Kool Derby

Okay! Let me start by saying that I’m not Samantha Brown, Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa, or Andrew Zimmern, or Anthony Bourdain. However, I do my share of global travel, and I have a few tips that might help you prepare for your next international trip.

When traveling abroad, you must take many factors into consideration, including the flight, hotels, sightseeing, currency exchange rate, travel insurance, power adapters. I understand you cannot prepare for everything, but smart planning can help you have a terrific vacation or business trip – or both.

#1: Go to SeatGuru.com to Learn More About the Aircraft Layout

You are going to be in the air for a long time. The flight from Houston to Frankfurt is more than 10 hours long, and you can expect to be airborne about 14 hours from Newark to Beijing. Given the many hours you will be in the pressurized cabin, it’s recommended you find the best possible seat.

My recommendation is to navigate to SeatGuru.com, where their slogan is find the best seat before you fly. To find the type of aircraft you are flying, review your itinerary. With that information in hand, you can easily locate the seat map at SeatGuru.com, which labels seats as “Good Seat,” “Some Drawbacks,” “Poor Seat,” “Blocked Seat,” and will even display the lavatories. Of course, you want to sit as far away from the bathrooms as you can, especially on long flights. SeatGuru will also tell you which seats have power outlets.

#2: Call the Hotel to Confirm Wi-Fi Access

Most hotels today will offer Wi-Fi access, even the bed-and-breakfast locations. You can start by reviewing the hotel’s website, but don’t stop there. I make it a habit to call the hotel reservation agent to ask a few more questions:

  • “Do I have access in my room or just in the lobby”?
  • “Do I pay additional for the internet access?”
  • “Is it Wi-Fi, or do I need to connect with an Ethernet cable?”

Avoid assuming that a Five Star hotel will have internet access. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

#3: Consider the Global Entry Program

Those of you traveling abroad have seen travelers quickly moving through customs. They are using the Global Entry kiosks from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I signed-up for this program in 2010, and it saves me a ton of time when going through customs. The application is somewhat rigorous in the sense that an extensive background check is conducted, and applicants pay a fee of $100. However, the savings in time easily justify the one-time expense.

As part of the Global Entry program, you will be interviewed by a customs official at one of their designated locations. The process is painless, but some people may consider this practice an invasion of privacy. If you have any criminal offenses on your record, such as a “Failure to Appear” for a traffic violation, your application will be denied. For more information, go here: http://www.globalentry.gov/

Plan, Plan, and Plan

Spend as much as time as possible reviewing the activities for your trip. Make sure that you make a copy of your passport, call your bank to let them know the countries you are visiting, bring extra batteries, and ask the hotel representative about the local transportation system. While these tips seem obvious, failing to plan for them can lead to avoidable problems.

When you plan right, you will have the peace of mind to let loose and have an awesome trip.