Checklist for “Smooth” International Travel

International travel has always been a “pain” in the backside. Particularly the layovers, the jet-lags, the security checks and most importantly the airline food!! I don’t have too many international travels behind my back but few frequent enough to understand the mistakes I made. The next set of things I have captured are for my own reference for my future travel.


International travel isn’t like Domestic

Obvious isn’t it? But allow me to explain. Unlike domestic, in international travel keep in mind we gonna spend hours (sometimes nearing a day) away from the comfort of our homes/hotels. More over, each and every airport is a mess in its own regard. Some have easy & smooth security checks and some other might have better directions once you clear the security check. And others might have better restaurants. So it is crucial you understand the intermediate airports better as you prepare. But irrespective of the airport, the one thing that none of the airports can provide is you comfort while there. Therefore, the foremost consideration while you prep for international travel is how to enhance your comfort during the travel. Keep in mind, the following enhances my comfort not necessarily universal.


Check list for saving time at departure

    • Online checkin: Always do this to get a aisle seat. Middle seat is not comfortable whatsoever. I request my travel agent to book the ticket always with the seating preference. I put pressure on them and, if required, sit with them to ensure I get a seat of my choice.
    • Customs Declarations: Thanks to my MacBook Air and vultures from customs always snooping around apple products, I prepare my travel by declaring all my gadgets at the boarding airport. I ensure all my gadget serial numbers are in place (preferably in a post-it) so that it takes me less than 5 mins to finish the declaration.
    • Pre-order meals: A magic that works like charm. Given as a tip by my boss, Simon Hunt ( and it is extremely useful. You are the first to be served and the food is hot!!! I tell my travel agent to do this while booking. Otherwise I do it while online check-in.
    • Pack your shoes & belts: This is my style. I travel in flip-flops. Why go everywhere decked up just to remove your shoes and belts at every check-point. Firstly, it is embarrassing to partially strip. Second, it is time consuming.
    • Avoid check-in luggage (if possible): This ain’t easy but this will be useful. I haven’t managed to do this till date. But my next travel should be like this. It saves time. With web-check-in already done, you don’t have to arrive at airport 3 hours ahead of time. Just 90 mins is more than enough. To achieve a no check-in luggage, the following style of packing could remove all possible liquids out of your bag:
      • Roll-on Deo: Instead of the conventionally popular spray deodorant.
      • Travel toothpaste: I use my toothpaste only during the travel. At the hotel, I request for the complimentary toothpaste. Saves time & trouble.
      • Shaving gel & mini after-shave: These are a tad tough but I try to carry the travel kit edition, which is easily available. Unless your travel is more than 3 weeks you should be able to manage with a shaving gel & mini-after shave.
      • Avoid shampoos & moisturisers: I try to use the ones at the hotel.


Check list for packing

    • Pack your heavy clothes: I always travel with a comfortable jean or a thick shorts with a loose-fitting tee with a thin pull-over. This way I am not shivering in cold nor am I struggling to sleep in a thick leather jacket with a tight jeans.
    • Avoid heavy shoulder bags: Don’t for once think you can survive a long haul flight with a super heavy backpack. Many airports don’t allow trolleys after security check. In fact, the only shoulder bag I use (now-a-days) is for my MacBook Air sans chargers. Just the macbook air + my passport + water bottle is enough to tire me out after 20 hours.
    • TSA approved locks: This is a must now-a-days. This helps the airport authorities to check your baggage by opening with a master key and not ripping open the zipper. Ensure your luggage is locked with TSA approved lock.
    • Neck Pillow: Ah! I missed it once and paid the price. By the time my 24+ hour journey ended I was struggling with an acute neck pain.
    • Noise cancellation head-phones: If you are like me & cannot go to sleep unless it is silent then you better pack a noise-cancellation headphones. Noise don’t disturb me once I am gone to sleep but until I go into my REM I am troubled by even the slightest of noise. So a noise-cancelling head-phones are awesome. Another trick is to play “world-music” in your phone or airline entertainment system.
    • Eye cover: If you cannot manage it ask the airlines and they can provide you one. Useful to sleep when others are still awake.
    • Thinner wallet: Might sound silly but this is extremely useful while you are abroad. Almost every country, except some of the Asian countries, accept credit card for everything. So have a thinner wallet that can carry only your card & keep the cash in the hotel locker. Carry some changes but never more than anything that is worth USD $20.
    • iPhone SIM changer: This is very important for me. I change my SIM as soon as I land and iPhone needs a sharp thin object to pop-out the SIM holder. What I do is to carry a safety pin with me as a replacement for the original 🙂
    • General medicines: I definitely like to carry 2~3 of these, depending on my duration of stay:
      • Cold/Cough/Fever – Paracetamol
      • Pain killer – Paracetamol
      • Upset stomach – Digene
      • Antacids – Zyntac/Gelusil


Checklist to save time when you land

    • Choose smaller seat numbers: If this was possibility then try and pick seats in the first 20 seat numbers. This helps. You don’t have to run for your immigration or wait for 45 mins in the immigration queue.
    • Immigration form: I fill the immigration form as soon as I get one. This saves time when I land. I don’t have to run around finding a pen or looking up details to fill up. Also being an early bird at the immigration line could save you minutes of time. Sep in USA the immigration could take a lot of time depending on your luck. I prefer to finish this soon to relax later.


Checklist to avoid jet-lag

Jet-lag, to quote my boss Simon Hunt (, is all in the mind. Tell your mind to think the timezone as changed even before it actually did and when it finally does you will not suffer. So I carry/do the following to survive jet-lag.

    • Set your watch to destination time: And sleep/eat accordingly. It does not matter what time of the day at the port of departure it is. Ensure you follow the time of the arrival port.
    • Noise cancellation head-phones: If you wanna sleep while the entire flight is still awake!
    • Eye cover: Same as above. When the time comes cover your eyes and pretend to sleep, after a while you will.
    • Mini-toothbrush & toothpaste: To kinda wake me up after a so-called ‘night’ sleep.
    • Drink red wine: I always do this on the flight (and only in the flight) to induce sleep. Works for me every time. If I am too worked up then I drink 2 glasses. And it sure knocks me off to a good sleep for a couple of hours, at the very least. Mind you I am not asking you guys to drink like it is a competition. For me, red wine calms me down & this calm state brings me sleep. Not the red-wine in the direct sense!
    • Watch movie: I watch some crazy action movie if I am feeling too sleepy while it is still not sleep time at destination. Action/thriller movies keep me awake.


Checklist to survive luggage delay/loss

Luggage delay by a couple of days or entirely lost is not very common but not very uncommon.  Sometimes because of flight delay you might end up spending a night at a hotel near some airport, so this should keep you prepared as well. The best way to survive is to pack additional in your carry-on baggage.

    • Pair of shoes/socks
    • 2 pair of undergarments: Don’t know how long it will take before your luggage reaches you!
    • 2 pair of clothes: I reuse the trousers so 2 shirts and 1 pant/jean suffice for my style.
    • Roll-on deo: works like magic in such scenarios! 🙂
    • Chargers: Chargers for your laptop/tablets/phones. Let everything be in your carry-on. Don’t by mistake push it into your luggage.
    • Travel Adapters; Needless to say! 🙂
    • Copy of itinerary & hotel address: Ensure you keep a copy of itinerary & hotel address including your contact details in the luggage. Don’t have to paste it on the top, Airport officials have means to open your TSA approved locks. Just keep it on the top most zipper pocket.


Checklist for peaceful finance handling

Travelling abroad brings in a sense of uneasiness esp. on how much money to carry. And in which currency? This should help:

    • Never carry cash: Does not mean never carry cash at all. Just don’t carry too much cash. Put them in a card, preferably a credit card because your bank will fight on your behalf suppose your card was hacked!
      • Never beyond $20 in a wallet: It is kinda dangerous. Local conmen/goons are aware that tourists carry cash and you are always at risk of losing it. If you carry too much it is a dangerous temptation for them to even mug you. Why risk it? Carry them in the card.
      • Carry some USD: From what I understand most of the countries (at least, the ones I had visited) accept USD at their retail store. Even if not it is easier to convert USD to local currency. So I split my cash into local currency + USD.
    • Prepaid cards: This is the most peaceful way of carrying your cash.
      • Currency agnostic: Travelling to more than one country? Big deal! 🙂
      • No coins in change: This is a big big plus. Many currency exchange agency don’t accept coins. You might end up wasting 100s of INR in changes alone!
      • Easy to reload: I haven’t done it personally but I was told it is easy to reload. This means we can load it anytime anywhere any bank. Just need an internet connection and money in your bank! 🙂
      • Transactions: Maintains all your transactions in one place! Isn’t that awesome way of keeping track of your expenditure abroad?! 🙂
    • Thinner wallet: Can’t stress this enough. A thin wallet is so much more comfortable. I have an Indian wallet and an abroad wallet. Abroad wallet has 2 pockets inside (one for the card + one for the cash) and one pocket outside, where I keep the hotel key! My previous abroad wallet had 2 on the outside, one of the key and one for the card. This way nobody every sees how much cash you carry!

This is not by any means exhaustive or even sufficiently complete. But this is a beginning. And these are purely out of my 1st hand experiences and I vouch these will work! 🙂




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4 thoughts on “Checklist for “Smooth” International Travel

  1. @Ashwin: always… there is always such a worry… exactly like universal keys for vehicles! I guess we gotta be contented with the airport security! 🙂

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