12 Tips to Prepare for an International Trip

Tips for take-off to landing

Going on an international trip soon? The rules for international flights have many dos and don't's. Here are 12 tips gleaned from experienced globe trotters designed to make that long-haul flight easier. 

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Pack Lightly

Robin Skjoldborg/Getty Images

On one of my first international business trips as an adult, I overpacked drastically. Guess who had to carry a large heavy suitcase, a large purse, and a garment bag around Paris at Metro and train stations that didn’t have elevators or escalators? After that, I swore to only pack what I could comfortably carry by myself. Check out my packing tips here.

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Choose an Aisle Seat

On long flights, it’s recommended that you get up and walk to stretch your muscles and avoid blood clots in your legs. This is much easier to do in an aisle seat, so book one as soon as you book your ticket.

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There's an App for That!

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Apps can be a savior when traveling, but especially when you're abroad. You can use travel apps them to keep in touch with your airline, translate different languages, search for services at airports, choose your seats and myriad other tasks.

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Dress Accordingly

Image courtesy of Chelsea Tells Stories

On a long flight, you want to look well-dressed, but you also want to be comfortable. so you don’t want to wear clothes that cut or bind. I wear a wrinkle-proof jacket that can double as a blanket or a pillow, and I always wear a long pashmina for the same reason. The pashmina can also be used as a wrap, a pillow, a skirt cover and an accessory to dress up travel outfits. Buy my favorite for $10 at the Bijoux Terner website. I also wear slip-on flat shoes that are easy to take on and off at security and on your flight. All of this isbeautifully illustrated here at the Chelsea Tells Storiesblog.

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Arrive Early

Most airlines want you at the airport at least two hours before your flight takes off, especially if you’re leaving from a U.S. international gateway airport. It will give you time to check your bags, check in, navigate the airport security checkpoint and get to your gate in plenty of time and arrive ​stress-free.

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Zip Through Customs

Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Those who travel internationally know that U.S. Customs and Immigration lines can be a nightmare, especially at peak arrival times at the major international U.S. airports. Smart travelers carry the Global Entry card, which speeds you right past the Immigration and Customs lines. And a bonus -- it also works for the domestic Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program.

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Lounge Around

Photo courtesy of SkyTeam

Because you need to be at the airport so far in advance, consider paying for access to an airline-branded or airport lounge. There are plenty of lounges that allow you to pay a fee for entry. It's good to have time away from the masses before boarding your flight.

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Drink Water

It’s OK to have a glass of wine or two while on your flight, but you really need to stay hydrated, because aircraft cabins are extremely dry. And instead of bothering flight attendants for endless little cups of water, go to your local dollar store, buy a water bottle and ask them to fill that up.

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Cone of Silence

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Nothing is worse than being on a plane with a screaming child or a chatty Cathy seatmate. That’s why I never travel without either a pair of noise canceling headphones or my Beats Flex By Dr. Dre earbuds. Pop on either of them and enjoy the silence.

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Sleepy Time

When it’s time to rest, you want to be comfortable. So invest in an inflatable neck pillow (I know they look silly, but they are a great sleep enhancer), an eye mask and comfortable socks.

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Charge Me Up

Photo courtesy of Mophie

More airlines are installing power ports on their aircraft, but you can’t always depend on that. When I flew to Paris for Christmas, the flight over had a USB port, but the flight home didn’t. That’s why I always carry mytrusty Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo, which allows me to charge my iPhone and iPad quickly.

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Show The Love

The flight attendants are there for your safety. But they also work hard to ensure that our flight is comfortable and stress-free. Show your appreciation by presenting them with a box of sealed chocolates, like Ghiradelli Chocolate Squares or Ferrero Rocher truffles. And although you're not expecting it, they may show the love back to you in return.