Ticking Over the Miles in the Air

The time has come to board that plane, that sleek machine that is standing there, ready to whisk you away to that exotic faraway place and turn you into the jet setter that you have always wanted to be. The nerves put you on edge and excitement wells up like a fountain until you reach your designated seat.  You stare at the 1 x 1-meter invisible cubicle that will be your space for the next 9 hours. Reality sets in, as you surrender to the idea of confinement and the joy of the limitations that are part of economy class. People mill about, tucking their travel bags into overhead spaces while negotiating a square dance with the traveller next to them. The realisation that the trip will be a lengthy one settles in like an itch that you need to scratch but can’t reach. The excitement and the adventure that lies ahead fades into the background and it’s time to get acquainted with your seat

Working out how to make a long-distance flight bearable is an exercise on its own, especially if you are a budget traveller and want to stretch your rand.  A journey like this can be planned and having a few travel tips on hand is not a bad idea, but every now and then life throws you a curveball and you might have a situation to deal with that you did not anticipate.

Here are a few tips for the casual traveller who wants to hit the ground running once they reach their destination.

Take into consideration that heading to a destination that takes more than 6 hours of travelling time can become a dreary exercise. These trips are longer than most road trips you’ve taken and you don’t have the luxury of getting out of your vehicle and taking a break.

What to consider before entering airspace?

The time that you will be travelling:

While hopping on to an airplane and then off again a few hours later is ok, the time spent on a 9 to 12-hour flight can take its toll on you and for the traveller that will a have stop over it becomes even more of a tedious exercise. Ensure you are well rested before departing, and even though you may think it is better to travel when you are tired, this is not necessarily true. Be well hydrated and ensure that you have a few things planned to keep yourself occupied. A good book or travel guide is a great way to pass the time especially when you tire of the in-flight entertainment or if you have a long stopover. Daytime flights seem to be easier as your body clock remains in sync, but nighttime flights become trickier as sleeping on an aircraft can be uncomfortable and airlines have a way of waking you up and wanting to feed you at the weirdest hours. Stretch, there is a reason why cats do it!! This not only helps with your circulation but will keep you feeling normal.

Prepare your body and mind for your timetable ahead, so that when you arrive at your final destination you will not be nearly as frazzled as you could have been. 

Departure and arrival times:

Yes, it might sound obvious, but the following can be vital in relieving stress factors when you travel. Consider traffic and traffic jams on your way to the airport. It is normally a good idea to stay close to the airport on the night before your departure or alternatively make sure that you arrive there at least 3 hours prior to departure. Departure and arrival times can be a major stress factor when it comes to stopovers, so ensure you have enough time to get to your next flight. The bonus of travelling with travelstart is that they do this all for you, and your luggage will get booked through automatically. You will just need to ensure that you get to the gate in time for your interconnecting flight. Arrival times play another major factor in travelling to a destination that is unknown to you.  Check to see if there will be transport available when you arrive, whether it is a train, bus, car hire or taxi. Bear in mind that night transport tends to be a little more expensive or not available at all, especially when travelling to certain countries. The last thing you need is to be stuck at the airport or having to pay an astronomical fare that you could rather spend on something more pleasurable.

Your luggage, including hand luggage:

Luggage can be a pleasure or just a real pain, you choose. More than anything else, be practical. Consider the weight of the bag you are travelling with; how easy is it to lug around and to store. Although you may want to take your whole cupboard with you, believe me, it’s not a good idea. Don’t pack too much, no one is going to notice your clothes while travelling. Take a few favourite things, stay away from too many liquids and creams, it adds weight to your luggage and usually, there are plenty of supermarkets where you are going.  Following this advice will make checking in a dream and might leave you some space for that cute top, cool shoes or a gift you may buy. Consider that you might have to get around quickly and even though that big bag fits somewhere in a large storage space on the aircraft it is going to have to come out at some stage. Which brings me to my next point, mark your bag with a large pink ribbon or something funky or crazy, particularly when it is a standard black bag, you’ll thank me when you see me. Hand luggage, the bane of my life is other peoples hand luggage, those large bags that people try and squeeze into the over head compartment while the airhostess politely stands and watches. You need only a few things in your hand luggage, electronics, a few personal hygiene items, medicines, maybe a few snacks and space to for a light weight jacket when travelling to different climates. The best bag for hand luggage is a backpack, it is easy to handle, carry around and allows easy access to everything you need. A small handbag or moon bag is a great addition for carrying around maps, cell phone, your passport, and wallet, this will ensure you always have everything at hand.

Things you should take in hand luggage on long-haul flights:

•        A travel mug.

•        Valuables/electronics

•        Chewing gum for blocked ears

•        A change of clothes

•        Earphones and earplugs

•        Sleep mask

•        Travel neck pillow

•        Sleep aid

•        Hand sanitiser

•        Medication

•        Eye drops

•        Basic toiletries

Please be seated

Yes, it is romantic to sit in a window seat and the view is great for about two minutes but then its over. If you are anything like me and enjoy the freedom of movement, take the aisle seat. In this space, you can dislodge yourself from your chair at any time to stretch your legs or go to the bathroom without having to squeeze past the person next to you. If you have the luxury of booking a seat ahead of time, do so, otherwise, get to the airport early and choose at the counter. I find that if you are your happy and pleasant the ground crew can be amazingly helpful, especially to a lone traveller.

Your travel habits

Know yourself, do you go to the bathroom often? Do you drink a lot of water? Do you like to snack? Do you need to be entertained while travelling? Do you enjoy crossword? Do you enjoy sweets or good coffee? Just take a good look at yourself and indulge in these little pleasures if you can, it makes travelling so much easier when you don’t miss out on the little things. Keep to your routine, brush your teeth, wash your face etc. Don’t be scared to ask for something, the crew is there to assist in any way that they can. 

Clothing

Look fabulous and travel? NOT. Beware the ego monster. Sneakers, soft longs and a warm jacket for cold travelling, T- shirt, soft shorts and kick off shoes for warmer countries are the way to go. Skip belts and buckles, they just mean you stand for so much longer at security checks and you might get fondled too. I normally travel with a hooded sweater or beanie as the headphones never fit me perfectly and this seems to help. I do love travelling with a cotton scarf, it comes in handy at times, a trick I learned while travelling in Cambodia.

The culinary thing

Our normal day to day diets go out of the window with air travel and depending on which airline you fly with; you will most likely end up eating something you don’t normally eat. If you are a fussy eater please let the airline know ahead of time. Take a few snacky things you can nibble on during the flight, nuts and raisins are great. For South Africans, biltong or dried fruit are a great treat. Don’t forget to take a travel mug, they are useful if you are hanging around airports waiting for a connecting flight and needing a cup of coffee that won’t spill over everything. Water should be your drink of choice, avoid sugary drinks and limit your caffeine intake.

Some medical tips

If you have to take medicines with you on a trip, only take what you need in your hand luggage, make use of a little pill box, they are simple and easy to use. Some travellers suffer from water retention, chat to you doctor about this, and note, it does help to wear compression socks. Drink water during your flight, the air conditioning can dry you out like a prune. I highly recommend an immune booster before and during flight, those air conditioners circulate all kinds of germs. Make use of a good hand disinfectant, door handles are a great germ spreader

Always travel with a small pack of tissues. I don’t recommend travelling with contact lenses in your eyes, remove them inflight and store them in containers until landing at your final destination, it is easier on the eyes and they will be well rested.

Unexpected circumstances:

There is often that one thing that happens during your flight that can make your life a misery. Some can be helped and others can’t. Be prepared for the unexpected. i.e. the sick person next to you sneezing all over you, the snorer that falls asleep on your shoulder, the screaming kid just in front of you etc. Be gentle, it can’t be helped. Offer a tissue, cover your mouth and nose with that cotton scarf, wear ear plugs, prop a little pillow under the sleeping head. Take a deep breath and relax, we are all human, heading together to a destination.

Stay connected:

Wi-Fi is available all over the world, well almost! If you will need to be connected to the internet for any reason in any country I would recommend checking with the country’s take on Wi-Fi and data cards. Most airports have free wi-fi but it might not be as efficient as you think, most aircrafts have on-board Wi-Fi that is free for the first 30min after that you have to pay. In some places, such as SE Asia, you can, with ID, acquire a sim card within a few minutes. In other countries, such as Greece, you cannot acquire a SIM card with out a TAX number however the Wi Fi is really good all over Greece. What ever the case may be. Ensure you have a back up plan for communication if you should need it in an emergency. 

Attitude:

You are travelling, embrace and enjoy whatever situation you find yourself in. Take a deep breath and remember people respond to kindness and reason better than confrontation. As a lone traveller for the last 19 years, I find that a smile never goes to waste. Be thoughtful towards the people that are assisting you on your journey, it is not always easy for them either and having a good attitude will assist you in more ways than one.

“The more you travel, the more you learn about yourself”