So in terms of foreign countries: Argentina, Brazil (5x), Chile, the Caribbean (I’m lumping it together…Bahamas…), France, Italy, England, Iceland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bali, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and the United Arab Emirates. The other (better half) well he’s done all the other spots in Europe where I’d like to see and Guam. Been to almost all 50 states.
So I’ll start with some unsolicited advice (the other half might have comments):
1) Always great to enroll in STEP when you travel overseas. Here’s what it does for you… you can receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. The U.S. Embassy can contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency. As a matter of fact, make sure you have the consulate/embassy number written down and also programmed into your phone.
If you only travel domestic--enroll in TSA Precheck. You’ll have to set up an appointment (same with Global), runs about $80. Global Entry is $100. Here’s the deal though. You don’t have to do both (at the time of this blog). Global Entry gives you a precheck number. You enter this Known Traveler Number in your airline reservation screen (I make sure mine is in there before a trip) and bam, prints on your tickets and you go to the Pre-check screening line. When you go through U.S. Customs overseas, you scan the Global Entry card or your U.S. passport and you are cleared to go through.
TSA Precheck: https://www.tsa.gov
2) Check your cell service BEFORE you go overseas. Now you can make calls over wifi. Also if you want to use Google maps while you are out and about download the area over wifi…then it will save it and you won’t have to burn data to get you from point A to B. Also be aware of the ever changing laptop and camera policy. It's gotten a little crazy out there, so pay attention and make sure you aren't traveling with your company trade secrets on a laptop. Might be worth asking for a separate laptop while you are away on business (if you frequently travel). Remember, no one will treat your valuables like you. At this point of writing this, no airline will ensure the safety of your laptop or camera. Yikes.
3) Invest in good luggage. I had cruddy luggage when I started my old job. I’ll tell you one trip from Miami to Chicago killed that bag. One. Trip. So visit the folks at Briggs and Riley. They back their product. No, it’s not cheap but I will tell you won’t be buying a bag from anywhere else! Briggs backs their products. The people are super friendly, they are in NJ, and I think an elephant should be used in their ads, because if you saw my bag one time I thought for sure it was the end. Nope. The geniuses at Briggs fixed it (and no, I’m not paid to endorse). If you are looking for a gift for someone, a good bag is a great one to give. Who doesn't love the gift of travel? If the airline damages it they will fix it FREE of charge! Then I envision they have a think tank of people and engineers to assess all the crazy stuff people do to your bag in transit and see how they can make their bags better. I know I need to upgrade, but my bags have been around the world with me. Also, for trips where we were doing planes, trains, and Uber…well, we (mainly because of my husband) recommend the North Face duffels or Helly Hansen or Patagonia Black Hole duffels. The old 90L Helly Hansen was legit because you can still lock your bag (remember TSA friendly lock). My new travel tote (when I don't have the need for the Briggs & Riley duffel) I can also use as a purse is the R.Riveter Grant bag. It's DEEP pockets let me store (if I wanted a laptop), Kindle, phone, water, cosmetics...the list goes on. It's made by military spouses and so made in AMERICA! I LOVE the pouches on the outside of this bag which make it easy to whip out my phone, a ticket, you name it. I'm currently debating the Otto Crossbody, since I really like a cross body bag when traveling.
Here are links to the two:
Briggs and Riley: These bags don't die. You will love them and then us for telling you!
Hello Hansen: (This is the OLD design, and while I wrote Helly they swear the new one is awesome, mine broke in two weeks. The OLD design also allows for lugguage locks) It also depends on the vendor you buy these from. I bought locally and they took it back and then I searched high and low for the old model.
R. Riveter: Check this company out (for the ladies, hoping there will be some men's products too! because why not?) for products made by military spouses! The bags are durable made from military grade materials. Best part? MADE IN AMERICA! So check out the Otto and Grant for travel. **Note**limited editions pop up so if you see it and like it, get it or it will be gone !
4) Check the CIA World Factbook. it’s an incredible wealth of information and Lonely Planet can only hook you up so much. Which leads me to my next statement…Also look at the CDC website. Make sure you are up to snuff on vaccinations. Malaria is no joke. Nor is rabies. Remember, if you can’t peel it don’t eat it. Be wary of ice, lettuce (that’s what got me—I was dying for green food after a month), fruit juices that aren’t pasteurized. Also pay attention to soft cheeses and dairy. I’m not saying don’t eat it, but know before you go. Listen to the medical experts on some things (no fish pedis in Bali! You know who you are!) beware certain mosquito borne viruses and check the CDC for vaccinations. Brazil for instance required yellow fever for entry into the country. I had the fortunate fact to travel with a doctor if things got bad in some spots, so I was really really lucky. In Bali I almost cracked my sterum surfing, luckily the doc traveling with us was amazing. I was lucky…it just stayed bruised.
CIA World Factbook:
CDC: https://www.cdc.gov (go to Traveler’s Health)
5) Get a travel book before you go. Know what your “Can’t miss” things are. For example in Bali I didn’t have a lot of down time since I was there for work and couldn’t venture too far (still had to work). I surfed the Indian Ocean (and almost broke my sterum), went looking for incredible wicker bags, lace…and most definitely Kopi Luwak coffee. I’m going to let you google that one. Review TripAdvisor, look at Expedia. Take some reviews with a grain of salt. They might have incentive so heed caution. People sometimes from our lovely country have some super HIGH expectations of other countries amentities. Keep your expectations reasonable.
6) Get a refillable water bottle. You’ll avoid paying crazy amounts for water at the airport. I am a fan of the S’well bottle because it can handle hot and cold. Also a fan of the Contigo mugs. They don’t spill if you tilt them upside down. Know before you go of safe water. If I can't drink the water I purposely put my bottle in the sink, pull the stopper and then I proceed with caution knowing mentally that "Oh yea, don't drink the water at 1am"
S'well: https://www.swellbottle.com (I prefer the larger for water and the smaller for coffee)
7) Pack a pair of underwear in your carryon, a t-shirt, and socks. If your bag is lost…you will thank me later that at least you can change into something clean. A light pair of pants is an added bonus if they fit in your carryon. Wear natural fabrics on the plane as much as you can and yes, closed toe shoes. If you have friends that were or are military pilots I guarantee they will tell you the same. If there is an emergency on the plane how far will you get in flip flops? Yes, it’s convenient for security if you don't have pre-check but if you have pre-check then you don’t need to even worry about that do you?
8) For the ladies, bring feminine products. I know it should be common sense but you would be surprised. In certain countries you just can’t get your hands on them. Also I travel with duct tape and quick clot. There are a lot of things you can do with these two. For other issues like a major gash, fall, or anything involving bleeding to resolve in the interim. You never know with travel these days. Isn't it better to be prepared?
9) Use those plastic bags from the dry cleaners for keeping your suit from wrinkling. Always roll! Don’t fold. And bring some dryer sheets for your dirty laundry. It will keep that bag from really being stinky. Eagle Creek makes some nice pouches you can sort your toiletries and wet stuff should you have to pack it. Also check out Sea to Summit for lightweight travel towels and gear. Also REI for miscellaneous gear.
Sea to Summit: http://www.seatosummitusa.com
Eagle Creek: shop.eaglecreek.com/packing-organizers-view-all/l/330
If you have any suggestions for any further suggestions let us know @allofyawl on instagram, here on the blog, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org