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© 2017 BY FREDRIK GALTUNG

The Art of Economy Travel         (56 tips so far)

I am passionate about working with people in around the world. Having the opportunity to meet principled and committed people and working in a wide variety of countries is a privilege I am grateful for. But this also makes frequent long-distance travel an inevitable part of my life. On an average year I take well over one hundred international flights. These journeys can be both tedious and stressful.

This segment is for those who travel economy on a tight expense account, and who don't stay in five star hotels.

PACKING AND PREPARATION (16 TIPS)

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Travelling light is not part of my philosophy of travel.  If you don't mind carrying the suitcase up stairs or lifting it up to the luggage compartment, by all means take as much as you can get away with. Basic comforts will make your journey far more enjoyable. My philosophy is travel with what you need and will use at least once during your trip,  with the exception of medicine and first aid, of course.  But do try to fit it into one suitcase and one additional carry-on. 

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Your suitcase is your most importance travel tool. For the last decade I have been using the Purdy Neat Pilot Suitcase favoured by many pilots on US airlines. But they are heavy so they won't be for everyone. You want a suitcase with excellent wheels and a soft body so that it has some 'give' as well as a piggyback clip so that you use it to carry your should bag, for example, at a low centre of gravity. If you have good wheels and the centre of gravity is low it does not matter how much you carry.  

Always pack an extra folded bag, such as Longchamp's folding bags or less expense ones from Muji or Uniqlo. My folded bag is big enough to hold the shoulder bag that contains my laptop. If needed I can use it to put all extra carry on items in one place. 

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Muji has good garment cases, a great way to keep your clothes sorted. Eagle Creek does the best bags for folded shirts, although they are too long for the width of some suitcases. 

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Make sure to fold your suit in a garment bag - or leave it in the plastic wrapping from the drycleaner. The latter is not durable but it's light and works well for keeping a suit wrinkle free on arrival. 

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Pack your own shampoo and soap. Hotels will provide it, but the quality is tremendously variable. The other reason is simpler: using your own is one small part of your home life that travels wth you. I'm sure you bring your own toothpaste too. 

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This may seem quaint: I print out the ticket, the hotel booking and other key travel details and have them handy. It's good to have a paper back-up in case your phone is down. At some airports they still insist to see a paper ticket at the initial security. And some airlines insist to see your return ticket if you are not booked back with them. Lots of good reasons to have the details on paper. 

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There are a bewildering variety of electrical sockets around the world. If you're travelling to a new distant place, it's a good idea to check what they have beforehand. I don't travel with an adapter that has all the options. That's extra weight you don't need. 

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Stick to two main colours for your clothes. It will be easier to pack, and to combine for different combinations. 

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Many suitcases look similar, especially the black ones and the big brands. Add something to your suitcase that makes your bag stand out. It will be easier for you to pick out - and make it less likely that someone takes your bag by mistake.

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Overdress a little for your anticipated destination, and certainly try not to underdress. You can always make a suit casual by taking off a jacket. But you can't make yourself smart if you are travelling in a casual shirt or summer dress. It's a sign of respect.  

When I'm at the door, suitcase in hand, I have a 3-point final checklist: 1. your passport (you don't get far without it); 2. the printout with your travel details; and 3. your wallet. If you forget anything else you can improvise. But these three items you will need. 

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If you are going to sleep on the flight, bring your own pillow (Cabeau makes a great one); eye shades (I use thick ones); and definitely have ear plugs. Some people take their own blanket. That's one step too far for me, although I do know that airline blankets are not necessarily cleaned after each use. 

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I used to travel with noise cancelling headphones. But I lost one pair and they are ultimately quite bulky. So I now have perfectly decent, compact headphones. When I want quiet, I use the earplugs. You may want to get adapters for your standard plug since many airlines have dual and even triple plugs. 

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Some countries allow their nationals to issue a second valid passport. This can be a necessity if you travel to countries that don't allow people to visit them if they have also visited a country with which they are formally at war (say Israel and Lebanon, for example). Having a second passport is incredibly helpful if you travel widely and are sometimes having to wait for a slow visa application. 

My wife always has the full details of my travel itinerary and where I'm staying.  

CHECK-IN AND BOARDING (9 TIPS)

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Never check in a bag if you can avoid it. As I wrote in the first point, this doesn't mean that you have to pack light. Get away with us much as you can comfortably carry but try to avoid checking in, especially if you have connecting flights. Waiting by the luggage carousel when you could be walking straight out of the airport is my main motivation for not checking in. Losing a bag, or waiting two days until it arrives is another reason. If you don't have a choice about checking-in your bag, however, travel with your own luggage scale. It will save you money and hassle to know that your are within your luggage allowance. 

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Check in early if you can. And use the airline app, if they have one. But if your phone battery is unreliable you may want to print out the boarding pass in any case. 

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Seat selection: For an overnight night always take a window seat because you don't want to be disturbed by your fellow passengers when they get up. You may also have the cabin to lean against. On a day flight I would always tend to take an aisle seat because I want to get off the flight as quickly as possible. The exception is when you know the landscape or arrival is likely to be beautiful. But you may be sitting on the wrong side of the aircraft for the best view anyway. So my decision is guided by my need to sleep more than the view. Always get a seat as far up the cabin as possible, nearest the main entrance, exit. 

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I don't like getting to the airport too early, but I certainly don't like missing a flight. If you don't know the airport and how busy it gets, arrive a little early, especially if it's a busy period. 

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Board the flight as early as you can. This is stating the obvious but if the flight is full, arriving early is the one way to ensure your bag will be with you in the cabin, and not be moved to the hold. 

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What is the fastest way to board a plane? This point is beyond an individual passenger's control, but in the art of travel one should also concern oneself with such issues. On long-haul flights most airlines board by row-numbers. This is not the most efficient method. Since there is ample evidence of it being inefficient, it clearly services other functions, notably to give gold card passengers a small extra perk. 

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Be nice, friendly and polite with the check-in personnel and crew. Remember that if you pick an argument with the personnel at check-in you will almost certainly see them again at the gate. The basic point is that you will get much further by simply being polite and friendly. And it starts your trip off on a good note. 

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The tight connection trick. I have only had to use this trick once but it led to a turning point in my career. If you have an international transit in the USA you will at most airports need to clear customs. We had just under two hours to catch the connecting flight. That would have been ample time at an airport like Heathrow or Singapore. But not in Miami. Because we knew it would be tight I checked in a bag that contained some items of no value. The bag made it onto the flight long before I did. When I reached they flight they were in the process of taking bags off the flight to remove my bag (planes cannot take off when the owner or a checked in bag misses the flight). I had held up all the passengers by 15 minutes - but I made the flight and the next one was not for another 2 days. This trick should evidently not be abused but the truth is that the airline would not issue the ticket if the the connection is deemed to tight. 

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Even if you are lucky enough to come from a country that has visa free access to most countries, if it's your first time to a country or you haven't been in a few years it's a good idea to check the visa requirements again. If the country you are travelling to has an embassy in your home country then that is probably the safest place to check. Visa service companies do not always have up to date information for all nationalities. 

ON THE FLIGHT (9 TIPS)

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Thefts of personal items on flights are rare but they can happen. I leave some valuables in the suitcase in the luggage compartment, where I think it's actually safe than left under my seat, especially if I'm asleep. 

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Airline food in economy is rarely good. In turn, what's available at some airports now, is perfectly decent. When I can I will bring aboard my own food and extra water. 

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Listen to the advice of the airline crew: do check the seat area and the seat pocket to make sure you didn't leave something behind. And if you are exhausted from a long flight or half asleep then give it a double take. I have left behind enough items (such as good noise cancelling headphones) to fill a small suitcase. 

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Drink plenty of water, minimise alcohol, tea and coffee. And don't eat a lot on the flight. This will all help with your sleep, make you more rested when you arrive and help you to adjust to the new time zone. 

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Wear shoes you can easily take on and off. And avoid shoes with metal in them (in the USA you have to remove them anyway, but in the rest of the world it will generally save you the hassle of having to take them off. 

Wear shoes you can easily take on and off. And avoid shoes with metal in them (in the USA you have to remove them anyway, but in the rest of the world it will generally save you the hassle of having to take them off. 

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One of the perks of flying is that it's a disruption -free zone, without email or mobile phone coverage. Until that changes (and it's already starting to happen on some flights), a long-haul flight is one of the best opportunities I get for catching up on reading. 

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Jet lag and exhaustion affect cognitive ability. If I get work done on a flight it's an achievement. But it's not something I plan for.

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Qantas, the Australian airline, knows a thing or two about the consequences of long-distance travel and what do to about it. They have some excellent videos for physical exercises travellers can do when up in the air.

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A small packet of stain removing wipes is not just for mums and dads. It's very useful for people - like me - who spill stuff. And you can use it to give a fresh shine to your shoes (probably not so good for the leather, but a quick fix nonetheless). 

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Before you go, it can be a good idea to check the health risks of your destination. I use the US CDC, which is up to date and contains a wealth of useful information. 

HEALTH AND SAFETY (7 TIPS)

Do check every 3-4 years that your yellow vaccination booklet is truly up to date. If you don't have one, get one. In our interconnected world there are some basics you should be definitely be vaccinated against.

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Carry a good passport. This category may seem unfair. Surely, there is not much most people can do about the passport they carry? There may not be. There are at least three main aspects of what constitutes a good passport. First, which nationality requires the least foreign visas: there is a global index for that and Germany, Sweden, Denmark are among the countries that top that list. Second, which countries are most dangerous to visit or live in? I'll elaborate on that in the next section. Third, which governments have had a track record of paying ransoms to kidnappers? All governments officially deny it but some have paid large sums to kidnappers, thus placing their countrymen at greater risk of future kidnapping. 

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Which are the most dangerous countries in the world today? Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria top the list of countries with the highest death rate from terrorism. This has had terrible consequences in these countries. But globally, terrorism accounts for a small fraction of all violent deaths. The death rate of a country is the annual number of deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. This takes into account suicide, death at a young age, as well as violent deaths. On this measure some Central and Eastern European countries do as badly as much poorer African countries. Finally, there is the murder rate, and on this list Honduras and El Salvador have been the most lethal countries for several years running. Statistics on sexual violence against women and other populations are notoriously unreliable and do not lend themselves to reliable cross-country comparisons. The bottom line: foreigners are in far less danger than nationals in all but a few situations. One should of course still exercise basic, sensible precautions. 

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There are some good courses on how to handle dangerous situations. Some of the things they teach are counter-intuitive - in other words not common sense - and should therefore be learned. I took a course a few years ago from ILS, which was very good. But the knowledge has to be refreshed, otherwise things are easily forgotten. Just like First Aid, which should also be repeated.  

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If I'm staying in an urban setting, which is most of the time, I carry almost no medication with me (some paracetamol, insect reppelant if necessary, and some plasters will do). But if I'm travelling outside urban areas I generally have a basic first aid kit with me. Remember to keep that in your hand luggage so it's within easy reach if needed. 

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Several governments, e.g. Canada, United Kingdom, USA, have international advisories for women. The International Women's Travel Center contains more good advice, including  a list of the ten most dangers countries for women to travel to. India and Mexico top that list. These advisories should be read by women, men, gay and straight. There are some good suggestions in there for everyone. Out Traveller has a list of countries LGBT travellers should beware of. The two lists have some overlap, but they are not the same. 

OVERCOMING JET LAG (6 TIPS)

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Jet lag is the bane of the long distance traveller. According to some research for some people who are susceptible to it, traveling west can trigger mania and travelling east can cause depression. Fortunately, this is not something that affects everyone.    

As a general rule, there is more jet lag after flying eastwards. 

As a general rule, there is more jet lag after flying eastwards. The first night may be alright but the jet lag can hit you one or two days later just as badly. The 'natural' pace for getting over jet lag is one day for every hour of time difference. 

The most obvious aspect of getting over jet lag is sleep control. It helps to sleep well before you travel. And try to sleep as much as possible on the flight. When you arrive try to go to sleep at the local time. Try to avoid napping, and if you must, do it early. 

Jet lag is caused by a temporary misalignment of the body's circadian clock, also known as the 'body clock,' which controls our sleep/wake schedule. Another way to affect the body clock is exposure to sunlight. If you arrive at your destination early, go for a stroll and enjoy the sunlight.  

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that assists in the regulation of the body clock. Some travellers favour it as an aid to overcome jet lag. Some research indicates that it has minimal effect. I prefer to cope without the use of pills

Diet is the other way to minimise jet lag and some claim it has the biggest effect. The basics are to be well hydrated and to minimise alcohol and caffeine during the flight. The more sophisticated approach comes from a US government research lab, which has developed something known as the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet. I don't stick to every aspect of it, but I find it works very well when I do it. They claim that users of the diet are seven times less likely to experience jet lag when traveling west and 16 times less likely when traveling east. 

WHEN YOU ARRIVE (7 TIPS)

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I am often asked whether it's best to exchange currency before you travel or when you arrive. The exchange rate of major international airport hubs is often bad. And using your credit or debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM when you arrive (which I often do), can sometimes incur big surcharges. So if you are looking for the best deal, make sure to shop around. 

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The US dollar and the Euro are the two currencies you can convert everywhere. The US dollar is also the national currency in several countries like Zimbabwe and Timor Leste. Even if your currency is perfectly respectable and stable in some countries you will struggle to find a money changer willing to take your cash. So bring some dollars with you to be on the safe side. 

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I have never had a bad experience leaving valuables in the safe of my hotel room. If your room does not have a safe, then by all means make sure you are carrying your valuables with you. 

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Some countries (say France, Israel, for example) require everyone to carry an ID with them at all times. If you don't feel safe carrying your passport with you, at least make sure you carry a photocopy of your passport. 

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If you want to eat good, authentic local food and you're willing to stray away from the recommendations found on TripAdvisor, don't ask the concierge or taxi driver or new local friend you have just made for a place they would recommend. Ask them what their favourite place is and where they like to eat. You are more likely to get advice for a truly local place - and not one they think a foreigner would enjoy. 

Carry a discrete card with the address of your hotel with you. If you don't speak the local language this will help you give your destination to your taxi driver. 

When leaving the hotel room, leave it in a decent state for the staff who clean it. Also give it a thorough look around, especially if you are rushed and/or tired. Phone cables, toiletries and that one item you hung in the cupboard do not enjoy being left behind.