Twelve to 24 hours before departing for places exotic:
- Upload your trip documents (plane, hotel) to TripIt.com. There is a security risk in letting LinkedIn colleagues know where you’re going (TripIt is tied to LinkedIn) – you never know who they’ll tell – but TripIt does automatically inform family and co-workers who need to know where you are and will be. It’s also a single-source repository for all your reservations, itineraries, and receipts, making tax and reimbursement tasks easier later on. And alibis too, I guess.
- I have Snoozester.com send a robotic wake-up call to my bedside phone. Voluntarily getting up ‘n’ at ‘em at 3:30 a.m. to catch a plane is something my biorhythms just don’t let me do. Snoozester will repeat the call as many times as I’ve programmed. I generally choose Snoozester’s “pirate” voice; the sultry female voice doesn’t make me want to get out of bed. I can get additional free wakeup calls if you join as a result of my invitation. So if you want me to get this non-monetary kickback, send me your email address. Otherwise feel free to join directly at Snoozester :o(
- Check the weather at your destination. Weather.com will tell you if it’s unseasonable, raining, etc. Easier then to avoid showing up with a less-than-useful wardrobe.
- Check in for your flight using the airline’s web site. Objectively there’s not much point to this (unless it’s your best chance to choose the seat you want). You’ll still have to go through a rigmarole at the airport. But having the boarding pass in hand before leaving home gives a subjective sense of security, and they know you’re coming. If you’ve booked through airline A and your flight is operated by “partner” airline B, A’s web site won’t necessarily recognize your booking code. The sad truth is that airlines are not airlines any more, they’re just travel agents. The “partnerships” like Star Alliance are not truly integrated; they’ve linked tasks that are convenient for them, not for you. However, single bookings for multiple-carrier itineraries are something of an improvement over the past.
- Charge your cell phones, your computer, and your Kindle. If you’re not first to arrive at your departure gate, early birds will be hogging all the electrical outlets.
- Alert your credit/debit card issuers (and your credit union) that you’re traveling. Most have “travel alert” links on their sites, though they’re not obvious and you may have to go to the site map to find them. A catch is that the banks haven’t always installed the latest country lists in their drop-down menus. (USAA is a culprit, though they of all companies should know better.) You will have to phone the bank if the country you’re going to doesn’t show on the menu. You’ve got enough to do before you leave for Burundi; why go to all this trouble? If you don’t, the bank may assume a charge requested from Burundi is fraudulent; they’ll refuse the charge and start calling your home number to ask whether the card is stolen.
- Record “away messages” (your cellular provider boringly calls these “alternative greetings”) on your office and cell phones. Assuming your US cell phone does not work overseas, as mine does not. My message says I’ll be out of cell phone range, won’t be able to answer v-mail for a week, if you’re okay with that then go ahead and leave a message, otherwise send me an email, or for immediate help call <insert name of assistant or emergency contact>.
- Dehydration makes everything about traveling so much worse. Unless you enjoy buying bottled water on the concourse (or unless you travel first class, where they’ll bring you liquids at the twitch of your finger), take an empty water bottle and fill it from a drinking fountain or bathroom tap after you’ve passed security. Many airports even in undeveloped countries serve up potable water in their international airports. Caution: Secondary security check agents on US-bound flights may force you to pour out the water before boarding. Always worth a try, though.
- Use Google maps, Mapquest, or Michelin to get and print out directions from your hotel to every person you have an appointment with during your trip. Once at your destination, you may not have time or facilities* to print them. Printed directions are also a check on the honesty of taxi drivers.
* Alternatively, carry a compact thermal printer. They are convenient but need 15v DC input for charging. This is more than they can draw from your laptop’s USB port, so make sure you also have a converter that turns 110 or 220v into 15v with the right polarity. And a roll of thermal paper.