Receiving an invitation to visit your deployed spouse at his or her next port call evokes all of the anticipation and excitement of a second honeymoon, but with travel—especially at some international destinations—comes risk.
If you have the good fortune to see your babe mid-deployment, these tried-and-true travel tips will help keep you safe, comfortable and prepared for the adventure that is Port Call.
1. Purchase travel insurance.
After breaking the bank on hotel and airfare, the thought of spending a penny more on something that you may not need can be tiresome. However, port call dates and locations are subject to change and a basic coverage plan is essential. Covering cancellations due to military reassignment can be tricky, so research your travel insurance policy before purchasing. TravelGuard and USAA offer military-friendly plans. If you need to file a claim, anticipate needing to submit a copy of military orders or a signed letter, on official letterhead, from a commanding officer to confirm the change of plans. Know that reimbursement can take several weeks.
2. Create code words.
Inevitably, you and your spouse will have to discuss the when and where of port call. Since security measures are tight and emails are vulnerable to hackers, sit down with your spouse prior to deployment and agree on a list of code words to represent months and possible locations (e.g., “mango” for September and “giraffe” for Bahrain).
3. Take photos of your luggage and their contents.
Statistically, you have about a one in 166 chance that you will lose a bag. In the event that your belongings are lost, providing photos to the airline improves your chances of having your bags recovered.
4. Travel light.
Having less to schlep while rushing to your gate can make all the difference on a stressful travel day, especially if you are expecting a layover or two and a long line at customs upon arrival. Keep essentials in your carry-on bag.
5. No loose lips!
For the protection of your active duty spouse and his or her operation, please respect the rules of OPSEC and PERSEC. Port call details have no place on social media.
6. Arrive a day early.
The day before your husband or wife pulls into port, consider splitting a hotel room with your fellow spouses to get acclimated. The extra time to recover from your exhausting journey will leave you refreshed and feeling your best by the time you reunite with your honey. Trust me, you will not feel presentable after a 16-hour flight.
7. Know the tipping culture.
Avoid a gratuity faux pas by researching who you are expected to tip, and how much. Excellent tipping guides can be found online by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure. This will help you demonstrate your gratitude respectfully, while protecting you from service providers who pressure naïve tourists into tipping more.
8. Bring old gym shoes.
If you plan on working out during port call, leave your best cross-trainers at home and pack that tattered pair of sneakers that you wouldn’t mind parting with, and do just that at the end of your trip. You just scored room in your bag for souvenirs.
9. Be ready for jet lag.
Crossing time zones does strange things to the body. Arm yourself with ibuprofen, sleep aids and medication to relieve upset stomach. You won’t want to hunt for a drugstore the second you leave the airport.
10. Use a credit card that offers travel benefits.
Consider using a credit card that gives you access to exclusive airport lounges, concierge service, flight upgrades and credits towards hotel and airfare to make your trip more comfortable and cost-effective.
11. Stock up on samples.
Gather single-serve haircare, skincare and cosmetic samples from your favorite stores long before your trip. Unlike refillable travel bottles, they do not leak or hog prime real estate in your bag. Nordstrom and Sephora offer three samples with every online beauty purchase.
12. Roll your clothes.
This will allow you to maximize limited luggage space while minimizing creases and wrinkling.
13. Alert your credit card company about your travel plans.
You don’t want your card inconveniently declined because the bank thinks your charges are fraudulent.
14. Avoid international roaming charges.
Talk to your cell phone provider about international talk, text and data options. If your phone is incompatible with networks overseas, you may need to rent an international phone. Alternatively, you can purchase a prepaid phone upon arrival.
15. Embrace the adventure.
Merging travel with fickle military scheduling will ensure a few bumps in the road, but the experience that awaits you will melt all frustrations away. Enjoy!
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