If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m going to Paris tomorrow. I have traveled internationally quite a bit so I know more or less what to expect. However, I’m taking my niece with me, and I was gathering a bit of advice for her as she prepares for the trip too. I thought I would share a few things that may be small but are important to the enjoyment of your trip and knowing what to expect if you are not a seasoned traveler.
WIth all the changing rules, its best to find out how many bags you can take on your trip, and how much they will charge. I personally detest the baggage charge for flights these days, but thats another post all together. I am flying Delta and they do not charge on the 1st and 2nd bag on international flights. Yay!
On overnight flights, you really do need a small overnight pouch to help keep you comfortable. On some flights (mostly to asia) they give you socks, eye mask, toothbrush & toothpaste. But with all the cuts airlines are making, I wouldn’t count on them providing much.
I pack a separate little pouch that is easy to access in my carryon that has these things:
Makeup wipes, Eye Drops, Contact care, Makeup, Toothbrush, Mini Toothpaste, Mini Deodorant, Mini Perfume, Kleenex, sleep aid, antacid, extra socks, & an eyemask). Also, don’t forget the pillow!
Meals are included on international flights. Usually a main meal and then some sort of snack. Maybe 2 meals if you are on a longer flight. I think its always good to have a few snacks with you. I like to bring an apple, a candy bar & I always try to pack a few protein bars (Luna are my favorite right now)that I get at the grocery store. Even at $1.00-$2.00 a piece, they are still much cheaper than anything comparable at the airport or hotel. These are great to have for your long flight when you need to curb your hunger. They are also good to have on hand because sometimes you just don’t know when you will be able to eat.
It is so hard to keep clothes to a minimum especially when you want to travel stylishly. I recommend coordinating separates. Choose items that mix and match well. Hardy items like corduroy and denim will not get wrinkled if packed nicely enough, and they can wear quite a few days between washes if necessary. If you’re going to a hot/warm climate I recommend cotton-polly skirts, they will keep you cool and pack nicely. When going to a cold climate, pack lots of layers. Try and bring only one warm coat that is neutral enough to wear with all your outfits. This is nice because if you’re wearing a coat all the time, it doesn’t really matter what you look like underneath. l Scarves are a great way to accessories your coat and they can be squished or squeezed anywhere in your suitcase.
A quick word on shoes… I personally never wear sneakers. So “walking shoes” can be a bit difficult for me. I always go a bit dressier with my footwear than other travelers, but if I’m worried about the amount of walking or about a particular pair of shoes, I always try and pack a “smoosh-able” pair of shoes in my purse in case I just cannot walk anymore.
Exchanging money can be quite the hassle. And its expensive and you never quite know where to change it. It never fails that I will change my money at one kiosk and then walk 10 yards and see another kiosk that is changing money for half as much as the one I used. Gah! I hate that. It is good to remember though, if you’re only changing a small amount of money ( a few hundred) your savings from one exchange counter to another really wont be more than a few dollars. So don’t stress out.
Using a credit card can be an easy way around that. Some banks charge a lot to do the conversion for you though and sometimes they even charge a fee. So I would contact your bank & credit card company and see what their exchange rates are. These vary company to company so it might be better for you to use your bank card or Visa then your Amex even if you do get points. (American Express charges a 2% exchange fee)
While it may be convenient to change your money at the airport or your hotel, it usually is quite a bit more expensive. In my experience I have found that Airports are not really THAT bad for the connivence level it gives you, but hotels are really bad. Check your local bank to see if they will change some of your currency for you before you trip. Wherever you exchange cash always ask them what their exchange rate is and how much their commissions are. This will help you compare your different options.
Travelers Checks are always an option, but I find them to be more of a hassle than they are worth – especially if you are going on a short-term trip to a “westernized nation”.
I prefer ATM machines because usually they haver lower exchange rates than exchanging cash directly. You will incur a fee from the ATM and from your bank, so withdraw large sums – atleast enough to get you through a few days of your trip.
I can’t wait for my trip! I hope you enjoy all your travels as well!