What’s On Your Packing List, Domestic Vs. International

Lucky discusses this morning the documents he prepares to take with him on his international travels.

In sum:

  • itineraries and receipts with seat assignments and operating carriers’ record locators (the ticketing carrier will give youa reservation number but each operating carrier will have their own, it’s useful because that’s the number that will let the airline pull up your reservation, you call each airline individually to get that number and usually call each airline indiivdually to get seat assignments or at least the best seats). 
  • hotel reservations and printed copies of any hotel correspondence. I’ve more than once arrived and a hotel couldn’t immediately find my resevation, back in April it was my fault as I had booked for the wrong date! But the printed confirmation let me through the relevant security door at the airport and onto the airport hotel’s shuttle, and also let us sort out what I had done when I got to the checkin desk and they didn’t know who I was. I’ve also been promised upgrades and gotten it in writing, only not to be assigned that room when I arrived, and the printed correspondence saved the day. Like Lucky I find it useful to have printouts so I can just hand the page over rather than booting up my compuer and showing it on the screen or futzing around for a printer.  
  • copy of your passport, which you keep in a place separate from your passport 
  • any rules you may need such as for lounge access, for an upcoming trip for instance I’m currently scheduled to arrive in first class and depart internationally on a short flight in business and I have an email from the airline telling me that I do have first class lounge access during my layover. I can hand over the correspondence if I get any pushback at the lounge, and I really do want to use the first class rather than business class showers in this case, there’s a huge difference.

All makes good sense, and pretty much matches my own practice. I guess the overall question, though, is how do you prepare for an international trip? And how does that differ from a domestic trip?

For each trip I have planned I make an Outlook folder. Active upcoming trips are easily viewable. Past trips are archived, sometimes I do find it useful to go back to an old trip to find email correspondence to share with others or to find contact information for a tour company. A standard domestic trip usually has my flight itinerary, hotel reservation, and car rental reservation. That may be it, and I probably don’t even print those things.

A quick international trip is much the same, I have an upcoming Europe trip of just about four days where I have just flight and hotel, and I know how to navigate the city without car. I do have some notes and copied Flyertalk threads that will be useful to refer back to for dining suggestions, but I’ll manage those once I’m across the pond.

But a two-week international trip involving multiple cities is a different matter. I might have half a dozen or more different hotel reservations, bookings for car services, plans for a tour and a cooking class, and instructions on how to acquire train tickets. It all needs to stay organized. And as much as I hate paper generally, electronic and paper are the way to go.

Probably the biggest single item I suggest adding to the list of predeparture printed items is the name and address of each hotel in the local language rather than English. If I don’t speak the langauge I don’t want to count on my ability to find the property. I don’t want to count on an airport cab dispatcher to understand my English and communicate to the driver in the local language. I want to be able to hand the cab driver a piece of paper they’ll understand, which will get me to the hotel. I usually email the hotel asking for this, and it’s never a problem.

In addition to printed items, my packing is slightly different for a long international trip than a short domestic one.

Standard domestic items include a wireless pocket router (in case my hotel has only wired internet) and power adapters for laptop and phone,
Internationally I’ll add an empower adapter if the planes I may be flying have seat power that requires it, power adapters so I can use my US devices wherever I am, an unlocked GSM phone where I’ll use either a local SIM card or a cheap European SIM, and a small medicine kit. One of my old ANA first class amenity bags stores single dose packs of tylenol, pepto bismol, cold medicines, etc.

What are your standard packing items, short domestic hop or international?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Tripit has replaced mail folders or tags for all my trip planning. Everything goes into a tripit itinerary, and I print it off the night before I go. However, as it can be accessed on mobile, I don’t carry this printout around with me everywhere.

  2. I stock up on movies to watch, bring an extra laptop battery, ipod, a book, earplugs, noise canceling headphones, and a Clif bar.

  3. I use TripIt for organizing trips. It does not handle a lot of emailed receipts from smaller hotels or even European chains, but I can add stuff manually and it makes the wife much happier in that she can look at a day in the itinerary and know where I am rather than having a stack to look through.

  4. For international trips in countries where English is commonly spoken, I bring a local map from the internet on which I’ve highlighted in yellow my destination (eg. hotel). I’ve found it helpful when trying to explain where I want to go to a taxi driver at a train station or airport.

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