Travel Advice for Models


By Pablo AvionMusic as heard on SPIN

Pablo Avion is publisher of ModelNews and IndieFashionDaily and has spent waay too much time getting lost in Paris, London, South America and Africa.


been stranded in the Costa Rican rainforest, chased by crooked cab drivers in Kenya, pickpocketed in Madrid, missed flights to major international destinations, and stranded more than once in Paris and London. So the moral of this brief guide is: Don’t what I do. I mean, did.


  • Avoid GODZILLA-SIZE long-distance fees! When traveling internationally, there are sometimes “gi-normous” fees for listening to or even receiving voice mail messages once you arrive in a foreign country, even if the messages were left while your phone was off!

    Um, Godzilla is "phone fees." I'm not sure what the other thing is.

The same goes for emails and texts. Check with your phone provider before you go to see what you have to do to avoid these Godzilla-size costs. (Sometimes it just means to “turn data roaming off.” Other times there are special phone packages you can sign up for).

The cost of sending a text can be completely different from receiving a text. (I know, this makes no sense.) Texting can sometimes be cheaper than calling.

So if you’re going overseas, call your phone company and get all the deets.

  • Travel Pouch. Buy a travel pouch that goes under your clothing, especially for international trips. (You can get this at Target or Amazon or wherever.)

You’ll want to put your credit cards, cash and passport / ID in there. I’ve seen too many people get pickpocketed who didn’t take this advice. It’s not worth the hassle.

Photocopy your passport and put that in your pocket or purse, not your actual passport. The actual passport just comes out for airline and government officials.

  • Tell Your Bank You’re Traveling

Call your debit / credit card company and tell them where you’ll be traveling.

Nothing’s worse than sitting in a Parisian cafe with a bunch of waiters yelling at you because your bank “froze” your debit card to “protect” you. Then try calling your bank when it’s the middle of the night in the U.S. to get them to unfreeze it. (::Weeping softly::)

Unless you want to start doing dishes (which will be a great story, it’s true) make sure you call your bank so they can put a “travel notification” on your card.

You should also be carrying around some cash, in that travel pouch. (Go to the bathroom to get money out. Thieves can smell money.)


Lighter is definitely better. The less you have to carry, the more rested you’ll be. One general guideline is to lay out everything you plan to pack on your bed: makeup, clothing accessories, etc. Remove 1/3 of it, then start packing.

There are 2 types of luggage: carry-on and checked.

  • CARRY-ON: Carry-on is obviously the luggage you can take on the plane. Generally you get one carry-on bag and one “personal item” (like a purse or laptop).

Different airlines have different guidelines, but if you can afford it, a decent carry-on bag should meet most airlines’ requirements. If you feel you need one of these, we recommend going to Amazon and searching “carry on luggage” to see available options.

But most of the time these are unnecessary, except when it’s the only luggage you’ll be bringing; they’re harder to get things out of in-flight, unlike a large purse, or backpack or laptop-size bag, which you can just pop under the seat in front of you.

Be sure your carry-on has zippered pockets, so things don’t fall out and get left on the plane.

Things to DEFINITELY bring in your carry-on:

– Books / e-reader
– iPod
– Snacks
Ear plus
Eye mask
MOST importantly: Your phone charger!

Long waits at airport terminals can quickly drain your cell phone battery, but there are usually outlets in the airports to recharge, even if it means sitting on the floor for a bit.

I also highly recommend foam earplugs and an eye mask (both of which you can get at Target, or from Amazon, etc.), so you can rest undisturbed. Don’t bring these and you’ll probably regret it.

If you can fit a teeny-weeny “mini” or “micro” travel umbrella in your carry-on, it’s a worthwhile addition, especially if you’re going to someplace rainy like Paris.

Things NOT to bring:

Perfumes, liquid medicines, etc. over a certain size: remember to follow current TSA guidelines for ALL liquids, or they’ll be taken from you at the checkpoint. Larger liquids can just go into your checked baggage.

  • CHECKED BAGGAGE: This is the baggage that goes on the plane.

Many airlines now charge fees for checked baggage, although the fees vary. Usually charges increase after 50 lbs. I recommend aiming to go as far under 50 lbs. as possible, in case you buy souvenirs (15 mini Eiffel Towers) or get a freebie at your destination.


To play it safe, the rule of thumb is to arrive at least:

  • 90 minutes before a domestic flight, or
  • 3 hours before an international flight

On overbooked domestic flights, if you check in anytime after 1 hour before your flight, some airlines will actually give your seat to someone else, which is ridiculous, but there you go.

For either domestic or international flights, you’ll need time to get through check-in, security and hopefully take a moment to relax.

The idea is to arrive where you’re going looking good and ready to work, and giving yourself plenty of time is really helpful.

The way I look at it, I’m sort of stuck for the day anyway: I might as well get there early and get more iPhone web-surfing in, instead of rushing and messing something up.


  • Photo ID. For domestic flights, you’ll just a photo ID like as a driver’s license or state ID card. You won’t be able to board without one, so be sure it’s with you!
  • Passport. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a passport, even to go to Mexico or Canada. If you already have a passport, be sure it’s current. Passport link. Rush passport link.
  • Travel or work visa. You may need a work or travel visa for certain countries. Your agency or the client should inform you about this.


  • Not to be a downer, but you should probably avoid drinking alcohol on the flight, as it will make jet lag worse. (4realz.)
  • Eat healthy snacks and drink plenty of liquids. You can always have a cocktail or whatever after the assignment.
  • Set your phone or watch to the time at your destination. This will help your “body clock” adjust to where you’re going. (Sorta’.) The “arrival time” on the ticket is always in the destination time, anyway.
  • Try to sleep if you can. Use the eye mask and ear plugs we mentioned in “Packing,” as it only takes one crying baby to ruin some much-needed rest.


On your ticket, you’ll see “departure time” and “boarding time.” Set an alarm on your phone for “vibrate” and “ring” at the boarding time.

Nothing’s worse than spending too long at the gift shop, or listening to music on your iPod, only to realize you suddenly have to sprint through the airport like some freak. Not to mention falling asleep reading that super-boring book your aunt lent you and missing your connection.


Well, technically you really should tip skycaps (people who help you with your bags), room housekeepers, and anyone who goes truly out of their way to give you a hand. Usually a dollar will do the trick, if you’re on a budget.


  • Time. Remember arrival time on ticket is always in the destination’s time zone.
  • Language. If traveling internationally, memorize a few key phrases from a phrase book. The effort will be very much appreciated in your destination country

This works especially well in Paris.

The difference between a snotty Parisian and a friendly Parisian, 99% of the time, boils down to your valiant attempt to speak French.

For even more tips for living and working in Paris, I highly recommend 2 books by the late, great Polly Platt: Savoir Flair or French or Foe. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) These books, in addition to being a super-fun read, are a “must” for knowing how the assimilate into French culture.


If anyone's going to destroy your credit rating, it should really be you.

  • Always, always, always carry documents, credit cards and cash in a travel pouch that goes under your clothing.
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport in your pocket or purse, and keep the real passport in the travel pouch. (So if you’re pickpocketed, the thieves will only get the photocopy.) Also, if you need to get money from the pouch, go to the washroom to do it.
  • Don’t walk around with nice jewelry. Put it on right before your go-see or interview, in the cab or a washroom in the building.
  • Only enter a taxi with an official taxi sign. Don’t get in just because someone says they’re a taxi; politely decline. They can overcharge you (or worse).
  • If you have a lot of valuables, use the hotel safe. A locked suitcase may be enough to protect the basics, but not for really expensive stuff.
  • Look both ways. Seriously! I remember almost walking in front of a bus in Africa, because the traffic is on the other side of the street. I was looking left, like in the States. The bus came from the right! The same goes for the U.K., if you’re from the U.S. If you’re from the U.K., the same applies when in the U.S. Whatever. Just look both ways.
  • When seated in a public place, don’t just put your purse or luggage “near” you. Keep it in front of you, between your knees, or loop a strap or other part of it around the chair leg or even your foot. Otherwise a thief can ask for a light, or for “directions,” while his good buddy snatches your stuff super-fast. (See “lighter trick,” below.)
  • Street scams. Read this twice. (‘Cuz otherwise when it actually happens you probably won’t remember. Trust me on this, as well.)

The ‘spill’ trick. Someone accidentally spills something on you, like water or ketchup or ice cream, or anything messy. They apologize profusely and offer to help you clean it off. Meanwhile, their partner is picking your purse or pocket.

If someone spills something on you, don’t let them near you: tell them it’s okay, you’ll clean it off yourself. You can clean it off later, and if you’re going to an interview, you can always explain what happened. Sympathy is good anyway, right? Not to mention good humor (showing you’re easy to work with, with a positive attitude) in an interview is worth more than perfection in this type of situation, anyway.

But the important thing is, if anyone is going to irresponsibly max your credit cards, it might as well be you.

The “lighter” trick. This happened to my Dad and me on a trip to Madrid, when I was a kid. Someone comes up and asks you if you have a light for a cigarette, or directions, or if you know Elmo personally. While you’re facing their direction, their sleazy partner quickly grabs whatever luggage is nearby. By the time you’re finished the conversation, his partner is long-gone with your stuff. Sad, dude.

Travel safe, yo. And have fun.


More travel tips for models in these columns:

– Interviews
– The Fashionable Life


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