You’re packed and ready to go. You are excited and nervous about taking a long flight to a foreign country. You check to make sure you have your passport, plane tickets and a way to pay for purchases once you reach your destination. Everything seems in order, but is it?

Before you get to this point, read these tips below to make the whole experience go as smooth as possible.

Before You Leave Home

Pack lightly, no more than two suitcases and one carry-on bag. The cost of extra bags is not worth it if you can buy clothes at your destination. If you are going to a tropical climate you can pack even lighter by packing only shorts and t-shirts for casual wear. Remember, if you buy clothes or trinkets, you will have to bring them home somehow. Allow extra room in your luggage for these items and you won’t be paying extra baggage costs.

Always check with the airlines for the latest rules and regulations concerning liquids in your carry-on bag – they change frequently and are dependent upon which country you’re flying from and to. This information can be found online, or can be easily obtained by calling the airlines. Be sure to bring all your medications and carry copies of your prescriptions.

The day before departure call the airlines and re-confirm that your flight will still be flying at its scheduled time, or check your booking online at their web site. Weather can mess up any travel plans. If your flight is cancelled you can reschedule right then. It is better to call the airlines and be safe; the alternative is to scramble at the last minute for a flight. Not a good way to start a vacation. When you do call to re-confirm (or while checking your booking online), ask for your seat number and get it changed if that is what you desire. Doing all this now will save you time once you get to the airport.

The day of your flight do a check, a double check and even a triple check of all the items you are going to need on this trip. There is no turning back for missing items. Make sure you have your passport (and those of any children travelling with you), and all of the relevant tickets for your flights plus any ground connections – eg airport transfers, etc. It is best to carry traveler’s checks, an ATM card and your credit card, as some places may only take one form of payment over the others. Plan to exchange enough money into the local currency to last you a day or two. Do not change money at home; wait until you get to your destination.

At Your Home Airport

Arrive at the airport at least three hours ahead of departure. Security and check-in lines will be long and slow. Be sure to have all your travel documents ready to show at a moment’s notice. Now would be a good time to ask if there have been any changes in what is allowed or not allowed in carry-on bags. Eat at the airport before you board the plane. The food is reasonably priced and will taste much better than what they serve on the plane. Bring easy to eat snacks on board, things like trail mix or dried fruits will fill you up.

Do take advantage of the duty free shops inside the airport. Check first to see if there are any limitations on alcohol or tobacco products. It is also best to find out beforehand if layover flights allow carry-on liquids such as alcohol. You may have to wait until your last stop before making such purchases.

Airports are totally equipped to handle wireless connections. There are electric outlets located conveniently throughout the airport for those who need to stay plugged in or recharge before boarding.

On The Plane

Relax and sleep if you can – this will lessen the time zone changes and jet lag. Drink plenty of water on board the plane because dry cabin air can rapidly cause dehydration. Do not drink alcohol on the plane, your body will thank you once you reach your hotel.

Bring gum or mints to help alleviate the air pressure changes during take-off and landing. Try to read or watch the movie to pass the time. Keeping busy will make the time go by much faster.

If you have already eaten then you might just want to eat the salad, bread and dessert when the meals start getting passed out. These foods aren’t too bad, but the main meals are reheated mystery foods most of the time.

You will be asked to fill out a customs declaration form while on the plane. Fill it out and put it with your passport. These will need to be turned into the Customs officer.

Arrival at Destination

Hopefully, you were told before getting off the plane what you need to do in this airport. If not, follow the signs. Try to get off the plane as quickly as possible – everyone else has the same agenda: get through the Immigration/Customs lines. Do not stop to use the bathroom or to have a cigarette. Find the shortest line and have your passport and boarding pass ready with everything else you need to turn in.

Be polite to the Customs officer as he or she stamps your passport, turn in your custom declaration forms, then head for the luggage carousels. Gather your luggage, change some currency, and finally you are ready to head out the door.

Find transportation to your hotel (if this has not been prearranged), sit back and enjoy the sights of your final destination. Remember – in most locations, it’s advisable not to jump in with a taxi driver who offers you a ride at the baggage collection or near the exit – instead, follow the signage to the taxi rank and jump in a cab there to avoid getting ripped off.

One you arrive at your hotel and check in, it’s time to take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on the fact that “You Made It!” Have a wonderful vacation.