The Friday Five

Just got off the plane in Nairobi. So, here are five secrets to surviving international travel:


1. Carry-on ONLY

It is entirely possible to carry all that you need without checking baggage. It forces you to only bring what is essential, makes you a more versatile traveler in case you have to switch flights and assures that your things arrive with you. I've been stuck in Rwanda with a bag in Orlando or rerouted from Amsterdam to Paris enough to know that it's better to have your bag wheeling behind you. You can always include a packable duffle if you want to come home with more than you came with. A delayed bag on your way home is less important.

2. Pouches

I travel with all kinds of pouches and they make travel so much easier. Here are some pouches to consider:

  • Walgreens carries pill pouches that are basically miniature zip lock bags that allow you to leave your pill bottles at home. HUGE space saver.
  • I use small packing cubes to separate my electronics, toiletries and work items.
  • You can even have a pouch for yourself - REI carries something called a Cocoon which is basically like a sleeping bag made out of a really soft sheet. It keeps me warm on the plane and at ease in strange beds in hostels and villages.

3. Vegetarian Meals

Little known fact: If you request a vegetarian meal while you book your flight, you will be the first on the plane to be served your meals, no matter where on the plane you are seated. It allows you to be fed earlier on the flight so you can get a good chunk of uninterrupted sleep instead of waiting for your meal. Besides, who really wants airplane chicken?

4. Chair Massage

This may sound extravagant, but it is a GAME CHANGER when it comes staying physically comfortable on consecutive long flights. I fly 8 hours to Amsterdam and go straight to an airport service called Back to Life for a 15 minute chair massage. It works out the kinks and helps improve circulation, gearing me up for the next 8 hour flight to Kenya. It is worth every penny (or Euro), and is still dramatically cheaper than any upgrade.

5. Husband

I actually met mine on an international flight in 2007. And ever since, I do everything I can to ensure that James is my traveling companion on long flights. Besides the fact that James is the best company for long journeys, he is also a fabulous body pillow and makes it feel like I have two seats instead of one. On today's flight, I swapped between having my head on his shoulder to having my legs on his lap to using his lap as a pillow. I was really comfortable. For this reason, I'm not sure if "Wife" would make his top five.