which I use mostly for comparison is Momondo. After I find good, potential flights I will always check at the airline’s website directly to make sure that I am not missing out on a potentially cheaper flight if I book directly.
*** Things that I would spend extra money on to enjoy the flight more: will pay up to $100 for a direct flight instead of a connection (which is where you can save money if you don’t mind a connection). Will pay for a window seat so I can be comfortable. If I need luggage I will pay for it while booking the flight as paying for them at the airport costs more (a story about that a bit later). ***
Booking accommodation – For a new location I always research the internet and question people I know what are the safe areas to stay in. After deciding on a location and depending on my budget I will book either a hotel or an Airbnb. For a hotel I will go to Booking.com and search usually for something central and always something close to public transportation. As with the flights, I always check the hotel’s website to match the prices. If I have a tighter budget or if there are no affordable hotels in the area I want, I will usually go for Airbnb where the search criteria will be a bit different: good area and close to public transport are a given, for me I prefer to pay a bit more and have the whole flat and not a room in a flat even though I stayed in a room twice before and the families were AMAZING. If I arrive in the middle of the night I will look for self check-in (little coded boxes that hold a key for you and save you from needing the host to be present) and I ALWAYS read at least 10-15 reviews to see that the place is legit. I know there are some horror stories out there but if you take the time and do the proper research you are more likely to have a wonderful experience.
*** If I stay at an Airbnb I try to bring along some nice chocolate from my country and leave it for the host with a thank you note, it is something small that can go a long way towards your review, and even more important, toward the perception people have of your country (“look how nice Israelis are!!!”), also making a host that was part of the reason your holiday was great feel all worm and fuzzy inside. ***
Packing – I always make a packing list! I use a packing list app, my mom uses a handwritten list, no matter how you do it I recommend that you do. First of all, making a list gets you in the mood for a new adventure 🙂 it helps you focus on what you really need on your trip and also makes sure you don’t forget anything important.
When I was traveling in New Zealand and Australia with everything on my back I learned to travel light, I was sending more and more of my things home until I was left only with what I really needed. Nowadays, no matter where I go I can fit almost everything I travel with into my hand luggage. If I go on long trips I put the hand luggage in my big luggage and then I have all that space for shopping and souvenirs. I use the amazing rolling method of packing, you basically fold everything in half and then roll it. I s*** you not, you can fit twice as much, packing that way. I only pack the essentials, a couple of shirts, a couple pairs of trousers, a couple of layers if it’s cold, make sure everything goes with everything and that is that. There is no need for 12 shirts for a 5 day trip, you know exactly what you are going to wear and it is not that pretty shirt you haven’t touched in 7 months. Long trips allow you to do some washing, short trips don’t require so many outfits and it is always better to leave some room for some fun shopping rather than carrying a million things from home… just saying 😛
Airport Fast-Tracking – You are all packed, ready to go and excited. You arrive at the airport, looking forward to getting rid of your luggage and go have a drink at duty-free but you find that security takes AGES! Now don’t get me wrong, my advice will not fast-track you through endless queues as this is out of our control but it will make sure that when your turn comes it goes by as quickly as humanly possible:
- While queuing for the baggage drop have your passport ready, out of any cover and in your hand, that way when they get to you, you are ready and not looking for it and delaying yourself and everyone behind you. It also shows security that you are a frequent flyer who knows what to expect and so they might lax the questioning a bit. With that said, don’t try and be too smart for your own good, we all know the questions that they are about to ask but let them ask them, they are not listening only to your answers but also to your body language and being a know it all might actually cause them to question you more.
- Be nice (which is a good rule in general)! When you come to the baggage drop be nice to the person siting in front of you, it will at times save you from overweight charges just because you were the only one to smile at them that day (based on several true stories).
- Make sure that both your hand luggage and your handbag only has liquids and ointments under 100 ml, I mean come on people, this rule has been around for ages now. If you want to take it to the next level (which I always do) put all those baby deodorant/lip balm/hand creams in a zip lock bag in advance that when you arrive at security all you have to do is take it out as is and not fish for those little things in your bag. Take your belt and coat off while waiting your turn, try and wear shoes to the flight without buckles, I know all this sounds obvious but it does save time and who of us didn’t get stuck behind someone taking off their belt and coat only after they were told, holding everyone in line just a bit longer?!
The Unexpected – As promised, a little story: I was at the airport on my way to a holiday, standing at the baggage drop I discovered that I accidentally only booked luggage for the way back. The man working at the baggage drop informed me that now I can no longer pay for the luggage at the app/website for £30 but have to pay for it at the counter for £60! While he was talking I went into the app and lo and behold, I was able to pay for the luggage without a problem for £30. After paying I showed the receipt to the man at the counter, he had nothing to say in his defense so he checked in my bag and I was on my way. I learned a couple of things from this incident:
- When you book your flight ticket make sure you got all you wanted to get for both directions: seats, luggage etc.
- If you missed something do not automatically trust what you are told at the counter, check apps and websites as this can save you money and heartache.
- Even if the person at the counter misled you, or as I like to think of it, made a mistake, accept it with grace and a smile, getting angry will hurt no one but you.
And lastly, if all else fails and you end up having to pay an extra fee, accept it as an offering to the holiday Gods, leave the slightly bad feeling at the airport along with your money and enjoy your time away.
Go wander, your Traveling Unicorn x