As you’re reading this, we’re on our way back to the States for a week of R&R and friends and family! We’ve loaded up our Amazon carts with all sorts of goodies for our personal and professional development (more on that later!), and are incredibly excited to see some of the people we’ve missed the most. Plus fast internet–we are incredibly excited for fast internet.
Now that I’ve done the trip a few times, I’ve thought lots about how to make the actual travel less painful. The door to door trip from Ituzaingo to York is around the 40 hour mark. We have a mind-numbing nine hour layover in Buenos Aires and this will be the third time I’ve made the trip.
1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you’re going from Argentina to the US, you can buy your huge bottle of water before security–because in Argentina they don’t care if you take liquids through. If you’re going US to Argentina, buy as big of a bottle as you can once you’re past security.
2) TSA Time. Speaking of security, wear an outfit with the TSA in mind. Slip on shoes, no crazy belt buckles, and please empty your pockets before you get to the scanner. Also, fun facts: glittery sweaters should NOT be worn through the scanners (or else you’re getting a pat-down), and some hand lotions contain the same properties as bomb residue, in case they wipe you down. In terms of Argentinian vs. US Security: The two countries are so very different. Coming from Argentina, you’ll go through very low-key metal detectors, but right before you board, they will hand-search your carry-on and personal items. Then, once you get into the US, be prepared for customs. We like to transfer in ATL, and need to remind ourselves that a two hour layover is essentially the minimum to make it through the craziness that is US customs and security. Try to hoof it quickly to the customs line–I think several international flights come in at exactly the same time, so if you don’t book it, you’ll be stuck at the back of the line. Also, be prepared for a much slower security experience–there’s a lot of people who have never heard of the liquids, laptops, pat-downs, scanners we are used to in the States.
3) Bring a “survival pack.” I have a pack of items I keep near the top of my personal item so I have them mid-flight. These include: Yes to Cucumbers wipes, tissues, Chapstick, a hotel-sized hand lotion, my glasses case (no sleeping in contacts for me!), an extra pair of comfy socks, toothbrush/WISPs, and a hairbrush. These are just for mid-flight necessities. I keep a whole separate makeup bag for once I’m off the flight to pop into the restroom and make myself look somewhat like a human again. Other products to consider: I’ve heard that misting spray and dry shampoo work wonders as well. I haven’t tried either of them on my flights yet, but am considering grabbing some for a trial run.
4) Bring your own entertainment. This is insanely important for the layover. Both Aeroparque (domestic) and Ezeiza (international) in BA have WiFi, but I always try to load up my Kindle Fire with books, movies, games to keep myself amused for the time. Since you can’t check into a flight more than four hours ahead of time, I’ve had luck camping out in one of the cafes at Ezeiza and enjoying a soda and sandwich with my luggage.
5) Papers, Papers, Papers. International travel is full of paperwork (particularly for those who live in two different countries legally). In our case, it’s important to bring our US drivers licenses, US passports, Argentinian precarias (pre-DNIs) as well as our legal papers for temporary residency, yellow fever vaccination booklet, reciprocity fee (SUPER important–they will only let you print this ONCE. Save a copy. Make multiples. They are hardcore about this requirement), and we often bring our international driving permits and work badges. I like to throw all of this, plus all of our necessary travel itineraries, into a plastic folder from MEAD I pick up in bulk at Walmart. Make sure it’s accessible–you’ll need to reference it often.
6) Bring a snack. Try to keep something in your bag in case you need it. If you were planning on grabbing a meal at your transfer, you could get delayed and never have a chance while you’re running to your connection. That’s when that granola bar you threw in your backpack comes in handy.
7) Don’t take a taxi off the curb in Argentina. If I was not clear enough there, I’ll say it again DO NOT HAIL A TAXI OFF THE CURB IN ARGENTINA. Go to Tienda Manuel Leon in the airport, where you can get a remis (hired car) to drive you where you want. You pay them there (and can pay with a credit card), they introduce you to their driver, and they take you where you want to go. A remis is ALWAYS the correct, safe way to go. If you are absolutely desperate and in Buenos Aires, you can hail a Radio Taxi (that name only) with the red LED sign in the window (also important) and they are fairly reputable (and will only take efectivo, or cash). Ignoring this advice could put you in a heck of a lot of danger.
8) There are weird cultural norms. Argentinians love to hurry up to stand in line forever–so the moment the plane touches down, everyone is up and trying to hustle in the aisles to get their luggage. Also, some Argentinians clap once you land to thank the pilot for getting them there, or to God for not having the metal bird fall out of the sky (I’m not sure which one, but my sources tell me this is a very “country bumpkin” sort of thing to do in Argentina). Also, when Argentinians get grumpy, like in said long line, they will clap–sort of like how Americans do when that concert hasn’t started an hour after it was supposed to. They also have a very different version of “personal space.” Americans prefer a lot of it, and Argentinians… not so much.
9) Dress comfy, and in layers. I’m still working on this one. I alternate between broiling and freezing in airplanes, so I try to wear a lot of layers. If I wasn’t concerned about looking like a schlub, I would wear yoga pants. So far, I’ve worn jeans and regretted it, but I picked up a few maxi dresses and a pair of leggings that I’m going to try out this round and see how that goes.
10) Don’t be a jerk. I didn’t think this needed to be said, but then I encountered a group of high school students who had clearly been down here on some sort of extended field trip. They were clearly from a well-off magnet school in California, and had not learned a lick of Spanish while down here except for a series of awful curse words that they belted out with glee every thirty seconds. Now, I have nothing against cursing–I can have a mouth like a sailor when the moment calls for it. I work on a construction site! However, standing in a line in a nice airport with a lot of families with small children around is no time to yell curse words, plus hop back and forth in line. It suceeded in making the entire experience a bit miserable. Just be a normal human being who stands in line, speaks politely, maybe learns a few useful words in the language of the country you are visiting, and behaves reasonably.
Any other suggestions of how to make it through a 28 hour travel experience in one piece?