Hopefully you are doing well on your preparations for the travel. Feel free to ask any questions if you want to. I will try to help as best as I can :-)
(Image source: https://openclipart.org)
Ok, so when you are about a couple days away from travelling, here’s what you can do to have a smooth travel experience.
1. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork: Double check that you have all the documents and paperwork you need. Here’s a quick checklist of things. I like to print my India address and my US address (if it’s a hotel I will be checking in to, the hotel address) and put this print into each of my checked-in bags. That way if one kind person happens to carry your luggage from the baggage claim, they will know what to do with it. I also like to make a photocopy of everyone’s passports and put those in too. :-) Silly? May be! To tell the truth, I never had anything happen to my luggage, but just in case.
2. Medicines and prescriptions: When you carry any medicines, it is important to pack them really well and put them in the check-in luggage, except the ones you need during your journey. In every bag where you put the medicines, make sure you also put the doctor’s prescription or a copy of it. That way if your luggage is opened by any airport officials, they will know that these are medicines prescribed by a doctor and not some random (or illegal!) drugs.
3. What to carry in your carry-on: In addition to your laptop bag or ladies’ handbag, most airlines allow you to carry one small bag with you. Do check the weight (and size) limit with your airline company and stay within that limit. If you go over, chances are you’ll be asked to check that bag in and might have to pay for it too. When I know I am travelling overnight, I like to carry the following items with me in my carry on or handbag:
A clear / see-through pouch with Travel size toothpaste, Toothbrush, Travel size facewash, Travel size moisturizer, lipbalm, a haircomb): I have a night routine of brushing my teeth, washing my face, applying moisturizer, applying lipbalm and combing my hair into loose braid. I like to stick to it even when travelling, so that my brain gets the signal for sleep-time. I’ve noticed that I also remain fresher when I wake up.
Some wet wipes /facial tissues
A small hand towel
A couple feminine essentials for emergency
A pen and a small notepad
My wallet (will have a couple credit cards, a couple debit cards and currencies of both countries)
My passport and a print of my ticket
4. Electronic items: Here’s one more trick that saves me time – I always pack my phone charger, laptop chargers, any usb cables, headphones, US-to-India coverters and any small electronic items in a clear / see-through bag. At the security counter, I simply put the clear bags for toiletries and electronics “as they are” into the tray along with my shoes / belt / handbag. I don’t take out all the items one by one, I don’t risk forgetting to take any electronic item out and then being detained by the security officers for questioning.
5. Check the sizes and weights: When you have packed all these things, make sure you weigh each bag and ensure it is within the allowed limits. For carry on, make sure your bag is within size limits too.
6. Food ideas: You are allowed to take home-cooked food with you on the flight. I strongly suggest that you check this with your airlines company or check their instructions online. Especially if you have kids travelling with you, it is a good idea to bring along your own food. Avoid liquids like daal, sambar etc though, because liquids are not allowed. Instead opt for vegetable fried rice, roti-subzi or sandwiches. While packing, it is best to pack them like you’d pack school / office lunches (tiffins!). Try and keep the food back under the seat in front of you. That way it is easier to pass around even if you cannot get up from your seat for some reason. I like to carry my empty water bottle also with me. When I finish the security checking, I simply fill it up from any water fountain. Or alternatively, you could buy a water bottle, but do so after you finish the security checking, otherwise you could be asked to throw it away.
7. Liquids: In US you are allowed to carry 3 liquids of 3 ounces each, packed in clear bottles. As a general rule, it is best to avoid bringing any large quantity of liquids. As always, if you are in doubt, check with your airline company’s website or support people,
8. Dressing tips for your luggage: When you will land at the port of entry (your first landing place in the US), you will have to identify your luggage and check it back in. Specially if you have onward journey, you will have to move quickly through this process. So it becomes important that you are able to quickly spot your bags from so many other similar looking ones. For this, I like to tie a simply piece of fabric or ribbon to all my bags. You can also use some travel tags etc if it will help you. And remember, your luggage is not necessarily handled with care always. So when packing make sure you put layers of clothes / fabric at the bottom and also at the top to keep other contents from breaking easily.
9. Dressing tips for you: India to US is a long journey. Even if you have a stop-over in Europe, it will be an eight hours flight. Make sure you dress comfortably. Dress in layers – each layer can be worn by itself or along with other layers so that you can easily adjust to the change in temperature. I like to wear a full sleeved tee with a sweater or cardigan and pair it with comfortable jeans or leggings. I always wear socks – I can’t stand cold toes. I also like to keep a scarf handy to keep my neck and ears warm.
10. Making it fun for kids: Making a child remain in one seat on a long journey is challenging. To avoid having them glued to the in-flight television sets, try bringing some books to read or coloring books etc. Some small board games that you and your child can play are great too! At every stop over, let the kids run around a little, stretch their legs and use their pent-up energy. They will be able to enjoy sitting down in one place when they are tired. I have heard some people give their kids cough medicine to make them drowsy on a flight. I’ve never done it myself and I will never recommend it. Best not to put any unnecessary drugs into my little baby’s system.
11. Making it fun for you: A little bit of travel stress is inevitable at times, but that does not mean you cannot have fun, right? Bring along that book you were so hoping to read or if you like to doodle, how about a plain notepad with some color pencils? You’ll also do well to download your favorite music or audio book into your phone. :-)
12. Landing at the port-of-entry: Just before you land, the airlines crew will be handing out forms to fill declaring what you are carrying. Take time on the flight itself to fill it up and when you do get down, walk briskly to the visa counters. There will be at least some line, but if you have filled your form already, you won’t have to make an additional stop at the side tables before you get in line for visa stamping. At the counter, smile and greet the officer. They are dealing with a lot of pressure, the least we can do is pass a friendly smile and greet them well. If you have kids with you, try to keep them from making a lot of noise or trying to climb over the officer’s desk (don’t ask me how I know!).
13. When you land at your hotel: Yay! You made it!! Take a sip of water, take a shower if you must, eat something and allow yourself to finally relax. Usually you would want to connect to the internet in your room and send message back home that you’ve arrive safely. One of the ways to avoid jet lag on the following days is to force yourself to be in your new timezone already. If it is night, sleep. If it is day, stay awake by taking a walk, catching a movie etc. Personally I’ve never succeeded in this. I’m only passing on the tip based on hearsay.
Long list, I know. But I am so hoping you’ll find it useful.
Travelling is quite unpredictable, really. No amount of tips and preparation will ensure that you will always have a great time. If there is one thing that can make all the difference though, is your attitude! Be adventurous and your loved ones, will catch on the spirit.
Good luck and God bless! ~Varada