Best Travel Hacks for International Travel

As more states and countries open up and relax restrictions, people are going to start to travel. I know my first trip will be to Kenya and I’m looking forward to planning a trip soon.

I spent 23 years in the military and during my military career and since then, I have traveled fairly extensively both stateside and internationally. In the military you were limited to what you could take on a deployment so had to learn to make the best use of space. There’s also something called a military hop where you can “hop” on a cargo plane or government contracted flight headed to your destination. I traveled on many of these flights and one Christmas my kids and I hopped from the UK to New Jersey to spend Christmas with my sister.

Whether these are reminders to some or brand new ideas, it signifies the return to some semblance of normal after COVID stopped all travel and movement for over a year. These are hacks for long international travel and can also be applied to shorter hops.

1. In Airport Hotel

For long trips where you will change planes to continue onto your destination, consider booking an extended layover and reserve yourself an in airport hotel if available in the terminal. Many international terminals have in airport hotels that can be booked for a few hours.

I like to fly through Amsterdam on my way to Kenya. They have 2 in airport hotels. Yotel books in blocks of 4 hours. Why is this important? Flying to someplace like Africa or any other country where you will fly part of the way then change planes to continue your journey is hard on your body. Getting an in airport hotel get’s you out of the hustle and bustle of the airport and gives you a chance to take a shower and freshen up and lay down for a short bit until you have to get on another plane.

Let’s take Kenya as an example. I live in Southern California and fly out of LAX. For international flights they want you there 3 hours before or at best 2 hours. So you get up, shower, get dressed, haul your bags to the car and head to the airport. By the time you get to the airport and get your bags out, check in, go through security you might have worked up a sweat. Then you wait for the plane, board, fly the 11 hours to Europe, get off, go to the next plane through the packed airport, fly another 9 hours, go through customs, get you bags, and finally get to your destination. That’s more than 24 hours of travel.

Taking the time to take a break in between and get out of the hustle and bustle of the airport helps you to not tire out as much. You can take a shower and take some time to relax. When you go to get on the next flight, you are refreshed and feel a little like you just got to the airport. It seems like only a 9 hour flight instead of 24 hours of straight travel. You can book in advance. Google the airport you are going through plus “in airport hotel.”

 2. Pack Extra Clothes in Your Carry On

You definitely need to pack extra clothes if you are going to stay in airport and freshen up. However, even if you traveling a short distance, it’s always good to have some travel toiletries and a change of clothes in case something happens with your flight.

Flights are cancelled, overbooked or schedules change all the time. If your first flight leaves late you might miss your connecting flight or the flight is cancelled due to weather or mechanical failure or something else. On my last trip to Kenya I purposely booked the route I did because it had a 6 ½ hour layover in London and I planned to see my Goddaughter for a few hours and then take a shower in the airport lounge (another option if the airport doesn’t have a hotel or you have other plans).

I was flying from LAX to Salt Lake City, Utah then onto London. There was only one problem. Around the time the flight left LA, a massive storm hit the UK. As I approached the gate where the flight was to depart, we were notified all flights to the UK were cancelled. Had this happened in LA, I could have easily been rebooked through Amsterdam or another location but since I was in Utah there weren’t that many options. I was rebooked on another flight for the next morning and went to the Delta Sky club where they helped with a hotel and gave me a toiletry kit.

Thankfully, I had a change of clothes and toiletries with me as my luggage was loaded on the plane and had to be unloaded and then stored overnight. They were allowing people to get items from their luggage if they needed to but I’m sure that took hours.

Always be prepared with a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

 3. Make your own arrangements vs standing in line and waiting to be rebooked

Once you have been notified that a flight is cancelled or it looks like it’s going to be cancelled, call and rebook yourself instead of waiting in line with all the frustrated passengers.

I did that for the example above and another time when the plane had mechanical problems. I was at John Wayne Airport in Orange County heading to a speaking gig when the announcement came that there were issues with the plane, then another announcement that they were waiting on a specialty mechanic from LAX. In traffic terms that meant 2 hours before they would even get there.

I immediately called the airlines and booked a new flight leaving in a few hours. I was going to get in very late but would make the engagement for the next day. As I was on the phone booking the flight, the announcement came that my current flight was cancelled and people would need to get in line to rebook. I had already taken care of that so went to a restaurant and ordered lunch. Stress alleviated.

4. Bring “TSA Socks”

If you are wearing sandals, flip flops or shoes with no socks or tights/hose and go through the line where you have to take your shoes off, have a pair of socks to slip on so you don’t have to walk on that floor.  

One time I wanted to take my shoes off because I knew they were going to alarm when I went through but the TSA agent wouldn’t let me. I had the socks and put them in my pocket and the agent asked me what that was and I said socks for when my shoes alarm and he told me I couldn’t do that. So I had to negotiate to put them in a container that they didn’t send through and of course when I walked through my shoes alarmed so I had to take them off. Next time instead of bringing thicker socks, I brought some thin anklet socks that I put in my pocket ahead of time.

Another option is to make sure you are wearing socks or tights with your outfit to avoid this but many people I see going through airports wear shoes or sandals without any socks. This is a solution for the walking on a million people’s dirt on the floor with your bare feet.

 5. Use Packing Cubes or Roll Your Clothes

Packing cubes have become all the rage. They are great and you can organize your clothes into specific outfits or you can put different things in different cubes such as underwear, beach clothes, pajamas/robes etc.

I use a packing cube also for my carry on clothes described above. When I change clothes on a long trip, the packing cube then becomes a laundry bag for the dirty clothes.

Before packing cubes most people I knew outside of the military would fold their clothes. From what I found that doesn’t allow enough room in the suitcase and often times people are sitting on their suitcase to close it. While there are some things like suits and dresses that should not be rolled, things like underwear, socks, sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts etc should all be rolled to allow for easy access to items and to get more items situated in the suitcase.

Rolling your clothes will make even larger items fit better in a suitcase or backpack. I roll my clothes that I put in the packing cubes as well. It makes it easier to access and things fit more effectively when rolling vs laying them in or folding.

Here is a video with an example of how to roll a larger jacket or sweatshirt to make it compact and easy to store.


These are a few of the travel hacks I have used to make traveling easier and avoid stress. We’ve all seen the videos of people going off in airports when something goes wrong. Traveling can be stressful, these are some simple suggestions to make your travel easier to handle and possibly stress free.

More hacks are coming your way in future blog posts. Stay tuned. Part 2 will be next week.

I’d love to hear your travel stores, comment on the blog.

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