Going the distance – smart travel for long haul trips
Air travel is one of the genuinely freeing experiences we have from our 21st century connectedness. It’s with relief that I pass through customs and switch off my phone for a long flight. No one can call, no one can ask me to do anything, and no one expects anything from me. I’m free. Except that I’m confined to a space under a metre square, and any time I go anywhere I have to lumber my luggage with me.
Small spaces, big time. Long haul travel leaves a lot to be desired. But if you plan well enough, it is possible to enjoy your very limited (but all yours) personal space.
Try these tips and tricks to help ease the discomfort of long haul travel.
Before you go
Sort your gadgets and entertainment options. You probably don’t need your laptop, phone, tablet and kindle all on the plane with you. Bring the USB charger for your on board gadget of choice as most modern airlines have USB docks in seats to charge.
If you’re headed somewhere new, save any nature or historical documentaries on your destination to your device. Top up your iTunes credit and make a playlist that will get you in the mood for your holiday. And to enjoy it all – the single biggest difference I’ve experienced on an aeroplane is – a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. You don’t even need to play anything through them. Switch them on, and enjoy the quiet.
Take a travel buddy
A travel buddy is someone to fall asleep on and mind your bags while you use the toilets. Travelling with a friend means you halve the uncertainty of an undesirable seating companion for an extended period of time.
Pack clean undies and socks, a comb and a toothbrush. In lieu of showering, I can guarantee changing your undergarments, running a comb through your hair, and brushing those pearly whites will leave you feeling as close to refreshed as possible in an aeroplane or airport toilet. Use a cream perfume or cologne to dab fragrance in small spaces, so you smell fresh too.
And don’t forget – nothing over 100ml! Save sample sachets for just these occasions.
Loose, comfy, elasticised pants are essential long haul wear. For ladies, leggings are entirely appropriate, and men, I wouldn’t say this normally, but at 36,000 feet, your tracky-pants are ok with me. Stick to natural fibres – cotton, linen, wool – as a base and you’ll find they breathe better, giving your skin a non-stick feel the whole flight.
An eyemask is perfect for blocking out light and fooling your body into a shifting or new timezone. Avoid coffee and alcohol if you plan to sleep, pop your earphones in, and if you don’t have noise cancelling headphones, try playing classical music on low volume as it’s more soothing than the surrounding sounds of your fellow passengers.
Take an empty water bottle, and once you’re through customs, find somewhere to fill for your flight. Airports can be sneaky with the location of their water fountains, so you might want to ask – or wait until you’re cruising and ask a flight attendant to fill it for you. I have a rule that every time fluids are offered, I always take a cup of water. Never say no to fluids on board.
Don’t be shy about your on-board calisthenics. Stretching, rubbing, circling, walking up and down, around and around – it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Do it regularly and you’ll find there’s a handful of people on every flight who hang out down the back making chit chat between poses.
In flight relaxation and mind training
Being on a long haul flight is a great time to practice mid-air meditation. Be mindful of the moment, and all the body parts you tend to forget, and try the smiling mind app. It’ll put you in a great frame of mind to start a trip. I also like to pack a book of crosswords and sudoku to exercise the mind as well as the body.
Long haul transit
Budget for any time spent in transit, and pre-load cash in a major currency onto a debit card, then you can eat, drink and relax without worrying whether cash will be accepted in your stop over city. Take advantage of free wifi, lather your hands in moisturiser at duty free stores and stride out to get your major muscles moving.