10 January 2015

Long-haul flight survival tips

Everyone has the 'booking 2015 travel' bug. Well, in the last 3 weeks I've spent 50 hours hurtling through the clouds, cruising through 4 hemispheres, over several continents and hours staring at a screen roughly 8inches in diameter. It's the biggest downside to moving to the other side of the world - having to travel 20,000km to get a slice of your Dad's Bacon and Egg Pie. True story that. (Strangely all that flying hasn't curbed my wanderlust, just made it more ravenous...)

My flights this time were 7 hours London-Dubai, 13.5 hours Dubai-Brisbane then 3 hours Brisbane-Auckland. It wasn't a lot of fun but also strangely meditative. Living in the crazyness that is London, it's not often that I just get to sit down, (in fact I'm pretty terrible at sitting still) zone out and read my book, so the flights were in some ways kinda awesome.

What to do on a long-haul flight - Adventures of a London Kiwi

I took a bit of a strange view hopping on the flight to New Zealand straight after work, working on the assumption that I'd be so exhausted that I'd manage to grab a few winks here and there. It also meant that I didn't stay awake the night before fretting about the flight and sleeping through my alarm. Stopping off to quickly shower (a life saver) I cruised out to Heathrow and began to make my way home.

To hang in the aisle or lounge in a window seat:
This is entirely down to personal preference. 90% of the time I'll get a window seat - you can watch the world go by, won't be disturbed by other people needing to get up and can create a little cocoon of How To Train Your Dragon movies. I find personally I've been elbow-bashed in an aisle seat too many times by passers-by to outweigh the great ability to hop up and down as much as you like.

The one time I have gone against my own preference was an emergency exit seat upstairs in the A380 (my coming home flights via Dubai). Ah-maz-ing. Not only was I able to hop about as much as I liked (despite being told by the grouchy air hostess to 'go back to sleep' when asking how long we'd been flying, in order not to disturb my seat mate) but it gave me more leg room than I'd ever need, and a hunky bloke to snore-on next to me. And no, it wasn't my poor husband, he was spared that particular enjoyment!

What to do on a long-haul flight - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Clothes
It never ceases to amaze me how dressed up people get to board long haul flights. Stiletto boots, skin tight jeans and pancaked makeup seems to be almost de riguer. Just why?? It's best to dress fairly nicely, but you have to be comfortable. If you're angling for an upgrade it might be an idea to wear something classy, by make sure you take a pair of yoga pants and a comfy jumper. Think loose, light gym gear or a maxi dress and you'll be a snug as a bug in a rug.

The usuals:
- Keep hydrated - drink plenty of water
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Make friends with the air hostesses
- Get a bulkhead/emergency exit seat
- Move those hips (and legs, and arms - Deep Vein Thrombosis isn't good)

Jet lag
Some people run with the school of thought that jet lag is beaten by not eating and forcing your body to sleep in line with the country you're going to. Personally that doesn't work for me - I just assume that the first few days on arrival I'll be crashing early and waking at the crack of dawn - perfect for exploring. Every cloud has a silver lining after all!

What I did try to do was eat well and drink plenty of water in the days leading up to my flight (you have no idea how challenging this was during the Christmas whirl), keep my vitamins topped up and get in as many steps as possible. In between flights I stretched as much as possible, and when not standing, often sat on the floor in airport lounges to stretch my hamstrings.

Long-haul flight survival tips - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Tips I've learned the hard way:
- Check in as early as possible - online is the very best
- Hop out early to the airport - that way you'll breeze through security and can enjoy a leisurely gate-side wine or two.
- Always double check your seat at check-in. If it has been changed by the airline politely insist they change it back (especially if it you've paid for it) or ask them to offer you a better alternative (I always joke about an upgrade)
- Take change of clothes for each flight
- Change whilst at the airport, rather than in the plane loo as turbulency will happen at the worst moment (I'm speaking from experience)
 - Research any terminal transfers
- If you have long connection times, check out if the airport has a airside hotel with rooms or bathrooms you can use (hello Changi) or if your airline will allow you to purchase access to their lounges (that's for us plebs of course!) 
- Never book the last flight of the day unless you can be flexible and fly the next day
- Know your rights as a passenger

Connecting flights transfers terrify me. Forget spiders, heights or axe murderers (though I'll never been keen on huge cliff drops beneath my feet) it's transferring flights that give me the heebie-jeebies. I squarely place the blame on Helsinki airport and a nightmare flight that only gave us 45 minutes to rush through slow-moving security, run through the incredibly narrow airport and skid over an icy tarmac to make our connecting flight to London. Not all transfers are like this, in fact they should never be like this, and often aren't.

Long-haul flight survival tips - Adventures of a London Kiwi
Watch out for furry stowaways in your luggage, especially your carry on...
Carry on list:
- Light, loose clothing including socks
- A light, big scarf - they hide many evils
- Sturdy slip on shoes
- Extra socks. You'll thank me.
- Face wipes (a life saver), deodorant, a light perfume, toothbrush & mini-toothpaste (another life saver), eye drops, mousturiser
- Chargers for your electrical devices
- Your favourite headphones
- Fully stocked e-reader
- Paper copies of bookings
- Snacks and a bottle of water (purchased post-security)
- A smile and plenty of thank-yous
- Light fleecy blanket perfect for snuggling in
- Painkillers and tummy settlers, just in case

If you're super organised, you could even use the time as a mini-spa session like this lady...

What to do on a long-haul flight - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Happy flying!

(What's your favourite tip?)

35 comments :

  1. That is too long. I'm not sure I'd cope as gracefully as I'm sure you do! x

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  2. Hmm, my favourite travel tip is apparently an absolute travel no-no. I skip my evening meal and take a sleeping pill while still on the runway and wake up for breakfast. Apparently not good if you are going to sleep like a log in one position for 8 hours but I still tend to turn around every hour or so anyway.


    I also never leave home without ear plugs and an eye mask.

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  3. I recently got to travel business class with work to Japan, it wasn't like flying at all, a 12 hour flight felt like nothing. I only wish I could afford to do it when paying for my own travel. So I suppose 'fly business class' might be my biggest tip, albeit an impractical one.

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  4. An emergency aisle seat is always a good idea. I'm a firm aisle seat believer, mainly because I guzzle water on the plane, it makes me need the loo every hour but it is the only way I have found that I don't get ill either on the plane or as soon as I get off it! x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

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  5. I kind of hate flying (combines my fear of heights with my motion sickness) and therefore like it best when I have a middle seat with no one next to me. This doesn't happen very often but when it does, the flight becomes automatically easier for me. But maybe that's just because I don't have to be afraid of vomiting on somebody then :D

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  6. I love flying and planning what to put in my hand luggage to get me through long flights! I'm with you on the window seat and the scarf. I've used a scarf as a pillow, a blanket (& a cover up when I got a drink knocked over me)!


    Jet lag always seems to get me on the way back home. I hadn't thought about how I eat affects this...hmm!


    Gemma

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  7. Great tips! Comfortable clothing is so important for me on a long flight, and a cardigan or scarf to cover up with when it gets chilly on the flight. Good books and lots of snacks and I am set!

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  8. I'm definitely a window seat gal, and like to get snuggly with fluffy socks and a loose warm jumper (for some reason, I always find flights to be completely freezing). Thanks for the tips!


    www.thetechgypsy.com

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  9. I love these tips...flying is like an art to me, one that I always strive to perfect!

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  10. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)11 January 2015 at 10:09

    I'm so impressed that you forced yourself to go straight after work - so efficient or perhaps a bit bonkers?! ☺The main thing that puts me off visiting Australia and New Zealand is just how far away it is and how long it would take - and I of course won't have the incentive of the homemade bacon and egg pie at the other end!

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  11. I've just come back from HKG and agree with all the points in this post - great job! Not a huge fan of those neck cushions/pillow things, bought one recently and found them super uncomfortable =( definitely going to be bringing an extra blanket or extra socks next time, my feet became freezing cold for some bizarre reason!

    Diana xx | londongirldiana.blogspot.com

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  12. My carry on essentials are noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask to shut out the rest of the world and catch a few hours sleep. When you have a connecting flight make sure you have everything you need in case you get stranded. I speak from experience, one time my connecting flight got cancelled due to bad weather and I had to spend the night at an airport hotel. I couldn't get my checked baggage back so I was caught out without a change of clothes. At the very least, pack a spare set of underwear!

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  13. Kasha Dubaniewicz12 January 2015 at 20:46

    Such great tips! I'm the worst at flying long haul because of my reluctance to sit still for any length of time, but I'm always ok after the first few fidgety hours (and perhaps a glass of wine ;)


    Will definitely use your suggestions for next time x

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  14. I wasn't too graceful - I just have to make sure I have enough to entertain myself!

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  15. Ahhhh, maybe I'll need to try that one time! I'm always so envious of the 12 hours flight to SA!

    I need to begin taking ear plugs...

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  16. Oh I wish that could be my every flight!

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  17. At least you're properly hydrated for the flight!

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  18. Ah, that is a definite tough nut to crack.

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  19. Scarves are simply wonderful - and hide s9 many sins!

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  20. I only just started taking snacks; but it makes SO much sense!

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  21. It does get cold - is it because we're not moving, or the airlines do it intentionally?

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  22. Me too Holly - and it's such a long time we're on the plane!

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  23. Efficient and a bit bonkers! Because I only had two weeks it seemed like a better use of time.
    Bacon & egg pie it totally worth the horrendous flight!

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  24. I'd love to travel to NZ, but I'm terrified of flying, I just can't handle being locked in a plane with no escape for any more than a minute :(

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  25. Totally agree on the comfy clothes. Who gets dressed up to the nines to sit on a plane. My favourite seat is the window seat. I can keep an eye on things. xx

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  26. I'm glad I'm not alone on those neck things - I've tried and I've tried but they're just uncomfy and awkward to carry!

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  27. That is an epic call - one to definitely note, even shorthaul!

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  28. I'm no good at sitting still either - this time I bought a cheap tablet & blogged my way through the flight!

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  29. This has to be really hard - do you do the Eurostar/boats?

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  30. I've only been on the Eurostar once and It wasn't too bad but I get sea sick on ferries and ships :(

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  31. Ooooh nope I haven't but will have a look out for it! Thanks :)

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  32. Aah, that really isn't fair - but there again home is a wonderful place to explore!

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  33. They just smooth off the worst edges of the flight by pumping in vitamins: http://www.jetease.com/jetease8.html.en

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