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We left Texas a few days ago and arrived in France yesterday. It was a long trip and I’m recovering from my jet lag. Here’s part of the checklist I go through right before leaving for a long trip like this. Maybe it helps you for your next trip 🙂

1. Double-check your seat assignment for all the flight segments

If you book with an airline that lets you choose your seats, do so! This is especially worth it for those long transatlantic flights. Maybe you really want to be able to lean against a window and sleep or maybe you want an aisle seat, so you can walk around when you feel like it (that would be me). Sometimes airlines release emergency exit seats with extra leg room close to the travel date, so this would be the time to get them. And here’s my favorite website for the insight scoop on which seats are good and which ones aren’t: Seatguru. You can find the specific airplane using your flight number and they show you which seats have power outlets, which have extra legroom, etc. Makes it so much easier!

2. Check in online

Some airlines don’t offer it, but if they do, I think there is an advantage to checking in online even if you have luggage that you need to drop off at the counter when you get to the airport. You can double-check your seat assignment if you haven’t done so already. If there are upgrades to be handed out, the check-in time is usually a criterion (after frequent flyer status, ticket class, etc. of course). And… apparently it also protects you to some extent from being bumped to the next flight if the flight is full. A friend of mine almost didn’t get on a plane once because the airlines had overbooked it and since most of the other passengers had checked in before her, there were almost no seats left.

3. Get your travel documents in order

Print your tickets and booking confirmations for hotels and car rentals. Lay out your passport and immigration papers (into other countries or back in the country if you are an expat like me).

4. Email Yourself

I’ve only recently read this somewhere, but I thought it was a good tip: Email yourself copies of your passport, visa/immigration paperwork, credit card numbers (how else will you tell them what to cancel if things get stolen), and travel insurance contacts.

5. The Snack-Pack

Don’t laugh! I pack a snack-pack 🙂 First of all, I am not a big fan of over-expensive and fatty airport food. Second, I like to snack when waiting (in airports or airplanes). I usually try to include some healthy options and some fun options – like a few granola bars, maybe an apple, some nuts, and a chocolate bar or so. If you ever get stuck on a plane and you get hungry, you’ll thank me for you snack-pack. I usually do most of the shopping three, four days before the trip, so that I can pack everything the night before.

6. The Carry-On (plus my purse)

A night before the trip or so, I start laying out things for the carry-on. It’s usually a change of underwear and a T-shirt in case my luggage gets delayed (I’ve been burned when I arrived in China without and they didn’t have things my size), the snack-pack from above, some travel-size essentials (cream, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.), some drugs (the legal stuff! You don’t wanna be at 30,000 feet without Advil either, right?), some electronics (my little netbook with movies for the plane, my cell, my little camera, my chargers), and a book or magazine. I think that’s it. Well, and whatever is in my purse: the travel documents, the wallet, and all that good stuff.

7. The Luggage

You didn’t think I’d be able to cram all the presents and clothes into a carry-on, did you? I start doing laundry a few days before the trip, so that I can pack everything the night before. I lay out things I want to bring on the trip. I’m always trying to pack less and less, so I really try to just go with my favorites. I’m getting better at packing light, but I’m far from good. Anyways, I lay everything out, and then take out the most comfortable/heavy things (big jacket, comfy winter boots for this trip), so I can wear them on the flight. And of course, don’t forget your little gifts for everybody. Especially for the kind people who pick you up and house you while you’re on the road 😉

8. At Home

Right before we leave tomorrow, I’ll make sure that the electronics are off, the coffee maker is clean (Ever come home to a moldy coffee filter? Because I have…), the fridge is empty, the trash has been brought out, the plants got an extra dose of water, the alarms have been set, and I have luggage, carry-on, and purse in the car.

Ready, set, go! Safe travels this Christmas season everybody! Did I forget anything? Please let me know if there are some other good tips you want to share about the last minute travel preparations I might have forgotten.

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