Got any tips for international travel?

I’m starting to sound like a stuck record for the number of times I’ve said, “I don’t know how anyone ever planned a trip before the internet.”

Other people’s ideas have been so useful planning our Japan trip. Today I’m sourcing tips for international travel and would love to hear yours.

Here’s an overview of what other people I’ve asked have said:

  • Take slip-on shoes for airports and terminals
  • Take your oldest undies – you can just throw them away as you go, and not worry about washing them to bring home
  • Take as little stuff as you can with you, be realistic about what clothes you will actually wear in real life
  • When traveling to non-English countries, take a business card from the reception of your hotel so you can show taxi drivers etc.
  • If hotels do breakfast free take a Tupperware container and fill it with fruit and nuts for daytime snacks
  • Buy travel socks for trip the and also trip back and hiff them on the plane
  • Put all the clothes you are certain you will need on the bed and reduce by half
  • Pack a toothbrush, deodorant, a change of undies and a top in your carry-on just in case your luggage gets lost!

There seems to also be a lot of “buy cheap x and biff it out when you get there.”

What’s your advice?

Kyoto, Japan.

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22 Responses to Got any tips for international travel?

  1. The Sewphist says:

    When packing, roll your clothes rather than folding them. You’ll fit more in (probably more important on the way home). Also, undies pack really well into your shoes, they take up less room this way + they stop your shoes getting squashed.

  2. katy says:

    Good tips!

    Friends of mine have a system where they audit each others luggage, ie, they each lay out everything they are planning to take and the other person gets to nominate a few items to be left behind.

    I like to have a little stash of my own tea bags…

  3. Rose says:

    As well as toiletries, also take things like any medication, plug adaptor and a clean t-shirt/undies with you on your carry on in case of lost bags. I’ve had lots of experience in this department – arrived with no luggage after 18 hrs in the air, nothing open so I had to sleep in my sweaty clothes that night before buying new stuff the next day. Couldn’t plug in my laptop either as no adaptor! Just awful. Take earplugs if you want to sleep on the plane. And drink LOTS of water/electrolytes. Helps with the dehydration from the airconditioning.

  4. Lynn Taylor says:

    I always use the wheelchair toilets when travelling (because I am more likely to be travelling alone) then I can take my bags in with me I make sure I have a small amount of local currency at the ready, just in case. In places where little English is spoken I found a dictionary to be useless – a phrase book is better but may be too heavy so I also would have someone write out a few phrases for me, like where is the station? Food is so easy to order in Japan as most places supply a photograph. Be at the ready with your own business cards to hand over (nice if you have ones with Japanese on one side/English on the other) if you are going to any business thing – and receive their card with two hands. Before going to Japan and Korea I read up about cultural etiquette (lots on the internet about this now. Who would have thought it is more polite to swill down a drink with your back turned on your drinking buddy in Korea?) although certain things were not always evidenced. Let them give the last gift. Oh and on a practical level baby wipes are ever handy.

  5. Burst says:

    when travelling to Japan, count on not being able to buy (with any ease), any clothing or shoes that would fit the average sized NZer and take clothing that you are comfortable in and that are up to the weather. Winter is Baltic and summer sweltering, sweaty and hot – layers for winter and light, easy to wash and dry clothing for summer. Equally, be aware that as a culture, they are quite conservative and well presented so remember some fancy duds that will hold you in good stead when out and about.
    Any body/bathing products that you cannot live without I suggest taking too – finding comparable products will be time consuming and expensive. If you are only going for a trip, be prepared so you don’t waste time finding things that you need and can get on with enjoying your trip. It is an amazing country and an eye opener so take lots of memory cards and your camera charger! (Purchase a charge converter before you go so you can charge phones etc straight away.
    If you are staying with locals or know people there, remember to take gifts as you will definitely receive some and don’t want to be awkward!
    have fun!

  6. duaneg says:

    A towel or little spray bottle of water will help with dehydration on the plane.

    Earplugs, as mentioned: definitely for sleeping but also whenever you aren’t watching/listening to something. Isolating or noise-cancelling headphones are brilliant for when you are. Check what sort of adaptor you may need for the plane if planning on using them with the entertainment system.

    Sometimes you get a little face mask for sleeping, sometimes not. If you want to sleep on the plane then it might be a good idea to bring your own.

    If you have a long trip with a stop-over then check out where the showers are in the airport before you leave. Most have public ones, but they can be hard to find and you probably won’t have much time. You will feel so, so much better after a shower.

    • tomandemma says:

      Bottle of water is on the list + spritzer. Luckily we’re going to Hong Kong for four days first so really don’t have any stopovers – hooray! Thanks for these great tips.

  7. Louise says:

    Wear comfortable clothes for the plane. Nothing worse than jeans digging into you for 12 hours when you are trying to sleep. I either wear leggings and a knit dress that I can sleep in (and it will still look presentable when I get off the plane) or I take trackies and a tshirt and get changed on the plane (and then get changed again before we land). You can usually nip to the toilets and get changed before the plane takes off, especially if you are sitting near the back of the plane and they load you on first. It takes ages to load everyone on. Otherwise you will have to wait until about 30 mins into the flight when the seatbelt sign is off before you can get changed.

    Also, take earplugs and a face mask for the plane. Earplugs help to drown out the noise of the engine and the face mask is good for when you want to sleep but they haven’t dimmed the lights yet.

    If you fly overnight (leave NZ in the evening and arrive in Japan in the morning local time), try to sleep for the flight, even if you are tempted by the movies on offer! Similarly, if you arrive in the afternoon local time, try not to sleep for the second part of the flight, and then (hard as it may be) try and stay awake until a normal bed time before going to sleep. That will help you to adjust to the local time more quickly.

    Also, take an empty water bottle with you. You can’t take liquids through security, but they let you take an empty bottle. Often there will be a water fountain in the departure lounge where you can fill your bottle to take onto the flight with you. Cheaper than buying a bottle of water in the departure lounge, plus then you have a water bottle to use on your trip.

    I don’t know about Japan, but when we travelled in the US this year there was free wifi at all of our accommodation and in lots of public places and cafes. We just took an ipad, rather than a laptop, and used that to keep in touch with people back home and do facebook etc. There was even free wifi on the long-distance trains! You can get connectors to upload your photos to your ipad too, so that you can clear your camera’s memory card and take more photos (don’t need to take as many memory cards).

    If you have dietary requirements, find out how to say this in the local language and write it down/print it out so you can show wait staff in restaurants.

    Find out what the electrical outlets look like and buy some adaptors to take with you. Also check that they have the same voltage as NZ. If they don’t have the same voltage, a lot of new appliances (like laptop chargers, phone chargers and even GHD hair straighteners!) will automatically adjust to the new voltage when you plug them in.

    Take a back pack with you (either empty in your suitcase, or use it for your hand luggage). You will need it if you are doing day trips during your holiday (easier to carry than a handbag for long periods).

    If you are planning on doing lots of shopping for craft supplies over there, take an empty roll bag folded up in your suitcase and then fill it to bring back home. If you are flying Air NZ it is cheaper to pre-pay for your extra bag before you go than to pay excess luggage when you check in to come home.

  8. katy says:

    The comment about wifi reminded me that we found this more difficult than expected when we visited Japan a few months ago. If you want to be sure about this I would research it now and even check whether there are good value deals for roaming with your NZ package. It is not difficult to find a computer to use to get online but we were surprised at the limited wifi options if you weren’t locally registered (I found something similar in Dubai a few years ago, tricky to get casual wifi access).

  9. katy says:

    Actually I just had a look at Starbucks Japan and their free wifi looks straightforward, and these stores are everywhere (and if you order a basic coffee you can get another one at any store for 100yen on the same day 🙂

    So I am wondering the problem we had was my husband not being confident in the security of the network and vetoing it on that basis (he is very cautious).

    Because I am on my phone I am having trouble pasting the link but “Starbucks Japan wifi” will get it for you.

    • tomandemma says:

      Tom has us well sorted – he found a Japanese service that brings you a SIM card to your hotel and then you can access data while in Japan. Hooray! We also both have iPhones so that’s pretty universal. Good to know about Starbucks too!

  10. Caroline says:

    Don’t take heavy toiletries like shampoo or soap unless you use specialised products – they are heavy and take up space and you can buy whatever you need when you get there (or your hotels might have comp ones, which is even better). Like the hotel business card thing, smartphones normally have apps where you can type in an address in english and it translates for the taxi driver. Take some NZ souvenirs (light things like fridge magnets) to give to friends you meet along the way. Another handy thing to carry in your carry on is a small quick-dry towel (you can get them at kathmandu). Happy travels!

    • tomandemma says:

      Thank you! Your comment was a good summary of a lot of the other comments – I hadn’t thought about taking some small gifts but that’s a good idea and easy enough to sort out. Thanks for the towel tip too – I’d recently read that somewhere else and like the idea of a quick drying one.

  11. I remember seeing a couple on the amazing race pack paper underwear, something you might be able to locate in your destination country

  12. Caryl Anne says:

    These are great tips to follow when traveling. I will definitely have to keep these in mind when traveling abroad. Thanks for sharing!

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