Here at Black & Abroad, we believe in making travel as enjoyable as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration and hassle that come with flying, so we’ve put together a list of things you can do right now that will make your next trip a little less stressful, whether you’re a frequent flyer or a first-timer.
1. Set a reminder on your calendar for when your passport expires.
Trust me on this, you don’t want to be at the front of the security line when you find out that your passport is set to expire while you’re there. Set a reminder for yourself, using your smartphone’s calendar, at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your passport to begin the renewal process. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to submit the required information and receive it with no lapse in coverage.
2. Download the Mobile Passport app.
One of the quickest snaps back into reality after a great trip abroad is the circle of Hell known as Customs. Instead of pushing old ladies out of the way and running to be the first in line, download the Mobile Passport app. Before your trip, download the app, complete your profile and you’re set. Once you land from your trip abroad, connect to the internet via wireless or wi-fi and submit your data to Customs and Border Protection. Skip the queue and use the Mobile Passport Control express line to breeze through customs quickly. The app can currently be used at ATL, SFO, SEA, ORD, and MIA. The app is available for both Apple & Android devices, and best of all, its FREE!
3. Apply for Global Entry.
Another way to avoid filling out paperwork on the plane and the long waits in line at Customs is by applying for Global Entry. The Global Entry program was developed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to expedite re-entering the country via customs and immigration. Unlike the Mobile Passport app, Global Entry requires an application ($100 fee), a background check, and an interview before approval. In addition, Global Entry membership makes you automatically eligible for the TSA PreCheck service, which breezes you through the security checkpoints with little hassle: no removing laptops, shoes, jackets or liquids/gels. Once approved, your global entry is good for 5 years.
4. Learn how to Ranger Roll.
Ranger rolls will change your life. I repeat, ranger rolls will change your life. If you’re like most of us, you hate paying extra fees for baggage. I am an avid believer in packing a carry-on to its seams are about to burst before checking a bag. One way to maximize your space in smaller luggage, is through ranger rolls. Once you master the skill of ranger rolling, you’ll be able to pack enough clothes for a week-long trip into a weekender bag (baggage fees be damned!). Check out the videos on YouTube that break down how to ranger roll practically any item of clothing.
5. Unlock your smartphone.
An unlocked phone is a travel essential and gives you the ability to use your phone practically everywhere in the world! If you have a SIM based smartphone, an unlocked phone will give you the option of replacing the SIM card provided by your carrier with prepaid SIM cards from carriers in the countries you are visiting, giving you access to talk, text, and data abroad. This is especially helpful for navigating new cities and not having to rely on scarce wifi hotspots to stay connected while away from home. This is often much cheaper than paying for an international plan with your current carrier. Many phone companies will do this for free, especially if you’ve been a faithful customer. Also, if you have an older smartphone collecting dust, this is a perfect use for it.