It's summer! This means that so many of us are, or soon will be, traveling via airplane to one of this planet's diverse destinations. Flying is exciting, right? There is just something about that airport smell and energy that get's your adrenaline going just a little bit.
One of our favorite things to do at airports is people watch, especially in international terminals. No matter where you are or what kind of travel you're doing, people never fail to disappoint in the area of travel entertainment.
We, the Neufelds, have certainly experienced our share of international travel. Since we have been married we have spent fairly extensive time traveling to eight countries (not including the ones that we've visited/worked in prior to "I do") on five different trips.
We've learned quite a bit and thought that perhaps we might share some of our thoughts with you all as you might be finding yourselves on the cusp of your own adventure.
1.) Purchase your flights directly through the airline.
This might be up for debate, but in our opinion, what you might save by booking your flights through a third party is not at all worth it if anything (and we mean anything) goes wrong. By third party, we mean sites like Kayak, Expedia, Hotwire, Tavelocity and the like.
In 2014, we spent a month in Greece and were wrapping up our time in the east with a visit to Israel via Istanbul. We checked into the Istanbul international terminal and slept on the floor (because it's free and then we didn't have to figure out how to get around Turkey knowing zero Turkish). Anyway, long story short, they cancelled our flight to Tel Aviv due to Gaza troubles so instead of ending up in Israel for one week, we found ourselves in Germany. Geographically we had no complaints because, well, Germany is incredible. However, we had to try to get on our connect flight in Frankfurt instead of Athens as planned which, it turned out, was impossible. So we had all of this crazy stuff to deal with and NO airline could help us because why? We had booked our flights through a third party.
We did make it back to the US, but with an added fee of $800 due to third party "complications."
Yes, booking directly through airlines can be a bit more costly at the moment, but trust us: you will save yourself a whole ton of trouble, time and money in the event of any unexpected hiccup.
2.) Get the travel insurance for the long flights.
And make sure it covers delayed baggage. Typically, we travel light. Christian and I are not the "we have to bring everything in case of anything" kind of people, but for stints longer than one month we opt for the one checked bag for free offer. This is important because, in the event that your airline loses your luggage, you could be out for several days before it shows up again (if it shows up at all). The thing is, airlines deal with this all the time, and unless you have platinum level status and a million frequent flier miles with that airline, you and your luggage are just another number to them.
What's handy is this travel insurance thing. If the plan includes insurance on delayed luggage, they will reimburse you for whatever expenses you had on essentials caused by that suitcase not showing up. All you have to do is notify the airline and file a lost luggage form. This is easily done because as soon as the belt on that baggage claim unit stops and you are wondering where in the world your suitcase is, you simply walk over to the "lost luggage" desk right there in the area, give them your luggage claim number and fill out a quick one page document. They will give you a reference number to "track your luggage" which may or may not work, but this reference number sheet they give you is just about all you need. Call your insurance provider if your luggage has not come within 24 hours. They will give you an amount per diem that you can spend on essentials (up to a certain amount, like $1000 USD), then once your luggage shows up, just photo-copy the reference sheet the airline gave you, put your expense receipts together and send it to your insurance company. They should have you reimbursed within about 10 business days.
As we said, we only do this for the long flights (6+ hours), especially if we connect more than once or switch airlines part way through.
3.) Pack light.
We mentioned this before, but folks, none of us actually needs even half of what we think we need. Traveling internationally as a visitor/tourist and being that person with the humongous trolley full of bags is just such a pain, and also you automatically become one of those people who offers travel entertainment to everyone around you. Or you just become a huge annoyance to yourself and everyone else when it comes to things like customs, luggage check, lifts, escalators and general maneuvering around anywhere.
Maybe you're completely content and happy to do all of this, in which case, this section no longer applies to you and we can just agree to disagree on this. We applaud you for your efforts.
But seriously, bring things (like outfits) that are multi-purpose and have lots of dexterity. Simple clothing basics = many different outfits. If you have a fancy camera, bring one all-purpose camera lens instead of two. Bring one or two paperbacks instead of seven (assuming you will be somewhere for only a week or two, and unless you are actually planning to do nothing but read... which you aren't, so....) Anyway, you get it.
4.) Expensive things go in the carry-on.
Remember that bit about lost luggage? Keep your costly items close, people.
5.) Don't be that person that takes twenty minutes going through security.
Christian and I have a system. Most people that travel much usually do, and we think it's a great system that ought to be shared with the whole world. Please consider this if you haven't already.
We all know that airports have pretty strict rules about things like liquids, electronics, metal, etc. They give us step-by-step guidelines on their websites so we know exactly what to expect, right? Okay, so ways that you can expedite your process through security is by doing some of the following:
This concludes some of our thoughts on international travel! We hope that this can be helpful for you and are excited with you for whatever upcoming memories you have in the making. Please don't hesitate to ask questions. We will do our best!