Today is the big day!
You’re finally ready to leave home and fly to your volunteering trip!
This will undoubtedly be a day filled with mixed emotions – both for you and your family and friends – as you’re about to have an experience that few others ever will.
You should of course be feeling major excitement for the adventure you’re undertaking. Like most other volunteers though, you (and your family) will also likely have some level of fear and anxiety. That’s perfectly normal, so don’t worry so much.
Then, as you finally settle into your seat on the plane, you should also be feeling a genuine sense of relief. After months (maybe even years!) of planning and preparation for this trip, you are literally and figuratively ready for take-off!
Do Not Leave Home Without:
- Your passport
- Cash (min. $100 USD)
- Debit card
- Contact Info
- Prescription medicine(s)
Everything else can be replaced relatively easily abroad! Including clothes, toiletries and electronics like tablets, cameras and cell phones.
Do Not Overpack
Before you leave home, weigh your luggage, including carry-on bags. Every airline has its own policy, so check with your airline. Assume that the airline will be very strict with luggage weight rules. If your luggage is overweight, expect the airline to charge you an extra baggage fee.
Most airlines allow two checked bags on international flights, with a maximum weight of 50 lbs (23 kg) per bag.
If you’re bringing 100 lbs of luggage though, you’re bringing way too much stuff!
If your bags are overweight at airport check-in, you can always remove items from your bag until you’re under the weight limit. You can then give those items to your family – assuming they’re still at the airport to see you off after check-out.
Arrive Early at the Airport
Most airlines officially advise travelers to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your international flight’s departure time. However it is best to extend this to four hours, in case of unexpected traffic delays on your way to the airport.
Airport Security Theater
It seems that every week there is yet another horror story in the media about passengers dealing with airport security screening — whether it’s long lines, overzealous agents, and now even aggressive flight attendants.
How you deal with airport security theater is usually a good indicator of your personality type. It is also good predictor of how you will deal with culture shock on your volunteering trip abroad.
Do not get angry. Try to see the absurd humor in it all. Start a conversation with another passenger (where are they going, where are they from).
(Of course there is nothing funny about a special needs child or a grandmother being groped by a security agent. I am talking about the existential absurdity of the airport security theater.)
Whether you believe the level and philosophy of today’s airport security is right or wrong, the one thing that we can probably all agree on is that it is here to stay.
This is certainly one of those “first world” problems in life. And airport security issues mostly exist only with US flights (although more and more airports around the world are “catching up”!).