Planning your travel

Planning for your travel to the other side of the globe can be a bit overwhelming. Many questions might be clogging your mind right now: which flight should I book, what should I pack and much more. Believe it or not saying goodbye’s the hardest part of all. Sadly we can’t help you out on that one, for everything else here’s our post (and you thought it was MasterCard :P). 

Before you start planning for your trip, make sure you have get some foreign currency. You should have enough money with you to cover the expenses of the first month as it could be a couple of weeks till you set up your bank account and receive the first wire transfer. Note that not all of that money should be in cash, you can also get traveller’s checks which are safer to carry. Although it’s highly unlikely that you would cross the amount of money allowed to be carried in person while crossing international borders, it’s always safe to check those limits before you get your currency converted. You will also need to get a forex card since carrying all the money in cash is not advisable.

One more thing that you would have to do before leaving your country would be to get the required vaccines. All schools require you to have some kind of vaccination before entering the US ‘coz, you know, they don’t want any foreign diseases to enter as they can’t even tackle their internal ones properly (No I didn’t say anything about the prospective next president :P). The types of vaccination required for you would depend on your personal health history and your country of residence. Your school will get in touch with you regarding this, so keep a watch on your emails and start the process as soon as you get the info on the same, as these things may take some time.

Now that these matters have been discussed, we can now shift our focus to the actual planning. Here are some things that you should have in mind as you prepare to leave your sweet home.

The Tickets

  • If you can sustain a nonstop journey from India to the US, go ahead and book a nonstop journey for yourself, this will save you from all the hassles that people go through at the layovers (think going through the security clearance and the boarding process once again). However, this does come at a cost: a nonstop torture from a crying baby (if you have one on board), a nonstop cramped position of your body and a nonstop stretch of boredom. Having a layover in between can help you stretch out your cramped body, gives you a break from the monotonous environment of the plane, and doubles your probability of getting a lovely neighbor :P. These are the tradeoffs that you should think about before finalizing your itinerary. If you indeed choose to have a layover, try to have it somewhere in Europe as that kinda splits the total journey into two halves.
  • A great way to save on your flight tickets is to have a single airline for all your travels, starting from now. All airlines have a loyalty plan and you can accrue miles on them as you travel, which can later be used to buy free tickets. Most likely you’ll be traveling a lot (if nothing else, at least once a year) so you might as well get a free ticket once in a while by doing so.
  • Another “hack” is to clear your browser’s cache before you search for tickets. You see browsers are like girlfriends; they remember stuff, even the stuff that you didn’t even think was any good and, you know, these things may come up when you’re in the middle of something (fighting/searching for tickets). Unfortunately, there’s no way you can clear your girlfriend’s memory but you can do that to your browser very easily.

 

The luggage: The what and the how ?

  • Things that are an absolute must: Most universities have an association for international graduate students. They have a very handy list of things they recommend to the incoming students. For Indian students what that really boils down to are utensils and warm clothing. One such list can be found here.
  • While packing your stuff, pay special care to all your documents. Take care of them as you would care for your girlfriend, or maybe even more. You may get back a bae who leaves you with some flowers, chocolates and a nicely written apology letter (don’t ever underestimate the power of self-written letters :P), but the documents that are once lost may require you to make numerous trips to the government offices and a lot of unnecessary hassle. One effective way to keep your documents safe would be to keep a copy of all your documents in all your bags and keep the original set in your personal backpack/laptop bag.
  • To clear the security at the airports in a hassle free manner, avoid carrying liquids in your carry-on luggage, you can keep all the liquids in your check-in baggage, though. If you must carry some liquid in your carry-on bag, make sure that you’re familiar with the security requirements of each airport that you will visit on your journey. Keep your forex card, passport, I20 and all other immigration documents in a your cabin baggage where you can easily access it.

The journey:

  • One common problem people face when they make such long journeys is jet lag. This is basically the unromantic version of mujhe raat ko neend na aaye where you spend the nights like a zombie and are super sleepy during the days as your body is still following your old sleep cycle for the first couple of days. One way to avoid jet lag is to adjust your sleeping cycles in the plane itself. So instead of sleeping at India’s night, you forcefully stay awake through the night (watching movies on the shitty screens in the plane obviously) and then go to sleep when it’s night in the US.
  • As far as your clothing is considered, wear loose and comfortable clothes, like you normally wear while sleeping, you don’t have to be in your best clothes just because you would be travelling in “a plane” (if you prefer to sleep in your undergarments or maybe even in the buff, please bear to wear a few clothes for the sake of your co-passengers :D). Also, try to have layers in your clothing, as it would give you the flexibility to add some layers when it gets cold or remove some when you get hot :P.
  • One very small thing that can revamp your flight experience from annoying to really comfortable is a travel pillow. Make sure to have one with you. They are even available at airports if you can’t buy one in your city.
  • Lastly, The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires you to give them the address of where you’d be going. This could be the address of your hotel, the address of your university or even the address of your friend/relative. So keep one such address handy with you. You might need it at immigration

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