“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…” James 1:5
After my trip to Europe in 1978 with my three outfits as suggested by Arthur Frommer, I decided that was just a little too light to travel comfortably. I’m afraid I could not bear to look at those outfits after I returned and gave them away! All the photos looked like I seldom changed my clothes in 3 weeks. So here goes…
I start with prayer and ask God to bring to my remembrance what I should I take and wisdom to know what to leave behind. I then type a packing list and save it in my computer. About 1 week before my trip, I copy my previous list into a new file, delete and add things that are appropriate for the country I am visiting, and print it out. I divide it into Purse, Carry-on Bag, Checked Bag, and the outfit I will wear. Then if I need to buy anything, I’m not rushing around at the last minute. I get out my suitcase a few days before and line it with a plastic garbage bag in the bottom and inside the top pocket to protect it from rain and mud puddles. (Once they unloaded my suticase from the plane in a downpour and everything was soaked including a couple books.) Then I simply check things off as I put them inside.
I leave my LL Bean Bathroom bag hanging in my closet packed and ready to go at all times. That way I just throw in a few last minute things. I like to use my bathroom bag the day before I depart as if I’m in the hotel so I discover anything I have forgotten. I always carry these items in my bathroom bag: electronic thermometer, extra foam earplugs, Immodium, chewable Pepto Bismol (prevents traveler’s diarrhea), Charcoal caps (to remove toxins if you get diarrhea), Tylenol, ibuprofen, bacitracin, Qtips, cuticle scissors, tweezers, nail file, band-aids, shampoo, conditioner, small bar soap, Sambucol lozenges (anti-viral cures sore throat if taken first 24 hours), small sewing kit.
Pack light! (I still struggle with this.) Check the airline’s baggage limits. Usually, the international trips still let you check a 50 lb. bag free. Leave room for souvenirs. I take my oldest underwear and nightgown so I can toss them at the end to make room for things I want to bring home. I weigh myself first on my bathroom scale, then hold my suitcase and weigh again and subtract the difference. I aim for a 40-45 lb. checked bag going over. They now even weigh your carry on bag and limit it to 8 Kg (17 lb) on the last two airlines I took.
Take your PASSPORT! Show it to your traveling companion BEFORE you leave for the airport. Make 3 copies. Leave 1 at home, give 1 to your traveling companion, and put 1 somewhere in your carry-on bag. One lady drove 5 hours to the airport to go on a mission trip and discovered she forgot her passport. She missed the entire trip and lost all the money for her airfare. Expensive mistake! Enter your passport number in your cell phone contact list.
Print out your email airline ticket and hand it to the ticket agent with your passport. Email a copy to your family who stays behind. Keep both of them handy until you are in your airline seat and then put your passport in the SAME PLACE every time in your purse so it is easy to find. (My friend kept putting it in a different place and wasted lots of time looking for it.)
Wear a money belt and take 50 single US dollars. They are good around the world! Don’t change any money at the airport before you leave the USA as they have terrible exchange rates. Notify your ATM bank and credit card company before you go or they will shut down your card when you use it overseas because they will think it was stolen. Make copies of the front and back of them and store a copy in your carry-on bag. Put the 1-800 numbers in your cell phone contact list in case they are stolen so they are easy to call.
When you arrive at your destination, go to the ATM before you leave the airport and take out enough cash to last you a week. Your bank will charge you $5-10 every time you use your ATM so don’t take out small amounts. Stuff it in your inside pocket of your travel vest as fast as possible, then go to the restroom and put it in your money belt when you are inside the stall. Also, put your passport inside your money belt at this time. Only keep about $50 in your wallet or enough to cover the taxi to your hotel. Some people carry a “dummy wallet” with about $20 and an expired gift card to give a thief if you are accosted.
Items I carry in my purse: Colgate disposable toothbrush (doesn’t need water & has paste on it), Sea-Bands (prevents motion sickness-CVS), Zofran (by prescription) or Bonine (over the counter) for when the motion is severe, Earplugs on a string so I don’t lose them (Walmart hunting/camping section-$3), gospel tracts in English and the language of my destination country, 2 or 3 teabags.
Items for my carry-on bag: tablet (great for checking emails and taking videos), Kindle (good for reading-battery lasts longer than the tablet), charging cords, batteries, language phrase book, small Bible, flashlight, 3 pair underwear, 1 or 2 tops, swimsuit (impossible for me to find in another country if my checked bag doesn’t make it), personal medicine, collapsible water pouch ($1 Walmart). After you go through security, fill it up at the drinking fountain in the USA to save a few dollars. You can’t do this after you leave the USA because the tap water is not potable.
I carry an airbed (Coleman slim twin- Walmart $20 in the camping section) in my checked suitcase. I put it on top of the hotel mattress after inflating it since I am most comfortable on a soft mattress. It really makes each new bed feel like my airbed at home and I sleep so much better without a backache. If you take a battery pump with you, put the batteries in your carry on bag. I forgot to do this when I went to Israel, so they leaked all over and ruined the pump. I couldn’t find any D size batteries in Israel, so I blew it up by mouth the entire trip. My lungs had a good workout.
If I am going to a hilly country, I put my collapsible LL Bean walking poles which fit perfectly diagonally in the bottom of my checked bag. They were great in Israel! The others on the tour group said they wished they had brought theirs along. They have many steps without handrails and few elevators in many countries. No country I have visited is as handicap accessible as the USA.
Jet lag prevention: Nothing works very well for me, but this is what the experts say. Set your watch to the new time zone when you board the plane. Eat a healthy dinner at the airport after you go through security. If it’s an overnight flight, skip dinner on the plane, put in your earplugs, throw the blanket over your head, and try to sleep all night. Eat breakfast when they serve it. If you land in the morning, try to stay out in the sun all day to reset your internal body clock and don’t nap! Go to bed at the normal time in the new time zone. Take melatonin or a prescription sleep aide the first couple nights to help sleep. It takes 1 day to recover for every hour of time change. My best flight with the least amount of jet lag was when I flew all day to England, landed at midnight and went to bed immediately. I’m a very light sleeper, so I only catnap on the plane no matter what I have tried. I have to admit, I envy people who can sleep on a plane!
Stay hydrated since you lose 8 oz. of fluid for every hour you fly. Also, do leg exercises and stand up and walk hourly to prevent blood clots. I’m high risk for clots, so I also take a baby aspirin and wear Jobst compression knee socks. I like to walk to the rear of the plane and ask the flight attendant for a glass of water in between their service times.
Ask God to bless your trip, use you for His glory and honor, trust in Him, rest in Him, enjoy meeting people and making new friends! Remember He is the good shepherd and goes before you. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27