Flying internationally is a distinctly different experience from flying domestically.
From the moment you step foot inside an international airport, there is this wonderful feeling of excitement. An international airport is a melting pot of people from different lands and different experiences. The bright lights of the Duty Free shops try their hardest to seduce you. The smell of food cooking and coffee brewing sets your taste buds a tingle.
Airports are places where suddenly it’s okay to drink champagne at 5 in the morning. (This is one place we do know it’s 10am somewhere in the world.)
Some sleep between journeys others watch the comings and goings of a variety of different people. All seem united in some kind of unwritten travellers code, one that unites people and far off places in one space. All these wonderful things await you once you’ve cleared security that is!
All that being said, there are some things that can interfere with the joy of the international travel experience, particularly when you travel on your own. Things like carting around heavy luggage, to getting lost in a foreign airport, or being pulled over for a frisk or luggage search by security, while all part of the experience, can make your journey more difficult and in some countries a little scary.
Here’s the Top 10 Tips for making your airport experience easier:
Travel light and check in as much of your luggage as you can. Unless you have booked with different airlines for different legs of your journey, most airlines will check your luggage through to your final destination.
Pack your empty handbag in your checked in luggage
While I am in flight mode, I only carry a small anti-theft backpack for use on the plane. When I get to my final destination, I swap this for a cross body handbag.
Always be polite to security and don’t make jokes
Solo travellers, regardless of age, are likely to be pulled aside for extra security checks. I remember one time in Los Angeles, ending up in secondary security and sitting there thinking why me? On a recent trip to France; I was pulled over by a policeman with a very large gun. Once I replied to the policeman’s questions in French, he let me go through without further searches. Sometimes I think I am the token blonde. Just be polite, and answer any questions truthfully.
Research the airports you will be landing in and check out any online maps
This definitely helps when you are running to catch your next flight.
Get there early
You can avoid the queues if you arrive at the airport early. Most international flights open for check in about 3 hours before departure. Getting there early means you won’t have to join the seemingly endless queue.
Tie a yellow ribbon
It’s funny how all bags look the same, when you are tired from a long haul flight. Tying a colorful ribbon to your checked baggage, helps you pick it out from the crowd on the luggage conveyor belts.
Leave the duty free shopping to others
The duty free shops are expensive. At times the things you might purchase are not allowed on your flight and will be checked at the gate. Your favorite bottle of champagne may not arrive in one piece. Save your money to buy a few little things at your destination. These can then be packed in your luggage for your return journey.
On long haul journeys with multiple legs – make sure you have lounge access
If you are a frequent flyer or are travelling at the pointy end of the plane for your journey, you will have access to airline lounges. If not, it is well worth paying for a pass to access the lounge. Airport food can be expensive and you can fill yourself up in the lounge. The facilities in most lounges also include showers, which come in handy if you have multiple flights. They are great places to relax and recharge.
Check out what you can bring in to countries before you go (or come home)
Every country has limits to what you can bring in. This will differ for different countries, so do your homework. Armed with this information you will know beforehand what you need to declare and consider your purchases while abroad. Most countries won’t allow you to carry more than the equivalent of $10,000 cash.
View all the mishaps and differences in different countries as part of the experience
Its all part of the experience.