September 2016

The ultimate guide to surviving a long haul flight

At the airport

Get there early

It is very stressful worrying about whether you are going to miss your flight and so it’s very important to give yourself a decent amount of time to get to the airport.

I recommend taking the estimated time it should take to get to the airport and doubling that time to be safe - I can’t count how many people have told me that they missed their flight because they didn’t know about roadworks or train lines closures or because their car broke down. I also recommend leaving an hour to check in, check your bags and get through security.

I know this might seem like a lot of time and often you will end up with time to spare. Honestly though the time goes past really quickly - especially if once you get through you make a beeline to a bar or cafe for a coffee or alcoholic beverage of choice.

Be Nice

I have been bomb checked multiple times, had my bags searched for nail scissors that didn't exist and had my husband detained (temporarily) because he had travelled to a high risk country as part of his military service and every time I have smiled and been helpful and this makes the experience 100 times more pleasant.

I have also seen people bring downright rude and unhelpful and let me tell you a little secret from someone who works in customer service for over a decade. If you are a dick, we will make things hard for you. We will take longer to do simple things. We'll say no instead of yes.

So, the lesson for the airport (and you know, life) is don't be a dick - they are doing their job and they will bomb check you regardless of whether you are nice as pie or a tosspot - so how that goes for you is entirely in your hands.


On the flight

Let’s be honest here - long haul flights are not fun for anyone. Particularly if (like me) you live in Australia and flights of over ten hours are the norm. Ultimately there is only so much you can do to make an economy flight comfortable (I mean that’s why business and first class exists after all) but there is definitely ways you can make the experience more positive.

Getting comfortable

When deciding what to wear it’s important to dress comfortably both in the literal sense of the word and also in the sense that you need to feel comfortable with people seeing you in this outfit.

Of course everyone has a different level of personal comfort but what I would suggest is wearing something stylish but comfortable for around the airport and for the first part of the trip - I have a dress I wear every time that’s made of jersey material and is short sleeved  which is perfect for all the changes in temperature you can go through when travelling. I also pack some actual pyjamas to wear for “night-time” on the plane to help me get some sleep.

In addition I always pack a loose cardigan and a pair of socks - most airlines these days do provide socks and blankets but you never can tell how cool the plane will get (or how much you trust the blankets to be clean).

Lastly neck pillows are a must have, I know they are dorky and carrying them through the airport is embarrassing but it’s been a game changer for us when we travel. The first time we flew to Europe we tried to get by on the tiny pillows the airline provided. I got no sleep and neither did Mike. The second time around we both had neck pillows and not only did it make the thirteen hours on the plane more comfortable but we both actually got sleep!

Self Care

Self care is so important on long flights to help you to recover more quickly from jetlag. Firstly it is so important to hydrate regularly. I learnt this tip after our first flight to Paris, I had forgotten my water bottle and had to survive on the water provided by the flight attendants. Anyone would think I had been in the desert for days from how parched I was at the end of the flight.

I definitely recommend packing a big water bottle in your carry on, remember to make sure it is empty otherwise you won’t be allowed to take it through security, and fill it up before you board the plane. Also it may go without saying but where you can avoid caffeine and alcohol.

I also recommend taking advantage of any layovers - most large international airports offer some kind of services these days to help weary travellers. For example Changi airport offers showers, massages, lounges for having a nap and even prayer rooms. Many airports also have yoga rooms.

If I was to make one suggestion it would be to take a shower. Pack some travel sized versions of your normal face wash, body wash, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste to make the most of it.

Keep yourself entertained

The most important thing to remember on a long haul flight is to give yourself as many options as possible for entertainment. You don’t want to do the same thing for thirteen hours in your every day life - that doesn’t change just because you’re on a plane.

If you want some recommendations on how to entertain yourself I wrote a whole post on the subject that covers all my favourite ways to keep myself busy.

Getting some sleep

Sleeping on a plane is incredibly illusive. I can’t say I’ve cracked the code but I definitely have picked up a few tips for improving your chances of getting some shut eye.

Firstly, brush your teeth and wash your face. Perform all the normal rituals you would perform if you were in your house to help set your mind up for sleep.

Now let’s get comfortable. Recline your seat back as far as it will go. Use the neck pillow I know you’ve gone and purchased. Also use the pillow the airline has provided (either prop it against the window or use it to help support your back).

Take a melatonin pill. Put on own your socks and if necessary the socks the airline provided. Pull your blanket up high and put on a guided meditation - Headspace, Calm and Buddhify all have some specifically designed to help you to get to sleep. Once the meditation is done put on a playlist to help you sleep - I like the rain forest sounds one on Spotify. Lastly pull your eye mask down and let yourself drift off to sleep.


How to avoid the top five stumbling blocks of first time travel

Deciding to travel for the first time isn't without its challenges. I've definitely faced my own share of mental stumbling blocks on my various travels. So I thought I would share these stumbling blocks with you - and some tips to help get past them so you can enjoy your holiday as much as possible.

Not making time to rest

I am definitely an all go kind of girl when I’m on holidays - I want to do all the things, eat all the food, drink all the wine. I want to squeeze out as much fun as possible. I mean after all I’ve normally spent the last 12 months saving for this - I’m not letting a cent of that go to waste.

Of course this isn’t the healthiest way to approach a holiday - an event that is meant to be relaxing and recharging. Thankfully my husband is a lot better at chilling out than I am - he definitely sees the value in spending the afternoon hanging out in the hotel room having a nap. The ROI (that's return on investment for all you non-business speak geeks out there) on a holiday isn’t just the amount of adventures you have - it’s how relaxed you are as well.

Wanting to see it all

So you've spend a few thousand on flights to a magical new place and you want to make the most of the time you have. I mean there is a chance that you may never come back to this amazing place. Might I suggest an alternative? Always leave a reason to come back. I haven’t seen inside St Paul’s at the Vatican, we didn’t go to Burano or Murano in Venice and even though I’ve been to Paris twice we’ve barely seen anything north of the Champs Elysses.

It’s so easy to feel bad about missing places - but whenever I realise we won’t have time to see something I just tell myself “this is a reason to come back”.

Being scared

Travelling to a foreign country is scary. Before every trip I have been on I have thought at some point, “going overseas to a country where I don’t speak the language and the culture is different sounds like a bad idea. I should stay here in my safe, familiar home forever”.

The summary of my thought process when these fears rise up is: “feel the fear - do it anyway” Just remember being scared is totally normal - it’s not a sign that you shouldn’t travel. It’s not a sign that you should cancel your flights. It’s just a sign that growth and change is scary - and that travel is something that allows you to grow.

Preparation VS Spontaneity

For a long time I thought that being organised when you travel was akin to being “boring”. Travel is meant to be unstructured, unorganised and unplanned. Planning a holiday would make you one of those people in sitcoms who have an itinerary broken into 15 minute increments - and we always know that those people are shown the futility of organisation by the end of the episode.

There is something to be said though for being organised. In general you find nicer places to stay, better places to eat and more interesting places to visit.  It makes you more willing to embrace spontaneity - not less. Although some of our favourite adventures have been on a whim - one of the best meals we had in Italy was at a place recommended by people we met at Christmas dinner in Venice - I would have been far less likely to take a chance on it if I didn’t already have a delicious meal already planned for the night before.

Trying new things

It’s surprisingly easy these days to go to a new country and experience exactly nothing new. Between global chain stores and the universal love of Coca-Cola it’s easy to have no new experiences. Fight the urge to stick with what’s familiar! Try the the weird beverage from the vending machine - sure it might taste like cigarette water (true story that happened to me in Tokyo) but you’ll never know if don’t try it. Go into restaurants where the locals eat - it’s intimidating of course but it is almost always a lot more fun. And if the waiter offers you raki - you say yes*!

*Assuming of course that you are legally allowed to drink and do consume alcohol. Drink responsibly and so on.

Bonus: You take yourself with you

So this is something that Hilary Rushford has talked about a lot on her various platforms in the past (I've linked her Instagram because it's a good starting place).What she talks about (and what I have experienced myself) - is that you are still you when you travel.

So if you get anxious or nervous you won't just leave that element of your personality behind when you aren't at work. Sure you won't get anxious about your inbox anymore - but you might get anxious about missing flights or running out of money.

I'm still working on learning how to give room when I travel for myself and the quirky elements of my personality that I don't really like. 


How to entertain yourself on long flights

Spending hours on a plane has limited ability for excitement. Sure initially it’s fun but that wears off quickly. I am fiercely determined to occupy myself on any flight I get on - being bored on a flight really does make it go approximately one thousand times longer. Here are my current favourite ways to entertain myself on a flight:

Podcasts

We all know that I am a podcast obsessive and you can check out my favourite podcasts right over here. When I travel I download a bunch of episodes so I can listen whether I’m near WiFi or not (I use the Stitcher app). I also sometimes resist the urge to listen to episodes from my favourite podcasts in the lead up to a trip so I have lots to listen to when I’m away.

Colouring

My favourite thing to pair with listening to podcasts is colouring. So far I’ve taken big colouring books on flights but I recently discovered small colouring books (I mean I say discover like they were hiding from me but obviously they weren't) and I’m excited to give these a go next time because I think it will be more convenient; for both me and the people in the seats around me. I use Derwent pencils (which are so fancy) when I colour.

I’ve also started using a colour by numbers app; there are a ton out there, and a lot of them can be used without wifi (I cheat and just “start” a bunch before I get on the plane so it downloads the image). It’s a good work around for short flights if you don’t want to be lugging your art supplied with you.

Games

There are tons of really awesome games you can download to your laptop these days - not just games like Candy Crush but adventure and puzzle games as well. My current favourite is the Nancy Drew games - they are just difficult enough to hook me in without being so difficult that I get frustrated. I’m so excited to download a game (or two) to play next time we fly.

Read

I love books and I always take at least one with me on the flight. I try and make it something a bit lighter that will suck me in rather than a more serious tome. I also buy a few magazines (favourites include Peppermint, Gourmet Traveller and Collective Hub). Lately I've also been really into Audible for non-fiction books.

Write

I always journal when I travel but lately I have also been taking my laptop with me on flights so that I can do more free-form writing. As much as I love the idea of having a beautiful notebook that I could write in between staring pensively out the window and sipping a martini the reality is my handwriting is awful and as a leftie I end up with stains on my hand. A laptop removes those obstacles and lets me pour out ideas.

Music

When I’m reading or writing I like to listen to music. Spotify is my app of choice for listening to music. I always make sure I have at least one playlist downloaded so I can play it offline. Normally it’s something atmospheric and peaceful, some of my favourites are:

TV & Movies

Most airlines these days have some pretty awesome choices of television shows and movies. I do recommend leaving TV and movies until you have exhausted all your other options. It’s much better to do all of the more “active” entertainment choices first and leave movies and TV for when you are just too exhausted (inevitable on a long haul flight) to do anything else.