Our Travel Coordinators have been around the world a time or two.
Combined, the seven ladies that make up GLA’s pre-departure team have traveled thousands of miles to dozens of countries across almost every continent both as GLA staff members and independently. (We’re coming for you, Antarctica!) Pouring all those years of experience into helping teen travelers prepare to navigate their adventures abroad is what they do best.
We picked their brains for advice on how to keep international travel fun, comfortable, and hassle-free!
The first step to any journey is packing. All agree that when it comes to luggage, less is more, especially when traveling to more rustic locations. Using the smallest bag possible (think backpack or carry-on vs. full-sized suitcase), staying organized, and considering needs vs wants are all key components of a successful pack.
“If laundry service is available (and it is on two- and three-week programs) you need a maximum of 10 days worth of clothes. You’ll find yourself wearing your favorite shorts everyday anyway!” –Rachel
“Packing cubes are the best! It makes the packing/unpacking process so much faster. Invest in multiple cubes and then keep like items together. Then you won’t have to go digging through your bag for a pair of socks.” — Lauren
“Feel like a packing wizard and pack twice the clothes of your peers just by rolling your clothing items instead of folding! Remember to use your shoes or water bottles to store your socks or other small items. It’s a great use of space, and every inch counts. –Rachel
“If you’re like me, your eyes will be opened to the needs and wants of those around you. Instead of bringing your ‘favorite’ or best items, maybe pack some clothes you wouldn’t mind donating or leaving behind. Not only are you lightening your load, you’re also leaving a piece of yourself behind in the country that impacted you forever.” –Brittany
Remember the Essentials
Believe it or not, every year we see at least one student who arrives at the airport on time, bags packed, boarding passes printed…but without their passport. Or imagine this scenario: you stop to eat a meal on a layover and accidentally throw your passport away with your burrito wrapper. True story. Don’t let this happen to you!
Keeping your travel documents (passport, itinerary, address of where you’ll be staying in country) and anything else you can’t live without on you is key. (Think prescription medications, a change of clothing, contact lenses, etc.) If you can’t imagine going a day or two without, keep it in your carry-on. While most luggage makes it to its destination without issue, checked baggage does come with the risk of being delayed.
“Always keep your passport in the same place and try not to put it in your pants pockets, as that’s a great way to lose it. I have a pouch with a zipper where I like to keep my passport and boarding passes. Anytime I take them out, I put them right back in when I’m done.” –Heather
“Passport, medication, spending money…anything else is replaceable. Keep these on you until you arrive at your destination! Keep an eye on your carry on. I like to keep my essentials in a small backpack, that way I can find what I need quickly (i.e. my passport, flight itinerary, etc) and immigration lines are a breeze!” -Brittany
Win at Airplane-ing
OK, so a non-stop, 14-hour flight on a cramped airplane might not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time–but you an weather it like a champ with a little preparation. Catch some zzzs, finally watch that movie (or five) that you missed in the theater, play a game of seat-back airplane trivia, get to know your fellow travelers, or obliterate your summer reading list. (The Travel Portal has some great recommendations for books & films related to your program.) The options are endless!
“Bring a pen! You will have to fill out a customs form, and it’s much easier when you have your own pen. Be the hero of your row!” –Rachel
“I always travel with a sarong in my carry on bag. Having an extra light layer can come in handy on those chilly flights. More importantly, it’s nice to shield your sleeping face from view and sarongs are so light, and as they are very thin you can breathe easily through them.”. –Heather
“Be strategic when picking your seat. Want to snooze? The window seat makes for good resting. Frequent bathroom goer? Opt for the aisle. I love looking out the window and trying to identify landmarks as we go.” –Jenica
“Bring a hoodie for the flight! Even if you are going to a country that is super hot, airports and planes are often cold. A hoodie will be a lifesaver!” –Rachel
“Some airlines don’t offer seat-back TVs anymore, and for some US to Latin America flights they instead offer a streaming service to your phone. If you were banking on passing the time with movies, make sure to download the app in advance as it’s usually too late to do it on the plane.” –Ros
“Stay hydrated! Sitting for long periods of time can do a number on your digestive system and make for an uncomfortable flight. Drinking lots of water will help keep you feeling fly while you fly. If your flight is longer than a few hours, take a stroll through the aisles periodically as well.” –Jackie
If you’re looking for packing tips and ideas, GLA’s Pinterest page has got you covered. Check us out for packing tips, sustainable product recommendations, teen reading lists, and more!