An American Girl in Ireland: Surviving the Flight

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Flying sucks.

There is no other way to put it. No one likes being forced into long lines and to go through only to then be crammed like sardines in a metal cylinder suspended thousands of set in the air. All the the horror stories of on-board brawls, structural failures, and people getting sucked out windows we are constantly bombarded with on the nightly news don’t to much to help calm shaky pre-flight nerves. (Also, the landing gear. Can someone please tell me who decided to make that thing sound like a chuck of the plane is falling off? Actually, everything about landing is the worst. The only bright side is you are back on the ground.)

International flights are their own circle of flying hell. Really is there anything worse than an international flight? They take all the sucky parts of flying, stretch them out for hours on end, and usually seem to be dead set on making you endure the worst sleeping experience of your life as most are overnight flights. (Seriously, why do most international flights from the U.S. have to leave at night?)

However, while flying may be the least appealing unavoidable part of your vacation, it doesn’t have to be absolutely miserable experience. With a few simple tricks, getting there doesn’t have to be a total nightmare.

Here are few things you can do to make this necessary travel evil suck a lot less.

Go for comfy clothes.

There are hundreds of articles out there about cute chic flying outfits. (Back in college, I even wrote one of them.) However, as I’ve gotten more travel experience under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that an international flight is one of the few times where comfort outweighs cute. After all, you are going to be sitting in a tiny seat for hours on end. Go for light layers, stretchy fabrics, and shoes that are easy to slide on and off. My go-to outfit for flying consists of basic black leggings, a long tee, a hoodie or oversized flannel button-down shirt, and my (knockoff) Ugg boots. (Okay, it’s still a pretty cute pretty cute outfit.)

Don’t go sockless.

While it may seem so simple to rock a pair of flip-flops for those security check points, I really urge you to pick slip-on footwear you can wear socks with. After all, those airport floors are pretty disgusting. I’m also a big fan of closed-toed shoes. Between rolling luggage bags, strollers, and wheelchairs, there are just too many ways to put your toes in peril.

Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are a must.

No matter what airlines say, planes are germ havens. Help prevent picking up illnesses by packing some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer into your carry on. Make sure to wipe down the tray, touchscreen t.v., safety buckle and the belt itself. (These tend to be the places that the most flyers touch but are often overlooked when planes are cleaned.) Use the hand sanitizers after every trip to the bathroom and at the end of your TSA check.

Pick up a bottle of water at the airport.

It is important to stay hydrated on an international flight. While paying $4.00 for a bottle of water at the airport may seem like a total waste of money, I really urge you to so. You won’t have to rely on the flight attendant every time you get thirsty and the cap will help prevent nasty spills. Plus, swallowing water during takeoff and landing can help equalize ear pressure and ease discomfort.

Don’t forget your own snacks.

Let’s face it. Airplane food stinks. The portions are tiny, and the taste is bland at best. Prevent hangry feelings by tossing a few snacks in your carry on bag. Stick with things that are easy to eat and are nonperishable. I’m a big fan of Cliff bars, mini bags of pretzels, granola bars, and Goldfish crackers. Be sure to avoid peanuts and peanut products due to allergy concerns. (If you have time, pick up a light sandwich or salad at the airport preflight. This helps if you need something more substantial.)

Treat yourself to something new.

Remember when you were little, and your mom would surprise you with a new toy or game right before or during the flight? You can do the same thing for yourself now that your all grown up. Whether it’s new book, an blank journal and fun pens, or a freshly downloaded movie on your iPad or a new album on your iPod/iPhone, having something new to look forward to can make the thought of being stuck on a plane for hours just a bit more bearable. Hey, you’re never too old for treats even if you’re getting them for yourself.

Pack your own headphones.

Many airlines will provide you with a set of earbuds for the in-flight entertainment systems. However, there is nothing like watching a summer blockbuster or random television episodes with the comfort of your own. Pick up a hard-shell case to prevent them getting damaged in transit. (Still take the free headphones if your allowed though. It never hurts to have an emergency back up pair, and they are, you know, free.)

Try to sleep (or at least get some quiet time) during your night flight.

Night flights are inevitable when flying from the U.S. to Europe, and, in my opinion, the absolute worst part of international travel. As hard as it may seem, you should try to get some semblance of sleep, if only to be able to semi-fiction during day one of your trip. Pack an eye mask, a pair of earplugs, and something to snuggle under. The goal is try and get as comfortable as you can in your very uncomfortable seat. (Popping a Benadryl may help to some extent, but it really depends on your body chemistry if works.) Still not able to sleep? Put on a mellow playlist, slip on you eye mask, and just sit still with your eyes closed. Sometimes, just resting your eyes can work wonders for your next-day energy levels until you get a chance to crash.

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An American Girl in Ireland: Things to Do Before You Leave

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Your passport is up to date. You’ve sorted out your mail pick up. Your pets have their babysitter. Your plants have a designated waterer. The suitcases are packed and weighed. Your boarding passes are in your hand. You’re all ready for your big trip, right?

While you may think you’ve dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts, there are a few things that every traveller should have on their checklist, but are often overlooked.

Here are a few important things you should do before heading to the airport.

Make copies of important documents.

Make two copies of all important documents like passports, driver’s licenses/photo IDs, and medical insurance cards, as well as confirmations for things like hotel reservations and car rentals. Keep one copy in your carry on and another in a safe location at home that someone you trust can easily access. This way, if an issue arises or something gets lost or stolen, you have two backups you can utilize.

Notify your bank and credit card companies.

In a world where identity theft is a real threat, some banks and credit card companies will freeze your card if they see charges outside the country. Prevent this by notifying your bank and any any credit card companies that you will be out of the country and for how long you will be gone. Add on an additional few days past your date of return just in case you have issues with your flight and get stuck.

Swing by the pharmacy.

Okay, no one wants to think about sickness or injury putting a damper on a highly-anticipated vacation, but I have seen it happen, leaving those affected scrambling. Hit up your local Walgreens or Rite-Aid, and pick up a few things to create a small first-aid kit. Hey, it never hurts to be prepared.

Things to get include:

  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Imodium
  • Decongestants
  • Bandaids
  • First-aid ointment (like Neosporin)
  • Pads/tampons

Boost that immune system.

Want an added way to prevent getting sick before or during your trip? Increase your odds staying healthy by boosting your immune system with either elderberry or Airborne a few days before your flight. Be sure to pack some with you for your return flight home.

Write up your souvenir list.

Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory and Lorelai come back from their European trip and realize they forgot to get something for diner owner Luke? Learn from their mistake and write up a list of everyone you want to buy something for. Carry it in your purse, so you don’t leave anyone out. (Bonus points for creating budget for each person, so you don’t break the bank.)

Order your attraction tickets ahead of time.

If you know the exact dates of when you be in certain locations, save time by order all attraction tickets online ahead of time. You’ll be able to skip general admission lines and get to the fun a whole lot quicker.

Pack some American cash.

I’m a cash girl through and through. I would much rather pay for things with tangible money over using a plastic card. (Strange for a girl in her late twenties, I know!) Plus, there are some places that won’t take a debt/credit card, and an ATM may not always be easily accessible in these situations. (Also, no one likes those pesky service fees.) I picked up a good portion of my euros before I even stepped on the plane, but I had concerns I would run out. I made sure to some U.S. dollars in my bag in case I needed to do a quick exchange to replenish my euro stash. If you go this route, I recommend taking about $300.00 and storing it in a safe place like the inside pocket of your suitcase. Be sure to check the exchange rate before you leave as you may need to increase how much you bring based on the currency rate fluctuation.

An American Girl Ireland: What to Pack

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Yay, you’re going to Ireland! You’ve booked your flight, read your guidebook cover to cover, and have your big adventure all mapped out. However, there is one task you have been dreading: packing that darn suitcase.

What do you bring? How much do you bring? Can you really pack everything you need and no go over the 50-pound weight limit set by the airlines?

Packing for Ireland can be a bit tricky. It’s been said that you can experience all four seasons in one day. While I think that’s a bit of a hyperbole, it is true that the weather can fluctuate between cold, rainy and the mid-40s to sunny and close to 70 degrees and sunny in the afternoon. Add in that you can end up hiking through countryside ruins, shop in town, and hit a pub all in one day, and you have a real fashion conundrum.

Think of packing like putting together a capsule wardrobe. The key is versatility. You want to pack pieces that can easily got from daytime to nighttime, city to country and back again.

Need a place to start? Here is my go-list for packing the perfect suitcase and creating that perfect Irish look. (It’s also a great list for any vacation.)

Dark wash jeans

I’m a big fan of my dark wash jeans for everyday wear and doubly so when I’m on vacation. These super flattering bottoms are durable enough outdoor activities and sleek enough for grabbing a pint. Stick with a similar shade and cut, so all your tops will work with whatever pair you grab in the morning. I recommend these black skinny jeans by American Eagle. (I pretty much live in these babies when I’m not at the office.) They are the perfect stretchy, comfy and stylish base for whatever activity you plan on doing.

A mix of long sleeve tops

My rule of thumb for tops is to pack ones you would wear in the spring or autumn. On my last trip, I brought two plaid flannel shirts (one pink and on green), two sweaters (one lightweight and flowy and the other a slightly thicker and hooded), two flowy long sleeve tops with lacy detailing (one gray and one creamy beige), and four cami tanks (for layering under some tops). Stick with lightweight fabrics, long sleeves, and simple colors and accents. You’ll be comfy and look chic. (Also, make sure to try every top on. Nothing ruins a vacation more than being stuck with and restricted by a top that is too tight or uncomfortable.)

A lightweight long cardigan

If you want an added layer of warmth, throw in a lightweight long cardigan. Stick with a neutral color like black, dark gray, or light brown. This way you can pair it with any tops you bring.

Boots

I’m a big fan of bringing a good pair of boots to Ireland. (This is Will Write For Boots, after all!) However, this must-bring goes beyond just my love of my favorite footwear. Like dark wash jeans, a good pair of boots are durable for all outdoor activities and stylish enough for nights out and taking the cities by storm. Plus, they tend to provide more warmth on soggy mornings and more support on uneven slippery terrain. (I did end up slipping a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars in my carry on bag in case my boots got to heavy and ended up not using them once.) My go-to pair are these ones by Dr. Marten. Just make sure they are completely broken broken in before you depart. Blisters and sore feet do not make for a fun vacation. Also, make sure to wrap all shoes in plastic bag or pillowcase to keep your clothes from getting dirty.

A hooded jacket

In Ireland, it rains a lot. A light jacket with a hood is must, especially if you are like me and hate to use umbrellas. Look for one that is durable and good for damp weather. You can even do a test run the next time it rains at home to make sure it holds up. I also recommend your try it on over every trop you plan on bringing (and your cardigan if you plan on bringing one) just to make sure it fits comfortably for possible all-day wear. (It really does rain. A lot.)

Simple jewelry

When it comes to jewelry, I’m a big believer that simplicity is key. You want to bring a small amount of pieces that go with everything and you don’t have to worry about getting damaged. (I really recommend avoiding super long necklaces, dangly earrings, and charm bracelets that can easily get caught on things and break.) On my last trip, my jewelry consisted of a simple “In Omnia Paratus” silver disc necklace, a gold art-deco ring, my diamond studs, and three beaded stretch bracelets. If you can, wear it on the plane or stash it in your carry on.

PJs and slipper socks

Don’t forget about your PJs! You want to pack something that ensures you’ll get a good night’s sleep, so you’ll be well rested for the day ahead. Like your tops, it is best to bring your spring/fall ones. Also, trade in your slippers for slipper socks. You’ll protect your feet from the hotel carpet without taking up valuable room in your suitcase.

Comfy socks and underwear

Okay, these probably go without saying, but I think its worth touching upon. After all these are the foundation of everything you wear. Make sure all the panties and bras you decide to bring fit correctly and don’t bunch or pinch. You don’t to spend your whole trip uncomfortable. For socks, ditch your ultra thin no-shows for ones that are breathable with some light padding and cover the backs of your ankles to prevent chaffing from your shoes.

Extra socks and underwear

There is a reason this old adage has hung around for so long. Throw in a couple extra pairs of each, and you won’t regret it.

Leave the “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” gear at home

Thinking of tossing in that “Kiss me I’m Irish” tee in? Don’t. At best, you’ll be easily marked as a tourists. At worst, you’ll end up offending someone. Leave it and all your other St. Patrick’s Day tees at home.