I've just returned from my second trip to London and while sitting at the airport ordering my typical pre-flight glass of red wine it struck me that there are tips and tricks that I employ regularly before flying that can be helpful for other similar travelers.
So here is my list! Feel free to take what can help and leave what does not resonate::
1. Invest in TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. I was offered enrollment through my place of employment but it isn't too difficult to apply- although it is a small investment. For $100, I have been able to enroll for 5 years. TSA pre-check allows you to bypass the lengthy check-in security line for a shorter, and at times non-existent, line while traveling within the United States. Beyond this, you don't have to remove your shoes or jacket and can leave your laptop in your bag when passing through security. All you have to do is input your Known Traveller Number while booking your ticket so that it shows up on your boarding pass. As a young woman of color, I always enjoy the look on the agents face when they tell me I'm in the wrong line and I have to correct them. Young women of color can have priority too! Global Entry is equally as great. This allows expedited customs upon re-entry into the United States. If you get as antsy as I do when landing at home, it is great for subsiding customs-related irritability.
2. Pack twice. Once to make sure everything you might want to travel with fits. This is helpful when you decide what size luggage you'd like to bring (checked bag vs. carry-on) so that you know you are packing within your needs. Then, I've found that it's often useful to unpack and really consider whether I need each item I've packed. I take this opportunity to both remove things that I probably won't end up using during my trip and allows me to leave extra room for souvenirs and other items I may purchase along the way. I also take this time to get my passport and travel documents out so that I can place them somewhere convenient yet safe. Don't forget your travel comforts like neck pillow, blanket, or cold/flu/diarrhea medication!
3. Download, download, download. If you are traveling to an unfamiliar place and want to ensure that you can always find your way around, downloading maps beforehand can help out a lot. I have used Google Maps and the Maps.me app in the past and both have been great at helping me find my way around places with spotty reception. You can even place markers on locations such as where you are staying or places you'd like to visit. If there is a public transportation system where you are traveling to, you may want to download a map of the routes/lines as well while you are at it.
In addition to maps, I usually download music or movies/tv shows for entertainment in case I have delays or get bored along the way. Netflix allows you to download certain selections so you can binge on that series you've been wanting to see! Don't worry about the storage on your phone- you can delete them once you return home.
4. Make time for wine. Even though I love traveling, I hate flying. One thing I had to deal with early on is the reality of how much time I will spend in airports and on planes in order to get to the destinations I want to visit. I've been known to get quite anxious during turbulence and although I've tried many different options, red wine seems to do the best at keeping me calm during take-off. Luckily there is usually a wine bar in my terminal, so I plan on getting to the airport a little early to indulge. This is included in my traveling budget so that it doesn't feel like a splurge so much as a part of my self-care. Then, have another if needed.
5. Keep a printed list of your most important details. Flight reservations, lodging accommodations, the phone number/address of the US Embassy, even a photocopy of your passport- JUST IN CASE! I've never needed to use this but I feel 100% better knowing that it's there.
6. Know where you are going. This is two-fold. First, I aim to never be read as a tourist. This means that when I travel other tourists usually ask me for directions because I look like I know what I'm doing. When I land, I make sure I am heading straight in the direction I need to be going in whether that be looking for my bus or calling my taxi to get to my lodging. Spontaneity is great while traveling and there is always room for it, however, I feel a lot more grounded if I know where I'm going to set up my "home-base". It frames the rest of my trip. Secondly, know where you are going means do your research about a country before landing. Revisiting some social and political history, language and common phrases, as well as general tips on the culture can really support traveling with intention. Being a tourist comes with privilege and this shouldn't outweigh respect for other cultures. We tend to think that the American way-of-life is standard but it's not. Leave room for learning and humility- it makes connecting with people around the world that much more valuable!
Hope this helps and happy traveling.