I remember the first time I travelled abroad. It was all a mad panic. I visited Dubai in 2009 and I had no idea how to navigate an international airport. There were constant announcements blaring over the speakers, long queues and a series of misadventures to locate the nearest restroom.
Now I navigate the airport with ease, it has become second nature. Flying is no longer this stressful process to get from point A to point B. Instead, I sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
Checking in for your flight can be a tedious process, but the online check in process helps you skip the long queue. The online check in opens 24 hours before your flight. It takes a few seconds to log in, secure your seat and voila!
Then all you need to do is check in your baggage when you get to the airport.
It is always useful to take a carryon bag along. Use it for cell phones, books, snacks, and laptops. I try to limit it to one carry on bag, which is in the form of a backpack. I squeeze in my camera equipment, laptop, passport (very important), wallet and cellphone charger.
Okay, so I throw a make-up kit in there too.
You are always expected to take a laptop out of your carry on to pass separately through the security check. Make sure that you have packed it in a way that it is easily removed from your bag.
Also, avoid queues with big families and babies. Rather slot in behind the business suits – they are usually more efficient.
Keep it simple. I have learnt to avoid belts and jewellery altogether. They take time to remove and put on again at the security checks which can hold up both you and the queue. I also plan ahead and check what the weather will be like when I land so I can be prepared. But it is important to also pack for your trip there. Airports often have air-conditioners and it can get quite cool, so I generally travel with a scarf and some fluffy socks.
Travel shoes are also important. Some airports are expansive and you may need to do a lot of walking. I usually stick to sneakers. Although I must confess, I admire those who can travel across the world in stilettos!
My dad always says, “All you really need is your phone, wallet and passport. The rest you can get there.”
You will be asked to show your passport a lot, so pack it somewhere that is easily accessible. Many countries will require to see your passport with your visa on arrival. Some may even ask for a copy of your visa documents which include flight details and host letters. Always keep printed copies with you.
This I learnt from my mom: keep hydrated. Even thought there is water supplied on the plane, she will buy a bottle to take on board. Sometimes the air hostesses are busy and cannot assist you immediately, which is not fun when you are parched. I’ve also learnt to pack snacks like dates or biltong to keep my blood sugar level steady on a flight – especially when there are long gaps between meals!