Packing a years worth of life into two suitcases, weighing under 50 pounds (22.7 Kg), is difficult. Lugging them from one continent to another, through various airports is a stressful ordeal. So here are 5 tips on traveling and packing that will hopefully make life easier.
- Leave small electronics at home. When I went to Austria I tried to learn the difference between a converter and an adapter. After blowing out an alarm clock by trying to plug my 110volt alarm clock into the 220 volt socket, I understood. Small electronics (ie. Alarm clocks, hairdryers, etc.) and voltage differences don’t combine well. Battery powered alarm clocks work well, and a day or two without a hairdryer should be survivable. While you can buy voltage converters, they can be difficult to use and expensive to purchase. Adapters simply allow the two different physical plugs to plug into one another. These are more common, and are available at most travel stores, in airports, and in some major shopping centers.
- No pillows. Pillows are cheap in the US, costing $10 at Wal-Mart or other shopping centers. They are not worth trying to cram into a suitcase (no matter how squishy they are), where space for other important things (like clothes) could go. You might have to go without a pillow for a few days, but at least you will have clothes to wear during that time. If this worries you, bring a small travel pillow.
- Don’t mention Lebkuchen at Customs. While customs officers are nice enough people, you don’t want to spend hours talking with them, after spending hours on a plane. It makes for a very long day and bad start. The items listed are likely to be confiscated at the customs check. For more specific information check out the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (cpb.gov) statement.
Here’s a story: When I came back from Frankfurt, I bought my sister Lebkuchen, which is a special kind of German cookie. The customs officer asked if I had any food in my bag. I didn’t want to say no, and have him find my Lebkuchen package, so I told him yes. He questioned me, being very polite, but since in my two or three times through U.S. customs no one had asked me questions before, I was a bit nervous. It’s like a cookie, I told him, pulling the package out. He tried to read the ingredients, but since they were in German, he gave up. No meat or fruit in it right, he asked, glancing down at the German label again. Not that I know of, I replied. Alright, he said, go on through. The moral of this story, is don’t mention Lebkuchen or cookies at customs.
- Keep your passport on you at all times. You will need your passport constantly on your trip to the U.S. . You need it to get your ticket, to get through security, to get onto the plane, and finally to get out of customs. A passport holder which hangs around your neck or hides under your belt will be worthwhile. Vanity aside, it’s a convenient place to put your passport and ticket, and it also keeps it safe throughout your trip. Also, in case something does happen to your passport, keep a photocopy (somehow certified that it truly is your passport) both in your checked baggage, and in your carry on luggage, and finally at home. If the worst happens, and you do loose your passport, at least you will have some sort of ID and be able to get the help you’ll need to get a new passport.
- Take a deep breath and relax. If you forget something, the world will not end. There are stores here in the U.S which will probably carry it, or you can most likely have someone mail it to you.