Ask The Intern: 9 tips for surviving long international flights
Dear Danielle, my name is Alex and I’m going to intern abroad in Tokyo next year. I’ve only gone on domestic flights before and am nervous about flying all of those hours by myself from England to Japan. Do you have any international flight tips for me?
Hi Alex, thanks so much for your question. You’re going to have an amazing time in Tokyo. I’m so excited for you! I know that the logistics involved in overseas travel can sometimes be tiresome, long, and can often make someone anxious. Here are the rules I live by when I travel internationally. Hopefully these international flight tips can help you too.
1. Check in online
Checking in online is like collecting $200 and passing go. By checking in online, you save yourself a potential hour-long wait in line, and instead can just head directly to security. Even if you have to check your luggage, often you’re able to get in a shorter “bag drop” line, rather than the check in line. To check in online, open up an email about your upcoming trip so you can find the “reservation code” to check in either on your airline’s app, or in a browser. This will involve you entering in your passport number and expiration date, so make sure to have that handy.
2. Notify your bank
This step is often easily overlooked, but by far one of the most important international flight tips. Before heading abroad, call your bank(s) to let them know where you’ll be traveling, as well as the exact dates that you’ll be abroad. Many banks now even allow you to update your travel itinerary online, without having to call them. Failure to notify your bank of your international travels can result in them blocking your debit and credit cards, for your safety. Don’t risk being unable to access your cash!
3. Monitor your flight status and traffic news
Life happens. Sometimes there’s unexpected weather or flights are delayed due to staff shift changes. Make sure to check your flight online to ensure that it’s supposed to leave on time. This international flight tip could mean extra time with your family and pets, if your flight is delayed.
Just because your flight is on time, doesn’t mean other things won’t be delayed though. It’s super important to monitor the highway news to make sure there weren’t any accidents, inclement weather to account for, or rush hour traffic that could potentially make you miss your flight. Make sure to always give yourself extra time to get to the airport.
4. Dress comfortably
Despite the possibility of running into a famous person at the airport or even on your plane, it’s smart to dress in comfy clothes for a long overnight flight. I usually wear leggings, a sweater, and sneakers. Dressing comfortably can also save you time in security, as you otherwise might be asked to remove jewellery, belts, and other accessories. Essentially this tip is two international flight tips in one.
5. Double check to see that you’ve packed everything you need
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it really is important to check that you have all the essentials packed. Things to definitely double check for are your passport, chargers, hygienic items, and electronics. This is also a good chance to check that you’ve only packed what you need. If you think you’ll only wear it once, maybe it’s best to leave it at home, and make extra room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
6. Weigh your bags at home
To avoid having to play a game of Tetris between your checked luggage and your carry on, weigh your bags at home before you get to the airport. Typically, checked luggage should be no more than 50 pounds, or 23kg. However, occasionally this varies for different airlines. Double-check online your baggage allowance. I usually put heavier and more expensive items like my camera and laptop in my backpack. This might be a good trick for you too.
7. Arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight
Despite having checked in online, I highly recommend getting to the airport with ample time to spare. Sometimes the security lines are unexpectedly long. Depending on your departure airport, you might even need to take a mini train to your terminal. Getting there early will prevent you from having to run around the airport, getting unnecessarily stressed and potentially missing your flight in the end.
8. Bring a book, pre-downloaded articles, or make an awesome playlist
Whether it’s paper, digital, or audio, bring whatever entertainment suits you best aboard your flight. While international flights have on-plane entertainment such as movies and music, it’s always good to have your own plan B. Regardless, it’s nice to have these things when you land as well, because I’m sure you’ll want to read or listen to music in your spare time abroad too.
Nothing makes an overnight flight go by quicker than sleeping through it does. I highly recommend investing in a neck pillow, as this can make your significantly more comfortable through the night. A good night’s rest is important because when you arrive, you’ll want adrenalin to kick in so you can go explore your new home abroad.