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Yesterday I warned international travelers that industry insiders are predicting eight-hour wait times at some US airports and border crossings starting on Monday when the border reopens to international travel. Eight hours is positively insane. Heck, even a one-hour wait is enough to ruin your day after a long flight. And who wants to be elbow-to-elbow with crowds of people during a pandemic since social distancing will be virtually impossible?
Since eight hours is an extremely long time to be waiting in a line, it’s best you’re prepared so that you can make the most of a bad situation. A little advance prep can make a big difference so here’s a list of things to pack or wear in case you get stuck in the anticipated long lines.
1. N95 or KN95 masks
In a large crowd for an extended period, you’ll want to ditch your cloth mask for something that gives you more protection like an N95 or KN95 mask. Pack some extra ones in case you need a fresh one.
2. Hand sanitizer
It goes without saying that everyone should be traveling with hand sanitizer these days, but don’t forget yours. This travel-friendly hand sanitizer smells great and doesn’t leave your hands feeling dry.
You should always pack your medication in your carry-on bag but especially if you anticipate long lines, you’ll want to make sure you can take any medication you need to at the right time.
4. Comfortable shoes
Eight hours on your feet requires comfortable shoes you can stand for a long time in.
5. Lip balm
Pack some lip balm in case the air is dry and your lips start to feel chapped.
Tissues are a good idea for any number of reasons.
Always travel with your own pen in case you need to fill out a form since it’s better not to use a communal pen during Covid.
Be sure to bring enough water for a long wait so either stock up before your flight, on the plane or fill up your bottle at a water fountain before getting in line.
You should always pack snacks no matter what (especially if you have kids!) but it’s even more crucial if you’re stuck in a long line. I always have some power bars or granola bars stashed in my carry-on, just in case. But don’t pack fruit since you can’t bring fruit through the border and you don’t want to forget that you’ve got it in your bag.
10. Portable phone charger
The last thing you’ll want is for your phone to croak while you’re in line so make sure you pack a fully charged portable phone charger so that you can keep in touch with people, send texts, emails, make phone calls or just play games to pass the time.
11. A book or magazine
Speaking of passing the time, if you’re stuck in a line that’s hours long, you’re really going to need something to help you take your mind off of it. Pack a Kindle or book or magazine to help distract you.
12. Luggage straps
If you’ve got a roller suitcase and another carry-on bag, you don’t want to be struggling to juggle them both. Use luggage straps to attach your carry-on bag to your carry-on suitcase to keep them secure and easier to manage.
13. A portable seat
If you really want to be prepared and are traveling with kids then bring a Lugabug which straps to your suitcase so they can take a load off and when you clear immigration you can cruise through the airport. There’s also the Jetkids suitcase by Stokke which is a suitcase they can ride through the airport and then transforms a coach seat into a lie flat bed. Brilliant. I know.
14. Portable handheld fan
In a packed room with thousands of people, chances are it’s going to be hot so you might want to bring one of those handheld battery-operated portable fans.
15. Dress in layers
On the other hand, everyone’s body temperature is different so it would be wise to dress in layers so that you can peel off a layer if you’re hot or put on a sweater if you get cold.
16. Wynd Plus – Smart Personal Air Purifier
When you’re on a plane you don’t have to worry too much about the air you breathe since it’s recycled with hospital quality HEPA filters. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the air in airports, which is why when I’m waiting for a flight I go to an empty gate or an empty corner in the club lounge. But when you’re in a long immigration queue, there’s nowhere to go so your best bet is to have a good mask and bring this portable air filter, which allows you to take clean air with you, wherever you go. Wynd Plus ($199) creates a bubble of purified air around you by filtering dust, allergens, smoke and pollution from your personal space. It’s powerful cleaning in the palm of your hand. Use promo code “JOHNNYJET” to get 10% off.
17. An adult diaper
OK, hear me out. I knew this would get your attention. But I am serious for some people. If the line is hours long, you’re traveling alone and you have to pee often, then seriously consider popping one of those bad boys on. I’ve never done it and won’t (at least until I’m much older). But one thing is for sure: I would use the airplane lavatory just before landing or afterwards, while waiting for everyone to deplane. I usually don’t use the airport bathroom as I try to make a bee-line for immigration because even just a few minutes can set you back hundreds of people. However, if I was stuck in a long, slow-moving queue, like I was at London Gatwick when the liquid bomber news came out, I would make friends with the people around me and ask them to hold my place. And speaking of diapers, don’t forget to pack more than usual if you’re traveling with a baby or toddler who still uses them.
Whether you need wipes for a baby’s bottom or to clean your hands or disinfectant wipes to clean, well, anything, it’s handy to have some travel-size packs on hand.
19. Global Entry
I would also sign up to get Global Entry since it will allow you to bypass long immigration and customs clearance lines when returning to the U.S. However, you just can’t get this overnight as it takes time to get approved and then you need to make an in-person appointment. It’s no easy task but you can ask for a walk-in when returning to the USA on a separate trip. Just don’t go in the Global Entry line or you will be denied acceptance since agents are super strict. Here’s how to get Global Entry for free.
If you’re flying into the United States when the border is newly opened, the most important thing you can pack is your patience and know that the border agents will be doing the best they can to process everyone quickly and efficiently. To make their job easier, make sure you have your passport, your vaccination card and your negative Covid test results ready to go and good luck!