space traveling warriors tier list : The lessons we’ve learned since returning to international travel

After a hiatus from touring abroad, traveling again can be a little daunting. There are new rules and regulations to follow, and it can all feel a little overwhelming.

The Stuff Travel team has gone back to exploring the world again and remembering the little tips and tricks that make travel easier that some of us may have forgotten about while we were grounded for the last few years.

International travel feels a little different thanks to vaccine passes, new forms to fill out and mask requirements, so here are some of the other little things we think can be a helpful reminder for those taking off again.

If you’ve also recently traveled abroad, let us know in the comments below what lessons you learned or remembered.

* How far in advance must you arrive at the airport before an international flight?
* Masks and flights: Is it possible to sleep comfortably on long-haul flights?
* I just flew to Europe and realized I forgot how to travel

Think carefully about what to pack in your hand luggage

My pre-Covid carry-on list consisted of the usual suspects — a travel pillow, noise-canceling headphones, lip balm, moisturizer, wipes and disinfectant wipes (I was ahead of the times).

While most airlines now offer a small Covid kit consisting of a mask, baby wipes and hand sanitizer, I like to carry my own because using too much sanitizer leaves my hands raw. I like Ashley & Co’s Soothe & Zap because it’s infused with seaweed extract and harakeke, leaving my hands hydrated and clean at the same time.

Soothe & Zap hand sanitizer by Ashley & Co.

Ashley & Co

Soothe & Zap hand sanitizer by Ashley & Co.

While some airlines have lifted their mask restrictions, you will still be required to wear them on international flights outside of New Zealand. I like the KN94 masks because they are comfortable – giving your nose and mouth more space.

My advice for really long trips where you will have to wear a mask for more than 24 hours is to take some varieties – towards the end of a long distance trip to India my ears were burning from the mask being hooked to them for so long and I wish I had the kind that could wrap your head around. Trupti Biradar, travel editor

Print all your travel documents

Print hard copies of all your travel documents.


Print hard copies of all your travel documents.

It’s hard to believe I’m saying this in 2022 – but make sure you have a hard copy of all your travel documents. At least for the next few months anyway.

I would love to tell you to save the trees and just go online, especially since most of us have everything we need to travel at the touch of our fingers on our smartphones. I used to have a beautiful leather travel wallet in which I kept my e-tickets and carefully guarded copies of reservations, which I eventually got rid of when all my reservations and itineraries became available on digital apps.

But it’s 2022, the pandemic is still going on, and while travel restrictions are dropping across the world, there’s still a lot of paperwork – literally – that you need to show for international travel, depending on your destination country. In fact, in Hong Kong, you need everything in print; authorities will not accept digital copies or even electronic tickets. This also goes for visa applications – be absolutely mindful to have hard copies of everything you need to show on your application. – Juliette Sivertsen, Director of Travel News

Use a good travel agent

I haven’t been as lucky as some of my colleagues who have already started the jet set again, but I will in a few weeks. I’m heading back to Ireland and if there’s one thing I recommend beforehand, it’s getting a “John”.

My “John” is a Fine Travel travel agent who worked on all the details of my ticket. He helped my husband and I negotiate the different (albeit now decreasing) entry requirements at each of the transit points we have.

In the past, before any pandemic, “John” has helped facilitate any sudden itinerary changes, such as when an unnamed Spanish airline canceled my reservations before I took off. “John” fumbled and found me a backup plan. In these uncertain times, get at least one thing out of your head and never leave home without a “João”. – Alan Granville, travel reporter

Airline cabins can be inconsistent in temperature – bring options.

Tero Vesalainen / 123RF

Airline cabins can be inconsistent in temperature – bring options.

Bring something warm for the flight

I swear my natural core temperature is hotter than the average human. One of the things I always do before I get comfortable on a flight is rotate the little air nozzle above my seat to get a blast of fresh air on top of my head.

I usually don’t even bother putting on an extra layer to use on board. There’s nothing worse than feeling stuffy with no space to move around.

But it’s no secret that cabin temperatures can be inconsistent, and by the second half of my three-hour flight to Brisbane I had goosebumps and dreamed of the jumper in my checked bag. Be prepared for different temperature changes and definitely bring something warm, preferably breathable like merino. – Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

The Departures area at Auckland International Airport remains quiet.  (file photo)


The Departures area at Auckland International Airport remains quiet. (file photo)

Get ready for the airport experience

There are two types of travellers: early risers who like to arrive at the airport hours before their flight, and crazies who prefer to arrive as close to departure time as possible.

I was always at the old camp. But that tactic didn’t serve me very well when, on my first post-pandemic flight to Fiji, I arrived at Wellington airport three hours early, went through security, and spent the remaining hours sitting in a deserted departure lounge where only a coffee it was open.

That said, in other parts of the world, arriving early is much needed as airports struggle to handle the massive influx of travelers.

I think the main lesson is to research the airport as thoroughly as you would the rest of your travel plans – check official advice on what time you should get there, monitor social media and news sites for any potential issues and look for on the airport website to see exactly what will be open – and whether you’ll need to bring your own snacks. – SIobhan Downes, Senior Travel Reporter

These days, travel insurance is often considered a way to help protect against canceled flights, but let's not forget that it can make things a lot easier in other non-Covid emergencies.  (file photo)

Victoria’s Guild/Things

These days, travel insurance is often considered a way to help protect against canceled flights, but let’s not forget that it can make things a lot easier in other non-Covid emergencies. (file photo)

Get comprehensive travel insurance

There are few worse vacation starts than sitting in an emergency room waiting room in a foreign country knowing you’re going to miss your connecting flight.

I imagined a lot of things going wrong before what should have been my first trip to Bali: arriving at the airport and finding that I hadn’t met one of its Covid-related travel requirements, catching the virus, and having to spend the entire time in a hotel, getting ‘Bali belly’ and being too sick to eat more of the nasi goreng that I planned to fill myself up with…

I couldn’t imagine having a non-Covid medical emergency while in transit in Melbourne and having to take an Uber to the nearest hospital. But that’s exactly what happened. Transferred to an infirmary at around 3am, six hours before departure, I wasn’t physically or mentally able to continue my trip, but it still hurt to have to cancel flights, accommodation, transfers, and activities I’d spent weeks sorting out. If I didn’t have comprehensive travel insurance, it would have hurt even more.

Travel insurance is one of those necessary annoyances that many of us spend as little time as possible thinking about, but from now on, I’m going to go over each sub-clause of the policy to make sure I know exactly what I’m covered. Canceling the trip and catching a last-minute flight to New Zealand has left me thousands of dollars out of pocket, and while no amount of money can offset the consequences of the medical emergency, it’s something. And right now, I’m especially grateful for anything good that comes my way. – Lorna Thornber, travel reporter

If you’ve also recently traveled abroad, let us know in the comments below what lessons you learned or remembered.

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