Top Tips For A Successful Long Haul Flight
Travelling to far-flung destinations can be exciting or daunting, depending on your frame of mind. But one thing is for sure, taking a little time to plan can make all the difference once the novelty wears off and the boredom sets in...
First of all, what a long-haul flight is requires some definition; technically, it is any flight that is over four hours, however, just to add to matters, it then falls into two different categories; medium long haul and ultra-long haul, the latter being a flight over eight hours. For example, a flight from London to Hong Kong totals around twelve hours making it ultra-long-haul. But it is not just the length of the actual flight that needs to be planned for, there is the journey to the airport, check in, security, boarding, immigration checks at your destination, reclaiming baggage and then your transfer to your final destination all adding hours to your total door to door time. We’ve put together some of our best tips to help you survive your long-haul trip!
Be kind to yourself. Reducing your stress levels the day before your trip can make a huge difference to your experience on the big day. Make sure you plan ahead and get everything ready in plenty of time to avoid those last-minute panics that stress everybody out; make sure you have located and checked all your documents in good time, why not treat yourself to a nice folder to keep your tickets, passports, visa information, insurance, emergency contact numbers, your travel itinerary and other relevant articles in. Then the day before you travel you will be able to do pleasant activities that relax you; don’t pull a 12-hour shift and leave your packing until the small hours of the morning.
Hand luggage and essentials ‘flight pack’.
Well thought out hand luggage can be a real gamechanger on a long-haul flight. Having the right items within easy reach can reduce stress and add to your comfort. Make sure you pack some extra layers of clothes to wear; cabin climate control can sometimes be on the chilly side and having spare clothes, or at least fresh underwear, to change into when you arrive will help you feel less dishevelled. Packing a little bag with essentials such as, comfort eye drops, toothbrush and toothpaste, tissues, flight stockings, painkillers, ear plugs, an eye mask, a small mirror, some make up, small pack of ‘freshen up’ wipes, hand cream, and antibacterial hand gel can go a long way to make your journey more comfortable, just pop it on top and everything will be within easy reach. Don’t forget to pack headphones, your phone, iPad or android tablet, (even in ‘flight mode’ these can help while away the hours). Don’t forget to install apps such as FlightAware which gives you updates on airport delays and flight delays, it can be set to send you notifications, weather updates, and maps your journey so you can see the route you will be taking. Being able to reduce boredom, stress, and anxiety is really useful, try using apps that use meditation techniques such as Calm, The Mindfulness App, Headspace, and Omvana are particularly useful when you're trying to sleep but find yourself distracted by noise, other people, or just the general goings on, alternatively, listen to music on Spotify, Google Play Music, or Apple Music apps to dull the drone of the plane engines. Downloading the kindle app on your phone or tablet means you can have a wide choice of reading material without adding bulk, or weight, to your hand luggage. Always download a few movies that you love because sometimes you just want to be brain dead and not have to follow a plot that requires any concentration, the movies may not be to your taste, and airplane screens can dry your eyes (hence the comfort eye drops in your essentials pack).
Pack some snacks, don’t give yourself a hard time over calorie intake- staving off hunger helps keep a positive mind set…
Remember to keep your purse handy, not only will it stop you worrying that it is lost, but there are lots of opportunities to grab yourself a duty-free treat, or even a quick coffee before boarding.
Always, always, always eat before boarding a plane. Go for something filling but moderately healthy then walk around the airport as much as you can; this helps keep your energy levels up and gets in much valued leg stretching time before it's too late.
There is no better recommendation than taking travel sickness pills; Kwells are particularly good as they are available in dosage for all ages, and can be bought in a dissolvable tablet, so if you do find nausea creeping in it can be great to take medication without having to wash a tablet down with water. If you do find yourself really quite ill, lock yourself in the toilet and don't worry about anyone else, getting stressed about being an inconvenience, or worried you are drawing attention to yourself does you no favours at all, no one will judge you for being ill- don’t worry, take your time, and relax; breathe deeply and close your eyes. Now is a good time to use those meditation apps.
So, you've eaten the food, watched a few movies, walked up and down a couple of times, gone to the toilet more than necessary, spied on people to see how they're coping, maybe taken a few photographs. Now is the time to take a walk. Take your drink, walk to the back or the front of the aircraft depending on where you are sitting, and don't go back to your seat until you´ve finished your drink. Ask yourself, how do I feel? Do I feel like watching another movie? Listening to some music? Reading a book? Or just sitting in silence? Sometimes, you have to embrace the suffering and let it go. Say to yourself ‘I am bored’, contemplate it, and then leave it. Let yourself daydream unashamedly. Think of it as a time between reality and dreaming, when anything is possible, but you don't actually have to make any effort to achieve it. By the time you reach your destination, you'll be bedraggled and bewildered, but this is where the fun really starts! You have a whole new city, country ,or continent to explore. So, shake off that ever so distinct smell of aeroplane and embrace the journey ahead.
What about travelling with children?
Family holidays should be fun, but many parents will accept that travelling with children is an extremely stressful time and there seems to be nothing that makes the process easier; but with a little forward planning, you can try to start the journey in the right mind set!
If you have an older child travelling with you, now is the time to engage them in playing a more supportive role. Giving an older child some responsibility when travelling is a great way to eliminate boredom and it also eases the pressure on parents. Giving them small tasks is a way to keep them involved and busy, but also reduces the stress when travelling.
If you have a child who is taking naps during the day, then it makes sense to plan the journey around the child’s naptime so their routine is disturbed as little as possible, however, when travelling long-haul this is just not possible, however, if possible try to time it with the children’s bed time so that they will be asleep for much of the journey. If the flight is shorter, try to time it with nap or feeding time.
Remember to keep their comfort toys, colouring books, iPads and screens, etc on the top of your bag so they are within easy reach; be prepared for some irritability and some drama, but try to keep calm when it all gets a bit much- stress is highly contagious and has a tendency to spiral- just get through it the best you can- if the children watch 10 hours straight of films, or eat their own body weight in crisps, while you may shudder at the thought of this as a parenting style, just go with it if it keeps tensions low- tomorrow is another day!
Packing is often the most stressful part of holidays. Packing for more than one child doubles this headache to a full-blown migraine. Babies and toddlers have a number of essentials that you can’t afford to leave at home. It is also worth bearing in mind that some things may not be available at the airport or your final destination, so try to stock up before travelling.
This checklist is useful for remembering what you need when travelling with little ones:
- Comfortable loose clothes, such as long-sleeved tops and joggers or a onesie. Comfort is king!
- A jacket, cardigan, or sweater, in case the weather takes a turn for the worse when you reach your destination.
- Nappies (diapers) Often these are available on the plane, but don’t leave this to chance, try and work out how many you would normally use in the time you are travelling- don’t forget transfers and check in times- then add a few more- you don’t want to find your flight is delayed or you miss a connection and be caught short of supplies. Don’t forget the disposal bags, wipes and soothing skin cream.
- Activities such as colouring, favourite story book, and some soft toys for those moments when they need soothing.
- Ready to serve Baby formula and clean bottles, there are no legal limits on the amount of formula you can take in hand luggage, but it is worth checking with the individual airline to see if they impose their own. If breast feeding it may be worth taking a breast pump in case feed times get out of sync with the travelling.
Extra things to remember before travelling.
Remember that different airlines have different weight limits for checked baggage. Children’s baggage is weighed exactly like an adult’s so be aware that even those cute character suitcases will be part of your allowance, this can be cause difficulty depending on the rules of the airline you are using- some bookings have a weight limit and the amount of bags doesn’t matter, jut the overall weight, while others assign a personal weight limit- do make sure you check well in advance- no-one needs the hassle of rearranging their families clothes in front of the check in desk. The airline should consider the baggage on aggregate and not individually, but rules change. Some airlines also have a weight (and size) limit on hand baggage so be aware of this too.
Before arriving at the airport, you should confirm that all bookings are in order, especially hotels and airport pick-ups. If you have booked a room with a baby cot, confirm with the hotel that they are aware of this and it will be there waiting for you.
One important point to clarify before leaving is that if you are travelling alone with your children, you may require a letter of consent from the absent parent to ensure there is no suspicion of child abduction. These rules change depending on the country so check before you leave, it is worth carrying one with you just in case, even if you are sure it is not necessary- it will take up hardly any space in your travel documents and it just makes sense to be covered.
What other essential advice would you add, when travelling long-haul for business, pleasure, or with children? Comment below with your suggestions!