1. Comfy (But Not Sloppy) Pants
I have a special travel outfit: a white t-shirt tucked into the Aubin and Wills pants pictured here (here’s the link if you want to buy). The pants are so insanely soft and comfortable, and they’re cuffed and tapered at the bottom so they kind of just look like very subtle harem pants that are completely acceptable to wear in public. With the right shoes, they’re downright stylish.
StyleNanda also sells a cheaper version of these which I also own, for $22.
2. Divide and Conquer When Checking In
Maybe this is a total no-brainer, but we didn’t actually realize how much time this saved until recently. One person takes everyone’s passports and checks everyone in at a kiosk, while everyone else goes to the bag drop line. TIME IS SAVED.
3. Neck Pillow (if You’re Not in a Window Seat)
I tend to nod off on other people if I don’t have a neck pillow. The only thing is, they are a PAIN to carry so make sure you get the kind with a snap or velcro closure so you can just hang it off your bag or luggage. It won’t actually fit in anything. You could get the inflatable kind, but I find those to be tricky in terms of getting the right amount of puffiness — they definitely expand on the plane.
4. Download an Arsenal of Podcasts
Podcasts have saved my life on long tours. Usually on planes, I’m too tired to read, and I don’t even have the energy to pull out my computer and watch anything (or the battery is dead). Podcasts keep me up to date on what’s happening in the world, and I fall asleep easily to them. My favorite podcast ever is the Slate Culture Gabfest, of which I’ve listened to practically all 120 episodes. Julia, Steve, and Dana are practically my BFFs now (even though they have no idea I exist) and it’s just very comforting to sit back and listen to their insights. Another awesome podcast is NPR’s Planet Money. They’re short and entertaining — and I promise you’ll learn something interesting.
Or, just search in iTunes for people you like, be it musicians, comedians, actors, or writers. You’re bound to find free podcasts featuring interviews with them.
5. Order a Vegan Meal on Overseas Flights
So, you usually get a couple of free meals on any overseas flights. All of my bandmates order vegan meals ahead of time, even though none of us are actually vegan, because the meals tend to be healthier and less gross. You’ll get fruit instead of a soggy brownie, and there tends to be a higher content of vegetables in general.
6. Board the Plane ASAP
I used to scoff at all the pushy people who would crowd up the gate the second any kind of announcement was made. I would wait until the very last second to get on the plane. But just recently, I had an epiphany: every time I’d wait to be the last person on the plane, I ended up waiting on the jet bridge forever, carrying all my heavy stuff. This is because it only takes 2 seconds to scan someone’s boarding card, but it takes, like, HOURS, for people to stow their luggage and get into their seats. So if you do the math, you actually end up doing less waiting if you bumrush the boarding process.
7. Use the Instapaper App to Read Articles Offline
Before I board, it’s usually a mad rush to download podcasts and Instapaper all the articles I can while I still have a 3G connection. I have the Instapaper bookmarklet and app installed on my iPhone and iPad, and basically you can save any article you come across online to read later. Reading current articles makes me feel connected to the world, without having to spend money and carry heavy magazines around. Plus, sometimes I don’t want to plow right into a book when I get on a plane. I want something light and fun and informative that’s a treat to read, like this article on K-Pop.
8. Use a Kindle
I love my Kindle, but I will say that Instapaper is so much more to read on an iPhone or iPad. The number one awesome thing about the Kindle that you might not know is that there is ALWAYS free 3g (as long as you buy a 3G Kindle, which is not the Kindle Fire), no matter where in the world you are. It has an incredibly crappy and slow browser, but if you’re desperate, you can use it to check your email for free anywhere in the world. I even used it to Gchat with my boyfriend while we were both on tour and in places where there was no internet available.
Also the battery life on this thing is insane. One charge will usually last me at least a 2-week trip.
9. Get the Skype App
Jesus Christ, do you have any idea how much it costs to make a long distance international call? It’s like $10/minute. For emergencies, it’s important to have the Skype app and a Skype account (either on your iPhone or computer). Once my wallet got stolen in Barcelona and I had to spend an hour on the phone canceling every card I owned. Most of those numbers are toll-free, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
10. Get an International Data Plan
It’s expensive, but so worth it to pay a little extra money and buy a temporary iPhone or iPad data plan. You can use Skype in emergencies to call or text people (this will actually SAVE you money as opposed to using data not on an international plan), and you can also take advantage of Google Maps if you’re out exploring.
I’ve had emergencies happen, like when I absolutely needed to access my email in Canada at passport control, and I ended up having to pay the $19.95/mb that AT&T charges for data since no WiFi was available. So I totally think it’s worth it to pay the extra $20 or $30 if you own an iPhone or iPad.
11. Sign Up for a VPN Service so You Can Watch Netflix and Hulu Overseas
Services like Netflix and Hulu are only available in the US, but you can trick your IP address into acting like you’re in the US. There are resources online for how to do this, like this one, and it’s pretty simple to set up. This is pretty awesome if you have a lot of hotel downtime and all the channels are in a language you don’t know.
12. Amuse Yourself with Two-Player iPad Games
If you’re traveling with a friend, a two-player game can really pass the time. I like Cut the Buttons, Boggle, and there are also games like Piyo Blocks (pictured, also one of my fave games ever) which you can play over Bluetooth, meaning you don’t need a wi-fi connection in order to connect to one another.
13. Bring a Pair of Clean Socks in Your Carry-On
So you can comfortably take your shoes off without offending the entire row with your stinky, cracked, unmanicured feet.
14. Pack Healthy Snacks
It’s worth it to go to your local health food store and stock up on some healthy snacks like dried mango, spirulina chips, and Primal Strips (these vegan jerky things that are totally delicious and easy to pack). Just remember that if you bring any FRESH fruit on an overseas flight, you have to get rid of it before you get off the plane or else a dog will come sniff you at baggage claim and expose you for the fruit-smuggling crook that you are.
15. Bring Hydrating Mist (in a Travel-Safe Bottle)
This is a nice pick-me-up that will keep your skin hydrated on a long flight. I prefer it to applying creams, which are heavy and require clean hands.
16. Get Travel Beauty Product Containers at the MUJI Store
The MUJI store is hands-down the best resource for empty vials and containers. They’re cheap and cute, and help me somehow manage to whittle down my entire medicine cabinet into a plastic baggie. They also sell a nice clear toiletries bag which is a nicer alternative to the baggie.
17. Do Your Nails on the Plane
I’ve totally done this before when I didn’t have time to get a proper manicure before a trip. With nail stickers, all you need is an emery board, so the application isn’t messy or toxic and you don’t have to wait for anything to dry.
18. Stop by Kiehl’s for Samples
I usually make a trip to the Kiehl’s store to get a tiny bottle of Amino Acid conditioner and collect a few samples of other beauty products — things like masks that you’ll probably only use once on a trip are the ideal thing to ask for. A hydrating mask or an exfoliator feels so nice after getting off a long plane ride, but it’s not worth bringing an entire bottle for a two-week trip. (You can also get tiny samples of anything you want at Sephora without having to buy anything.)
19. Vitamin Tablets
These will keep you healthy when you don’t have easy access to fresh produce or fruit juice. I prefer Berocca, which you can buy online, because it tastes better than Emergen-C or Airborne.
20. Non-Liquid Beauty Products
If I’m only traveling with carry-ons, I usually bring non-liquid items that don’t cut into my plastic-baggie quota. These are things like makeup-remover wipes, sunscreen wipes, these toner pads, nail polish remover wipes, Patch NYC solid perfume, and dry shampoo. You know what’s also awesome? A tiny jar of coconut oil. It’s solid at room temperature so it doesn’t count as a liquid and it has a myriad of uses (I tend to dab it on dry lips and skin).
If I have to be somewhere after arrival, I’ll touch up with a small jar of a solid concealer, like this kind by RMS.
21. Get a Credit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fees
Forgive me if this sounds a tad too Suze Orman, but if you travel a LOT, and you tend to buy stuff, applying for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees is a godsend. Those fees are usually something like 3 percent, which adds up over time, and can make expensive countries that much more expensive. We once bought a $1000 synthesizer in Stockholm and the credit card company tacked on an extra $40! Don’t let this happen to you.
Here’s a list of credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
22. Prep for a Flight With SeatGuru.com
23. Get the Able to Translate App
I like the Able to Translate app if I’m in a foreign country staring at a foreign menu. Just take a photo of the menu, and it’ll translate the text for you instantaneously.
24. Always Pack Enough Clean Underwear and Socks
Doing laundry just isn’t ever realistic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to do laundry, packed my newly cleaned clothes before it was fully dry, and ended up with a mildew-smelling suitcase. It’s awful. Just make sure you have clean essentials: underwear and socks.