Keeping time for your flight is probably one of the most important things you should never forget because if you miss it, chances are very high for most airlines you are going to pay a fine that can range within $200 – $360 for a new one-way ticket.
It is advisable to always head for the airport at least 4 hours ahead of your check in time so that you can beat the traffic jam, any unforeseen incidents, finish the check-in if you have luggage that must be weighed and pushed to cargo and enough time for you to settle in.
Airlines are very strict about time, always struggle not to miss a flight unless it is something unavoidable in which case you can postpone the ticket ahead of time otherwise the plane will leave you or you’ll be denied entry no matter who you are.
2. Travel Light.
If your trip is not that long, lasting less than 3 weeks then you might find you really don’t need to carry all those bags.
Airlines weigh how much you can carry on the plane, if your bags exceed their limit per person you have to remove and leave some stuff or pay a fine to have it on board.
You also have to be mindful of what you carry, for instance, perfumes and liquids are not allowed to be carried on the passenger cabin though some airlines allow them if they are within the specified ML allowed on board.
An important tip; you can carry a light bag with a few of your things with you on to the passenger cabin like a rucksack or laptop bag and some smaller travel bags. Any bigger is usually sent to the cargo hold and you find it ahead of you at your destination airport.
3. Belts, Laptops & Shoes.
The most hectic bit about travel are the security checks which are mandatory at all airports especially if you have cross overs where you have to wait and change flights at airports in other countries.
You can be prepared for this too, the most common procedure is that you have to remove your laptop from the bag and place it in its own container then place your bag, wallet, shoes, belt, keys, coins, watch and other metals in containers that go through an x-ray scanner.
You then walk through a scan, if you trigger it you are asked to find any metal and walk through again. If it repeats, then you are search with a handheld scanner or given a thorough pat down of your entire body which most travelers loath.
Preparation will save you from most of this.
4. Exchange Currency.
Most of the nations you will travel to use their own local currency with the exception of a few that use a common currency like members of the European Union that use a Euro and it is advisable you find out and convert your money to it before you travel.
You are probably asking why you should do this from your home country instead of the destination.
For several reasons, sometimes the changing your local currency into another is much cheaper at home than at the airport or the destination country. You are also off better ready for anything such as grabbing a cab than fumbling around for a forex bureau.
5. Prepaid International Visa Card.
In the same light as above, if you don’t want to hustle with exchanging and moving around with lots of foreign exchange for shopping and other errands which could also not be that safe, you can go with a prepaid credit or debit International Visa Card.
Most countries around the world accept payments from International Visa Cards, Master Card and many more and you can even use payments that are compatible with the same to withdraw some money in that currency for a small fee.
You will just swipe at the mall while shopping, restaurant, hotel and even some cab companies! You can get one from your local bank before leaving, for the case in Uganda, you can get the cheap UBA prepaid visa card in less than 30 minutes.
6. Research About the Country.
It is more than wise to know a considerable amount of information about the country and city you will be travelling to. The culture, laws, transportation, accommodation and anything else that could get you into trouble.
For instance, UAE is very strict on thefts and if you land as a suspect you could lose your arm because of Sharia Law, you are also not allowed to take alcohol in Dubai without a liquor license.
The research could also help you know which places or marvels to visit, cheapest ways to sustain the travel, malls with the cheapest deals and other fascinating things. All you have to do is read some forums, google and talk to some people who have been there.
7. Online Check-in.
Other than security checks, checking in your ticket and luggage if any takes a really long time but thankfully, airlines have tried to solve that and make travel less painful.
Most airlines now accept online check-in, all you’ve to do is a day or a few hours before is access a computer or mobile app, check-in and print your boarding pass. This speeds up your process at the check-in counter in case you have luggage.
If you don’t have luggage often you are just sent to the lobby to wait for the flight or for the security check depending on the time. It reduces your process time by at least 70%.
There are also now a few airports that have introduced self-check-in such as Gatwick in the UK.
8. Never Leave Your Luggage Unattended.
Your friends and relatives might warn you about this but you often won’t listen or believe it. With the new regulations, many wrong people will try to use you or your luggage to smuggle drugs and you may never even notice till your caught.
For instance, the most common incident is where these dubious people lurk around the airport and find unattended to luggage then they slip in drugs or other illegal stuff and as you pass through security, these raise red flags and you are arrested.
These are serious crimes in countries like China where if you’re found guilty for drug trafficking you’ll be hang, USA, UK.
It is not only about using your luggage to smuggle but some people even steal it with the hope of finding valuable items like laptops, jewelry or phones for sale or even money. So please never leave your luggage unattended to at the airport.
9. Foreign Language.
This might be the most under looked form of preparation, but going to a foreign country when you don’t even know the basic words for greeting, asking for help, saying name is very disastrous in the event of an emergency of when you need help.
The locals might not understand you, they may consider you rude or might just not be inclined to help a foreigner who can’t take a moment to understand their language and culture.
The other most ignored form of preparation is setting up your devices for communication with other people and local authorities.
You can setup your phone for roaming on the other country’s network by yourself or by going to your local service provider’s customer center before you leave your country. For some networks abroad, if you didn’t set this up before leaving your country, it won’t work.
Alternatively, you can just buy a new travel line in that country and use that. You can also use Wi-Fi at several places to communicate back home, just be careful not to attract attention to be robbed such as in African countries and cities like Paris, Brussels and Berlin.
Always inform your family and friends back home of your progress and where you are so that in case anything happens to you they have an idea of where to begin.
There are several other things you might need to prepare for ahead of your trouble but I only picked these 10 I thought are very basic and important.
If you’ve any others or would like to share your experience, please feel free to share them with us in the comments.
Lawk is a mozillian, writes for Spur, Newslibre and consults part time for Every1Mobile and Innovware.
He loves open source, the open web, writing, reading and developing literacy tools that can teach the youth around the world especially in East Africa.