Things I have discovered while travelling
Below is a scattershot list of things I did and didn't do, some of which paid off and some of which were incredibly stupid. It's not a complete list, but it's a decent slice of things I've discovered from bouncing around the place. Some of it may be useful to you; if none of it is, then I am a terrible human being but I still won't be all sweaty when I get off the second plane after eighteen hours.
So there's that.
1) Getting where I need to be the day before. If a company is sending you somewhere for something, acknowledge the fact that you're no use to anybody looking a mess and smelling of aeroplane sweat. Turn up a couple of days before whatever it is you need to do. If someone is paying for the flight, it's going to cost the same whether you're there for two days or twenty. By the same token...
2) When whatever it is that you went there for is done, leave. Abandon ship. Get out of town. You don't need a few days to wind down or see the sights. Jam that into your realignment with whatever time zone you're in during your first few days there. It'll wake you up and give you something to do rather than just hide out in your room saying blargh a lot.
3) Arrange all your travel yourself. Don't leave it in the hands of others, because in my experience it's the best way to end up at a hotel at 1AM with no room and a confused receptionist. Book the flight, plan the days, scope out the taxi from the airport before you take off and sort the hotel. I've seen more infosec conference speakers burned by this than I care to mention.
4) Don't assume the guy behind the immigration desk knows more about his own immigration laws than you do. Lots of boning up - haha, boning - ensures you turn up knowing more about the laws than the people who wrote them to begin with. Don't assume they stamped your passport with the right dates, or looked at your itinerary, or even sent you to the correct gate or desk. Everybody at the airport isn't up on their stuff and it's down to you to edumacate everybody you meet is the only way you'll survive.
5) Keep an eye on how much money you take with you. As long as you inform your bank where you're going, more often than not you can just grab cash at an ATM. Not all banks charge for foreign transactions, either. The days of feeling like you have to take out about £300 from your local bank and carry it around like an idiot are long gone.
Some places are also quite tight with regards how much money you can bring in and take out. The Philippines, for example, will only let you take in about £150 ish of money. You actually have to declare that you haven't gone over the amount on the immigration form under section something scary of clause please don't kill me, yet the travel agents will happily sell you hundreds of pounds worth of pesos before you get there. Don't panic and start stuffing pound coins up your bum, just take a few thousand pesos tops and get what you need when you're settled in.
6) Checking your bags in. Total waste of time. Always aim to get everything on the plane with you and make sure you get a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible. Aisle seat? Yes please.
7) Don't wear jeans on the plane. You'll sweat. Don't wear shoes / trainers and socks. You'll sweat. Are you wearing your coat for the entire flight? You'll stink of cheese. If you're not going somewhere hot, just stuff your coat into the suitcase. Otherwise, abandon your jeans and wear shorts, ditch the trainers and wear flip flops and leave the coat at home. I brought all of this junk with me too many times to mention, and I'm all the better for not doing it anymore.
You will be too.
8) Man, even with your lack of a coat and trainers it's still a bit sweaty isn't it? That first ten hour flight and now round two is coming up for the second leg of your 18 hour arsefest?
Lots of people don't bother to buy travel toothpaste and spray and other assorted crapola like soap. They don't take the ten minutes to freshen up in the airport toilet between flights or even on the plane itself. Of course, sometimes you just can't get your hands on the most important bits: toilet roll and, well, something to freshen up with. A small pack of tissues in your laptop bag fixes A, and something as small and basic as those "freshen up your hands with these wet towelettes that smell faintly of lemony kittens" will take care of B. Just jump into a cubicle, whip off your shirt and mash those daisy fresh kitties all over your wilting armpits. SO MUCH BETTER.
9) Don't use a lock on your suitcase if going to the States, there's a good chance they'll just smash the dicknipples out of it. I'm now on suitcase number four thanks to...whatever the hell it is they do there. If you insist on checking your bag in, assume the case will be mashed open anyway and simply put a cable tie on it, and a big bag of them inside where they can't miss it with a sign saying PLEASE REPLACE WHEN DONE THANK YOU PLEASE.
In my experience, they actually do this. I mean, I've had one of those TSA approved locks on my suitcase and still had it smashed to pieces so it's entirely up to you. Just don't put anything valuable in there (not that you should be doing this anyway).
10) Zoolander is an inflight movie on every plane in the known universe. Never miss it.
11) Don't pass up the chance to use in-flight wifi on a long haul trip. It's awesome. Also complete the Mile High Club level on Modern Warfare 2 so you can say you joined it while simultaneously breaking the fourth, fifth and sixth walls.
12) Do you actually need all of that stuff on your laptop? Do you have it backed up? Or can you just dump all of it onto an external HD back home and fly out with the bare minimum? It's also well worth investing in a universal adaptor - way too many people turn up in another part of the world and hurr durr at the not so surprising fact that their devices have flatlined. You'll have a much easier time of it getting what you need in your own country than paying through the nose at the airport or (worse) arriving only to find people at the destination shrugging and offering you some nice chicken instead.
Eat the chicken.
13) I don't think I have a thirteen, I just like the number. Oh wait, always print out two copies of your itinerary, your hotel and anything else you need because one will always mysteriously vanish when you most need it. And BRING A PEN, the next person to ask me for one while filling in an immigration form will be listening to me pretending to have a highly contagious cough for the next eleven hours.
And now, at last, you understand travel. Sort of. Feel free to deposit any other "don't do this, it's stupid so try this instead" suggestions in the comments section.