My Top 19 Travel Tips for 2019

It’s been 30 years since I took my first international trip.  Back then, my parents walked me to the gate, and people still dressed up for the privilege of air travel. Much has changed, and over my 20+ years as a missionary and traveling speaker, I have gathered the following travel tips I pray will be useful to you as you go where He leads.

  1. Don’t check a bag! This saves time when you arrive, avoids luggage loss, and keeps you flexible if flights change.
  2. Don’t use a third-party website when booking air travel. They can be useful in research, but if you need to change your flight, most airlines won’t work with you unless you’ve purchased the flight from them.
  3. Consider a lounge pass: Whether you fly frequently enough to get a year-round pass, or have a long day with multiple stops, check in with Priority Pass, or your airline carrier to see what options you have. With free food, drinks, WIFI, and a quiet place to work or sleep, a lounge has often saved me money, and allowed for a hot shower en route internationally.
  4. Pre-Check/Global entry. This might feel like a luxury, but on many occasions, has meant the difference in not missing a flight. Going quickly through a border crossing or a security checkpoint has helped me arrive at my destination without inconvenience or delay.
  5. When asking for a seat change, or a flight change, or an airport change and the answer is no: Find a different agent.  Most of the time “no” means “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t have time for this.” Especially when your travel plans have been disrupted, keep asking until you find someone sympathetic. They are out there! (Then reward them with kindness and a written recommendation.)
  6. If you are stuck in an airport overnight: locate a family bathroom.  On more than one occasion, it’s been a great overnight accommodation in a pinch. It has a lock on the door, a plug, and water. Before objecting: bathrooms are cleaned more frequently than the carpet/seats at your gate.
  7. Bring your own medication.  Headache medicine, Dramamine, nasal decongestant spray to avoid sinus pressure, mini-first aid, Pepto, laxative, sleeping pills – whether traveling in or out of the country, having what you need on hand doesn’t take up much room and can make a big difference in your comfort.
  8. I suggest a rather elaborate sleep kit (eye mask, travel pillow, noise cancelling headset or ear buds, lightweight blanket.) If you can sleep, you’ll arrive better for it. If you can’t, the rest will still create margin for your challenges and activities to come.
  9. Bring a small bag of toiletries (mine has dry shampoo, disposable toothbrush, facial wipes… so you can be as fresh as required if going straight from the airport to an event.)
  10. Get the latest updated apps. You can always google your flight number for gate information, but getting the airline app will help with last minute changes if delayed on a runway, allow for seat assignment changes, and in-flight entertainment. I also suggest the mobile border crossing pass app, and go-go inflight. There are new apps all the time, so keep up to date and you’ll have all the information you need with you always.
  11. When entering another culture, ask a lot of questions. No one expects you to be fluent in a foreign language or culture, so allow your curiosity to help create conversation and understanding.
  12. Check with your phone carrier to understand your plan’s international data/phone coverage. With a short-term travel pass, you can still have the convenience of your phone. If your plan doesn’t allow for it, consider a voice over IP app to use in Wi-Fi (I like WhatsApp), or purchase a chip from the local country to convert your phone temporarily.
  13. Always carry local currency, exchanging the week before in your local bank or at the airport, and have small bills on hand for tips.
  14. Carry your own snacks, (and Starbucks Vias,) it’s not only cost effective, but convenient if you sleep through an airline meal, or are on a long bus ride.
  15. Pre-fill out immigration paperwork if possible, bring a pen on the plane, and take a picture of the information you need in case you don’t have Wi-Fi to look up an address.  
  16. Consider these items to make your trip smoother: Dryer sheets (for the smell in the suitcase) batteries, chargers, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, Ziplocs, Tide stick, Sharpie, flashlight, extension cord for hard to reach outlets, and a power strip.
  17. Pre-download movies, music, books, so if your flight is delayed on the tarmac, you don’t have to wait to access the in-flight options. Having something to occupy your mind can help when there’s a crying baby, when you’re in the middle seat, or when you face unexpected flight interruptions.
  18. Have printed hotel /car rental info in case technology fails.
  19. You can carry an empty water bottle through security and then fill it up on the other side. It’s more cost effective and is useful to always have the ability to hydrate on a flight or upon arrival.

Travel usually involves unexpected circumstances – delays, cancellations, the loss or forgetting of something, a difficult seat companion, bad weather…  Whatever comes my way, I try and remember most: I can’t worry about what I can’t change, and this too, will pass. Taking a deep breath and enjoying the journey is what makes a travel day not a wasted day, but an investment in adventure.