15 valuable tips to make international flying comfortable & convenient

These points are based on my rich experience of taking around 500 international flights in the last 40 years.

BHPian V.Narayan recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Tips to make international flying comfortable and convenient

I’ve been flying internationally since 1982. I don’t know how many international flights I’ve taken but it is some number around 500 + or – 50. This covers 34 odd countries – interestingly all on business except two or three as I simply don’t like going overseas for a vacation.

Over these 40 years, I have had my own time-honed routine of to-dos with regard to long-distance air travel. Sharing them below in no order of importance. These work for me. Each traveller will have his/her own unique needs and style. I would welcome other seasoned flyers to add their own advice to this list.

  1. Check the validity of your passport and visa for your destination. Most countries require an Indian to have a visa. Last few years many smaller nations in Africa and island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific have made it visa on arrival. This list might help.
  2. Have xerox copies and/or take pictures of the most important travel documents on your smartphone. 99.99% of the time you do not need it. But when you do it is usually when you are desperately praying simultaneously.
  3. Single parent consent letter. Often if not always needed in the USA. If you’re travelling with young kids and without your spouse to the USA carry a consent letter from your spouse.
  4. Doctor's prescription for medicines you’re carrying – needed in a few countries, New Zealand comes to my mind.
  5. Check the temperatures at the destination end and carry layered warm clothing on your person that is appropriate. These days it is so easy to know the weather. In the 1990s I would text via SMS and find out. In the 1980s I used my common sense.
  6. Clothes are a very personal matter and vary from person to person. When flying internationally I always wear a jacket, typically navy blue, loose khakis and a full-sleeve shirt. Other than attempting to look halfway decent the jacket pockets carry my travel documents, pen, forex cash, mobile and sleep kit comprising of ear plugs and eye covers. Xerox of travel docs goes into the pant's rear pocket. What goes where is fixed so my muscle memory knows instinctively.
  7. Documents, medicines (if needed), cash, a mobile and a pen are always on my person.
  8. After smartphones came into my life carrying the laptop was dropped. Less weight less hassle at security.
  9. Carry US dollars in cash, some of it at least, especially when travelling to smaller countries. Exchanging at the forex shops may not always be kosher and your credit card may not always work. I have received fake currency at authorized exchange counters in China & Guatemala. If carrying USD from India stay with 10, 20, and maximum 50 dollar bills. The 100-dollar bills could be suspect. The country where I have experienced receiving fake currency at 5-star hotels, banks and forex counters four times is China. Stories of rank impudence and dishonesty that I’ll narrate another day.
  10. Water – the Aerospace Medical Association recommends 250ml of water per hour of flight. So an India-Europe flight means 2 litres. Drinking appetite varies among people. But the net-net is drink a lot. Most airlines do not serve adequate volumes of water. That is my observation. So carry your own bottle bought after security. Alcohol dehydrates the body and more so at the cabin-maintained altitude of 8000 feet.
  11. Charge up for devices – many airline seats now come fitted with sockets. That helps. But airports are still woefully short of charging points.
  12. Travel as light as you can. Carry toiletries in your cabin bag. On trips upto a week, I try and make do with a cabin bag to avoid long waits at US & French airports for the bags to arrive, not to mention T3 in New Delhi.
  13. Customize your checked bag to make it stand out – I tie a colourful bow to one of the handles. In Singapore, in 1999 I picked up someone else’s bag and he picked up mine. Both were identical to the last dot. But Changi being Changi and Singapore Airlines being what it is I got a call before I reached my hotel and within a couple of hours, all was well.
  14. And my favourite – reach the airport early and save yourself anguish. Layovers - I keep an absolute minimum of 2 hours. Three is better especially as we typically transit via large hubs where it takes time to get from one gate to another.
  15. I have no tips on entertainment as I only read and sleep.

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