Before you go.
Pack as light as possible. You should have no more than two suitcases and one carry-on. If you are going to a tropical climate it will be even easier packing shorts and T-shirts. And, you can always pick up some new clothes at your destination.
Ensure that you have all of your medications and copies of your prescriptions. Check on the latest rules for carrying liquids in your carry-on. The rules and regulations change with the weather – so keep current.
Re-confirm your flight. My last trip was almost delayed by a day or two as a typhoon hit Taiwan and my flight from Hawaii was going through Taipei. I scrambled and got my flight changed to one that went through Tokyo, Japan and managed to get to Thailand as scheduled. I didn’t check ahead of time and fortunately was able to get on a different flight. I learned my lesson. While re-confirming, get your seat assignment. I prefer exit rows for more legroom.
Double check that you have everything. I use a checklist and check it 2 or 3 times before I go. Really make sure that you have your passport, tickets and some way to pay – cash, ATM card, credit card or traveler’s checks. A combination is a good way to make sure that you have alternative means of paying. If you are going to a country that has its own currency, plan to exchange a day or two’s worth at the destination airport. Don’t change money in your home country – you will get a terrible rate.
At your home airport
Plan to get to your airport about 3 hours ahead of your flight departure. Check-in and security lines can be long and slow. Have your travel documents ready to show wherever you go. Again, check on the rules for what you can bring with your on the flight – especially in your carry-on.
I always eat at the airport before I fly. Things have gotten better and cheaper at airports and I prefer to have a meal in me and not rely on the airline food. I also bring some trail mix with me to munch on during the flight.
Take advantage of the duty free shops. Get your booze, cigarettes and other goodies for tax-free prices. Check the limitations at your destination country before you buy 6 bottles of whiskey and find out you are only allowed to bring in one. Also check to see if you can carry liquids on flights that have a layover or two. You may have to make your purchase at the layover before your last leg.
You can kill time playing with any electronic toys you own. Wireless access is usually available in the airports so you can check email and surf. You can also listen to some music if you have an Ipod of something similar. Wireless can be found in most airports right outside the Airline lounges. You don’t have to be a member to sit outside and tap into their unsecured network.
On the flight
Try to relax and sleep as much as possible. The time zone changes and jet lag will be lessened. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water, especially on longer flights. Dehydration comes easily on long flights in dry cabin air. You can drink booze when you arrive.
Read and watch a movie to kill time. Do some of the puzzles in the on-board magazines. Keep busy as much as possible. Have some mints and gum to alleviate the air pressure during take-off and landing.
I usually avoid the main course of the airline food. I do eat the salad, bread and dessert. The main meal is rarely edible. This is why I eat before I go and eat my own snacks.
You will have to fill out a customs declaration form on the plane to turn in to the Custom’s officer. Do this on the plane and stick it with your passport.
Head out of the plane as quickly as possible. You and everyone else will have to go through Immigration/Customs – so the race is on. Hopefully, you were given instructions before deplaning. If not, just follow the signs. Don’t stop to smoke or use the bathroom. Get in the shortest line and have your passport ready. Keep a copy of your boarding pass with you, just in case.
Be pleasant and polite to the Custom’s officer, get your passport stamped, turn in your customs declaration, and head for the luggage carousels. Make sure you have your own luggage and find the currency exchange.
Change enough money to last you a day or two. ATMs are conveniently located around the world, so a debit card is the easiest way to get local currency. It can be a little more risky using a credit card. Get your money and head for the exit.
Find the taxi or bus line and head to your hotel. You made it! Now, enjoy your vacation.