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5 Tips On How to Be the Best Frequent Flyer

Guest Blogger: Alicia Daniels, Program Assistant at the University of Illinois Study Abroad Office 

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330

Let’s be honest, we don’t choose to study abroad to be two hours away from home! As exciting as it may be to take in the sites of the “Big Buddah” in Hong Kong or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France we must realize it takes A LOT of time to travel to these places and more often than not we have to get there by plane. From personal experience, I can say that traveling around the world in a high speed Boeing is no walk in the park – unless you’re flying first class. From “stuffed” ears to the delicious boxed meals, sometimes the only thing that kept me going was the thought that I would soon be scarfing down delicious gelato in Rome. Since, I think everyone should capitalize on the opportunity to study abroad I want to share my 5 helpful tips for flying 30,000 feet high in comfort and style!

Tip 1: Drink Water

As much as your parents encouraged you to drink tons of water as a child, I’m afraid to say they are absolutely right! The cabin air is not humidified on a plane and this leads to chapped lips, dried nasal passages and thirst that needs to be quenched. Yikes! However, you should never fear, drinking water can negate all of these symptoms. Many kiosks and stores in the airport sell water bottles after security so stock up and avoid dehydration in between those free cups of soda and juice!

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Tip 2: Bring Travel Size Hand Sanitizer 

This may seem like a small request but it will help out your health in the long run. As you walk through customs and security you will be coming into contact with many people. Traveling, as fun as it may be, does make your immune system pretty low. One way to negate that is to bring hand sanitizer. Walgreens or any local drug store sells TSA approved sizes of sanitizer that can help you avoid some of the flu and cold germs you may encounter.

Tip 3: Bring Healthy Snacks 

Sure long distance flights have in-flight meals, however, you may get hungry in between. Buying snack foods such as nuts, granolas, carrots, etc. can help curve those hunger pains until the flight attendants come around again.

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Tip 4: Pack Light in Your Carry On Luggage

The under seat luggage storage is becoming as small as Alice after drinking her shrinking potion in Wonderland. I would suggest to pack only the basics in a carry-on to alleviate weight and stress when traveling. Make sure you have your required travel documents – passport, acceptance letter from foreign university, visa, etc. – along with an mp3 player and headphones of choice to zone out during the flight!

Tip 5: Get up & Walk Around

…only when your seatbelt sign isn’t on though. For some students, flying around the globe to the Philippines or New Zealand will take almost half a day! I don’t know about you, but sitting slightly upright above the Earth sounds more of a job for an astronaut than your regular day citizen. Being in that position for so long can cause swelling in the feet and ankles because there is such low cabin pressure, as well as dry air. Along with my number 1 tip of drinking water, walking up and down the aisle during safe times can help alleviate this issue. So go ahead, nudge your neighbor and get out of that middle seat – walking around can help your body so you can hit the ground running to your host university…and it isn’t so bad to use that as an opportunity for a potty break too!

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Staying Safe Abroad While Getting from Here to There

Travelling-safetyEvery country’s transportation systems are different, but there are a few rules that apply everywhere in keeping yourself and your things safe while in transit.

Universal rule #1: Don’t trust strangers.
While the majority of strangers who offer to help you find your way or with your things are legitimate, it can never hurt to be too careful when you’re en-route. Never leave your stuff with someone you don’t know, and always keep an eye on valuables. Some veteran traveler techniques include keeping your backpack in front of you or your hand on your purse or pocket while standing on the bus. You may feel silly at first, but you’ll soon notice that many locals travel like this.
Universal rule #2: Always stay more attentive abroad to what’s around you than when you are at home or on campus.
You may have taken public transportation before, but being an American in another country brings a lot more attention to you than in the States (or your home country). Always be monitoring your surroundings and look alert (i.e not lost!), whether in a taxi, bus, train, or walking.

Universal rule #3: Never arrive to a location at nighttime

Sometimes this cannot be helped because of the way train/bus schedules work out, but arriving to a location at night puts you at risk for criminal activity simply because there is typically less foot traffic and more dark or poorly-lit areas that make you an easier target, especially if you aren’t attentive. Always know how to get from the point of arrival to the final destination before beginning your journey, whether it be to and from class, or to or from cities in your host country.

Universal rule #4: Sign up for the US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan.
This free program provides you with the latest updates on travel warnings and alerts in the country you’re in.  It is highly recommended for anyone abroad—especially study abroad students.

In the end, the absolute best way to be safe is to ask trusted locals for advice (such as your housemates, Resident Director, International Student Office, etc).  Some good questions to ask include:

  1. What modes of transportation can be dangerous?
  2. How do I know if a taxi is legitimate?
  3. Are there certain bus stops and neighborhoods I should avoid?
  4. What is conspicuous to have out in the open on a bus/train? (ie credit cards, cell phone, iPhone, iPod, laptop, etc.)
  5. Will a photocopy of my passport instead of the original suffice for identification?

Learning how to get around while abroad is a wonderful experience, so don’t be afraid to dive in.  Just be smart!

~Jeanne Zeller, Illinois Study Abroad Office Peer Advisor