When I was first starting to travel for business I got really excited about my first business trips. While I still like to explore, more of the practical comes to mind before bouncing off to wherever. There’s a lot of stuff I would have liked if someone had told me way back when. For any seasoned business travelers who come across this, chances are you’ll either just nod your head or maybe have a couple of changes or things to add. But if you’re early in your career and end up headed for wherever, maybe some of this can help. My motivation for doing this? Just yet another trip with some excess time to kill. My experience? Years ago, spent a couple of years on a plane at least every few weeks. Then add a couple of gigs involving weeks long stays overseas. Anyway… this will be a three part series… Getting Ready, En Route and Being there. Here we go…
This is too obvious perhaps, but it should be at the top of any such list. Copies of your passport, plus copies in some online service. Personally, I bring my passport card as well as my passport. It’s technically not valid for use in crossing for many places, but as ID it’s fine for the most part and this way I can leave my passport in my room safe. (Which maybe can’t be wholly trusted, but better than in my pocket all the time.) Note, however, there are some countries where foreigners are required to have their passports with them.
Get Your Cellphone Ready
- Carefully analyze available International roaming plans.
- Perhaps obviously, make sure your phone will even work at your destination.
- Even if you’re on a good plan, limit your accidental data usage. Turn off data access for apps that really don’t need it. Consider turning off cellular data except when you know you really need it. Wifi will still work fine if available.
- It’s a pain sometimes, but consider going through EVERY app’s settings and adjusting them. This way, if you do have to turn on Cellular Data while roaming internationally for one critical app, they all don’t just start spewing or sucking down data. Even if you’ve got or can afford the bandwidth, you’re in transit and the more work your device is doing the faster your battery is draining.
- Other good options are:
- Forget about your own phone…
- At your destination, buy a SIM card. If it’s maybe $10 or $20 for the amount of time and data you’d need to cover your trip, that might be less than an international roaming plan. Note that you have to have an unlocked phone to do this. Which means – for iPhone at least – you probably have to pay extra for that. Unless you’re fairly technical, you don’t want to just jailbreak your iPhone as there are risks.
- Just buy a cheap phone when you get to your location.
Get Your Credit Cards Ready
- Call or get online with any credit card companies whose cards you might use on your trip.
- Let them know you’re traveling and where so they’re less likely to decline charges as fraudulent. If doing this via phone, modern systems may use so-called Artificially Intelligent Chat Bots. When asked for a phrase or topic, try “International Travel” and you’ll likely be asked the appropriate questions to get you set up.
- Check to find out what any foreign transfer or other fees might be beyond exchange rates.
Electronics in General
- Do you need just an adapter, or a converter? Make sure to get the right gear for your target destination and consider if you need additional plugs for any layover countries. I personally like this one from Skross. It’s an adapter, not a converter. For my Mac gear, this is all I need as Mac gear will run fine on voltages from US to Europe to wherever. For non-mac gear, (of which I actual have very little at this point), if it can be charged via USB, then I can just plug that gear into the Mac or my other charger.
- Consider whether it’s wise to charge your gear at public charging stations. It’s possible some could infect your gear with viruses via USB connections. If you must, use only well branded “probably sensible to trust” charging stations.
- Make sure to check any restrictions on battery transport if you have gear for which you’re carrying spare batteries.
- Make sure your gear is charged for the times you’re going to pass through security as they may require you to turn it on. If you can’t, you could end up with a big delay problem.
- There are many Translation Apps out there these days. Spend the extra money and get one where you can download one or more language pack(s) so you can use when offline.
- The best ones like Google Translate or iTranslate let you and another speak into a device and you can easily switch in which direction the translation should happen. As well, the ability to ‘read’ street signs, food packages, whatever, is another key feature. This form of augmented reality is incredibly useful.
- Travel insurance. Get it if you think you need it. This is a personal choice and risk assessment so not much to say here.
- Consider using Evernote or file sharing services like SugarSync or Dropbox for passport copies and other critical info.
- Try to fly at times when – if you miss a connection – there are more flight options available to get you to your final destination.
- Try to avoid connections, especially international, where you don’t have enough time to get to another gate or clear security again. Domestically, this usually isn’t an issue. But internationally, you may have to go through a security screening even though you’re already inside a terminal. There are sometimes different rules. Stricter rules. And if you get selected for special checking, (due to having some liquid – maybe a bottle of water you got on last flight and forgot about because you thought you’d already be in terminal – or something else that the new place is more strict about, then you’re in for a an extra 10, 20, 30 minutes of wait. Maybe more. And that could be enough to miss your flight. In this case, get to customer service asap and let them know, but you’d better be able to honestly tell them it wasn’t your screw up otherwise you might have to pay a lot for a ticket change.
- What’s your way out? Do you know where your embassy is? Does one of your credit card companies have international help; such as find a doctor or whatever? There are other mechanisms for international insurance of various sorts. Depending on where you travel and how frequently, some may make sense.
Hotel vs. Airbnb/Rentals by Owners
- Both have benefits. Usually Airbnb will be less expensive, sometimes by a lot. But you should probably know the area and the local language.
- Watch for Airbnb scams. If someone tries to get you to communicate or book ‘out of network’ for any reason; to save money, whatever, it could very well be a scam. The property might not even exist. Airbnb tries to combat this, but it’s up to you as well. Think about it. A renter trying to go around the broker is already being dishonest. Is that someone you want to trust?
- Hotels are probably best if you’re going someplace beyond just unfamiliar, but potentially foreign to you in some ways. (Even if it’s domestic.) Certainly for international travel, hotels may offer better security and services than unknown entities, even if it can be more interesting to kind of live like a local. It might make sense to do your first trip to such venues via hotel and then once you’ve got the lay of the land, go with Airbnb or other rentals by owner.