I’m no stranger to airports. I’ve been traveling around the world regularly since I was about 16 years old. I’ll write an entire post about those travels in the future, but long story short, I went to summer camps in Canada while I was in high school, I spent half of my college years abroad, I worked abroad before going to law school, and finally, even after law school, while working full time, I managed to make weekend trips around the US to go surfing and snowboarding. Now, as you may already know, I live between Indonesia and California. My parents live in Mexico, Jordy’s parents live in South Africa, and my current employer is based in New York. In sum, I basically spend half my life in airports and have picked up many travel tips along the way.
From all this time in airports, I’ve learned a few ways to make my travel more comfortable and seamless. I’ve seen many lists of travel hacks like this out there, but I think my travel tips are pretty unique.
1. Bring a Tennis Ball
Although I’m not a professional, I consider myself an athlete. So, it is critical to me that I keep my body healthy and fit, even while traveling.
At the airport, I like to us the tennis ball to give myself a “tennis ball massage.” I will either roll out the arches of my feet, work on pressure points in my glutes, or, if the floor seems clean, lay down and roll out my shoulders with the tennis ball.
I also like to work on my hand eye coordination by playing ball. Sometimes I play a game of wallball or bounce the ball while balancing on one foot. I have even ended up having random people join me for a round of four square.
2. Bubble Wrap is Your Best Friend
If you’re flying with your surfboard, make sure you protect it properly. I have found that flying with a day bag (this is a surfboard bag that is thinner than a travel surfboard bag and is usually much cheaper), is totally acceptable as long as you wrap your board properly. I specifically use 200 feet of bubble wrap that I ordered from Amazon for about $10, and let me tell you, 200 feet of bubble wrap is A LOT! Seriously, it is enough to wrap your board nearly 50 times. I always use bubble wrap when flying to Indonesia and my board has always arrived in perfect condition.
3. Wear Compression Socks
This may sound like something for grandmas, but trust me here. Wearing compression travel socks makes a big difference in how you feel when you get to your destination. Traveling long distances, especially to hot climates, tends to make my feet swell a bit. This in turn makes my calves and ankles tight. Wearing compression socks on long flights prevents this and allows me to arrive at my destination ready to surf.
Pro Status: If you are waiting at the gate for a while, take a moment to lay on the ground and rest your legs up on the wall. This will help any foot swelling go down and is also good for your back and neck. At the Yoga Barn we did this pose as part of restorative yoga sessions and I’m hooked.
4. Bring a Small Towel
I love to refresh by rinsing my face or brushing my teeth while traveling. But these days, I’ve noticed that many airport restrooms don’t have paper towels. There is nothing worse than brushing your teeth and washing your face, only to realize that you have nothing to dry it with. And this leads into my next tip…
5. Check if the Airports you’re Flying Through Have Showers
Many airports actually have free showers. The free showers I have used have been in Jakarta, Dubai, and Sydney. There is nothing better than taking a hot shower mid-way through a 40 hour travel weekend. It instantly refreshes you and gives you that extra boost you need to arrive at your destination not feeling too cranky and gross. But if you are doing this, make sure you bring your own towel and toiletries, since most places don’t provide this.
6. Get GoogleFi
This is not sponsored, although I wish it was. GoogleFi is a relatively new cell phone service provider that gives you phone data service anywhere in the world for a flat fee. I pay about $70 a month for unlimited data, but you can also purchase data in 10 GB intervals.
Basically, all you need to do is turn your phone on when you arrive someplace new, it automatically picks the best local cell service tower near you, and boom, you have internet. Most of the time the internet is LTE and very quick, although if you go really remote, it will be slower. Ultimately, I love that I can land anywhere in the world and just start using my phone as though nothing has changed.
Bonus: GoogleFi always uses the phone number you set it up with. So, even in Indonesia, I am able to make work phone calls from my American phone number. Because of this GoogleFi is literally what allows me to do my job from anywhere in the world.
Disclaimer: GoogleFi doesn’t let you hotspot to your computer from abroad. I’m not sure why they don’t allow this yet, but I really hope they are working on it.
7. Bring a Blanket, Travel Pillow, and Eye Mask
When you’re flying across the world, you are likely to encounter some flight delays, cancellations, and changes in weather. I’ve been stuck in airports unexpectedly overnight before.
Specifically, I got stuck in Tokyo in winter on my way to Indonesia. My original flight was cancelled and I had to take a two hour shuttle to a different airport in the middle of the night. I was also in flip flops. Then the flight I was taking didn’t depart for an additional 10 hours. Thankfully, I was able to set up a cozy bed for myself and actually get several hours of sleep at the gate because of these items.
Pro Status: Bring a big travel blanket that is extra-long and extra wide, but folds into a small bag easily. Lots of travel blankets on the market are thin and tiny, leaving even a small person cold and uncomfortable. Treat yourself to something cozy. This is the one I have.
8. Take a Xanax and Plan your Sleeping Schedule
If you can get your hands on it, bring a Xanax. But don’t just take it anytime; be strategic. Calculate the time you want to go to sleep at your arrival destination.
For example, if you plan to go to bed at 10 PM every night, then take the Xanax at 10 PM in your arrival location, not your departure destination. Don’t let yourself sleep until this time. Take the Xanax 30 minutes before your sleeping time and let yourself have a great rest. You will instantly be adjusted to local time without the jetlag.
Bonus Indonesia Specific Travel Tips:
I imagine most of you reading this will be traveling to surf. If you’re coming to Indonesia, you’re probably heading to Bali, Lombok, the Mentawais, or some other remote spot. My top Indonesia travel tip: fly into Jakarta first.
Sure, if you can find a cheap flight directly to Bali, go for it. But in my experience, the best flight deals and options are to/from Jakarta. From Jakarta, you can take cheap flights to the other islands. A flight from Jakarta to Lombok can cost you anywhere from $15 to $50 USD. Last time I flew to Indonesia I started by looking at prices from California to Bali and the best option was $700 one way. I changed my destination to Jakarta and got a deal for $250 one way. I then paid $20 for the flight from Jakarta to Bali. It took some extra effort, but the $400 in savings was worth it.
Digital Airport Hotel
If you do take this advice and head to Jakarta, then be sure to check out the Digital Airport Hotel. I’ve had overnight connections in Jakarta several times and the pod hotel saves me every time. It is located in the international terminal (Terminal 3) and you can book for a whole day or in increments of several hours. You get a private pod with a TV, air con, cool colored lights, access to a bathroom, and a towel and slippers. It is located right below the check-in counters, so if you have an early morning flight, you can sleep until the last minute and get to check in within minutes. It’s not necessarily luxury, but it always leaves me feeling clean and rested.