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Patricia Honeycutt Cantor, Special Projects Editor, TravelSquire.com | February 9, 2016
Packing prep for most travelers, especially those heading to international destinations, usually means a lot of angst over what and how to pack all those clothing and accessories items you think you will need. But when you look at the big picture, there are even more important things that will make your journey so much easier. And it all fits into your small on board piece of luggage.
First of all, check your luggage when you are traveling for more than one week. Make sure your checked bag has roller wheels for easy maneuvering. For me, trying to cram everything into a 22” carry on doesn’t work anymore, especially if I’m heading to multiple destinations that may require different clothing. I’m tired of being cold because I didn’t pack that down jacket and winters boots, or missing out on a good swim because I didn’t pack a bathing suit. I check a big bag filled with what I think I will need at my destination and reserve my on board luggage for necessities in the event my luggage doesn’t make it. So, just check it! Also keep in mind that certain credit cards offer lost luggage and delayed luggage insurance, outlined below. Voile!
This is obvious, but most travelers don’t take the time to get a Global Entry card for US citizens. Unless you have an FBI file that would disqualify you, I strongly recommend this incredibly useful item. You fill out the form on line; then wait for approval. Once you have your preapproval, you will also make an appointment time for an in person interview with a customs officer, usually in an airport near you that has an international arrival hall. A Global Entry card does not replace your passport, but it does speed up your travel departure and reentry. Your Global Entry card gets you access to the TSA Pre-check line; you just breeze through and put everything you are taking on board right onto the scanner belt. Some of you may already be TSA Pre-check, but we hear it will be phased out and only for those travelers with Global Entry. For your reentry, you simply head to the Global Entry kiosk, scan your card and then leave. No waiting in line for an in-person stamp. For an extra charge, your Global Entry card will also apply to your arrival and departure from the UK. It is definitely worth the extra money. Plus, your Global Entry card is good for five years.
The Right Card
Another card to have with you is the “right” credit card. Do some research online to see which card suits your travel style. No matter what card you choose, make sure there are NO foreign transition fees to using the card abroad. Those charges add up quickly. I like the American Express Platinum Card. It is no more expensive than the other premium cards from the airlines and credit card issuers. Some of the benefits I value are: AMEX Platinum gives you a $200 yearly airline credit to use for items like upgrades (I use it for JetBlue Extra Legroom seats) as well as $100 to pay for your Global Entry card. I get entry into the Centurion Clubs plus I have a Priority Pass card for entry into other airline clubs worldwide at no extra charge. I get rental car insurance, concierge and travel agent service plus the Departures magazine. Other good cards include the American Airlines Citi Card that gives you some of the same benefits as the AMEX Platinum card plus you get an Admiral’s Club members, double miles, priority boarding, upgrades and more. Chase’s Continental card has many of these same benefits as well. If you don’t want to go for the premium version of these cards (about $450 per year) then look for those that provide as many perks as possible for either free to up to $90 per year.
If you have a smartphone or iPhone then load it with some cool and useful travel apps. They take up no space in your luggage, and provide good information and service. TravelSquire.com’s editors who still like to tan swear by the Sunburn Timer app that calculates how long you can stay in the sun based on your hair and skin profile.
Another winner is the Toilet Finder which can direct you to over 70,000 restrooms around the world. We love the DUFL app, it is possibly the most convenient tool we’ve found. DUFL allows you to travel luggage free by shipping your luggage directly to your destination. When you’re heading home, simply open the app and schedule a pick up at your hotel. DUFL will launder or dry clean your clothing before sending it back!
Finally, Taxi.eu will help you get a taxi in Europe, especially in London or Paris. Just download the app for your destination and you have a taxi at your fingertips.
Everyone asks me “how much money do I need when traveling?” I recommend about $300-500 which you can exchange at your arrival airport. The exchange rate there is usually pretty good. Do remember that ATMS are now plentiful and quite safe in most countries. Just check your location to see availability. You can also get a PIN from most credit cards to use for cash at ATMs.
Be very prepared for your destination’s idiosyncrasies, especially when dealing with ground transportation. If possible, get familiar on how to get from Point A to Point B before you leave. You are usually pretty safe using the licensed taxis at the airport. They charge flat rates and are regulated by the government. Some cities like London have excellent underground connections from airports into London proper.
For in city public transportation, have good maps with you; I really like Streetwise’s slim, very discrete foldable maps that have the public transportations stops on them. I just slip them into a pocket and I don’t look like a tourist. You can also download city transport maps onto your phone.
I highly recommend that you buy a visitor’s public transportation pass as soon as you arrive in your destination, such as the Oyster Card in London and a carnet in Paris. Easy to buy and speeds up your in-city travel. Check out taxi apps for your destination like Taxi.eu or UBER. Most cities are great for walking, so keep that map handy. Walking is also a great way to work off those calories from your gourmet lunch!
If you are traveling by train to further destinations, consider prepaying for your tickets before you leave, just as you would intercountry airfare. It is often much cheaper than buying in country.
If you plan to rent a car and venture into the country side consider prepaying before you leave. It’s cheaper than paying in country. It is also a good idea to pick up your car at a location other than the airport. It is often (but not always) cheaper. For example, I don’t pick up a car in Zurich airport, but do so in Lorrach, Germany near my destination. Verify drop off charges and any hidden fees. They tend to sneak up on you. Find out what the rental company expects regarding the gas. Double check with your credit card company to make sure your rental car insurance is covered. I am not a huge fan of rental cars, but they are necessary.
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