share your tips for work travel overseas

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m going to be traveling for work (30+ hours of flights including layovers) after a few-year hiatus related to the pandemic. I usually fly overseas and I’m wondering if the readers have any travel tips? I usually try to pack food after getting food poisoning from some meatballs on a United flight from China to the U.S. Also thinking about trying out the Timeshifter app to help deal with jetlag, not sure if anyone has had any good results with that.

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 390 comments… read them below }

    1. Properplanning*

      Compression socks for sure. Also, if you wear sneakers to the plane, loosen your laces once you’re settled.

      Drink water.

      If you experience digestive issues due to travel, high fiber snacks like dried mango can help.

      Mask up. Being sick in a foreign hotel is not ideal – be it COVID, Flu, a cold, etc….

      International airlines may have different carryon restrictions than your domestic ones, check restrictions ahead of time (size, items, etc).

      Fully charge your devices before you leave, check restrictions on portable batteries if you want to bring a backup.

      Find out if you need to let your bank know you’re traveling or not to prevent any holds due to being flagged for fraud since you’re out of the country.

      1. Lizzo*

        Also, if you’re using a password manager (e.g. LastPass), you’ll need to let them know ahead of your departure to set access permissions for overseas.

        1. Ann Nonymous*

          Interesting. I keep my passwords in a Google Doc I can access on my phone. I think it’s safe, but I’m never sure. I never would have thought about having to let a pw manager know I’m traveling abroad.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            As an IT professional, I generally advise people to either keep passwords in a password manager, or in a password-protected spreadsheet. I don’t know about Google Docs specifically (though I think it does now support password protection) but I would not advise that you use it without a password — it’s not intended for that, and is vulnerable to anything that could compromise your email account.

        2. David*

          1. Don’t use LastPass (for the reasons posted in Al Arsenault’s comment)
          2. It depends on the password manager. Some of them are entirely local to your computer (KeePassXC), or involve a server that you set up yourself (Bitwarden), so of course there’s nobody to notice or care that you’re accessing it from a different location than usual. And among the other type of password manager, where you sign up for an account with someone else’s service, it’s up to each service whether they block access from a different country. I don’t think all of them do, although I haven’t specifically researched it.

          1. June*

            1Password gave me no trouble on a trip to Europe, even including when I was using it on the plane’s wifi.

        3. The Traveller's Rest*

          “Also, if you’re using a password manager (e.g. LastPass), you’ll need to let them know ahead of your departure to set access permissions for overseas.”

          I travel on about 8-10 international long-hauls per year. I’ve never, ever had to do this.

            1. Lizzo*

              Yes, our company has this set to “on”, so we have to notify.
              (And yes, we are migrating to 1Password for the reasons noted in earlier comments.)

  1. Rowan*

    The best “travel pillow” I’ve ever found is actually a standard neck brace, aka cervical collar. It’s the only thing that keeps my head up and fully supported.

    I also started packing a FlipBelt, which I put around my upper arms to keep my arms from falling to the side while I’m sleeping. It doubles as a travel belt after you get to your destination if you want one.

    1. Pippa K*

      Ooh, chiming in to recommend the Trtl neck pillow! It’s a lot like a cervical collar in some ways, but with a soft fabric wrap component. It looks a bit odd but it’s surprisingly comfortable. I’ve used it on very long-haul flights and recommend it as an option. (The drawback is that unlike regular pillows you can put behind your back, etc., this one really is one-purpose, for comfort while sleeping in a sitting position.)

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Absolutely! I’m also seconding the Trtl. If I do have to use a regular U shaped travel pillow for some reason, I turn it around so I can rest my chin on it and it’s not pushing my neck forward.

      1. Jane*

        Also, 99% of people are wearing the standard travel pillows the wrong way round! Put the “pillow” part under your chin and the opening at the back. The back of your head will be supported by the seat, the pillow under your chin will stop your head falling forward or to the side and avoid you waking up with a crick in your neck from sleeping upright.

  2. Not my real name*

    Noise cancelling headphones. Even if you don’t want to listen to anything, just not hearing the engine noise is really helpful.

      1. needaname*

        If you just want to suppress the engine noise but not listen to anything, ear protectors or earplugs (I like the waxy ones) are always going to be better than noise-cancelling headphones, as well as way cheaper. The ones that are sold for construction workers or for shooting.

      2. a former scientist?*

        Yes! I sleep next to a snorer, and Loop Earplugs from Amazon are incredible. They are $25, come in fun colors, and are more comfortable to wear (in my opinion) than the wax ones or the orange ones.

      3. epizeugma*

        Not necessarily cheap, but I really like Loop earplugs for loud environments including planes. They come with a variety of sizes of both silicone and foam ear tips. I have a pair that came with an extra little silicone gasket that I can put into the loops to reduce sound by another 5db or so if needed.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I’d also recommend a white noise app to drown out engine noise, other people chatting, etc – I have one called White Noise Lite that’s free and allows you to make “mixes” (the one I use the most is a mix of Babbling Brook, Brown Noise, and Cat!)

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Yes! I hate noise cancelling headphones on planes becaus I find they reduce the engine noise (which I quite like) making the grating sound of neighbours’ conversations (which I hate) much clearer and more audible. Earplugs ftw

      2. Phryne*

        I mean, is the engine noise on a plane not more or less white noise anyway? I always find sleeping on a plane much easier than a train or bus where you can hear so much more of the people around you…
        Though I guess a bubbling brook is more appealing to some people.

    2. Silence isn't golden*

      On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who likes a bit of white noise, the sound of a jet engine might just be the perfect thing for you. Or maybe I’m just weird that way.

      The babbling of all the other passengers would also be a good reason to bring along noise cancelling headphones though, and gods forbid there’s a crying baby.

    3. B*

      For not hearing the noise engine, some earplugs are handy. With “High fidelity” ear plugs (what musicians wear to protect their hearing) you can still hear clearly for this like announcements, an attendant trying to speak to you Etc. They’re also great for when you’re at an event or concert that is just a smidge too loud and you want to bring it down a notch

      1. Sleeping Panther*

        Etymotic Research is a great brand for this type of earplug. My college marching band used them for indoor rehearsals because they brought the volume down to a level that protected our hearing, but still allowed us to hear with enough clarity that we could tell if we made a mistake.

    4. Hannah Lee*

      The noise cancelling headphones are huge. I wouldn’t do any flight longer than 2 hours without them because hours and hours of that roar just grinds me down.

      Check ahead to see what in-flight power options your flights/seat offer (seatguru), and carry on a fully charged power brick as well to keep them working all flight.

    5. The Traveller's Rest*

      I travel long-haul about 8-10 times per year. I have a tactical bag as my small carry-on, and I use the MOLLE system to attach an in-flight bag — for which I use a rip-away MOLLE medical kit — to it.

      The contents of my in-flight bag are as follows:
      1. Amazon Kindle.
      2. Eyeshade (get one that is contoured for your eyes, like a Bucky blackout; the airline-provided ones are not).
      3. Multi-connector USB charger (with Apple, USB-C, and micro-USB nibs).
      4. 65W GAN-II charger with USB and USB-C ports, with US, UK, and EU plugs. The on-board outlets can accommodate any plug, but in the lounges on the ground, you often find country-specific outlets; hence the need for adapters.
      5. Noise-cancelling earbuds (I like Bose Quiet Comfort, but Amazon Echo noise-cancelling buds are cheaper and almost as good).
      6. Twelve South AirFly SE, Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmitter. This device plugs into the in-flight entertainment (IFE) jack but allows you to listen to the IFE wirelessly using your earbuds. This device is not bulky; nor are earbuds. Even the best airlines will offer you wired headphones, rather than wireless earbuds, which are a pain to deal with.
      7. This is specific to me, since I had a DVT after a long-haul flight years ago, but I carry at least four injections of an anti-coagulant (Fraxiparin/Arixtra/etc). and take one immediately before a long-haul flight. Obviously, you will want to take any important medications in your carry-on. See my longer post on this issue below.
      8. N95 masks, although these days I only wear them during boarding/deplaning and in crowds. Still, they are useful if you suspect someone in a nearby row is sick, or again if you come down with a cold yourself (see below).
      9. Spare pair of Earplanes, which I carry in case I am forced to fly with a cold, and a few pseudofed tablets for the same contingency. The idea is to ensure you don’t burst an eardrum if you absolutely must fly with a cold. In general, I would do my utmost to cancel if you do have to fly with a cold; I’ve only had to do it once in the past 15 years.
      10. Passport, which is in an RFID-blocking leather passport case along with frequent flier cards and my Global Entry card.

      Other carry-on items that I keep in the tactical bag:
      1. Laptop, which should be an ultrabook
      2. Change of socks (which should be light compression socks) and underwear in case of connecting delays
      3. Smart phone

      For my main luggage, I take a cabin-sized carry on if I am travelling one week or less, and check a bag if I’m travelling longer than that. I have almost never had issues with lost luggage. However, in addition to address labels, put Apple AirTags in your luggage, cabin bag, and in-flight bag.

      What I do NOT recommend lugging:
      1. Pillows or blankets. Virtually all legacy long-haul carriers have them, even in economy. Even if you are fussy, they are simply not worth the extra weight.

      2. Toothpaste/toothbrushes/razors. These can go in your toiletry kit, which you can check if you’re checking a bag (see below). In business or premium economy, long-haul airlines will offer amenity kits with toothpaste and such (Singapore Airlines is the exception, but they still offer toothbrushes in business class; it’s just that they do it near the lavatories, and not in an amenity kit), and they will also usually have a place to shower on the ground if you are an elite frequent flier or are in business. A few carriers, such as Turkish Airlines, offer amenity kits in all classes, or at least did pre-pandemic.

      3. I used to carry a trial pack of wipes for the tray table, but I found it wasn’t worth the extra weight. Some airlines give you a wipe as well.

      4. Food. The only reason to take food is if you’re travelling long-haul in economy, in which case the food they offer may or may not be adequate. (In that case, I personally treat myself to sushi!) Food poisoning like OP described is vanishingly rare, and I would wager her United Airlines meatballs were not the true source.

      5. Water bottles. Flight attendants are more than happy to serve everyone water upon request.

      I also recommending inquiring about the travel policy before accepting any job that involves anything more than occasional long-haul travel. If the company does not routinely offer business class on long-haul travel, decline the offer. The only exception would be start-ups (and, I suppose, the government, but that’s why I would not work in a government job that involves travel).

      1. The Traveller's Rest*

        Forgot to add one item to the first list – a small 3oz tin of Nivea. Long-haul flying dries out the skin, and in particular I have found I get blepharitis after about 20% of long-haul flights.

      2. Katerina*

        I would qualify that most of this advice is for those flying business class or better, or on nice carriers. If you work for the USG and are flying commercial on US carriers, you will not get an amenity kit, a comfortable pillow, or a flight attendant constantly offering you water. Bring some small comforts to make travel go a bit easier.

        1. The Traveller's Rest*

          If you work for the USG and are flying commercial on US carriers, you will not get an amenity kit, a comfortable pillow, or a flight attendant constantly offering you water.

          That’s (mostly) incorrect.

          1. United — and every other airline I’ve been on — offers complementary bottled water and soft drinks in the galleys throughout long-haul flights, including in economy. (Granted, the likes of Spirit are probably not doing this, but they’re mostly not doing international long-haul). I’ll add the caveat that I fly Star Alliance carriers and can’t really speak to what DL and AA do, but I’d be surprised if it’s vastly different when it comes to water. The other caveat is that long-haul can indeed differ from short-haul (although even there UA gives complementary soft drinks, as does WN) but this thread is about long-haul.

          2) Lufthansa offers pillows in long-haul economy. IIRC, United does too, although I’ve not been on United long-haul economy since late 2019.

          3) USG employees are also allowed to fly on foreign carriers’ metal if there’s a US carrier codeshare. So you can book yourself on Lufthansa metal using a UA codeshare flight number. Now, while I historically preferred LH metal to UA, UA has vastly improved its services in all classes, such that I no longer insist on LH metal.

          4) I stated that most carriers do not offer amenity kits in Y class, and that Turkish Airlines is an exception (or at least was pre-pandemic; I haven’t flown them since then).

          I’ve flown Y, Y+ (where offered), and J on most of the US and European Star Alliance carriers.

    1. Elle*

      Test the meds out ahead of time to see if they work and avoid reactions on planes. Turns out melatonin doesn’t work for me and NyQuil gave me a panic attack.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        seconded – turns out melatonin gave me super vivid nightmares, like “wake up the people in the next apartment with my screaming” vivid nightmares. Would have really sucked to find that out on a plane. :(

        1. jane's nemesis*

          I also get nightmares from melatonin, and every medical provider I have ever told this has acted like they’ve never heard of this side effect before. :|

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Huh. Very vivid dreams is a pretty well-known side-effect of melatonin. This would theoretically include nightmares.

            I take sleep aids like melatonin frequently enough that I’ve started to master lucid dreaming. Whenever my dream gets bizarre or scary enough I realize I’m dreaming and can direct what happens next. Unfortunately, my brain can be pretty evil, so I often make things worse: “Oh, I’m dreaming these zombies chasing me! You know what would be worse? If my only means of escape from them is through shark-infested waters…”

            1. Brain Flogged*

              I see you brain must be friends with mine (who is a prankster). There must be a slack channel for evil brains somewhere.

        2. Kindred Spirit*

          I also have very vivid dreams (not necessarily nightmares) when I take melatonin. I feel validated.

          1. alienor*

            I have both, but I’m prone to nightmares when I’m under stress even if I’m not taking anything. (The two major warning signs that life is starting to get on top of me are always nightmares + loss of appetite.) I do use melatonin occasionally when I really need to sleep, but more than 2-3 nights in a row is a bad idea.

      2. Warm-blooded*

        I second that. I recently tried melatonin and, while it didn’t have *bad* side effects for me, I don’t feel like I got a very restful sleep.

        If I were only using it briefly to help my body clock readjust I might feel it was worth it though.

      3. couldhavebeenanemail*

        Totally agree! Took some kind of NyQuil type action on a flight from the US to Europe and ended up with restless leg syndrome that had me walking the aisles for the whole 6+ hour flight.

      4. ThatGirl*

        I agree with this but also most people take too high of a dose, which can cause vivid dreams and other problems. Start with 2-3 mg.

        1. LG*

          Yes! I saw a sleep doctor (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, highly recommend for anyone with general sleep problems) and I now use a bright light lamp for a half an hour in the morning and then take a low dose (0.5 MG, I have to cut a 1 MG pill in half) melatonin three hours before bedtime. The melatonin is supposed to help with “sunset” cues and the lamp tells something in the back of your eyes that you are awake with the sun. In my case I needed to move my falling asleep earlier so I was basically making a change 15 minutes per day.

          By the way, starting several days ahead and moving my wake up time 15 minutes each day is also how I deal with the time change here in the US.

          I will also add that keeping your wake up time most consistent is so important with sleep. So you’d want to attend to that with jetlag, too. We can’t always control when we fall asleep but with an alarm we can control when we wake up!

          Good luck with all of your travels!

          1. LG*

            Ooh, I wanted to add that I pair the melatonin with putting on blue light blocking glasses. I have super cool ones that fit over my regular glasses =) Paired together they give pretty good “sundown” cues three hours out!

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          Less than that, even. I take 0.3 mg nightly. Melatonin is pretty safe, but there’s no reason to be guzzling the stuff; high doses don’t work better, they just lead to morning fatigue and/or weird dreams.

          It’s not easy to find such a low dose, but it does exist. You’ll have to order it online. I get mine from Nootropics Depot.

          I’m light-sensitive; without intervention I live on the “hacker schedule” of six 28-hour days a week. Alas, I have chosen a normal life, with employer, husband, and cats that all vibe with the actual Earth days. I could wear blue-light blockers, and for years I did just that, but eventually the ease of simply taking a pill every night won out.

      5. zinzarin*

        Yeah, melotonin gives me the weirdest dreams. Not nightmares, but very… off.

        Best to know if you have a reaction beforehand; don’t try it for the first time on a flight.

      6. Florp*

        Hah! Our pediatrician gave her daughter a dose of benadryl before a flight to meet grandma, and that’s how she found out that her daughter is one of a small percentage of people who are stimulated by benadryl rather than made drowsy. It made the 11 hour flight feel like 22.

        1. Lorikeet*

          Phenergan here – we were advised to try it to send our then-toddler to sleep on a flight from Australia to Europe, but my mum warned me that it turned my sister hyperactive. Happily I took mum’s advice because kiddo turned into the Duracell bunny and the thought of dealing with that on a 14 hour flight is still too horrifying to contemplate!

        2. Paula Adams*

          We were traveling once with our 3 kids, so were in one hotel room. The middle child (age 8 or so) had a strong reaction to a bug bite so I gave her benadryl. That child was bouncing off the walls ALL NIGHT LONG! Now that she is 35 she has the “normal” reaction of a good night’s sleep. I don’t know what age the change happened, but none of us will ever forget that night.

        3. sb51*

          Yeah I can’t imagine finding this out on a plane. I discovered I’m also in the bad-reaction crew as an adult; it wasn’t my parents choice for cold/etc medication, and I was feeling poorly and couldn’t sleep a few years back, was out of Sudafed (the real stuff), so took one of my partner’s Benadryl (regular otc strength.). I was jittery and dissociated (I’ve never felt like that before or since, I felt like I was watching myself huddle in bed from a perch on the ceiling), for hours.

          It’s possible one regular otc dose was just way too much for me; my doctor has told me I react strongly to some prescribed medications and she’s put in my file that I should always start on a really low dose for anything new. But I’m never trying it again, to be honest, it was awful.

      7. Salsa Your Face*

        And it works way too strongly for me. A 1mg dose left me feeling almost paralyzed the next morning, to the point where I was debating how bad it would REALLY be to wet the bed.

      8. Harried HR*

        Melatonin makes me fall asleep too well…to the point where I wake up and can’t actually wake up (so I’m conscious but can’t move or get out of bed etc.) it’s terrifying !!

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Ooof. Sleep paralysis isn’t fun. For me, it’s usually paired with a hallucination. Luckily, it’s happened enough that if I realize that I’m going through sleep paralysis, I brace myself for seeing something weird.

        2. Pat*

          oh! that happened to me in the past, and I’ll bet it was when I was taking melatonin! thanks for answering why that happened several times in the past.

        3. allathian*

          I’ve had sleep paralysis twice without taking any medication, and it left me completely terrified of general anesthesia. I’m utterly convinced that if I get anesthetized I’ll wake up in the middle of an operation, aware but unable to move. Ironically it’s also the nightmare that tells me I need a mental health day/vacation! It’s really weird to think you’re awake and have sleep paralysis when it’s actually a nightmare…

          I haven’t needed general anesthesia yet, but I also know that I won’t be getting any elective surgeries any time soon.

    2. londonedit*

      Just a note that melatonin is prescription-only in the UK…not sure about buying it online, I guess caveat emptor applies!

      1. time_ebbs*

        It’s a prescription-only medication in several countries (such as the UK & Israel) so make sure to pack it if you’re going some place where you can’t buy it locally. In the US, it is considered a supplement so you can get it over-the-counter. Supplements are regulated by the FDA as food (and not as drugs) so if you’re purchasing in the US, do your research on the manufacturer.

        I’ve found melatonin to be useful when traveling but I’ve never experienced any of the odd side effects people have flagged in this thread. My sibling in the UK has a prescription for melatonin and says it works much better than what you can get OTC in the US; I’m assuming mileage may vary on that.

        1. Curious*

          if it’s prescription only in a jurisdiction, is it legal to import it? or possess it? One doesn’t want to inadvertently break drug laws!

          1. time_ebbs*

            That’s going to end up being super specific to a jurisdiction – some places might have an exception for visitors (ie. just enough of a medication for personal use) while other places ban a medication regardless. This came up during the Olympics in Japan where a bunch of international athletes had to get special permission from the Japanese government for things like ADHD medication.

            While I’ve never personally had trouble traveling internationally with medication in Europe or Asia, you should probably double check the rules of where you’re going. If you’re US based, the CDC recommends contacting the US embassy or consulate of the place you’re going especially if you take a controlled substance or an injectable medication. It is also recommended to have a Yellow Book filled out with your vaccines (especially if you’re going to places that require specific ones) and a list of your medications (even better if it has your doctor’s letterhead). My Yellow Book has space to list medications but given those change more regularly, I tend to just attach a folded up-to-date list with a paperclip. Those two things live in my passport cover.

            1. The Traveller's Rest*

              There are smartphone apps that are now much letter than the old yellow book.

              The only real point in the yellow book is to record your yellow fever vaccination if flying to certain tropical countries. (I had thought that it might also become a form of showing proof of Covid vaccination, but that never caught on.)

              1. time_ebbs*

                The Yellow Book was initially just for yellow fever and smallpox vaccines but it got expanded ages ago. When I went to a travel vaccine clinic 15 years ago, they gave me a paper Yellow Book & added all the “exotic” vaccines I just got to it (such as Typhoid & Japanese encephalitis). I did flag that the Yellow Book is mostly key if you’re going somewhere that requires vaccination proof. While I’ve only occasionally had to show it, it has plenty of space so I’ve kept it up-to-date including adding all the Covid shots/boosters (which confused some pharmacists when I handed them both the white Covid card & the Yellow Book to fill out).

                I also have my basic medical records on my phone but I don’t want it to be the only thing I have in an emergency. You don’t need to go out of your way to get it but I’ve found it useful to have a paper copy of that info.

    3. JetsettingSloth*

      If you haven’t used melatonin before, be aware that the recommended dose for jet lag (0.5 mg) is way way lower than the most over the counter pills available in the US. I buy the children’s pills and cut them in quarters to get remotely close. Here’s a metastudy if you want to read about relative doses (

      1. Wonderer*

        Also note that most over the counter pills are giving a way higher dose that most people should actually take. This often leads to nightmares, etc that are apparently symptoms of melatonin ‘overdose’.

      2. Pat*

        I discovered this with melatonin, too, so I stick with diphenhydramine (benadryl) if I can’t fall/stay asleep. But unless it’s a really long flight where I really NEED to sleep, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable being “seriously asleep” vs. “dozing asleep” in public (aka: on a plane). But I think the OP mentioned 30 hours of travel, so I’m that case, screw it – I’d rather be sleeping than awake that whole time.

    4. The Traveller's Rest*

      I have found the best way of minimizing jet lag is to arrive as late as possible in the evening at your destination. I have had near-zero jetlag on eastbound transatlantic daylight flights. These generally are from the East Coast only, mostly from NY/DC to London (IIRC, there is one from Chicago, and one to CDG). SFO-MUC on Lufthansa is not entirely daylight, since it leaves in the evening, but the bulk of the flight is daylight. The same with SFO-IST on Turkish.

      Otherwise, I will go out of my way NOT to arrive in Europe in the early morning. Take as late a departure as possible. I also personally am willing to transfer in FRA or MUC (I am a Lufthansa senator) even for flights to places like London, where nonstop Star Alliance alternatives are available, because this puts you in the late afternoon/early evening.

      Melatonin can help, but as someone noted below, avoid the 5 mg doses. You need 0.5 mg or 1 mg.

      I have also found that fasting for 24 hours before the flight, or barring that eating low-carb, helps with jet-lag.

    5. short'n'stout*

      Anyone considering taking melatonin should first google “melatonin contraindications”, because there is quite a long list of (reasonably common) medications that interact dangerously with melatonin, and a few medical conditions that can be worsened by it.

      Stay safe, everyone.

      (I am not a doctor)

  3. Lisa*

    Wherever possible, book an exit row or extra legroom seat. I take a couple of blow-up pillows and a piece of elastic, then tie them together to make a footrest. Works a treat.
    Lots of nibbles. Noise-cancelling headphones plus earplugs. Definitely an eye mask.
    I never look at the time where I came from once I’m on my way, and set my watch/phone time to my destination. I find it helps prevent jet lag.
    And when you arrive, don’t sleep until night-time, even if you’re totally exhausted.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Agree with everything here, especially noise-cancelling headphones; I put them on over the earbuds connected to the video jack to help keep everything out.

      – I recently did my first trip abroad in 10 years and forgot about (for me) the jet lag nausea; thankfully I had remembered some tea from home, which really helped in the mornings.

      – I know there’s mixed opinions on this, but even if I don’t have large luggage, I try to check everything possible except for a spare change of shirt/undergarments, medications, etc. in a very small carry-on; I find trying to make connections and navigating large airports and small plane spaces is so much easier and less stressful the less luggage you have with you.

      – Wear a mask in the airport and on the plane! I just made a work trip and for the 100 of us from all over the world that went, 16+ came down with COVID, norovirus, or other stomach bugs by the end of the week. Air is filtered when you’re in the air, but not on the ground.

      1. Scooter34*

        Seconding the mask – I just took a work trip with 8 colleagues, and 7 of them are out with COVID right now.

      2. Thatoneoverthere*

        Take lysol wipes and wipe everydown that you can touch. I did this precovid bc I am a bit of a germaphobe. But I found lots of tray tables to filthy. Even with the extra cleaning airlines supposedly do.

      3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        For masking – I worked in the COVID research world and am vulnerable, so have looked into this. The most important time for masking on flights is during loading/unloading and while sitting on the tarmac. Once the plane has been in the air for 5 minutes, the air is circulated through a HEPA filter pretty regularly, so your risk comes mostly from those in your immediate area (like being in a restaurant), so it’s a much better time to unmask and eat.

        I also recommend a KN94 or better for flying, not just a surgical mask – it’s the one time I still pull out my N95s with behind the head straps, since I really don’t want to be sick where I’m going!

        1. RC*

          A portable CO2 monitor (Aranet4 is popular) is eye-opening to give you an indication of how much of other people’s gross lung air you’re breathing. Of course the 2200ppm in the air (ambient is ~420ppm) wasn’t as bad as the 4400ppm in an uber with 4 other people (and no HEPA). And yes, either an N95 or we’ve got P100s (GVS Elipse) that we bust out in flights or other extremely crowded situations where you can’t easily move. The elastomeric fit is great, and fit is extremely important (i.e. why surgicals are no bueno).

          I only use earplugs (Etymotic I’ve liked, but I’m curious about these Loop ones), unless I’m watching or listening to something.

        2. Pat*

          I really don’t want to be sick where I’m going!

          Good point! I’m going to be visiting my folks, and my father is ill. I think I’ll mask from the time I leave my house until the time I get to their house (including at the airport, on the plane, and at the car rental counter) – just to be on the safe side.

      4. Chicken Situation*

        I got a great carryon backpack because I hate juggling luggage in the airport; even a rolling carryon can be a pain if you have a tight connection and have to hustle. I love it.

    2. cardigarden*

      I would just caution against the exit row strategy if you’re the kind of person who gets panic attacks during regular turbulence (it’s me, hi, I’m the problem) in case there’s an actual emergency and you’re called upon to help.

      1. Lisa*

        In that instance, it’s the bulkhead row I’d go for – might be a baby near, but the extra leg room is worth it IMHO!

    3. Emma*

      ime most airlines won’t let you set things up in the exit row – your bags etc will have to go under the seat or in the locker – so if you want a footrest I’d go for the bulkhead row instead.

  4. Dovasary Balitang*

    Bring an empty water bottle with you, fill it up after you get through airport security.

    If you can, only bring a carry on. It’s not always possible but you’ll save yourself a fair bit of hassle with checking and reclaiming baggage.

    I am a bit of a nervous flyer so I always download some fun, loud action movies to my iPad a day or so before traveling. Inception is particularly good for that sort of thing. Really, any Christopher Nolan movie. They’re very distracting.

    I like to brute force the time difference by flying a red eye, staying up all day upon arrival, and then going to bed around 9/10PM. It’s rough for 18 or so hours but then I’m almost immediately acclimatised. (Note that I’ve only tested this on going from EST to GMT.)

    Obviously, wear comfy clothes on the flight. Leggings and hoodies are my go to. Make sure your wireless earbuds are charged!

    Lastly: Don’t stay in an airbnb. (Last time I stayed in one that was run by a Super Host, the other guest masturbated right outside my door at 4AM.)

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Be aware that different carriers have very different carry on requirements. If you’re flying cheaply in Europe you may be limited to a bag that fits under the seat in front unless you pay steep fees in advance, because stowing carry on bags increases the boarding time so much and they’ve got such tight turnarounds.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        And if you’re in the market for new carry on luggage, double check that the advertised size matches the actual dimensions if the specs are listed. I recently bought a bag that was advertised as being a certain height that matched the max allowed by the airline I was flying, only to discover later that the actual dimensions exceeded the maximum allowance. I was forced to check it at the gate before my flight. Learn from my mistake!

        1. NotBatman*

          On the other side of that, I’ve gotten away with a backpack that didn’t reeeeally fit under the seat in front of me, because it’s a backpack so it appears smaller. Plus, backpacks being soft-sided means you can squish them around more, especially after you transfer a few items to your lap. That’s been my trick every time I fly Spirit (which charges more than the cost of the ticket for overhead bin space).

          1. Dovasary Balitang*

            Yes, this! I’ve used this trick more than once. Backpacks* look more discreet than small wheeled carry-ons, even when they might not actually ne such.

            * This does not apply to the giant backpacks used for actual backpacking, obvs.

            1. Sciencer*

              My husband really likes his Topo Designs travel backpack. They have a range of sizes but they really are well made (in Colorado!) and well designed for travel.

          2. Kay*

            I have one that doesn’t even technically comply with carry on dimensions and I got it under the seat, with the help of a strategically placed jacket, leg angle and a book.

          3. amoeba*

            The Cabin Max is great and does indeed fit under the seat in front of you! (I mean, you will have less legroom though, so not sure I’d recommend it if that’s a factor…)

            Apart from that: yes, a lot of time you do have to pay for a larger carry-on, but in my experience, it’s still significantly cheaper than checked baggage! Like for instance, with easyjet, included in the flight is only a small carry-on, a large carry-on plus extra leg space (emergency exit row) is 50 € extra, checked baggage is 80.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      My experience is mostly with transatlantic flights from the US East Coast. (Transpacific just plain sucks no matter what).

      Before the flight:

      If you can start adjusting to the new timezone even a little – getting up and going to bed half an hour earlier each day for a few days before the flight – it helps a lot. I’ve never bothered with an app or anything for this.

      Download maps of your destination to your phone so you’ll be able to navigate while offline.

      To pack: Noise-cancelling headphones, comfortable eye mask, neck pillow if you like it and have room, something to keep warm on the flight. Lightweight jacket, blanket, pashmina that can double as a light blanket in a pinch, whatever. Water bottle to refill once you’re through security. Melatonin. Battery pack and cable for your device. (Don’t forget the international plug adapter for when you get there!) Snacks for the flight.

      For the flight:

      As soon as you’re on the plane, try to mentally adjust to the new timezone. Set your watch and phone ahead/behind. If you’re on a red-eye eastbound, for instance, take a melatonin as soon as you board and try to sleep if possible (I can’t) or rest otherwise – especially avoid blue light from screens. If you can’t sleep having an audiobook or podcast loaded on your device can keep you from getting too bored while not being exposed to bright screen light.

      Noise-cancelling headphones and a comfortable eye mask are a must.

      Once you arrive:

      Sunlight cues help tremendously with jet lag. If you’re eastbound, try to get morning light as much as possible. Avoid the urge to nap on arrival if at all possible – I’m a big fan of the “power through the first day and crash early” approach. If you are able to travel a day early so you don’t have to go to work immediately, I like to spend that spare day walking around outside – the exercise will help me sleep when it’s time, and the daylight helps reset my internal clock. When possible, I’ll leave the blinds in the hotel cracked to let in some morning light as an additional adjustment. Melatonin is great for eastbound travel.

      Oh, and if your hotel allows early checkin, a shower on arrival is gold.

      1. HonorBox*

        Getting that morning light and getting some exercise early is key. While on a leisure trip, my wife and I got in late afternoon, went to bed as normal and then got up at a “normal” time the next morning and then took a bike tour. The exercise helped our bodies normalize a little more. For work, if you can get up and even hit a hotel gym treadmill for a bit, your body’s normal rhythms may get synced up more quickly.

      2. TrixM*

        Thirded with trying to arrive in the morning, get sight of the sun locally asap (it doesn’t matter if it’s overcast), no naps till after lunchtime (if you must), and keep it brief.

        I just power through the day, eat my last meal as close to local dinnertime as possible, then allow some time for digestion, then bed. I’ll pop a melatonin with dinner to ensure I don’t get an annoying “second wind” or wake at 3am (hopefully).

        As for bringing melatonin into countries where you can’t buy it OTC, for the countries I know of (UK, Australia, NZ), they don’t care if you bring some in for personal use. It’s prescription-only, but not restricted/illegal.

    3. OMG, Bees!*

      Yikes on that Airbnb! I’ve enough odd experiences with it I wouldn’t try it for a work trip ever and ours was merely a scavenger hunt to get the keys to the apartment!

      For any caffeine addicts, drink that coffee (or energy drink like me) before the airport. Still upset on the time I had to toss mine in security even tho it wasn’t open (an oversight on my part)

      1. NotBatman*

        I hate caffeine pills, but carry a bottle with me when traveling for exactly that reason — sometimes they have to serve in place of any other caffeine source for a day or two, and it’s better to take them than have migraine/nausea while traveling.

    4. Smithy*

      The luggage debate of check nothing or not will never have one true answer – however if you are of a size where buying new clothing is not simple, if the flight is international – I recommend having at least one usable outfit in a carry-on as well as packing enough clothing to truly make sure you’re covered for where you are traveling to.

      As a tall woman who’s not thin, I can not easily get replacement work clothing – even in places like Europe, it’s not a quick fix if I’ve really misjudged a season like Fall or Spring. So if this sounds like your situation, where if you get a big stain or rip – it’ll be hard to have replacements – then pack for both losing checked luggage and also having accidents, sweating through clothes, etc.

      1. Chicken Situation*

        To go along with that, I bought some laundry soap strips that come in a small pack on Amazon. That way, if you need to wash something in the sink, you can. (I plan to use them on a 3-week trip abroad so I don’t end up packing everything I own lol.)

  5. Jenn*

    If you have a long layover, pay for lounge access, especially if there is a shower available. I did that when I had an almost 8 hour layover in Paris and sprang for the Air France lounge because of the shower. I’ve found that taking a shower “resets” my body clock – if I’m taking a shower, it must be morning (even if it’s 2 am at home.) Just don’t forget travel size toiletries (Air France provided some, but I want my own!) and (at least) a change of underwear.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      And if you don’t have shower access: makeup remover wipes. (Baby wipes/deodorant wipes are also an option, but I prefer ones I can safely use on my wildly sensitive face.) Even if you can’t fully shower, it’s nice to have SOME option for freshening up a bit.

        1. Knutstorp*

          Thirding the wipes. Scandinavian (SAS) used to provide hot towels on arrival in the plane, and in their absence, I love using the larger body wipes once I’m situated, whether on the plane or in the terminal. On the plane, I use them to clean off the table and anywhere else I’ll be touching.

          These don’t need to be expensive – last time, I packed some lightly scented I found at the (US) dollar store.

    2. Catwhisperer*

      +1 to this, or seeing if the airport your layover is at has showers available to everyone. I had a 30+ hour flight from the US to Indonesia with a layover in Japan. The Narita airport has showers anyone can book and they felt like HEAVEN.

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Yes, yes, yes to the shower. Some lounges (like the BA arrival lounge in Heathrow) will also press your clothing for the day. Coming out of the lounge refreshed made me far more productive during the day.

      1. NotBatman*

        Hate to say it, but the lounges in Heathrow and a lot of other major airports are no longer worth it, because they expanded access to everyone who has a frequent flyer account with that airline. When I was in Heathrow in July, the line to get into the lounge was a quarter mile long, and the estimated time to the front of the queue was over two hours.

    4. Ria*

      Seconding buying lounge access. Also pod beds like Yotel, etc. are becoming more common in airports and while they’ve never been in my budget they look like they would be great for getting a nap in/actually relaxing in between long flight stretches.

    5. J*

      Seconding to really research any layover airports. My husband had lounge access, shower access, and even a tour of South Korea on his very long (14+ hour) layover. He would have had no idea he could leave and return to the airport in that way except I’m neurotic and research everything.

      1. The Traveller's Rest*

        SQ at Changi, TK at IST, and most of the Gulf carriers offer short local tours if you have a long layover.

    6. Daria*

      I was at CDG in June and the Air France lounge in my terminal wasn’t allowing pay-for-entry, only people with airline status or biz/first class passengers.

    7. EtTuBananas*

      Piggybacking off of this – if you don’t have access to or time for a shower, packing extra clothes and basic toiletries in your carry-on makes a HUGE difference. I’m a cis woman, so I often pack an unwrinkleable dress (such as a jersey knit), a new pair of underwear and/or socks depending on my footwear, face wash and moisturizer, deodorant, mouthwash, mascara, concealer, neutral lipstick (for both blush and lips), and a hairbrush/comb.

      For other folks, packing an extra shirt, pair of underwear, socks, and toiletries all make a huge difference in how you feel on landing. I usually travel with a single carry on (a backpack) and can easily fit all of that and the other things I need.

  6. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

    Mealtime management is one of the best ways to combat jet lag. Always eat something at breakfast, lunch and dinner times once you arrive, even if you’re not hungry. And if you’re likely to wake up in the middle of the night because that’s your “normal” lunch or dinner time, a small snack before bed will help keep you asleep.

    Also, make sure someone at your company has copies of your relevant travel docs. I’m super paranoid and keep copies of my passport and covid vaccine records on my phone, but I’m always worried about losing my phone or having it break or something weird happening on an international network. So our EA has copies of those in case I ever need them.

  7. TravelGirl*

    Avoid checking a suitcase if at all possible. With all of the flight delays it will save you stress and worry. Try to just bring a carry-on and a backpack.
    Definitely bring your own food to eat. I recently got food poisoning from an international Delta flight.
    At the airports where you will have layovers find out if they have a lounge and what the cost is. If you have a long layover, use it. Take a shower, clean up, and relax.
    Brush your teeth and wash your face during layovers. It makes a world of difference in how you feel.
    If you have a long layover see if there are any free tours offered from the airport. I recently had a 13 hour layover in Seoul and was able to tour the city for free during it.
    Bring stuff to occupy your time. A book, crossword puzzles, etc. Also don’t forget a small set of headphones.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      And if you must check a bag, keep at least one set of clean clothes in your carry-on! If push comes to shove, you can wash your clothes in the sink every night and still have something clean and dry to wear.

      1. starsaphire*

        +1 for “complete change of clothes in your bag.”

        Not business, but we had our luggage disappear on BOTH ends of our recent trip to Europe… we ended up washing our smalls in the sink a few times even with shopping for new clothes.

        Also? If your luggage gets lost or delayed, save your receipts for EVERYthing. Not just clothes, but you can also get reimbursed for hotel laundry expenses and any toiletry or pharmacy purchases.

        1. NotBatman*

          Yes. Still haunted by the time I ended up showing up to a job interview in ripped jeans because U.S. Airways sent my bag to Phoenix and me to Chicago. It made for a good story, I got the job — but I’m lucky the hiring manager was that nice.

      2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        Second this. My SO’s suitcase got lost en route and it took 5 days for it to find us.

        Which reminds me. If you can, pay for your air fare with AMEX. Their Global Assist hotline is invaluable. KLM kept lying to me about that missing bag. AMEX got our bag found and delivered, even when the airline (KLM) insisted it was still at the airport.

        1. The Man from Chicago*

          Global Assist is great. I called their hotline after a 9 hour flight to London made it clear that my allergies had festered into a sinus infection, and one of those Alien-chestburster dudes tried to pop out of my eye socket on the descent.

          I called upon arrival at my hotel, and within 2 hours, a car took me to a private doctor, who was able to see me and get me antibiotics the same day, and a car took me back. Great experience.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      +1 to complete change of clothes, but also any daily medication, contact lenses, etc and your toothbrush. Even if you check a bag, be ready to live out of your hand luggage for a couple of days.

      If you are checking multiple bags, consider taking different types (eg one soft and one hard shell) as they are handled separately. Also spread your luggage across them, eg have casual and formal clothing in both instead of one of each. If travelling with a coworker, consider swapping an outfit each so that if one person’s luggage gets lost they still have a backup.

      If you travel internationally, get a multiway outlet with the destination plug – eg for a Brit travelling to the US, get a strip that has a US plug into the wall then 4+ UK sockets, plus preferably USB sockets for charging. Don’t bother with multiple socket adaptors.

    3. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      Sadly, most of the flights I have been on recently, people have still had to planeside check their bags, if not fully check them to the final destination because other people are lugging 2-3 max size carry-ons and/or overstuffed backpacks, and with most planes being full booked, there just isn’t enough room for everyone’s items. Yes, I know the airlines say one carry on and one personal item, but you would be surprised the number of people who don’t think this applies to them. You can plan to not check any bags, but don’t be surprised if you end up at least planeside checking bags, if not being forced to fully check them to your destination.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The problem is that if a flight is full, and everyone has a maximum size carryon and a maximum size personal carryon, there isn’t physically room in the plane cabin to fit all of it, so people who board later in the process have to check bags.

        I usually check baggage (long haul trips where my carryon needs to fit a largish laptop and accessories), and find that sitting near the back of the plane means you board earlier while there’s still room.

    4. GrooveBat*

      And if you must bring a backpack, please take it off before you get on the plane so you don’t bash people in the face as you head down the aisle searching for your seat.

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    When I did a lot of east-west flying I was very particular about getting a window seat going east, so I wasn’t being woken by other people in my row. And after landing, I would put my overhead light on and stare at it for a couple minutes to help reset my circadian rhythm. Really helped that first day.

    And then the usual tips about avoiding alcohol and caffeine on travel days, being hydrated, wearing loose-fitting shoes.

    1. RC*

      Ohhh yes! Maybe I shouldn’t tell people this, but for west-> east flights (in the northern hemisphere) I always try to book the left (A) side of the plane, and for east->west flights it’s the right (F? H? J?) side of the plane. Flip for southern hemisphere, and take into account if your flight is closer to sunrise or sunset. Because I like to look out the window and also to not be blinded by nuclear fusion.

  9. Lilo*

    Try to power through when you arrive. If you land and it’s 2PM, go out and be active and try to stay awake if you can.

    I also always bring breakfast bars because finding breakfast during travel can be difficult.

  10. pally*

    As a counter to rich foods they knew would be served, my bosses (who traveled quite a bit to Europe, sometimes to Asia) would preemptively dose with pepto bismol. Like before each meal. But don’t go overboard with this stuff.

    (that won’t do much for food poisoning. Unfortunately. Sorry that happened to you! Awful way to ruin a trip!)

    1. SadieMae*

      Pepto Bismol can definitely be a good preventive measure against stomach trouble when traveling! Just be aware that it can cause constipation and also that it will turn your tongue black for a while. That part is just a harmless chemical reaction but it’s pretty startling if you’re not prepared for it!

    2. callmeheavenly*

      Like melatonin, try this ahead of time if you haven’t used it before. Anything containing pink bismuth causes me to vomit within ten minutes, guaranteed. I don’t think that’s common, but not fun to find out on the go.

  11. UKDancer*

    If you’re checking in luggage, have a change of underwear and a clean top in your hand luggage in case it goes astray.

    Compression socks are good for long flights. Bring a good book in case your tablet / electronic device fails.

    If you’re using a new piece of luggage check you can lift it and know what you’ve put in each pocket.

    I usually prefer chain hotels as I know what I’m getting that way. If you’re coming to the UK then the Premier Inn chain is good value for money and I’ve always found them clean and with a comfortable bed. There not exciting but they work. Check the trip advisor reviews and if 90% of them are terrible, stay elsewhere.

    1. Tio*

      Honestly keep anything you couldn’t live without in your carry on. And anything you know you need within 24 hours as well. Even if they find your luggage, it could take a day to get it to you, or more. So an entire outfit, anything really important like jewelry, documents, etc, all that stays in the carryon when I fly.

      1. SansaStark*

        1000%. Also maybe an extra pair or two of underwear. You might never need them, but if you do…’ll definitely thank yourself.

      2. londonedit*

        Yep…even when I’m going on holiday I make sure I have clean underwear, all the contact lenses and medication for my whole trip, and anything else important, in my hand luggage. You don’t want to be stuck if your hold luggage goes missing!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes indeed. I know people on holiday sometimes want ye olde English inn, personally I’d go for a Premier Inn every time if I’m on business because everything works and it’s safe, clean and comfortable.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. Travelodge is even more budget and some of their hotels can be on the shabbier side, but again, it’s a well-known chain and they’re guaranteed to be secure and have all the basics.

    2. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Especially in Europe I have had missing or broken plugs in a lot of nice-but-quaint hotels, so I now carry a flat rubber disc from the dollar store that works in pretty much any bathtub or sink. I’ve used it multiple times.

  12. Sleeping Panther*

    Pack a first-aid kit and OTC medicines for pain, allergies, and upset stomach, since you don’t want to try to navigate a pharmacy in a country where you don’t know the local language when you’re sick or dealing with horrible blisters or some such. Also, make sure any medications you use regularly (especially neuropsychiatric meds) are legal in the country you’re visiting and bring the prescription paperwork with you – Adderall in particular tends to be much more heavily restricted outside the US.

    I’d also recommend studying any public transit maps and learning a few basic phrases – hello, excuse me, where is [thing], I need help, how much does this cost, the name and/or address of your hotel and office, and the name of the nearest subway or train stations to those locations, at a minimum.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      To add to the public transit map, have your ground transportation planned before you arrive at your final destination. Jetlag does not help you figure out which Metro line goes closest to your hotel or office. If your company will pay for it, arrange for a car service–that eliminates the risk of ending up on the wrong side of a city.

      1. JustaTech*

        Also check the news before you go so you’ll know if there is a transit strike going on (for example). If you’re visiting a satellite office of your company, ask the coworkers you’ll be seeing there if there is anything going on that might make transit more difficult that doesn’t rise to the level of the international news.

    2. Really?*

      Second this. I also carry stuff for cold symptoms (mucinex, pseudoephedrine, etc.) as well as immodium, antacid, advil, and advil pm. I’m noted for my travelling pharmacy, but have regretted it when I omit it. I also try to make sure that anything I have to do the first day of the trip involves standing or walking; it is too easy to fall asleep in a quiet dark meeting room during a presentation following an overnight flight!

  13. Angstrom*

    Some airport customs will confiscate and discard any power bank that does not have the capacity clearly marked on the exterior. The countries and/or airlines have limits on the maximum rechargeable battery size allowed onboard(potential fire hazard). Physical size doesn’t matter — they need to see the label to know the capacity. I learned the hard way.

  14. BellyButton*

    Large mouth water bottle. I ask the flight attendants if they can fill it with ice and water. I also really like the Liquid IV packets, they really help staying hydrated. I usually buy a fresh sandwich right before boarding. One that is large enough that half will fill me up for one meal and the other half for a later meal. In my carry on I always keep a small amount of toiletries, including face wipes and face lotion. I usually will remove my makeup and brush my teeth. Even if I can’t sleep it does seem to help me relax. Then before landing I will reapply my makeup.

  15. Chairman of the Bored*

    Assume that you will get stuck overnight en route with just your carry-on and/or that your checked bag will be delayed.

    That means don’t just take critical (medication) or immediate-use (book) items in your carry-on, but anything that is truly essential to your trip being successful or you being comfortable on an unplanned overnight.

    Things like:
    -A professional change of clothes
    -Any tools or IT doodads that would be difficult to replace at the destination
    -Luxury or hygiene items you’d want in your hotel room

    Obviously there are limitations here as far as bag size and TSA rules, but to the greatest extent practical plan as though you’ll have to manage the first 1-2 days at the destination with only the items you personally carry with you.

    Also: when going through immigration say you are travelling for “business” rather than “work”. Sometimes the latter is interpreted to mean that you intend to find a job at the destination, which is usually treated differently than short duration business travel.

  16. A person*

    If you get on a train in Germany make sure you know if it splits in half partway thru and goes a different direction… and that you’re on the right one!

    1. Juanita*

      YES to this! My team and I didn’t realize this and in the middle of the night our train split while we were sleeping in different cars, half of us ended up (inadvertently) in Austria. Not ideal, and a very confusing/disconcerting reality to wake up to. (This was in pre-cell-phone times, so it took a while to sort it all out and get everyone back to where they needed to be!)

    2. Ria*

      On the topic of European trains, sometimes there may not be a turnstile but you’re still expected to validate your ticket before boarding the train or you might get fined when they check tickets on the train. I don’t know how prevalent this still is, but it almost cost me a bunch of money in France a few years ago.

      1. Betty*

        Dutch trains work this way. Although there are some big stations with entry turnstiles, Schiphol airport is one of the places where you need to find a validation point before you board.

    3. Berlin calling*

      Hahaha, as a German, I second this. To be fair, the main route to watch out for this is between Berlin and the Rhein/Ruhr area. Essentially, if Hamm is on your route, pay attention!

      1. A person*

        I think the Hamm is what got my friend! And her solution was to call me… in the States, like I, who have never been to Germany, would be able to help. Haha. Poor thing!

      2. amoeba*

        And night trains! The one from the south to Hamburg that I sometimes take just for the first two stops seems to have multiple parts with multiple destinations.
        I don’t think it happens with the rapid ICE trains though? At least never encountered it.

        1. Berlin calling*

          I’m afraid it does happen – the hourly Berlin to Düsseldorf/Berlin to Cologne train that gets split in Hamm is an ICE. If you scroll down to the section marked “Germany”, this Wikipedia entry can be helpful:

          (Also, if you are going in the other direction and waiting in Hamm for your train to be joined up with another, you are contractually obliged to sing U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. from Starlight Express in your head until they’re done )

  17. gnomic heresy*

    This summer I traveled by air for the first time since pre-pandemic, for work, and I’m about to do it again next week. Here’s what I brought:

    A comfortable elastomeric P100 respirator and some extra filters. I used this one and it’s not bad: They’re more bulky than a standard n95 but if you’re going to be in planes and airports for 30+ hours, I’d get the extra protection.

    A small portable air filter that fit in my checked bag for the hotel room. I sleep with a CPAP so I can’t also sleep in a mask, and I wasn’t sure about the air transfer room-to-room in the hotel. When I have a choice I try to stay in a motel with outdoor room entry and separate ventilation, but when I travel for work I don’t get too much choice and they usually try to put us up in a fancier, more expensive place–which means interior hallways and shared air. The travel planner for my organization was sympathetic and also motivated to accommodate my idiosyncratic preference for lousy and cheap accommodations, but it was too difficult logistically to find a budget motel within easy commute of our conference site, so I brought the air filter along to help.

    1. J*

      And if you’re lucky enough to have a room with windows, I like to check in, drop my stuff, set up the filter with windows open and run the air while I go for a walk and maybe even grab a patio meal or takeout. Once even just cracking a bathroom window in a historic hotel changed the numbers on my air monitor so much.

  18. Abogado Avocado.*

    What an interesting question!

    In my backpack, I take: noise-cancelling headphones, a sleep mask, melatonin patches, an inflatable neck pillow (which allows adjustment to seat conditions), a raft of movies and recorded books, a collapsible water bottle, and a spare set of socks.

    I wear cotton or linen clothes that will keep me warm on the plane, and pack a spare set of rolled-up clothes (trousers, shirt, and jacket) to change into at my destination.

    I don’t eat meals in any form on the plane if I can help it, nor alcohol, because I find this helps me sleep and avoid jet lag. (My backpack always has energy bars in case my blood sugar tanks.) I also drink plenty of water.

    Bon voyage!

  19. HannahS*

    Honestly, if you need to rapidly switch your sleep schedule to match the new location, you can try asking your doctor if there’s any medication to help. I don’t want to go into more detail to avoid giving medical advice, but there are some long-haul travellers and some doctors who are totally comfortable/swear by a little but of help with resetting their sleep schedules. YMMV, so talk to a provider whom you trust.

    1. Sleeping Panther*

      Try to get those medications well enough in advance of your trip that you can test them at home, too. I can’t sleep on planes and got a prescription that was supposed to help with that before my first overseas trip, but instead of helping me sleep, it put me into sort of a twilight sleep where I could still sort of see and hear things (everything sounded muffled and looked like vague, shadowy shapes). I didn’t get any actual rest and was in terrible shape for the customs check at Heathrow.

  20. nc*

    While there will certainly be constraints on what your company will / will not pay for re: long haul travel, I do recommend not being shy about (1) making full use of what they’ll cover and (2) asking for things you think would make a significant difference, if you’re comfortable doing so.

    Depending on company / org culture, folks around you may have an informal mindset of “yes, the company will pay for $X but you should really not spend more than 80% of that,” which is a lot more bearable for shorter / domestic flights than overnight (or longer!) trips around the world. There have been many AAM writers over the years who have written in to ask if it’s OK to book a more expensive direct flight over cheaper flights with layovers, and I think the same principle applies to the cost of booking “extras” on long haul flights. It may cost more to book a Comfort Plus seat, for example, but if you’re more easily / comfortably able to sleep on the flight you’ll be productive much more quickly at your destination!

    1. nc*

      I am, however, aware that “what the company will pay for” is going to vary WIDELY by situation, so you do still have to be mindful of your setting when making requests. But — if there’s a strong ROI for your employer spending a little extra $ to get you up and running right away after you land, many managers would be willing to have that conversation.

    2. Angstrom*

      Agree. I had an understanding boss who would OK staying at the (expensive) on-airport hotel if it was a very late arrival or early departure. He knew from experience that dealing with ground transportation when already tired was an avoidable stressor.

    3. Oxford Common Sense*

      Yes. My husband travels a lot for work, including internationally. His company will pay for business class if it’s an international (usually US to Europe, Africa, or Asia). Don’t be shy about asking to fly in economy plus or business if it’s a long-haul flight- the company might actually be expecting to pay a bit more for that.

      1. Not that other person you didn't like*

        Yes! I recommend presenting a cost comparison for the following two options:
        * Upgrade to business for the over-ocean leg
        * Flying in a full extra day early (at least) and springing for a hotel and meals while you acclimate to the time difference
        Make it clear that in order to be prepared and sharp for whatever meeting / work / etc. you need one of those two.

        Also, if this is more than a one time thing, I recommend leaning into airmiles and status big time. Compare options to the destinations you frequently go to, get a credit card, leverage status, etc.

    4. Really?*

      If you are travelling 30+ hours, you want to see if you can get them to pay for business class at least; if not try to leave a day early; after a 15 hour flight across a bunch of time zones you are not going to be at your best, you’ll need time to rest and adjust.
      Make sure you wear compression socks, and get up and walk around periodically; reduces risk of DVT. Good luck!

    5. J*

      My husband was about to book a basic economy flight when I told him to check his employee handbook for a work travel policy. Turns out any international flight they actually require you to use business class if available to avoid any wasted time upon arrival and they recommend you arrive even 24 hours before your first meeting. He had full sleeper pods for his many flights to Thailand, outside of the tiny little plane he had to take once he was in the country. Even for train travel in Europe they had very specific upgrades they suggested.

    6. June*

      Yep. If you’re on a long-haul nonstop (US west coast to Europe can be 12 hours depending on exact route), and the company will pay for a business-class seat with a bed and some private space, take it. The cost is usually prohibitive to pay on your own, but if you can expense it, do! The company pays for stuff like that because they want you to arrive at the other end more rested, more comfortable, and more able to do what they’ve sent you for.

  21. Hot-Cryptographer*

    The obvious one is to book business class if you can. Of course not all companies will be able to accommodate that request, and not everyone will be able to afford to upgrade themselves, but if you can swing it I promise it is absolutely worth it.

    Fly out the day before you have to do any work. You’ll need a day to adjust to a major time change so you can be fresh and alert.

    Stay hydrated! The air on an airplane is so dry you’ll feel much better if you stay on top of your hydration.

    Get some melatonin. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but something to help cue your brain that it is time to sleep will help you get on the right time schedule more quickly. I really struggle to sleep on planes even with melatonin, but it does make a noticeable difference when it’s time for bed at my destination.

    Sunlight and exercise. Take a nice long walk in the sunlight as soon as you can after getting to your destination.

    1. Lizzo*

      +1 that if you can fly a day or two (or more!) ahead of when you need to actually be *on* for work, you’ll have some time to adjust to your surroundings–not just the time zone, but also figure out the area you’re staying in, including locating drugstores, figuring out transportation, and more.

      Plan on a couple days of recovery when you return, too, and set expectations with colleagues about this, e.g. you’re going to be waking up earlier or later than your normal work times, so meetings should be adjusted accordingly.

      I know in many industries/companies the expectation is to just dive right back into work and power through, but you’ll recover much more quickly if you actually prioritize the recovery.

    2. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Business class to the overseas destination, economy (or economy plus) back — still pricey but not as expensive as biz roundtrip & a total game-changer for arriving ready to go.

      But economy plus is still loads better than standard economy on most carriers. Check SeatGuru & other sites for specifics of what the seats are like.

    3. RemoteisBest*

      So many great suggestions! Y’all are amazingly helpful.

      Spend the money to make sure you are comfortable. When I fly JetBlue, I don’t need to upgrade because for me (5’8″, 240 lbs.), their regular seats are fine. But on other airlines (Delta, American, British Airway to name a few) I spend the extra money to get a better seat. It is SO worth it.

      My traveling strategy is to get a window seat and stay put. I time my liquid intake so that I generally don’t need to use the loo, even on a cross country flight. By sitting by the window, I am not disturbed by people needing to get up and down. This has saved my sanity more than once.

      I also have a disability – a spinal issue that makes standing for a long time and walking distances very difficult for me. If you have a disability, please be aware that all airlines have Wheelchair Assist. You can call ahead and arrange it for all of the segments of your air travel. It is hugely helpful. You ask for it as you come into the airport. There is usually a general waiting area for each airline. You may have to wait a little while, depending on when your flight is scheduled and how crowded the airport is. But a (usually very nice) person will get you a wheelchair and whisk you through security (including Customs and Immigration for international flights) and take you right to your gate. They will even take you onto the plane if you cannot manage the jetway. They will meet you at your destination and get you to any connecting flight or to baggage pickup and transportation. This service has made business and vacation travel possible for me again. I always tip the wheelchair attendants – usually $5, $10 if it is a particularly long run, such as O’Hare or Atlanta. So worth it.

  22. Al*

    I do a lot of international travel for work and use Timeshifter. It hasn’t been life changing for me but I like it enough to keep using it. Mostly like the way it’s organized, and checking it throughout the day has helped me understand where I’m at in my jet lag better than a simple time zone app, and then make caffeine or sleep decisions accordingly.

    Definitely worth it to try the one free trip and see if you like it. I charged the subscription fee to work, not sure I would have paid out of my own pocket.

    1. JustaTech*

      My husband is trying it out for the first time for a trip from the West Coast to Europe and so far it seems a bit counter-intuitive (only take a short nap on the red eye then wake up at “morning” destination time on the plane), but since last time he didn’t time adjust *at all* he figures it can’t hurt.

  23. MysteriousMise*

    I travel internationally 4-6 times a year, For the plane:-

    * Noise cancelling headphones
    * Toothbrush/toothpaste
    * Episode(s) of something/movie downloaded onto your device
    * Fully charged power bank
    * Small pack of baby wipes and deodorant
    * Water
    * Spare socks and knickers

  24. Freq business travel*

    If you travel regularly or will be somewhere for an extended period of time it’s worth getting cords with local plugs and/or a single usb hub to avoid having to deal with converters.

    1. NothingIsLittle*

      I usually take a long powerstrip that I know can be safely used so that even when plugs are inconvenient or sparse, there is space to charge everything! Make sure that it’s pulling power compatible with what the sockets will be putting out, though, as one location I didn’t know to look and tripped a fuse three times before realizing the powerstrip was the problem.

  25. The Plaid Cow*

    Eat yogurt for breakfast. All dairy is local and eating yogurt will put the local cultures in your gut and help prevent travelers diarrhea.

    1. HomebodyTraveler*

      Seconding this! I used to travel occasionally for work, but I worked for a VP who traveled internationally a ton. He always at yogurt for breakfast and recommended it.

  26. Ashley*

    Confirm your company devices can be a accessed in whatever country you are traveling too (both data plans and VPN access), and don’t forget power converters for any electronics.
    Don’t forget you may need cash for customs. Make sure you know your companies reimbursement policy, and if you have a per diem it is reasonable for wherever you are traveling.

    1. Ewesername*

      I was just popping in here to say this! We can’t access our Canadian server via VPN in China because it’s illegal there. Teams is kind of frowned upon too. Whatsapp seemed to be acceptable. check before you go!

  27. AnotherSarah*

    These are all great suggestions! I’d just add one/two things to the carryon suggestions–a small moisturizer (one for face, one for hands)–planes are dry, and for whatever reason, I feel much more like myself when I moisturize. Maybe some facial wipes to use before the moisturizer. Those also help with feeling fresher when you get off the plane.

  28. Snooks*

    Pack an outfit that will pass for professional attire in your carry on. (One case of lost luggage will make you wish you had!) Also include prescription and your go-to OTC meds as well as extra eye glasses and/or contacts.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Along with making sure that your OTC meds from your country are similarly OTC and legal in the country you’re traveling to.

      1. Hester Thrale*

        Yes! I was quite surprised to learn that there is zero tolerance for DayQuil/NyQuil in Japan, for instance …

  29. Cathie from Canada*

    Useful to carry a pashmina or large scarf – it works as a light blanket anywhere, or rolled into a pillow or neck support, and it makes any plain outfit look better.

    1. AFac*


      Mine isn’t even really a shawl. I bought 2 yards of cheap knit material, cut it in half lengthwise (still 2 yards long but only half as wide), and used liquid fray stop on the edges. I’ve used it as a plane blanket, pillow, eye mask, winter scarf/hood, and makeshift totebag, all in the same trip. I’ve had it for at least 10 years now.

      One additional recommendation that’s less critical in modern times but I can’t break myself of the habit: bring some foreign currency with you, ideally enough to get you to your hotel. Airport currency exchange booths can be expensive (or if you arrive at night, closed), and while most transport can be paid by credit card now, I’ve been stuck too many times in a situation when the automatic ticket machine or taxicab will only take cash.

    2. J*

      A turkish towel will also double for this, especially if you’re near a body of water and may want to dip your feet in.

    3. ImOnTheTrain*

      I second the pashima advice its very versatile. Recently travelled for 3 trips over 3 weeks with a single wool& dress washed overnight when needed, and using a scarf to vary up the look worked fine and kept packing super light.

      Depends on where you are travelling from and to but as I was coming from a pretty cash free country where everywhere takes card to some other countries that used cash more meant that I was glad I’d got a few notes on me just in case!

  30. Wine not Whine*

    Watch your diet for a few days before your flight (if at all possible). Digestive upsets, especially in the lower tract, are magnified by the changing pressure. It might be bearable for a short flight, but neither you nor your seatmates want to endure 4+ hours of gas or the restroom shuffle.
    Also remember that cabin air is very dry. A travel-size bottle of unscented lotion, and a good lip balm, will make you a lot more comfortable.

  31. Calpurrnia*

    As soon as you board the plane (or each plane, if you have a connection), set your watch, phone, etc. to the time in the destination time zone. Start adjusting early, before you have anything important to do. If you wait until you get there to mentally change time zones you’ll be a mess.

    Get up and walk around on the plane at least once for every 4-6 hours you’re flying. Stretch your legs and back, use the restroom, just move around. Sitting in one place for 12 hours will make your day after you land pretty miserable and achy.

    I’ve never done international travel for work, but these both helped me a lot going to and from South Africa last year.

    And my general plane advice: bring an empty water bottle, fill it up 3/4 of the way after security, and then on the plane when they come around with drinks, ask for a cup of ice and dump it in the water bottle. Airport water is rarely actually cold and this makes it palatable.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      And if you have a layover in a different timezone, don’t forget about changing your watch to that time zone as well – see: my grandmother, who once had a stopover in New Zealand while flying from Australia to Hawaii, thought she had more time to kill in New Zealand than she did, and ended up having a final call put out for her.

    2. JustaTech*

      Seconding walking around on the plane – my mom’s coworker stayed in her seat the entire flight from the US East Coast to China and ended up with a blood clot in her leg and spent half her business trip in the hospital in China.

      1. The Traveller's Rest*

        If you have had a previous DVT, or are at high risk for a DVT, I recommend speaking with a vascular specialist about getting an anti-coagulant (e.g., Arixtra) as a prophylatic. It will virtually eliminate the possibility of getting a DVT.

        According to my doctor, the US vascular surgeons’ associate does not routinely recommend an anti-coagulant as a prophylatic, but its European counterpart does. I found a vascular surgeon in Germany who even told me that takes a short before every long-haul flight, even though she does not have a history of DVTs or risk factors.

        Also get mild compression socks, and I would recommend getting up once every two hours or so, particularly if you are in economy.

    3. Gumby*

      Airport water is rarely actually cold and this makes it palatable.

      Just past the security area in SFO is a water bottle refilling station. There are 6 taps per table – two for room temperature water, two for hot water, and two for cold water. It. is. glorious! By far the best refilling situation I’ve experienced. Though I don’t actually fly that often but whatever. I love them.

  32. Makare*

    I’ve found that front-loading on hydration starting the day or so before the flight really helps—it turns out a lot of the foot swelling and awfulness of jet lag recovery was related to dehydration, at least for me (I live in Europe and fly home to the West Coast of the US A Lot to see family). If I chug a ton of water before boarding, and bring a big bottle of water or two, I do a lot better. I spend a lot of time running to the bathroom, so best done with an aisle seat, but for me it’s worth it (and also keeps me from stiffening up/swelling as much, side benefit. I hate sitting for long periods, so the less time spent in that awful seat, the better). I am almost never able to sleep on flights anyway, so I just try to stay awake until a normal bedtime when I arrive and power through.

  33. NothingIsLittle*

    Frequent overseas traveler, though not for work. Window seats are great for sleeping, since people won’t wake you up, but my doctor recommends the aisle seat so that you can get up an take a small walk every hour. Doing so and wearing tall compression socks makes an enormous difference in how sore you’ll be from flying.

    As others have said, noise cancelling headphones are an enormous help in giving you something to do; I like to download podcasts and YouTube videos ahead of time. In addition, a taller neck pillow will be much more comfortable than a shorter one no matter how silly it looks.

    Be polite to the flight attendants and take advantage of the snacks and drinks (There should be free ones unless you’re on one of the very low cost flights.) Planes are incredibly dry, so you’ll feel better afterwards if you make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. I also like to take a clear leave-on moisturizing mask for my face because I have dry skin.

    Finally, once you’ve gotten to your destination, you need to power through until at least 8pm their time. (That or be very strict with your wake-up time, but I find that more difficult.) If jet lag is something you regularly struggle with, you can take melatonin to help you fall asleep on time. I get motion sleepy (it’s just like motion sickness, only I fell sleepy instead of nauseous) so I always sleep on the plane, which helps make the trip go by faster.

    For the trip and not the flying part, research the country you’re heading to so you know what is and is not polite. I’ve found that some countries resent foreigners (particularly Americans) and making sure to respect their customs goes a long way to mitigating that.

  34. Roy Kent*

    1) Review the in-flight meal and entertainment options before you get on the plane.

    2) Kindles or tablets and a library card are the way to go if you prefer to read on long flights! Check out your books and open each one in the app using WiFi before you leave.

    3) Review your options for layovers. Maybe there’s a really great restaurant option! My family still recalls the restaurant at the Vancouver airport that served us foot-high Knickerbocker Glories with wonder.

    4) Have all your frequent flyer/guest numbers handy in case your flight gets delayed and you have to book another hotel/flight/car.

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      But also be prepared if the library app fails. I can’t tell you how many times Libby had refused to open books that were ostensibly downloaded because there was no internet connection. Unfortunately, in my experience, Libby really hates airplane mode.

  35. Kate, short for Bob*

    maybe just me, but a squash ball takes up very little space and can be used to roll out aches in your shoulders (against a wall or a seat back) and feet. and it’s also a good fidget if you want to increase grip strength for any reason (musical instrument playing, DIY, startling competitive hand shakers etc etc)

    1. Smaller Potatoes*

      I’m also a huge fan of the bouncy ball as self massage tool! And getting my feet above heart level while spending any downtime in the hotel room (reading/tv) to improve leg circulation.

  36. M2*

    Bring a mask. I was recently in business class international for work and the man across the aisle (even though we were separated) was hacking up a lung the entire time. It was super gross. I decided to wear my mask and happy I had one. I spoke with a flight attendant but they had no available business class seats.

    Wipes! I’m sorry but I fly a certain airline a lot and their planes have been really dirty lately. Like to clean everything around me. You can even get at travel UV wand if you want.

    Def use the lounges if you’re in business for work and if not pay for the lounge access on a long layover OR go into the city and walk around (if it’s a very long layover) then come back for your flight/ lounge access. I had an overnight layover in Vienna a few times years ago and walked around the city and was put up in a hotel by the train. I have also done this in London many times too, but only if you have long layovers. I did it in Istanbul when a friend was living there, went in for dinner and walked around and went back to the airport for my flight. All were 7+ hour layovers.

    I don’t check luggage. I get those cubes and know how to pack work clothes in a checked bag even if it’s for a week + if work. If you check pack an extra set of clothes in your carry on.

    Bring medicine with you – pepto, imodium or similar, Tylenol, Advil, NyQuil, I always pack a travel apple cider vinegar as it helps with stomach issues or heartburn for me. I also pack travel things if electrolytes I like LiquidIV but there are other kinds including Pedyalyte too. Get the individual packs you add to water. Helps with hydration or if you’re sick. Can also get rehydration salts.

    If you’re in business you’ll get the noise canceling headphones but if you aren’t or some of your legs are in economy bring them.

    I also got really nervous flying again so went to my doctor and got some stuff to make me less panicked. Now I’m fine, but it was and is god ti have it if I suddenly get nervous.

    Bring and wear a face mask for flights. I also get a travel water thing to spritz my face as I get really dry skin. So I bring lip balm and travel lotion.

    1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      If it was the same airline I have had to fly on recently (two of the same Vowel for initials), their planes are noticeably dirtier than other airlines and much dirtier than they were pre-Pandemic. I also bring wipes, because the tray tables were disgusting.

  37. betsyohs*

    I really like to fast when flying. I find the combination of sitting still for so many bazillion hours and eating leaves me feeling bloated and generally bleck, so I give my digestion a rest and just drink water. This also can help with jetlag: eat dinner on your last day at home, then get right on the destination’s schedule by eating only when the normal meal time comes along.

    I also like Andrew Huberman’s tips on sleep in general, and he has a whole podcast episode dedicated to jetlag:

    1. The Traveller's Rest*

      The bloated feeling is also due to cabin pressurization. A350s and B-787s have lower pressurization and generally leave you feeling less bloated/more refreshed.

  38. ticktick*

    Look at the airport maps online before you go – some airports also have apps to notify you about flights and maps showing where you are, and so on. It helps to orient yourself while you’re there, and you can often find the best places to grab a bite. Also seconding a previous commenter’s recommendation to get lounge access for longer layovers, as it’s far more relaxing than sitting at the gate.

    1. Bruce*

      I wish I’d looked at the Denver airport map, I was flying back from Europe and the lines were more than an hour long, then they closed the line I was in and told us to walk from the north side to the line at the south side. Had never been there before, wound up following the mob but felt very unsure of the directions until I found the end of the new huge line…

  39. Jane Bingley*

    Definitely pack with just a carry-on. Flight delays and lost luggage are out of control since the pandemic.

    Plan outfits carefully – choose items that have little or no wrinkling, that stand up to being re-worn multiple times, and that are all on one colour scheme so you can mix things up. (I usually commit to either black/white/red or blue/green/white, but your wardrobe will vary.) I find shirts stand up well to re-wear if I wear a camisole underneath them, and it’s easier to pack 10 small camis and 3 shirts than 10 shirts/sweaters.

    Do bring a second pair of shoes (you don’t want to buy new ones if something happens!) but limit it to two pairs, and wear the heavier ones while flying.

    Think about which just-in-case items you can either go without or buy locally. Are tampons/pads easy to buy in the country you’ll be visiting? If so, bring a few spares but plan to buy the bulk as you need them. Unless you’ll be working outside, packing an umbrella is often unncessary – you’ll spend most of your days indoors anyway.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Filed under lessons learned/plan carefully:

      1. Make sure that your traveling clothes do not contain metallic thread. I wore a super comfortable yet crazy professional looking long dress under a blazer for one (domestic) business trip. Did not realize that the fabric of the dress contained metallic thread. Lit up like a Christmas tree on the scanner. Oops.
      2. On a long ago (again domestic) flight, probably the first business related travel I ever did, I wore a support tank rather than a bra. The support tank even had non-metal wires. Except that the TSA agent had an issue with the dang tank because the non metal cup wires showed up weird on the scanner. “You’re going to need to remove that shirt” “Um, I’m not wearing a stitch under it and I’ve already removed my blouse and blazer here…”

      Both were resolved, but definitely things I didn’t think about as a very non-frequent traveler.

  40. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

    I always pack a change of clothes and a toothbrush in my carry-on if I have to check bags. Upgrade to Economy Plus if possible to get more leg room, and try to reserve a window seat. Yes, you have to climb out over people to use the restroom, but it’s nice to be able to lean against the wall to sleep. Also bring snacks and your own water bottle. And the advice to buy a day pass to a lounge is good as well.

  41. LucyGoosy*

    Other than flight tips, do you all have other tips for international business travel? I’m driving to a different country for a conference in a few weeks–anything else I should know about being in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language while I’m also trying to work?

    1. starsaphire*

      If you’re in tourist-heavy areas or areas where a lot of business stuff happens, you won’t have to worry too much about language – most of the hospitality staff will speak multiple languages and be able to help you with whatever you need

      Google Translate on your phone should help with any signs you can’t read or help you with quick phrases, but memorizing ten or twelve “Where is the bathroom/What time is checkout/Where is the train station” phrases shouldn’t take you more than a day or so, and will always be useful.

      You have a few weeks – can you get on Duolingo or some other free app? Or check YouTube, a lot of channels have “25 phrases you will need in France/Italy/wherever.”

      1. HonorBox*

        There’s apparently an app that allows you to point your phone camera at signs and it’ll translate for you, too. I haven’t had a chance to research it after someone told me about it the other day, but it would be really handy with any language barriers.

    2. NothingIsLittle*

      Research local customs! Some countries resent foreigners (especially Americans) and using local greetings and thanks goes a long way towards mitigating that.

      Make sure you have something that says the name and address of your hotel in case you get lost.

      Not sure what country you’re heading to, but know if the water is safe, if there are any disease risks, and if any of your allergens are commonly used in their cooking. If you have severe allergies, have your epi pen and the prescription for it and make sure a travel partner knows how to use it if you become incapacitated.

      Also, using universal type gestures (bringing your hand to your mouth for eating/food, cupping or pointing to your ear for hearing, etc) can bridge the language gap even if you look silly doing it.

      If you plan on buying souvenirs or meals a currency conversion app is a big help in calibrating prices.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        Forgot to add, talk to your doctor! Some areas of the world require or recommend additional vaccinations or preventative medicine (like anti-malarials).

    3. J*

      Check your vaccines. My husband was being sent to places like rural Thailand with very specific vaccine recommendations and his job actually required all employees to get. Back then they had an on-site clinic and was surprised to realize he was not even caught up on many US-centric vaccines.

      Download google maps and any trip itineraries in google docs for offline access. Sometimes it takes a minute to get a new SIM or you might end up somewhere rural and need to access. I also had translation apps on my phone but mostly I just learn a few key phrases to greet people and order food. I also look up tipping culture, any specific dining culture tips and stalk a few breakfast/coffee/tea spots to eat at and see if Yelp can walk me through anything specific like payments (at the table, chip and pin, at the counter) so I feel calm and prepped each day. And also check your credit card, make sure it works in the country and if you need to notify anyone. Both personal and business cards.

    4. Sleeping Panther*

      – Know how to contact your home country’s embassy or consulate, and if you’re in the same city, know how to get there.
      – Take photos of important documents like your passport, visa, driver’s license, return boarding pass, credit/debit cards, and company badge just in case you get pickpocketed.
      – Find a trustworthy local bank at your destination, use only their ATMs (and ideally ATMs inside your workplace) to withdraw cash, and don’t carry more cash than you’re okay with losing in case you do get pickpocketed.
      – Try to find a power strip with your destination’s plug and either universal sockets or your own country’s sockets. Not only will you not need as many individual adapters, you’ll be a hero if you bring it to a meeting for everyone else to charge their phones and laptops.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      I do this a lot for work, with fully economy travel.

      First, check the entry requirements for your citizenship and the destination country every time you travel – many countries require pre-registration and money, even if you don’t require a visa, and these things change. The EU will start requiring this in 2024, for example. Check your passport expiry date (many countries require validity of six months as you enter the country).

      Install Google Translate and pre-download the language packs for the relevant languages. You can type to translate, use the camera to translate text (useful for languages you can’t type in), *and* you can speak into the phone, and have it translate (or have someone else speak into it). Learn to say hello and thank you – I’ve travelled in countries, pre smart phone, with a phrase book and those two words.

      Pre download Google maps for the regions you are visiting. GPS works without a data plan, so you can still find out where you are on the map (but not get directions) if you’re stuck without a data connection. I like to buy a data plan for the destination before travelling, as it’s cheaper and easier, but I don’t bother with a phone number (which is more complicated to get, and results in constant nuisance calls).

      Know the generic names of any over the counter medication you take, because brand names change with country, and unless the trip is really long, take a decent supply of what you usually use, as not all drugs are available in all countries. Have a copy of the doctor’s prescription for prescription drugs. If something is really vital, check if it’s a prescription drug in your destination (this varies as well). Bring documentation for medical equipment or supplies that need to be taken on the plane.

      Have a photocopy of your passport in a different place than your real passport, and separate your money sources (ie, keep one credit card in a under the clothes waist belt or hotel safe), so you if you get pickpocketed you’ve still got something. I always have some cash tucked in either of those places as well. I print out copies of reservations and tickets, and tuck them in a different place than my cellphone, so if the cellphone gets accidentally dropped in the ocean, I still have reservations details.

      If you have any food allergies get a native speaker to write down the details so you can show it at restaurants. Get a business card from your hotel and keep it with you so you can find your way back.

      Check local details like plug and power adaptors – as a general rule, if something has a block on the power cord (like a laptop or cell phone) and charges a battery, a plug adaptor will work, if it doesn’t (like a hair dryer), you may will need a power converter if the voltage is different, and it’s not worth the fuss.

      If I need information about personal safety (like whether a solo walk in a local park or going out after dark, is safe), I ask female colleague or hotel employee, because men can be very clueless about this.

      Have a copy of a conference program with your name on it, or invitation letter related to your job, in case it’s needed at immigration. Don’t try to take fresh produce, meat or dairy through customs without declaring them, don’t pack a gun or other weapons (including pepper spray), and even if marijuana is legal at your destination, that doesn’t mean you can take it across international borders.

  42. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    Depending upon where you’re going, use a burner phone. And if you can, wipe your computer before, and do a clean install when you get back.

      1. LucyGoosy*

        If you’re going to a country with a lot of crime this may be necessary. When I studied abroad in Latin America I got a burner phone because walking around the area I was in with an iPhone would make me a target for pickpockets. If there’s a chance your laptop could be stolen and personal information taken, then wiping your info may not be a bad idea.

      2. NothingIsLittle*

        Wiping your computer and phone ahead of time helps in case of theft or information scrapers, so that they won’t have access to credit cards or personal data that would allow them to steal your ID.

        Not sure about the benefits to doing it when you return if you have a good antivirus though.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          Civil liberties even for US citizens returning to the United States are limited at border crossings, including customs at the airport. I don’t know the exact rules, but there have been instances of border officials searching electronics, demanding passwords, etc. Thus the recommendation to have only the bare minimum of data on your devices when returning. (I think they can demand the password to the device but not to cloud storage accessible through the device.)

          All that said, even law firms very concerned with data security aren’t requiring lawyers to wipe devices when traveling internationally.

          1. LucyGoosy*

            Seconding this. Customs and Border Protection officials have the right to search your electronic devices. I’m going to assume the AAM commentariat does not have defamatory/dangerous/illegal/seditious content on their electronic devices, but just good to be aware of.

      3. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        In addition to what others have said, certain countries are notorious for corporate espionage.

        1. Gumby*


          Also, depending on your field, export control is a thing. If you work with things that could be export controlled a random file could be on your laptop that would make merely taking the laptop into another country, any other country, forbidden. Easier to start with a clean slate than go over every file on your computer to make sure it doesn’t have any EAR/ITAR.

          1. The Traveller's Rest*

            The key word being “depending on your field.” If you work in an ITAR-specific area, your company is likely to have advice on how to handle this.

            The vast majority of business travellers do not need to buy burner phones or wipe laptops; that’s ridiculous overkill absent highly situation-specific contexts.

      4. Ms. Murchison*

        What others have said about customs & border agents. And if they take your phone away and clone it, then any personal or professional sensitive data is out of your hands, out of your IT department’s control, and open to exposure depending on the security practices of those border agents. You want to trust them? Or tell them no and get stuck on the wrong side of the border?

    1. J*

      And check with your company’s electronic privacy policy if you didn’t memorize that riveting section of the employee handbook or other policy documents. The law firm I worked at required burner phones for trips to China, they wouldn’t let us bring tablets to some high theft countries and our healthcare attorneys always got a new machine so no PHI would crossover. Even for my healthcare company I’m with now, we require no one access hotel or Airbnb wifi and we issue screen protectors for all traveling.

    2. Karstmama*

      I love almost all of the advice on and love traveling carry on only. I keep my list in notes on my tablet and put a green check when I’ve packed something and a red x if I’m not taking that thing on this trip. So, packed the bathing suit, green check. Not taking a parka, red x.

      Consider bar shampoo and conditioner, matador makes great soap bar containers that aren’t goopy. Think about how much shampoo you really need and take about that amount. No way I’d need 3 ounces even on a month-long trip, but you consider how much you use and how often you shampoo and adjust. Taking less is smaller and lighter. Be super careful of ‘just in case’ packing.

    3. She of Many Hats*

      Also be aware if you will need to uninstall any social media apps from your devices. In some parts of the world it could be illegal or unwise to use them, and/or put people you interact with at risk physically or politically.

  43. Specks*

    A few thoughts off the top of my head, as I recover from jetlag over here:
    – Flight timing is everything. Yes, you might be able to save your org a few hundred dollars if you do the absolute cheapest version of the flight with a ridiculous number of legs and layovers, departing or arriving at 5am, but you will not be functional at your destination. In my experience, it is 100% worth it to spend a bit more on a flight that departs at a reasonable time, arrives in the late afternoon/very early evening (or at least during daytime hours, especially for an unfamiliar location), and has the minimum number of legs and best layover intervals possible without really over-spending.
    – Not sure if you’ve flown recently, but everything is less reliable — many flights depart late, especially later in the day, flights get cancelled a lot more than they used to, the lines through customs are insane in many countries (especially coming back into the US). Make sure your layovers are realistic.
    – Bring a water bottle and continuously ask for refills from flight attendants — you can just pop in the back and ask. The more you rehydrate, the better you will feel.
    – A tiny dose of melatonin goes a long way. 3mg gives me vivid nightmares. 0.25-0.5 mg (i.e. cutting a regular pill into quarters) helps me sleep. I’ve heard the same from others and there is a fair bit of research showing the small amounts are what’s recommended for sleep, as opposed to say, migraine prevention.
    – Dress comfortably for the flight, and make sure you have a work-appropriate change of clothing in your carry on. Include underwear, make-up, toiletries — whatever you need to be presentable. Honestly, if you can just go with a carry-on only, it’s so much easier.
    – Don’t let your org cheap out on the hotel, safe travel arrangements, etc. If they can’t afford to place you somewhere safe and comfortable, they can’t afford to have staff travel. I wish I’d really understood that when I was young. This doesn’t mean you need to demand a suite as a junior staffer; I was totally fine sharing rooms when I was in my early twenties. It does mean not sticking you on the back of a motorcycle without a fitting helmet or in an over-crowded public bus for 14 hours because they don’t want to pay for a taxi, and not giving you such a low per-diem that you end up staying in a bedbug-infested trucker motel. Never, ever compromise on your health or safety.

  44. jenni*

    so much good advice here, but one that has helped me a lot is to avoid carbonated beverages on the plane. Those little bubbles blow up in my stomach at altitude and then I am uncomfortably bloated/nauseous the rest of the flight. Forgot to tell my daughter this on her first international flight and she was so nauseous she didn’t eat the meal. Ginger ale mixed with cranberry juice is the only one I will tolerate if it is a short flight or I am already feeling a bit queasy.

  45. Curio Cat*

    Finally a request that I feel like I have the expertise to answer!
    –Wear comfy clothes that can layer to account for temperature differences on the plane. I like to bring a pashmina and a cardigan that can be used as extra blankets.
    –Pack an empty water bottle and snacks. You never know when you’ll get stuck on the tarmac for an extra few hours.
    –If you can’t go carry-on only, pack a bag with a change of clothes for work, in case your luggage is lost.
    –Pack a separate small bag of toiletries for overnight flights so you can do your normal nighttime routine (wash your face, brush teeth, remote contact lenses, etc).
    –Products I now rely on: a travel phone holder that can secure to the tray table–it keeps you from having to hold your phone while watching the screen. I also recommend a portable battery, ‘sleep’ bluetooth headphones, which have speakers that lie flat against your ears, and a wireless bluetooth transmitter, which plugs into the headphone jack but sends the sound to your wireless headphones. Charge all of this before you go.
    –Don’t forget your travel power adapters. I like to have at least two with me, and I prefer smaller ones for individual regions I go to a lot rather than a universal one, but that’s a matter of preference.
    –Seat choice: I like the aisle seat in the middle column of seats, particularly when its a X-3-X configuration. This is because its easy to get up for the bathroom and stretch, and if you are sleeping, the person in the middle can go out the other way if they need to get up.
    –A gift for the flight attendants–for long haul flights, I always bring some kind of chocolates or cookies for the attendants, and sometimes a card as well. It’s a small cost but brightens their day and starts the flight off with a happy energy.

    1. The Traveller's Rest*

      “a travel phone holder that can secure to the tray table”

      What brand do you use? I have been looking for something reasonably compact for domestic, non-transcon flights where you don’t get in-flight entertainment.

      1. Curio Cat*

        I use the perilogics universal one–its compact, lightweight, and can hold my phone in either direction.

    2. Knutstorp*

      I’ve never given treats to the attendants, but I see that as a recommendation from time to time. Seconding all of this.

      Also want to add that for longer flights, I avoid touching the seat pocket in front of me. I’d suggest a removable seat pocket (google Airplane Pockets) that you pre-fill, so you have everything in front of you without having to dig around.

      And if you are checking luggage (and use Apple products), just go ahead and get the Airtags for your bags. The pandemonium is real.

  46. Alex*

    Wear slip on shoes and bring extra socks!

    I find overnight flights to be cold, especially near the floor. My first intercontinental flight I just had regular socks and I was miserably cold. My feet absolutely froze.

  47. Immy*

    One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned here is to check things at your destination before you leave – do you need to use cash for most things (for example if the payment in that country is done almost exclusively by app like China with WeChat and Alipay, without which you’ll need cash as outside major hotels places won’t often take card), do they have a specific ride hailing app that you can download beforehand, does your map app of choice work in your destination country, etc.
    If you are traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, especially if that country doesn’t use a Roman alphabet, print out the address in the local language of where you need to go. This way you have a physical copy if your phone battery dies etc.
    If possible, have a number you can call (local business contact for example) for if something goes wrong.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You know, printing out the address seems like such a good idea. But when I was in Thailand, the taxi drivers were illiterate, so it didn’t matter. We ended up communicating the name of a tourist spot (a famous shrine) a few blocks from our hotel that we happened to know about and walking from there.

  48. Daisy-dog*

    The last time I dealt with a time difference (CST to GMT), I adapted to the sleeping schedule with the standard “stay awake” advice. My issue is that I got really, really hungry at my home dinner time which was around midnight. That lasted for maybe 4-5 days. I imagine the same could happen for when your normal breakfast time is, too. So I would recommend in addition to packing travel snacks, pack some bedtime snacks to counter either dinner/breakfast hunger pangs. (Or buy some from a nearby store if available.) Cookies/biscuits are a go-to for me and you can get some plain-ish ones (like Nilla Wafers) that might be good if you have a sensitive stomach from other travel complexities.

  49. he wore a shining star...*

    Pack as little as possible, there are shops in other parts of the world and if you need anything they can be bought there.
    Make your carry on bag have the comforts of home. Kindle, Earphones, inflatable cushion, ear plugs etc etc Whatever it takes to get you there. Above all see it as a chance to relax. Lets face it, any work you do will be subpar, so take a chance to read that book or watch that film and just chill.

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes to shops! As Rick Steves, travel guide for 40+ years would tell you, you can buy toothpaste in Bulgaria and it becomes an interesting souvenir!

    2. Anon 2.0*

      Yes and no – if you are traveling to many Asian countries and wear over a US8 women’s shoe, you are going to have a really hard time finding any shoes to buy.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I don’t think items like shoes were intended. More like soap, shampoo, umbrella, hand lotion, that kind of thing.

        Although weirdly, in Ireland I was unable to find any kind of lotion. I had to make do with a tin of Vaseline. I even asked at the counter. I guess everyone in Ireland is naturally well-moisturized!

  50. Curio Cat*

    Oh for international business in general! Sorry, I went too big on the flight piece!
    –don’t forget your passport, and bring a copy. Leave a copy with a credit card locked in your hotel room.
    –Learn how to ask ‘do you speak English’, yes/no; hello; and thank you in the local language.
    –For meals, in some places its fine to a picture or something someone else is having; or let your local contacts order for you.
    –Pack a capsule wardrobe with accessories. Some basic neutrals in pants and tops, plus some colorful scarves, blazers/jackets, or jewelry can remove the stress of dressing, particularly for an early morning set of meetings. Don’t pack any expensive jewelry.
    –COMFY SHOES. There may be a lot of walking. Bring reliable, comfortable shoes that are fine for office wear.
    –Since long before I was married, I wore a ring on my ring finger to deter unwanted attention.

    I’ll keep thinking…

  51. Michelle Smith*

    Take time off at the end of the trip. Seriously. If you are coming back to your home country on a Thursday, take Friday off. If you’re coming back on a Saturday, take Monday off. Having extra time to recalibrate to being home is HUGE for being able to hit the ground running when you’re back at work.

  52. Mathilde*

    Check that your roaming is off before the plane takes off. I got charged 50€ a few months ago because I forgot my plan didn’t include the country I was visiting : it took about 20 seconds, the plane was still on the landing strip, the time to take my phone off airplane mode and open WhatsApp, and that was it. I had used some data… and vavoom, 50€.

    1. She of Many Hats*

      And know how your phone’s travel plans work so you don’t go over or hit a speed wall. Wait until you’re somewhere with wifi to do your social media stuff and personal emailing, etc. Save the international data for your work related stuff.

  53. Snow Globe*

    Check your phone plan to see if international calls/data/texting is included. Sometimes it’s included, sometimes there is a flat fee (my plan is $10 per day for unlimited data/texting), some charge you for each text, etc. Then check to see if your company will reimburse those costs.

  54. fish*

    Does anyone have a specific eyemask recommendation? The cords on the standard ones pull on my ears, and fight with my headphones.

    I wear a mask and big noise-canceling headphones and have big ears, so would appreciate a rec that works with all of that.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I have one that has a velcro adjuster that goes around the head, because I have a huge head. Too old to tell you a brand though, sorry.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I love my Bucky sleep mask. It has cups that sit over your eyes, rather than directly on top of them, so you can blink under the mask. It looks bizarre–like bug eyes, or like you’re wearing a bra on your face. I can only imagine what I look like with the Bucky + KN95 + Trtl + headphones. But it’s extremely comfortable.

  55. teensyslews*

    If possible try to get a flight that lands at your destination late in the day. I’ve landed in my destination at 8AM and then you have to spend the whole day zombie-ing through to get to an appropriate sleep time. If you arrive at 5PM or later local you clear customs, get to your hotel, have a meal then go to bed and are better set to be on the local schedule.

  56. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

    This may not be a popular one, but don’t drink alcohol on the flight! Or have one at most. You just don’t need your body dealing with recovering from drinking.

    As many others have said, drink water liberally.

    Bring snacks, including proteins.

    Noise canceling headphones are huge, even to just drown out the engine noise.

    Be sure to get up as often as possible without being annoying.

    Valerian, melatonin, and Calms Forte (a natural sleep supplement by Hylands) helps with getting to sleep when you arrive. I find it is more initially tiring traveling west to east, but it is much harder to get back on a regular sleep schedule flying east to west. When coming back to California from Japan, my husband and I woke up at 2 am ready to eat!

    1. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

      Also seconding what people are saying about hand wipes! I use the anti-bacterial ones to wipe down surfaces and they are also great as a nice refresher during long flights. Lotion is also key- my hands get so dry on the plane.

  57. Legally Brunette*

    Fellow world traveler for work here – not too much has changed post-pandemic, except I carry a lot more antibacterial wipes (airplane tray tables – ewww!) and hand sanitizer.

    I always travel with: low-pressure ear plugs for noisy hotels, noise-cancelling headphones for flights, and a neutral-color full-zip Patagonia sweater in case it ends up being chilly (looking at you, London), since it pairs well with ladies’ business casual. And I always have a spare set of casual and work clothes in my carry-on. It’s inevitable that your luggage won’t make a flight the longer you travel :(

    Safe travels!!

  58. JSPA*

    A rather famous microbiologist told me that on the plane, he skips the fresh fruit, skips the salad, skips any cooked food that has not been properly reheated, and never, never, ever has ice in any drink, nor water that comes from a pitcher.

    This is hard for me (I love fruit and veg) but my digestive problems dropped markedly when I started to follow those guidelines.

  59. Leslie*

    Perhaps I have read too many post apocalyptic novels, but I always prepare for a possible disaster. While traveling, I have had a major, blackout and a tsunami, and it was grateful to have the disaster supplies.

    I always bring the following:

    A decent first aid kit.

    an emergency supply kit, which includes water, purifying, tablets, a compass, a flashlight, matches, an emergency blanket, Chapstick, with sunscreen, which can be used as lip balm, sunscreen, or to start a fire.

    My own water bottle, which is always full after I go through security.

    A solar powered charger.

    A paper map of my destination.

    2 to 3 days of power bars. I also bring dried fruit, because sometimes there’s not much fiber in airplane food.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You can use chapstick to start a fire?! You just blew my mind. Also, I’ve traveled a lot and never had any disasters. Wow.

      1. Annonity*

        Add a whistle and mirror and that’s what I bring. Not to start fires, but to signal if needed.
        And paper directions, maybe get the hotel’s business card to give to taxis (snap a photo of it, bonus if you leave the meta-data on the photo) — especially if you don’t speak the local language.
        Some places it’s great to have small amounts local currency, others are cash-card or credit card tap.
        I also bring a bathing suit because you never know when you’re going to end up using it.

  60. jsquinks*

    I travel internally for work a bunch! Not sure if this has been mentioned already (there are so many great comments), but as soon as I get on the plane I set my watch for the destination time zone. Very much a mental trick, but it helps me calibrate my sleep schedule just a tiny bit better!

  61. Thatoneoverthere*

    – Disinfecting wipes! – Even Pre COVID I wiped down my whole seat area, arm rests, buckle, tray, wall/window, and the little vents at the top. When I got to my hotel I also wipe down high touch surfaces. Like door knobs, remotes, night stand etc.

    – I like to bring things to help my digestion (personal things). Smooth Move Tea, Ginger tea and Peppermint are my number travel companions lol. Also probiotics, gas-x and some high octane digestive aids. The latter is for emergency use only.

    – Another really random tip. If you have time to kill before a flight walk, walk, walk! I once walked 2 miles in the airport. I was bored and had time to kill. It helped me rest on the plane and also can help your digestion and ease any pre-flight jitters.

    1. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

      Yes to the walking! I walked the entire length of Atlanta international while there on a layover during a work trip. I walked 3.5 miles and it felt great. They have lots of fun exhibits too, as do many airports.

  62. Vermont Green*

    – It’s easy to bring a little pack of panty-liners and change them two or three times during the trip.
    – Also, women on the pill can take a few extra ‘active’ pills and push their period ahead a few days for more convenient travel.

  63. Kiki Is The Most*

    PHONE: Depending on your phone (usually one that is new in the past 4 years), you can get an e-sim through the Airalo app for pretty much any country and with excellent rates. I recommend downloading the app and installing the e-sim the day before you depart. That way you can toggle the international e-sim on right as you land at your destination and toggle off the home country line. Also comes in handy if you do need your home country line while traveling and using wifi.

    DRIVING: If you’ll be driving, check the rules for renting a car with an international driver’s license and if you’ll need one. (Not all countries/rental companies require that)

    VISA: If you do need a visa for your trip, most countries have e-visas that can be obtained online.

    CARRYON FACE PRODUCTS: For trips of 1-2 weeks max, I use a 4 square travel pill container and put my eye/face creams in there so that I don’t have to squeeze all of the travel containers into a plastic bag. (I travel a lot so I used a label maker to keep it organized).

    1. She of Many Hats*

      Be aware that some countries require your visa documents to be digital, some require paper. And, if digital, have them downloaded so you can access them easily even if the customs area has horrible wifi.

  64. Angstrom*

    Check with your credit card company on their overseas use policies. I was blocked from using an ATM in Europe because it triggered a fraud alert. Not fun when you’re out of cash.

    1. Kardemumma*

      To add to this. If you use a different SIM when travelling as I do, you need to be sure that two-factor authentication can be sent to your email rather than your mobile number. I am caught up in this at the moment and it’s not fun! I should have set this up with my bank before I left.

  65. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    If you are flying out of airports abroad, make sure you schedule more time to get to the gate than you might in the US. Many airports have stands or satellite terminals that require a fair amount of walking or transport, such as buses and trains. For example, Heathrow has a number of stands where you take a bus to the airplane and climb up airstairs. Do not expect to show up at the gate 10 minutes before flight time and be able to make that flight.

    1. londonedit*

      My dad always travelled a lot in his working life, and his rules for flights (even going on holiday) include going to the gate the minute it goes up on the screen. I’ve always done that – I don’t understand people who want to wander around after the gate is confirmed! Just get to the gate as soon as it’s called. At Heathrow and Gatwick they have signs telling you how long it’ll take to walk to the various banks of gates – sometimes it can be up to 15-20 minutes so make sure you check and set off as soon as you know your gate.

  66. Turanga Leela*

    If you’re taking more than two flights, consider building in an extra day/partial day in a hotel late in your route. It gives you an opportunity to get a shower, sleep in a real bed, and start acclimating to the time change–plus it pads your schedule in case one of your earlier flights is significantly delayed.

    On a long flight, I try to have compression socks, headphones, my Trtl neck pillow, my Bucky eye mask, a pashmina or similar scarf, an external phone battery, lots of downloaded movies/tv shows, and at least one paper book in case of catastrophic phone/tablet failure. On my last flight, I wore Cozy Earth bamboo loungewear, and it felt both comfortable and fancy. I wear a KN95 from boarding until takeoff and then from landing until I’m in the terminal–I read that those are the times with the least air circulation–and before I sit down, I wipe down my seat, tray table, and armrests with a Lysol wipe.

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I added this above, but a note on masking for others – it takes 5 minutes for the air to fully turn over through the HEPA filter once the plane has taken off, so make sure to wait a bit before unmasking!

  67. Lizzo*

    If you haven’t traveled in a while, expect to be *very* tired–more tired than you probably were on any pre-pandemic trip. Travel requires stamina, and anyone who wasn’t traveling for the last 3+ years has probably lost theirs. Plan in plenty of rest time upon arrival, throughout the trip, and when you return home. That includes not jumping right back into work when you return.

  68. NotBatman*

    Plane pasties! My partner and I recently did NY to Glasgow and back. He had the smart idea to buy something nutritious, filling, and transportable outside the airport to eat on the flight. On the way there, we got NYC deli sandwiches, and on the way back we got Cornish pasties. Made for a much nicer flight than we would’ve had if we’d had to rely on Delta food.

    I’ve also learned to bring food *everywhere*, usually a bag of trail mix and a few protein bars, because I have food allergies and often end up with nothing else to eat. When traveling I end up with meal-related jet lag, feeling unhungry during local meal times and then ravenous a few hours later, so the protein bars also allow me to eat when I’m hungry.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Oh, pasties! Not pasties. I was imagining a nipple cover to help with boob physics and being cold on the plane. Hahahaha!

  69. TheFisherEileen*

    OK, here goes:

    1) I find packing toiletries goes best when I pack as I get ready for bed the night before/morning the day of departure. I use the product and immediately pack it, which ensures that I will have every item I need.

    2) Pack light. The main tricks to help with this are (a) making sure your clothing is in colors/styles that mix and match and (b) shoe consolidation. Generally I wear one pair of shoes, pack one, and that’s it. The only times I’ve had to deviate from that were for adventure travel and attending formal occasions (though even for some occasions I’ve been able to pull it off). This allows you to travel with carry-ons only.

    3) Related–travel with carry-ons only. You don’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost, and if your flight is canceled or delayed, you can be much more easily rerouted by the airline.

    4) If you can sleep on planes, do so as much as possible en route. If, like me, you cannot, try to schedule it so that you can get into your hotel room as quickly as possible upon arrival and then take a nap of no more than three hours, preferably more like two. I find that this amount of sleep allows me to function for the rest of the day, but leaves me tired enough that I’ll fall asleep soundly that night. This does a lot to help acclimate to a new time zone.

    5) Download a white noise app to your phone. This is very handy for sleeping in hotels, where sound levels can be variable, and people may be coming or going at odd hours.

    6) Pack a few small things to eat both on the plane and potentially in your hotel room. (I often throw in a couple packets of instant oatmeal, which can be made with hot water courtesy of the hotel room coffeemaker.) Hunger can be unpredictable when jet lag is throwing off your internal clock. Anytime you can get something fresh and unprocessed, like fruit or nuts, do so.

    7) Some airline lounges have showers. If your fare/status/whatever allows it, or you’re able to buy a day pass, use a layover to take a shower. You can change underwear and get clean, and it will amaze you how restorative this is.

    8) More for frequent travelers: Unpack fully and immediately upon entering the hotel room. I have, at this point, worked out roughly where in the room to put all my various items; this makes the space begin to feel more comfortable to me right away–settled, as opposed to unsettled, which helps me concentrate on the tasks at hand. Unless I’m about to crash into sleep, I also immediately hang up and steam/iron any clothing that requires it. This way everything is ready to go right away.

    Those are my main tips. Good luck!

    1. cabbagepants*

      I agree strongly with these!

      For #7 — I did a version of this immediately before boarding a midnight redeye and it was great. I changed my socks and underwear, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, and wiped down (face, bits) with wet wipes.

    2. Evan Þ*

      Cosign (1). In addition, I either pack everything the night before or put it in one place (say, on my bedside table) so I can just shove it in my bag in the morning. I do not depend on being in the mental state to remember anything the morning I’m traveling.

      Also cosign (3); in addition to all those benefits, I find it’s much more refreshing to get out of the airport right away rather than have to wait at the baggage claim.

      (8) doesn’t work for me on shorter trips though; I find it works at least as well mentally to live out of my suitcase and not worry about losing things. YMMV of course.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      As for (1), once you travel regularly, it’s easier to just have separate travel toiletries always packed in their own bag. I never take the stuff I use on the daily anymore and I never have to worry about forgetting anything.

      Agree strongly on 3 and 7. There have been many times I missed a connection and was only able to get on the next one out because I had a carry on – especially internationally. And a shower is almost as good as a nap!

      1. The Traveller's Rest*

        I highly recommend PackGear hanging travel cubes. I keep them pre-packed for my trips. They more-or-less obviate the need to unpack.

        1. STAT!*

          Those look really good! Actually I recommend any travel cubes. Ours were very very cheap. They are great for finding clothing & items in your luggage really quickly (& keeping it organised), rather than having to ferret through everything. Some travel cubes sell with the promise of allowing you to pack more in a smaller space. I’m not convinced this would be an advantage.

  70. Turanga Leela*

    A tip I learned recently: To fall sleep on the plane, don’t try to sleep–try to meditate, and let your body relax into sleep that way. I use guided sleep meditations from Aaptiv or just set a long breathing meditation on my Pranayama app.

  71. Snarky Librarian*

    I’ve had a great experience using the Timeshifter app for East Coast to Europe travel! It’s a paid app but your first trip is free so you can test it out. After that you can pay for an annual subscription or by the trip.

  72. sciencelady*

    I know others have mentioned lounge access and I’ll suggest a credit card that has International lounge access (if the admittedly high annual fee is workable for you). I fly ~50-80 times a year for work and the Amex Platinum is worth it for me. Some folks have mentioned that lounges have been crowded and that is true, but the 90% hit rate of when you ARE able to get in has paid for itself many times over for me. A shower in JFK in one of the lounges on the way back from Dubia may have saved my sanity!

    The other things I’d suggest is glasses the whole time if you normally wear contacts; it just makes it easier to go to sleep easily. That was a silly lesson I learned a few times over!

  73. Nellie*

    (1) see if you can fly business class (or even enhanced economy). Some companies allow this. I cannot overstate how much easier it is to sleep in a bigger seat than coach.
    (2) noise cancelling headphones
    (3) fly nonstop, or with as few stops as possible.
    (4) observe the time zone of your destination as soon as you get on board. This may mean going to sleep right away or it may mean staying awake.
    (5) eye mask
    (6) if you’re trying to stay awake on board, walk around the cabin as much as possible.
    (7) when you land, assuming you land during the daytime (and not in the evening), follow the eating and sleeping pattern of the new time zone. Get yourself some natural light. Walking around outside can help.
    (8) Try not to book anything for the day you arrive (if you can at all avoid it), even if it means flying a day earlier.
    (9) some people swear by sleeping tablets. I’m not one of them (but my special superpower is being able to sleep on planes).
    (10) avoid alcohol on board. It can disrupt your sleeping pattern.

  74. Rae*

    I have found rescheduling my meal times to new timezone as quickly as possible helps my sleep schedule re-adjust faster. I use an app on my phone to view all the timezones I’ll be in, then plan meal times in advance.

  75. Norm Peterson*

    I know there have been many mentions of melatonin, but I’d like to give a shout out to unisom. It keeps me asleep for almost exactly 8 hours and I don’t feel groggy afterwards. And if I do wake up in the middle of the night I fall back asleep much much faster. (Definitely test it ahead of time on a weekend in case it keeps you asleep longer!).

  76. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    I’m hypermobile, and have a lot of issues with my hips/back when sitting for a long time. I recently bought a hip compression ‘skirt’, and wore it on a flight last week – it was incredibly helpful! It was a short flight, but I will definitely now pack it or a similar belt for all long haul flights.

    Not applicable for all, but amazing for those that need it!

  77. Cedrus Libani*

    One tip I haven’t seen here: make a list of everything you need to pack. Not just a mental note, an actual piece of paper. There was a phase in my life where I was on the road more than I was home, often several different trips per week, and having that checklist taped to my closet door saved me SO much mental energy at a time where I had very little to spare. (Don’t expect the list to be perfect the first time around; it’s a living document, you can make changes as you learn more about your preferences.)

    Also, I’d suggest investing in a good backpack that’s specifically designed for fitting under an airplane seat. I got mine from Tortuga. It’s got enough space to be your only bag if you pack efficiently, is comfortable to wear, and has held up to hard use; one of the best $250-ish I’ve ever spent.

  78. ThePear8*

    – My mom recently introduced me to foot hammocks and it’s a game changer
    – Drink water!!
    – keep an AirTag in checked luggage for peace of mind, one thing I like to do too is if you have a normal black suitcase like the vast majority of suitcases, I put a fun patterned piece of washi tape or tie something on the handle or zipper so it’s easily recognizable at baggage claim!

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Somewhere in my travels I picked up a tag shaped like a red stop sign that says STOP: I’M NOT YOURS. It has a 100% success rate. My husband has a piece of navy ribbon tied on his.

    2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

      I regularly take large groups of teenagers on trips (think school trip or band trip kind of thing). We require that everyone in our group tie the same colour of surveyors tape to their suitcase and carry-on or backpack. It’s a lifesaver. Especially when you’re all coming off the plane and have groups splintering off to bathrooms or whatever, the first few people at baggage claim can start pulling luggage before everyone’s there. We have fewer people clogging up the carousel and put all our bags in one area for the kids to claim. It’s way more efficient!

  79. What time zone am I in?*

    I have flown quite a bit internationally, sometimes shorter (i.e. one week) and sometimes longer (up to several months). Here are a few key things, some have been mentioned, but these are all things that make travel easier for me. 1) I swear by fasting to deal with jet lag. There have been some good studies on it, but generally, you want to stop eating 16-24 hours before you land, then eat as soon as you can when you land. It is really helpful on shorter trips where I don’t really have time to be jet-lagged. 2) If you have a long layover and the airport has a hotel or sleeping pod – get one and stretch out. 3) I like aisle seats so I can get up and stand a bit. 4) I’m a runner, and if it is a longer trip, I try to find the local Hash House Harriers (or another running group) to meet up with, gives me something to do that isn’t work related on the weekend and often see a different part of the city. 4)If you are traveling a lot, and can swing the fee, the Amex Platinum includes a Priority Pass membership as a benefit. Most larger international airports I’ve been to have at least one lounge (sometime more) that take Priority Pass. 5) I have a dual sim card phone, that way I can pop a local sim in, the data is usually cheaper and my WhatsApp still works on my phone as well as a local number. AT&T has a $10/day flat rate for international so I use that the first and last day and then just stick to the local sim, my family can call me through WhatsApp if necessary.

  80. hmmmmm*

    I’ve found the advice from “Die Hard” is actually really helpful for grounding yourself when you arrive–“Get where you’re going, take off your shoes and your socks, and make fists with your toes.”

    Just remember to put your shoes back on if you’re a police officer visiting your estranged wife. :P

  81. Really?*

    Liquids. I’m TSA-pre so don’t generally bother much about where I pack my toiletries. I was shocked when transferring flights in Paris to have to pull out all of my liquids and electronic devices from my carryon prior to going through EU security. Lesson learned, now I pack them all separately in the regulation 1 qt bag when I’m travelling international, and keep all of my electronics handy.

  82. cabbagepants*

    Read the fine print of your company’s travel policy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that two companies I have worked for (Fortune 500 companies) have paid for business class airplane seats for all employees for international flights over 8 hrs in length, as well as in-flight WiFi and Global Travel.

    1. cabbagepants*

      I mean, Global Entry!

      Additional items: laundry for trips over 7 days in length, checked bag. Nothing huge but many little things that add up to significant comfort improvement.

      1. JustaTech*

        Seconding Global Entry!
        It’s so nice to be able to just get out of the airport when you get home, rather than spending another hour in line at customs/immigration.
        If you live near the Canadian border you can get Nexus (fast pass to Canada and Mexico) and it will get you Global Entry and TSA PreCheck as well for a really reasonable price (but the lead time is very long).

  83. The Happy Graduate*

    Pack 1 spare set of clothes for meetings and your basic travel-sized toiletries in your carry-on on the chance that your luggage is lost, it’ll give you a buffer period to get it sorted out without having to show up to your meetings in rumpled dirty clothes.

    Also a face cloth to wash your face when you get off the plane if you have to jump into meetings the day you arrive – it helps your mood immensely to feel physically refreshed.

  84. ArtK*

    Make sure there is enough time in a layover to get your baggage from one place to the other. I’ve had bags get lost/delayed when flying to Germany via Heathrow — different terminals and it takes them a while to get it to the outgoing one. Same thing from Toronto to San Francisco via LAX, with a change from Air Canada to US Airways — opposite sides of the airport.

  85. thelettermegan*

    Do as much Quality Assurance on your travel plans as you can. If your flights are booked by other people, double check that you’re going to the right destination on the right day and using the most direct flights.

    More stops mean more trouble! Don’t try to save money by choosing flight plans with stops when direct is available.

    I find that light, minimalist packing is a Godsend when you’re moving around a lot.

    – I really like convertable backpacks as a personal item. They can function as a comfy day pack or crossbody as needed. I found one from Baggilini that worked as hiking backpack one day and formal purse the next.

    – I really like jackets with tons of pockets like Scott-e-vest. It’s like having a whole extra personal item that also keeps me warm.

    – I’ve found that using Rick Steve’s packing list and a carry-on size backpack works very well for me, and compression packing cubes are great for making suitcases look organized – It’s really nice to not have to worry about a shirt sleeve (or worse) sticking out of luggage at awkward moments. My husband likes how they keep button down shirts folded. You might be able to expense hotel laundry services to cut down on clothing weight.

    If you like organizing your life digitally, make sure to print off documentation of your important stuff – itineraries, train tickets, hotel reservations, etc, so you can pull it out if you lose your phone or run out a battery. If you’re more of a paper person, familiarize yourself with digital tools so you can access these things quickly. Putting your boarding pass on your phone’s ‘wallet’ makes airport security a more ‘tap and go’ experience.

  86. Kate*

    I used timeshifter on a recent trip (Midwest US-Europe) and it worked brilliantly! I was able to walk all over and enjoy myself on the day I landed, which was such a gift because it was my only nonworking day in Rome. I did the whole slate of recommendations which includes bright light (I have a SAD light) early mornings before you leave, sunglasses on mornings before you return (gave my colleagues something to joke about at breakfast) caffeine management, and melatonin. Honestly, I think the light-related advice is the most valuable.

    1. Blue_Alaska*

      I used Timeshifter to and from New Zealand in 2019 and I felt it was useful. I felt much better both once we arrived in NZ and returning home, than I did 5 years earlier on a trip to Australia with no app and planning.

  87. J*

    If you are a reader on trips, download any books off Libby/Kindle before you depart. International downloads can be complicated, sometimes being in another country will limit/prohibit you from downloading. I usually check out a ridiculous amount of books before traveling, switch into airplane mode on the device and that way I can keep them on the device for the duration of the trip or until I finish reading them if I maybe went too overboard.

  88. Going to Italy*

    This thread is perfect because I’m about to go to Rome for work (first time overseas in 20 years!). Does anyone have an adapter you recommend? I need to charge both an Android and an iPhone. Bonus points for being able to charge a laptop too. Thanks!

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I have a handful of plug adaptors from SublimeWare (bought off Amazon) that I’ve taken to several countries and regions. Each has one plug option and four USBs. I also have a voltage converter, but almost nothing needs it, so I’ve stopped taking it. Laptops, anything charged via USB, etc. are fine.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You don’t want a device specific adapter, you want an adapter that turns their wall outlet into one like at home. I have the Elago World Travel Adapter I’ve been using for years. It works in any country.

  89. Jamie (he/him)*

    Okay, I freely admit this is complete woo.

    In a previous job, a couple of my colleagues would combat jetlag by getting brown parcel/packing paper, tracing around their feet and cutting the foot shapes out. Then they’d put the paper feet flat in their luggage – one in their carry-on, one in their checked.

    Apparently that stopped jetlag happening.

    I never did this (because… come on, honestly?) but they would be fresh as daisies while me and everybody else were bolt awake at 3am and the like.

    Placebo effect in action. It is, right? It must be.

    1. CM*

      This is free and my kids might get a kick out of it, so maybe we’ll try it for our upcoming long trip anyway. Can’t hurt!

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yep. They told themselves it worked and they believed it, so it did. I laugh at it, so it wouldn’t work for me.

  90. Bruce*

    No alchohol for at least a day before the flight and until you have reasonably adjusted to the new time zone. The worst jet lag I’ve ever had was on a business trip with our Marketing team, they drink like fish! Also skip caffeine for the flight and as much as possible for the first day, try to use it sparingly after that (I have one cup in the morning and then one mid-afternoon when my body thinks it is 3 AM). I also try to zone out for much of the flight even if I don’t sleep, if I spend the whole flight reading or watching videos I feel exhausted.

  91. Professional Straphanger*

    Argonne National Labs anti-jet lag diet,

    Yes, the webpage looks like it’s from 2009 (and probably is) but I lived by this diet for 10+ years working for a government agency that used to fling me all over the world on short notice and I can tell you if you follow it diligently it works.

  92. WonderWoman*

    A good neck pillow will help you get some rest on the plane. I like the Trtl, but have been eyeing this year’s Wirecutter reviews for the latest and greatest.

    I also like to bring facial wipes, moisturizer, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant on long flights so I can freshen up either on the plane or at the airport. It just helps me feel more like myself.

    I’m able to pack a bit less by bringing a small bottle of laundry detergent and washing clothes in the sink as needed. I tend to prefer this to the hotel laundry service because I don’t have to factor in their laundry turnaround time.

  93. Bartimaeus*

    Wear a mask for as much of the plane ride as you can. They do recirculate and filter the air in the plane, but it won’t help if someone in the next row (or next seat!) has come down with something. But the less potentially-unfiltered air you breathe in, the more likely you get out in one piece without catching anything.

    1. LK03*

      I have questions about this! I too am soon to be traveling for work, US East Coast to western Europe, and it will be my first plane trip since the pandemic. I am (was?) a seasoned traveler, including internationally, but I don’t know how to travel in this new covid world. Even at home, I am yet to enter a building other than a private, trusted house unmasked or eat indoors in public. And I really don’t want to get covid on this trip.

      So I assume that means I’d better not unmask on the plane at all. But I don’t want to get hungry or dehydrated! I’d love any suggestions people might have. (Maybe a metal straw to slip under the mask? But even that feels risky to me.)

      Then there’s the part where I’m going to have to go to dinners with colleagues in restaurants, which also scares me a lot, but there’s probably no way around that.

      1. JustaTech*

        It’s all going to be a risk, but based on the way that air is filtered on the plane, eating/drinking on the plane is better than eating in the airport (unless you can get outside).
        The best you can do is to eat and drink as quickly as you can and get the mask back on (a water bottle with a straw helps with this). You can also try to time your eating/drinking to when your seatmates are *not* (so waiting for them to finish before starting your food).

        (I was on a flight in peak COVID where the woman in front of me very slowly ate an entire 8 oz squeeze bottle of peanut butter so she didn’t have to put her mask on. I thought some very dark thoughts at her.)

        1. LK03*

          Thanks for the tips! (Right, I definitely have no intention of eating in the airport, bleah.) I like your suggestion of timing eating/drinking to when others have finished. I also see a fair few recommendations above for fasting to combat jet lag, so, maybe I can restrict myself to quick sips of water or juice and solve two problems with one strategy.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Seconding JustaTech’s recommendation. Depending on what you are eating, you can also eat like this:

        Step 1: Pull mask up/down
        Step 2: Take a bite of food
        Step 3: Pull mask down/up so it covers your nose and mouth again
        Step 4: Chew and swallow
        Step 5: Repeat

        This method isn’t great for all mask and food combinations, but it’s something to keep in mind to minimize the amount of time your mouth/nose are exposed.

      3. Peanut*

        Perhaps it’s also good to know that masking has become a sort of relic of the past in my part of western Europe (the Netherlands). The last time I saw somebody masking was over a year ago in Amsterdam. I think they were tourists. I have not seen anybody wearing a mask since then. Not in restaurants, not in museums, not while using public transport, just not at all. I haven’t seen them while on holiday in Denmark, Germany or Belgium either. So be prepared to mask diligently if this is important to you, and to see some surprised faces while you mask.

        1. londonedit*

          In London hardly anyone wears a mask anymore, but you’re not going to get weird looks if you do. We were already used to tourists from China and Japan wearing masks on the tube as a matter of course, and if someone wants to wear a mask on the train then that’s up to them. People don’t tend to talk to strangers on public transport here anyway, so go ahead and wear a mask if you want to! We had a work conference thing the other week and a few people were wearing masks. No one said anything.

          1. The Traveller's Rest*

            A year ago I was still masking and dropped my dry cleaning at a laundry in London. The proprietor asked me why I didn’t remove my mask.

      4. The Traveller's Rest*

        I suggest that if you are so risk-averse that you have not eaten indoors over the past year and a half, you might be better off not going at all.

        The vast majority of the world has returned to pre-pandemic norms, including in Europe.

  94. A Geuinine Scientician*

    Bring both a) a plug adapter and b) a plug splitter / power strip.

    Most airports have some electrical outlets, but not as many as people want to use. But if you’ve got a device that will convert 1 outlet into 3, I have _never_ had someone balk if I ask if I can share their outlet

    Bring at least a spare set of underwear and socks in your carry on. Going completely carry on is hard for international business travel — may need high levels of formality for multiple days, etc — but you absolutely want to be able to change the stuff in contact with a lot of skin no matter what happens.

  95. Brain the Brian*

    Use your company’s travel agent if you have that option. They will be able to help you rebook if necessary while you’re overseas — especially helpful given the vast increase in flight delays and cancellations the past several years.

  96. AnonRN*

    I’ve seen a lot of tips about hydration and skin cream but the thing that makes the biggest difference for me on a plane is lubricating eye drops! My eyes get so dry I will rub them to the point of abrading them, and that’s including the fact that I usually turn the air vent away from me (or off).

    I also bring over-the-counter allergy meds (non-drowsy) with me because I tend to be sensitive to the local pollen even though I don’t really have allergies at home. Sneezing so much my ribs ached taught me that one!

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Oh yeah, my eyes suck (I have blepharitis, which makes your eyes very painfully dry), but twice daily eyedrops are part of my routine, so I didn’t think of that as being travel specific.

  97. nosurprisebills*

    Check with your cell provider about what is available at your destination / anywhere you’re traveling through, and adjust your plan if necessary.

    When I was traveling in Europe with students a few years ago, I was able to add international data and texting to my plan for ~$20 and then remove it when I got back. My co-chaperone didn’t need to make any changes to his plan. One of our students thought he had international data and texting when he didn’t and came home to a $1,000 bill.

    1. Catwoman*

      Another option is to get a local pre-paid SIM card at your destination. This can be especially nice if you are staying for longer than just a few days or will be making return trips. The benefits are cheaper data use (speaking from US to Europe experience) and having a local number, and the down side is that it can be a little technically advanced to set up on a dual-SIM phone or you may have to juggle phones or SIM cards if you don’t have a dual-SIM phone.

  98. Agile Phalanges*

    I have traveled for work, and I have traveled overseas, but never both at the same time. However, for preventing jet lag, my best advice is:

    If you can not sleep on planes and don’t want to try, book a flight that lands around dinner time in your destination. By the time you grab something to eat and check into your room, you can just fall into bed.

    If you may be able to sleep and want to optimize your chances, book the departure as late in the day (in your originating time zone) as possible, bring both earbuds and over-the-ear headphones (unless you’re positive what works best for you), book a window seat, bring a good travel pillow or alternative (or two), and take whatever chemical assistance you’re comfortable with (an alcoholic drink or two, a sleep aid you’ve used before, NOT BOTH), then do your best to relax and sleep. Then when you arrive, stick to the schedule at your destination, so if you arrive mid-morning, stay awake until at least a somewhat reasonable bedtime, even if you didn’t get good sleep on the plane. Hopefully you can book your flights to give you a day or two of wiggle-room to adjust before having to be “on” for work (as well as to account for delays!).

  99. Carrots*

    Here’s the text of a blog post I wrote on this subject a few years ago!!

    I just returned from a whirlwind work trip to the beautiful country of Nepal. While my experience in Nepal was extraordinary in every way, my experience getting there was…not. Here are some lessons learned from three tiresome days filled with lengthy flights, long lines, delays, and lost luggage:

    1) Demand all of your boarding passes at the beginning of your trip

    My outbound itinerary consisted of three legs:

    JFK->Abu Dhabi
    Abu Dhabi->Kathmandu
    When I checked in at Dulles, I was given my boarding passes for the first two legs, but not the third. The attendant at the check-in counter told me that I would need to get my third boarding pass at the airport in Abu Dhabi. “No problem,” I thought. “That’s just how things are done. I have a four-hour layover, so it will be fine.” Not so. Due to fog issues, there were massive delays and glacially-paced queues at the Abu Dhabi airport. My travel companions and I seemingly had no shot at getting our boarding passes in time. By the time we actually found an airport official to help us, still an hour before our flight, our seats had been given away to stand-by passengers because we hadn’t checked in. Of course, employees at the Abu Dhabi airport were confused as to why we didn’t already have our boarding passes in the first place, and said we could have gotten them at the initial Dulles check-in. Sigh. We wound up being re-booked on another flight to Kathmandu the next day, spending the night at a hotel in Abu Dhabi, and arriving a day later than planned.

    2) Take a carry-on

    While the two colleagues with whom I was traveling took carry-on suitcases, I decided to check my bag. “My last international trip went so smoothly,” I thought. “There won’t be any problems.” I must have forgotten to knock on wood, because my suitcase did indeed get lost somewhere along the line. I arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday, and didn’t hear any news about my bag until Tuesday afternoon (it was found, hooray!). Due to my schedule, I wasn’t able to pick it up until Wednesday. Thank goodness my colleague was able to loan me some work-appropriate shoes in the interim. In the future, I am planning to bring only a carry-on suitcase on international trips, especially for trips that are less than two weeks in warmer climates. This brings me to my next tip…

    3) Pack lightly

    I have a tendency to overpack, as I suspect most travelers do. But being without my suitcase reminded me how little I actually need on a trip. For five days, I lived a blissfully simple existence, with zero clothing choices and only the most basic of toiletries. On future trips, I intend to pack a very simple wardrobe with easily-washable items and no frills.

    4) If your luggage is delayed, be sure to get a WorldTracer ID number

    When your bag doesn’t show up at baggage claim, you are required to fill out a passenger property form to report it. The attendant should provide you with a 10-digit WorldTracer file reference number that you can use to track your bag. For whatever reason, the person I was working with did not write the number on my form, and I had to call United Airlines later to request it.

    5) Take photos of all of your boarding passes and bag tags

    I’ve gotten in the habit of snapping quick photos of all necessary travel documents with my cell phone. You never know when you might lose one of those tiny pieces of paper…or be asked to provide one to an airline staff member and not get it back.

    6) Remember your travel power adapter

    Invest in a worldwide power adapter and keep it on you. You never know when you might need to charge your cell phone and not be able to find the right kind of outlet. I completely forgot that I needed a travel adapter and had to borrow from others.

    7) Build in an extra vacation day at the END of a work trip

    My original itinerary had me arriving in Kathmandu with a day to spare before my conference, during which I had planned to explore and enjoy the city. However, due to my travel delays, I arrived a day later than planned. Thank goodness I had that extra day built in, or else I might have missed the first day of my meeting. However, from now on I am going to build in any vacation days at the end, rather than the beginning, of my work trips, to ensure I don’t miss out on the opportunity for some free time in a new place. I also think that one is more prepared (and less jet-lagged) at the end of the trip for doing some relaxing and exploring.

  100. Catwoman*

    My best tip for time zone adjustment is to pick your flights to arrive as late in the day as possible. You will be exhausted from the travel, and if you can go straight to bed or only be awake for a few hours, your body will get on the proper time more quickly. This isn’t always possible, but if you have some say in your schedule it can make a big difference.

    1. Catwoman*

      One more thing! Staying hydrated is also VERY important so I highly recommend having the Liquid IV or similar packets in your bag and bringing an empty water bottle through security so you can fill it on the other side. It’s obviously essential to drink lots of water while travelling, and being able to replenish those electrolytes will give you an extra boost to combat the fatigue, dehydration and jet lag as well.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      This is how I always traveled and it definitely worked. Then I had a flight that landed at 6am and there was no other option. Interestingly, I still did fine! Staying up, getting into the sunshine, and going to bed at a near normal time (for me) in the local time zone I think helped a ton.

  101. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    Check the requirements for the allowable amount of any prescription or OTC medications you may need while you are overseas. Some countries, like New Zealand, have strict rules about the types and amounts of these drugs which can be brought into the country. Some require you to even have a statement from your Health Care Provider as to why you need the prescription medication. I was on a Zoom Call last week that specifically mentioned this issue for Team Members travelling overseas.

    It is sad, but it needs to be mentioned, many countries are not open to either medically prescribed or recreational cannabis products or derivatives such as CBD Oils.

  102. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Get EarPlanes brand earplugs, because they protect against your ears popping, as well as against possible damage if you fly when congested. “Don’t fly when congested” is sound advice, but if you have to, this will protect your eardrums. I started using EarPlanes _after_ I punctured an eardrum on a cross-country flight while I had a bad cold.) I put the earplugs in my ears before the plane starts taxiing, and leave them there at least until we reach cruising altitude.

    If you may have trouble sleeping on the airplane, get an aisle seat for any overnight flights, so you can get up, walk around, and use the bathroom without having to wake anyone.

  103. Tara McCabe*

    I’m curious if Alison gets paid for marketing posts like this one appears to be. I mean, no problem if she does: I LOVE Ask a Manager and I want Alison to be duly compensated for her work. I even asked a question a couple of years ago and got very helpful advice from both Alison and the commentariat. But I hope that she’d alert us when a post is actually an ad.
    She does usually set out the advertising posts, so I’ll assume it’s the person purportedly seeking advice that’s doing the buzz-marketing.
    For what it’s worth, when a content provider (or pretend advice seeker) is straight with me that a post is an ad, I will check out the item if it’s of interest to me. When they’re not, I avoid the item. If it’s something that I want, I’ll find a competitor’s product and get that instead.
    Yeah…I guess I can be kind of petty. :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think this is a stealth marketing post, although I could definitely be wrong!

      If it’s a paid post, that’s always clearly disclosed up-front (marked as “sponsored,” etc.). This is not one!

  104. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    Here’s another one. If you have a medical device (eg CPAP or suchlike), most – if not – all airlines will not let you check it (this is a GOOD thing). Be prepared to carry it through the airport. On the plus side, it does not count against your two carry-ons. I put my meds in my CPAP case to give me a little extra roomin my regular carry-on

  105. Lady Lia*

    Not specific to work travel per se, but ALWAYS exchange local currency back to dollars/euros before leaving the country.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I just spend or keep mine :P I tend to use CC wherever possible, but have some cash to use when CC isn’t accepted. Near the end of the my trip, I make a point to try and use up my cash. Anything left comes home. It can make a fun gift for the kids in my life or, in cases like CAD and Euros, the chances are high that I’ll have a future opportunity to spend them.

  106. zebra*

    Make sure you are getting the most out of your travel budget. Some companies specify a fare class, which is annoying, but mine thankfully just gives me a dollar cap and I can book whatever I want within that cap. I consider it well worth the time spent scouring for upgrades and weird routes; I have a trip to Europe coming up next month and I managed to get premium economy on the way there and business on the way back, for about $50 under my total budget limit. If you’ll be traveling regularly it’s also worth the time and effort to become an expert in your airline of choice’s rewards program so that you can squeeze every dollar you can out of your status.

    As for the travel itself, I never plan ahead enough to stick to an ‘official’ jet lag prevention schedule, and I often can’t sleep on planes anyway. But I do try hard to keep myself on the new time zone when I arrive. If I arrive in the morning I do not let myself take a nap, no matter how difficult it is to stay awake all day. I try to find a place to walk to for dinner so I can move my body and get some fresh air around dinnertime, and then go straight to bed. The next morning I try to go for a little walk in the morning and again get that fresh air. If you don’t have meetings the next day it’s tempting to sleep in but try your best to avoid that.

  107. Violet Sorrengail*

    This is a great question!

    Check your work’s policy for international travel. Our policy is business class on flights >5 hours or international flights. Take FULL advantage of the highest level of travel they will pay for.

    If you check a bag, keep a change of clothes, essential toiletries, and medication in your carry on. Make sure your bag sizes are good for all airlines/countries you are flying through. Also check travel toiletry sizes are acceptable (I’ve had to throw things out in Heathrow!). If you can pack in just a carry on it will save you time of waiting for it when you land.

    Dress comfy for the plane, with layers for warmth adjustment, and bring something to help you relax (for me that’s reading) and something to keep you entertained (downloaded shows/movies).

    My carry on essentials:
    *Change of Clothes
    *Essential toiletries
    *Noise cancelling headphones
    *Neck pillow
    *Book/kindle/whatever you read
    *ipad with downloaded content
    *lots and lots of snacks
    *refillable water bottle
    *hydration packs (I like sugar free liquid IV)
    *eye mask/ear plug (most airlines will also have these for long haul flights)

    Once you arrive, stay awake until the local time you would normally go to bed. Then sleep through the night and you will feel on schedule the next morning!

  108. B*

    Bring the kind of snacks you want to eat when you’re hungry-nauseous (traveling and being awake at weird hours confuses my body, I get hungry but nauseous because you not tries to slow digestion at night usually). When you’re in that state, however much you might like trying different foods normally, the fact that you cannot find a simple sandwich without horseradish on it in the airport or whatever might drive you over the edge. Tired/hungry/nauseous means eating like a toddler sometimes so prepare for it.

    When I arrive at my destination I try to stay outside in the natural light without sunglasses for as long as possible and stay awake at least until 9. It’s very difficult for sure but I’m trying to convince my body what time it is

    I also make sure on that first day that I get snacks for my hotel room because I really hate waking up at 3 am starving and unable to go back to sleep and having to wait 3-4 hours to get food because nothing is open! By that point I will be cranky AF and my whole day is off to a bad start, so snacks are a worthwhile investment

  109. What is even happening*

    My first thought is that 30+ hours of flights including layovers is extremely long even for travelling to the other side of the world, so I would urge you to make sure that you are getting the best travel conditions available within your work situation. That is, if you are entitled to business class after a certain number of hours (and 30+ would more than qualify!), then make sure you get do booked on business class, or make sure you are getting the most direct routing possible with fewest layovers, check that your employer is not trying to nickel and dime you because travel is exhausting no matter which way you slice it; the shorter the better.

    I’ve worked in high-travel jobs for all my career, so 25+ years, and here are my best tips:
    – create a packing list in advance and update it every time you pack to improve it
    – try on ALL the clothes you are taking before you pack them (learned the hard way sometimes they don’t fit or just weren’t the vibe I was going for and that is very annoying)
    – sleep as much as you possibly can on the plane (take whatever tools, meds you need)
    – resist the urge to work on the plane! you will arrive stressed and exhausted; focus on rest, whatever that is for you
    – push through and sleep at the correct schedule in the arrival location (exception is if you arrive early in the morning, take a nap of no more than 3 hours, set up your alarm!, which is around the maximum for most people’s normal sleepcycle, sleeping a full sleepcycle will be far more restful than getting up in the middle)
    – take melatonin 1 hour before you want to be asleep
    – 4-wheel carry-on with a purse/bag that you can slide/hold on the top so you physically carry nothing while walking in the airport (conserve your energy)
    – carry-on: everything essential for the first 3 days in case your luggage is delayed (for me: 4 underwear, all the bras I’m taking on the trip, pijamas, swimsuit, relaxed outfit, 1-2 outfits for the major activity I’m going for, toiletries in 1L bag for security check, sandals, empty travel cup, documents, jewellery, a book, electronics and ALL the plugs, gifts)
    – dress comfortable enough that you could run to catch a bus, but nicely enough that you could go straight to your work agenda if you must (I have a ‘travel outfit’ that I use for just this)
    – on my seat: noise-cancelling headphones, a light sweater I can put on or use as a tiny blanky, a book, phone, charger
    – I tend to order special meals even if not allergic because you often get them first and they are often better as they’re cooked in smaller batches
    – during a layover, walk walk walk! and eat a nutritious meal
    – drink as much water as you can stomach, easy to forget how dehydrating planes are
    – If you’re a vagina owner (I am), wear thin long maxipads, you will feel fresher, planes make you sweaty and etc.
    – brush your teeth, wash your face, arrange your hair and do a quick wet towel clean before getting off the plane in case you are met by colleagues, have to go straight to work (you can also just change outfits then to be fresher)
    – during the trip resist the urge to have a full day of work and go touristing all night, you will keel over way too quickly; conserve your energy to focus on your goal and do what you can on the margins of that.

    If you travel regularly you’ll slowly develop little tricks and habits that make sense for you. For example, I have a designated carry-on and purse for travel where I keep fully packed toiletry bag and other foundation items like copy of passport/docs, quick dry towel, etc. Then when I have to go, I just add the variables (type of clothes, work docs, etc) and go. I have a ‘travel outfit’ and designated pouches where I put jewelry, etc.

    Hope you get rest, enjoy your trip and get the most out of your work/activities!

  110. OrdinaryJoe*

    I haven’t used this but I am preparing for an international trip in a couple of weeks and Delta is advertising some mobile app from the US Government …

    “If you are a United States or Canadian citizen, who does not have Global Entry, download the free Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app at to pre-submit your passport information prior to arrival. You will receive a QR code to show at designated lanes in Customs, speeding up your journey.”

  111. Yikes Stripes*

    Be aware of any physical disabilities you have which may be exacerbated by travel and plan accordingly! For instance, I partially tore one of my Achille’s tendons a while back and walking any kind of distance followed by sitting for an extended period of time will frequently make it lock up – and if I push it at that point I can wind up with some very annoying pain and a limp for several days. These days I check to see how big the airports I’m flying in/out of are, where the gates for the airline I’m flying are, and will ask for a wheelchair assist if I can tell it’s going to be an issue for my ankle – and I always make sure to have a few $10 bills to hand out as tips to the people helping me to my gate. Also, I always fly with salonpas patches, kt tape, and ibuprofen in my carryon, just in case I wind up pissing my ankle off anyway and it’s telling me off about it.

    If you’re a plus size traveler, I cannot recommend buying your own seat belt extender enough. It’s such a relief to not have to worry about getting one on each flight – just make sure you remember to take it with you!

  112. Katherine*

    Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on, as well as hygiene items. It’ll come in handy if your bags are delayed. Wear comfortable clothes, and have a sleep mask and ear protection. Sleeping a couple of hours on the flight helps you to feel more human when you get there. Compression socks are a must. I also pack a pair of slippers in my carry-on, because my feet will swell on overseas flights, making my shoes uncomfortable, but going barefoot is icky.

  113. Coin Purse*

    I had a domestic travel crisis this summer and needed a huge pile of cash for auto repairs. That’s when I found out my credit union had a very low daily ceiling on withdrawals. They were sure I was a victim of senior fraud and it took a ton of calls to reassure them that car repair is *that* expensive. So check your withdrawal limit with your financial institution.

  114. Happy flyer*

    The Jet Lag Fast, courtesy of Harvard.

    It works. It totally works. I’ve flown around the world, waking up in 4 time zones in 9 days, with no jet lag. I haven’t ever had jet lag since I started doing this.

    Essentially, you figure out when your first breakfast is in the new time zone, and you stop eating 12-16 hours before that. The idea is that hunger controls your circadian rhythms as much as (or more than) light. When you wake up in the new time zone, you’re hungry — and your body says, “Wait– hunger… light… It’s morning!” You eat breakfast, confirming that it’s morning. And your brain shifts to the new time zone.

    It works. Yeah, if you stayed up all night on a red-eye and got no sleep, you’ll be tired from that, but none of the brain fog that comes with jet lag. It works.

  115. Erin*

    EmergenC or Airborne to take at the first sign of a cold! Also I usually medicate with Advil PM the first couple nights so that I’m ready for work.

    I also pack a small pouch of things that I want to keep handy during the flight so I can put it in the seat pocket and not have to dig in a bag. Things like chapstick, tissues, meds, earbuds, gum eye drops.

    And just remember to take the good with the bad. Sometimes everything goes smoothly and it’s an easy trip and sometimes it’s a nightmare of delays and rude passengers. It’s a crapshoot.

  116. Cazaril*

    The digestive system is also regulated by the circadian clock. I found when traveling from the West Coast of the US to England that I’d feel ill if I ate a large breakfast, because my stomach was expecting to be asleep. It’s important to eat on the new schedule, but I’d have to keep breakfasts and lunches light for several days. This for me lasts longer than the sleep disturbances (at least once I discovered Ambien). However, in Australia, I enjoyed hearty breakfasts!

  117. Reeneejune*

    Pack a spare set of clothes in your carry-on, just in case your luggage is delayed or lost, or there’s a flight delay and you unexpectedly have to stay overnight somewhere without your bag. It’s something I do on all travel as a larger bodied person as I know it can be difficult to quickly replace my clothes if my bags don’t arrive.

  118. Nina Bee*

    – Noise cancelling headphones (make sure they have the two prong adapter as well)
    – Saline spray for nose as it can get really dry in the plane (plus face/hand moisturiser)
    – Bottle of water to refill after security gate if possible
    – Most long haul flights have entertainment (check the airline’s info on movies, games, music etc) but sometimes downloading podcasts or music is good for not needing to stare at a screen
    – I’ve had my food messed up a few times (vegan travelling ftw) and not every airport has good options but taking snacks or those insta noodles in a pot are good options (air steward/esses can put in boiling water for you)
    – Device charger (some cases like Away have built in options that are quite handy!)
    – Pillow or eye mask if you prefer that but most long haul flights give you a blanket and pillow
    – Good to buy empty <100ml reusable containers to decant your products like shampoo, moisturiser etc into for flying. Usually you get a small bag so don't take too many with you

  119. Notasecurityguard*

    had a job with HHS that was 90% air travel for up to a few days at a time

    if you can for the flight WEAR SANDALS if not go with soft stretchy shoes

    if you can be asleep on the flight a benadryl always knocks me out

    snacks you want something salty, something sweet, and something savory. ideally high in protein carbs and sugar as well. I recommend beef jerky, peanut butter m&ms and nutter butters.

    for entertainment I’m a fan of a decent paperback, collections of short stories are my choice

  120. Despairingly unemployed*

    Miers lab No Jet Lag homeopathic ‘pills’ are what I’ve been taking on my international flights (my last one not quite 2 weeks ago), I didn’t have much jetlag but I think that was mostly due to NOT sleeping for… well over 28hrs (I don’t recommend that hahaha).

    Been wanting to get a Trtl neck pillow myself so glad to see people are enjoying it! And seconding (x4398) compression socks.

  121. 123*

    I have taken many, MANY long flights. Bring a neck pillow, a fleece cap large enough to cover your eyes, and earplugs. Loosen your shoes. Take four Tylenol PM and just sleep through it.

    The fleece cap is important! You can use a sleeping mask to cover your eyes but you still need something to keep your head warm and cozy.

    Other than that, not much special. Bring your own snacks, eat Raisin Bran often, fill up at airports because airline food sucks, and drink water (not liquor!).

  122. Daisy*

    I just got back from Greece-10 1/2 hours over, 12 hours return. I used the Timeshifter App and had no jet lag in either direction. I was able to sleep 7 hours on the way there and 5 hours on the flight back. Fully functional and sleeping normally the next day. I wore compression socks and they worked well (my ankles have a tendency to swell). My only other “secret” was to take a tiny Evian water facial mister in my carry on-a spritz on your face feels so refreshing in the dry cabin air.

  123. Bay*

    I’ve found that these days the liquids all in one bag is enough for even the stricter security checks– it doesn’t have to be a plastic quart bag. When I lived in the US, travel size bottles seemed to always the maximum allowable size, not necessarily a reasonable size for the contents. I have managed to collect tiny or very small bottles/tubs for everything I need, so my entire toiletries kit for a night or a month is smaller than my two fists. By not adhering to the plastic bag rule, I can use a case meant for toiletries– so easy to organize. I underestimated what a difference it would make to have an excellent toiletries system, but I really recommend figuring it out so it feels easy to have anytime and easy to use even around sinks with no counterspace

    1. J*

      I currently live in Asia and make trips back every quarter to DC. I swear by the homeopathic Jet Lag pills I found on Amazon. I bought them on a whim thinking nothing would help but my goodness they do. One every two hours and when I land, and I go to sleep around 9 pm and sleep the night through. It might be a placebo effect, but at this point I don’t care!

  124. EuropeanNewbie*

    This isn’t really the kind of tip you were looking for … but in case it’s helpful to others. DO NOT go on a work trip to train a new software program and think you can bring 12 laptops thru customs without causing a major scene. Thank goodness for the local IT guy who picked up his phone and spoke Dutch to clear things up so that I wasn’t arrested.

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