12 Things to Know Before You Go

Hello! I’m sitting in Terminal 5 of the JFK airport in New York. Deciding against blowing 50 bucks to sit somewhere with Wi-Fi and free drinks (Delta’s Sky Club), I have unfortunately spent almost a third of that on pot stickers, water and a Sam Adams.  I have yet to track down any free Wi-Fi, though I hear rumors that Healthy Gourmet may be a haven for bloggy nerds like me. Investigation is imminent.

I do know that Delta has Wi-Fi on board, so if I can’t find a spot here in this labrynthian airport, I can publish this from the air.

I found Balducci’s, which I recently read about on Quarry Girl. I was stoked to find some vegan options, just like she said. I did find mildly humorous that a box of Thai Dumplings and a bottle of water cost $11.95.




Lotsa food though. There were at least two servings and they were pretty good. The cashier gave me soy sauce and chopsticks, which led to an authentic Thai feeling to dining in the airport. (Just joshin’.)


I am nowhere near a world traveler, but I love adventuring and have traveled to a few places in my 30 years. I’ve flown alone and with friends and with lovers. I’ve flown before 9/11 and after. I’ve flown as a vegan and as a chicken-finger-loving 6 year old. I’ve flown an hour and a half to Vancouver BC and 24 hours to Australia. I don’t know much, but I do have a bit of experience. I’ve put together a list of travel trips for those venturing outside the country. This is not by any means an extensive list; if you have any other tips, leave below in the comments.


12 Things to Know Before Leaving the Country

1. Make copies. Of everything.

Copy your passport and leave one copy with a trusted friend or family member and take one copy with you. make sure you keep it separate from your actual passport for safety reasons. Print or make copies of your itinerary and any pertinent phone numbers or account numbers [the American Embassy in the country you’re traveling to, your doctor’s phone number, etc.]


2. Buy Snacks.

This is imperative. Airline snacks these days are pretzels and peanuts; sustainable, but terribly boring. if you’re going to a country where you’re not sure what the food situation will be like for you [if you’re vegan or gluten-intolerant or have allergies, eating out can be an unneeded stressor.] a small bag of snacks will be key for your flight and your stay in the country. Not to mention supplementing airline food is never a bad thing.

airline food (source)

  • Small packets of peanut or almond butter. Justin’s brand is convenient, affordable and perfect. The bit of natural fats in nut butters will keep your belly full for a longer time than other less calorie-dense snacks.
  • Nuts and trail mix. Homemade trail mix made of nuts like cashews, almonds and peanuts with chocolate chips, dried cranberries, raisins, coconut chips, banana chips and dried fruit is a perfect snack for the airplane.
  • Instant oatmeal packets. This was invaluable to me while traveling around Turkey. All you need is hot water—easily found on an airplane and in even the smallest of towns– and you have an instant healthy-ish breakfast.
  • Primal Strips Jerky. Savory always seems to taste better than sweet when I’m traveling. Not for the gluten-free traveler, these strips are made of setian [sometimes and humorously called ‘wheat meat’]. There are a variety of flavors; my favorite is the thai peanut. These are good when you want a hit of protein.
  • Granola Bars. Good in a rush, they’re nice to throw in your purse or man-pocket while exploring a thrilling new city.
  • Mini Carrots and Apple Slices. These are obviously better eaten the day of your trip. A little fresh fruit and veggies will make your body sing.


3. Research accommodation, neighborhoods and train and bus time tables.

Part of the immense fun of traveling is meeting new people and the unexpected plans you make. Get to know the area you’re going to. No need to make reservations and plan everything out to a T (unless you’re a major type A personality and need to plan everything out. In that case, will you please come over and help keep me organized?). If you’re well-researched and know how to get from the airport to the train station and the best areas and price for your hotel or hostel, you’ll be well-prepared and able to be open to whatever your host city has to offer you.


4. Clean out your wallet.

Don’t lug around decrepit receipts, frequent buyer cards, or anything that’s not absolutely imperative while you’re abroad. You probably don’t need your Blockbuster Video membership anymore, do you?


5. Call your bank and inform them you will be using your debit card abroad.

My brother never calls his bank and he always seems to be just fine. On the other hand, I’ve heard stories of people traveling even domestically and having their card shut off because it’s outside the usual area. This can be frustrating to deal with if you’re in the states, but almost impossible to deal with if you’re outside the country. Take about 20 minutes and a good deal of patience and give your bank a call.

Tip: Using your debit card, as opposed to traveler’s checks, credit cards or cash, will typically get you the best currency exchange rate. A typical rate of withdrawing cash from an international ATM is $3. Using your credit will charge you about 3% interest. And exchanging your currency in the airport now costs an outrageous $9.95.


6. Include a ‘Welcome Home, Self’ kit with house keys, your phone and laptop chargers and $10-$20 for transportation/emergency fund for ease of use when arriving back to the States.

You don’t want to be fumbling around at the luggage carousal or on the bus on the way home. Keeping everything tight and together will ease you back into the difficulties of reverse culture-shock.


7. Call the airline to arrange meals and seat numbers.

if you’re an omnivore, you still may want to consider calling for a special meal. The specialty meals include vegan or vegetarian, kosher, Asian vegetarian, and about 15 other wacky options. There’s usually a bit more care and a bit more nutrition in airline meals that lean toward plant-based meals. Another benefit; while everyone else is starving and grumpy, you get your meal first. I’m usually done eating by the time others are receiving their meals. Also, if happen to be a child-bearer, check with the airline regarding children’s meals. Most have an option, and that option is infinitely better than the meatloaf and green beans they may get otherwise.


8. Pack lightly.

Most airlines charge extra for baggage these days. (I will not make a relationship joke. I will not make a relationship joke. I will not make a relationship joke.) If you can pack into a smaller carry-on, you will save yourself so much trouble and stress and money. I recommend one with wheels.


9. Drink lots and lots of water. Seriously.

While traveling, your body needs to stay hydrated. If drinking alcohol or coffee, be doubly sure you’re drinking enough water.


10. Emergency Exit and first row seats open up 2 hours before a flight.

If you can’t get your desired seat and are stuck in the dreadful middle seat, don’t despair. The emergency exit seats open up 2 hours prior to departure. if you have your laptop you can change seats at the airport, or just do so upon checking in a the kiosk or with an agent. This may save you, especially if you are blessed with having long legs.

(I could get away with a middle seat as my feet barely touch the ground, but I like leaning against the window for my traveling sleepy-time needs.)


11. Call your phone company to check roaming charges and international options.

If your phone has a SIM card, chances are your carrier will be relatively accommodating with taking your phone abroad and switching it out for a SIM card in the country you’re traveling to. if you do not *cough SPRINT cough*, they may offer you a phone rental while abroad. Whatever you decide, start looking into options at least two weeks before departing to ensure adequate time to rent a phone or even buy a temporary phone once out of the US.

Or, if you’re like me, two weeks is adequate to decide how to make plans and coordinate everything since you’ve decided to rock it like it’s 1999 and go phoneless because you think renting a phone is absurd.


12. Get a bit of currency from your local bank.

As mentioned in Tip #5, currency converters in airports charge a jaw-dropping $9.95. Don’t do it. Many banks have at least once branch with all sorts of international exchange currency. Some may take longer than others, so if you’re going somewhere off the beaten path, head into your branch at least two weeks before your trip.



Those are my main tips. 

There’s also some like: bring a good book, but one you won’t mind leaving at your hostel or on the train if you bag gets heavy. Don’t forget your headphones. Buy an electric converter to charge all your worldly essential tech gadgets. Try not to spend $8.15 on a cheap beer in the airport. When in doubt, always choose a bloody mary. Take advantage of free beer and wine on international flights. (But don’t forget Tip #9: Drink lots of water!) Put soymilk in a  vanilla extract bottle to add a little something nice to your coffee-colored water on the plane. Check in to your flight the night before to save time. Wear loose-fitting clothes and shoes. Stretch in the aisles; you may look weird but your body will thank you.

And I have one tip for friends and family while their loved one is traveling abroad:

Write to them! People traveling love hearing from back home. We typically think, “Oh, they’re so busy, they won’t even have time to check their email.” Not true! Well, maybe it’s true. But even when travelers don’t have time to write back, they really appreciate it when people stay in touch. Even though they may be gallivanting around the country riding in hot air balloons, trekking through the mountains, or dancing all night long at the discothèque, there’s still a few moments where they think, ‘Geez, I wonder what they’re doing at home right now…’ People abroad LOVE hearing from friends and family, so email away, darlings.

meandabby airport

Abby and I at the airport this morning at 430. she brought me apple slices and trail mix. I love this woman.

Alright kids, I have 2 hours left in this huge New Yorky airport I’m in. I’m going to spend it drinking water, dreaming of Tesco and green hills, and playing with my new camera.

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About Janessa

I'm a travelin' vegan gal, event planner & writer who loves eating, drinking, hiking, biking, reading, writing, loving, scheming, learning, laughing, champagne-ing and gerunds.
  • Stephanie

    I am SO JEALOUS you’re going to Ireland! Have so much fun!!

    • Thanks Stephanie! I’m having a blast.

  • These are fantastic tips! What a well written and informative post! Best of luck on your travels, I can’t wait to see you when you return! Be safe! I love you!

  • Those are fantastic tips – I hope you have a fantastic time and I can’t wait to read and see pictures upon your return.

  • janessa, just a note on Primal Strips, in case someone’s interested: some of them are gluten free! some are made with soy or shiitake mushrooms! (i know this because my gluten free friend kittee)

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