10 Essential Expatriate Travel Skills

Home/Expat Thoughts/10 Essential Expatriate Travel Skills

10 Essential Expatriate Travel Skills

When there is no amazon prime or delivery options or shopping online, there are some important skills to develop. When prodigious amounts of travel are required, there are some important skills to develop. When navigating two worlds, there are some important skills to develop. I’m not sure how you could practice these before embarking on international moves but I’ll leave that to you. Here are some useful skills, a mere scratching of the surface…

travel skills

  1. Packing the right amount of peanut butter
  2. Knowing exactly what 50.0 pounds feels like
  3. Accurately guessing what style and size shoes your toddler/tween/teenager will wear eighteen months from now
  4. Purchasing the right running shoes to get through the next 2,500 miles
  5. Sitting nearly upright for fifteen hours at a time without losing your mind
  6. Walking off those fifteen hours in preparation for another 8-10 before doing it again, while in a cramped airport lugging carry-ons, purses, computer bags, backpacks, diaper bags, strollers, and 1-3 zombie children
  7. Filling out visa and immigration paperwork with one hand, the paper balanced on soft-sided luggage which is balanced on top of your thigh which is leaning against the metal bars that hold up those red ropes, so that you can stand in line while filling it out instead of getting stuck at the back of a group of not-from-around-here tourists
  8. Peeing from any level of squat regardless of the availability of toilet paper or hand sanitizer or bathroom stall doors or bathrooms
  9. Calling two countries home
  10. Knowing that ‘home’ has multiple meanings

This week I’m packing, planning for a 50-hour journey (including a 22-hour layover in Kenya), and slipping out of one home while sliding into another. I will be relying heavily on these skills, and more, this weekend.

What have been some of your essential skills?

*image via Flickr


By |August 25th, 2014|Categories: Expat Thoughts|Tags: , |11 Comments


  1. Anna August 26, 2014 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I still can’t guess the right shoe/clothes size, which partly explains why my 8 yr old only has 5 pair of shorts (no pants). Oh, well, once he grows, he’ll have more. The other part is trying to bring enough clothes to still have clothes left when some get torn, ruined, stolen, etc. We can get peanut butter here (fresh made, all natural), but almost nothing else. So it’s cramming as much chocolate & coffee as possible into the luggage and trying to put it in strategic locations- easily found. 🙂 Then trying not to eat all that chocolate in the first month. Also packing underwear in every piece of luggage, because if one piece of luggage gets lost, or 2 or 3, everyone still has underwear! Another skill is packing for a 2 week trip in your carry-on. It’s really possible with the proper motivation. (You know you may never see your luggage again, or at least not during that 2 weeks.) We just got a suitcase from a trip 3 months ago- almost like Christmas when it finally arrives safely! Another skill- keeping a decent attitude after 2- 3 days of travel, no sleep, little food, waiting in lines, immigration, dealing with delays, etc. (And I said decent attitude, not good. There are limits!)

  2. Erin Wilson August 26, 2014 at 9:54 am - Reply

    The squatty pee made me laugh. After 14 months of practice, I am still unable to squat without peeing on my ankles. Every. Single. Time…sigh.

  3. Glynis Wentzel August 26, 2014 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I love this article! But I also find myself doing a lot of this when we go back to South Africa or Canada to visit family – trying to decide what items I bring back from these countries to the USA and how much to pack – because the items are not readily available here or not available at all – and they are items I have grown up with and love using in various dishes here. When we pack we pack a 1/4 of each bag with each persons items (as there are only 4 in our family) – so that should baggage disappear or arrive days later, we have enough to live on. We also pack 3 changes of underwear, 2 extra T-shirts & 1 matching bottom in each carry-on bag – in case no bags arrive with you. A pack of dollar tree wipes in each carry-on bag too to deal with numerous different kinds of emergencies.
    We do buy the clothing thing – but in reverse – we buy our items in bulk when in South Africa as they are so incredibly cheap (with the exchange rate), well made, durable and comfortable. Mark bought 5 pairs of Dockers pants ($5 for each pair) and about 12 button-down long sleeve and short sleeve shirts for work for $2 – $4 each the last time we were there. He is still wearing them 2.5 yrs later and they are looking good. He bought a pair of hand-made (specifically for him) leather shoes (lace-up for work) for $9 – which still look brand new today.
    We call 4 countries home – which makes it harder to explain.

  4. Ashley Keller August 26, 2014 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Planning your international layovers based on the availability of playgrounds and kids meals.

  5. Deana Blackburn August 26, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Disposable panty liners. A traveling gal’s best friend. Dollar Store cheap wash cloths for “bathing” in an airport washroom stall or plane restroom. Sound machine/white noise app and earbuds. Peanut butter crackers for long layovers or worse plane food. Zip-lock bags of all sizes. Baby wipes (even when traveling kid-free).

  6. Amy August 27, 2014 at 6:49 am - Reply

    Love these. My favorite tip is to have a complete outfit for each member of the family in a tightly packed gallon ziplock in an accessible carry-on. Someone has an accident? grab the ziploc for the appropriate child (and for me is there was leakage) and head immediately to the bathroom. We also do multiple pairs of underwear but I love Deana’s above idea of disposable panty liners.

  7. Susanne August 27, 2014 at 11:03 am - Reply

    We pack ramen noodle cups for the plane flights. The flight attendants will give you hot water. My kids always hate the airplane food.

  8. Sherri August 29, 2014 at 5:06 am - Reply

    UGH trying to lose weight and figuring out if you will and so then trying to decide what size clothes to buy for yourself. Thankfully we are going to the US every year right now (for 4-6 weeks at a time) so I won’t wear baggy clothes for too long if I lose the desired weight.

  9. Holly September 1, 2014 at 2:20 am - Reply

    Feel your pain sister. We lived in Singapore with 4 kids, two different universes. I now can’t believe I made all those trips with all those little kids!!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.