Ever so often or maybe just once in a while you find yourself on a long flight.
This can very often be an unpleasant experience, regardless of your destination.
Usually going home is worse, probably since you're not traveling to
something, just from. And then there's jet lag. This brief guide is an attempt to provide some
hints and tips
in order decrease the stress you might feel when traveling. Most of
these are time saving steps before the actual flight.
I've done a fair amount of business traveling. I've also done a fair amount of leisure
traveling, but because of the former, the latter is usually not by air. I use my
frequent flyer miles for upgrades instead of award travel, since the monopolistic and non-service oriented
airlines have an intricate system of restrictions (blackout dates etc) in order to keep their
frequent flyers from using their award miles.
Now. "Long" is of course a loose term, but more than 6 hours in the
air I think is
a fairly acceptable definition of a long trip for most people. A 6 hour flight usually mean
that the total travel time is much longer, since there are more things to factor in than just the flight
- Check-in in advance: 1-2 hrs - international flights, less for domestic, depends on size of airport
- Transport to and from airport: 1/2-3 hrs - can easily be a lot more if you don't travel much and therefore don't mind living in the
- Connections: 1-4hrs - luckily delays can make your layovers shorter, but on the other hand, the layover time is extended in order to compensate for delays...
- Time zone difference: 0-4 hrs for a six hour flight. This spells jet lag
- Delays: 0-X - most flights are not on time, although delays in arrival
time is small when the flight leave on time.
Well now, what can you do about this ? There are basically three
significantly different parts of the trip, and I will give you some tips for how
to deal with them. The parts are Getting to the airport, At
the airport and In the air
- Getting to the airport
The best is being dropped off by car (traffic permitting), closely followed by
that drop you off at the terminal. You might think that driving your own car
would save time when compared to public transport. This is not always true,
however. The parking situation at most airports is such that it penalizes
people taking their car there, not only financially, but also time-wise.
Transport to and from parking lots can take lots of time, especially during
rush hours and considering that most airports are permanently in a state of a
construction. You can usually save considerable time if there's a
dedicated train or subway to the airport, which is fairly uncommon in
the US, but common elsewhere. Have someone drop you off at the
station, instead. Usually you can find a lot of information about how to get
to and from the airport most conveniently at the airport's website. Or just
call your airline at the airport. They
know about and suffer from the traffic situation every day.
- At the airport
A great deal of the unnecessary time spent on travel is at the airport. This
is because all airlines want you to check in as early as possible, in order
to know how full the flight is. Many flights are overbooked, since there are
a high percentage of passenger no-shows. This is not your problem, however. If the
airline wants you to come 1-2 hrs in advance, come 50 minutes in advance. Note:
It's a good idea having a margin in getting to the airport, while you
don't need much time at the airport. In general, you don't need
to spend much time at the airport. There will always be a line at the check
in time, and if
you're in it you'll get on the flight. If you want to do duty-free
allow time for this. Flights will start boarding some 45 minutes before
scheduled take-off time.
If you can and have few layovers, only carry hand luggage. You can save
a lot of time by not having to wait for you luggage and by not having to
fight with all your co-travelers for a cab.
An important thing to do at the airport is to make sure that you have a
good seat. Ask for a better seat at check in, even if you have done so at
the time of booking. Spontaneous upgrades are
usually only available when flights are full, but there's always a chance
that you can get an empty seat next to you. If not, monitor the occupancy
when aboard the plane, and then switch when the stewardess announces "Boarding completed".
Alternative: If you have access to an airline lounge, by having a business
class ticket or just for being very faithful to the airline - VIP member of
a frequent flyer program - you can give
yourself more time at the airport. Very often the airline lounge provide
better food than will be served in the air, so you can eat in the lounge
and skip the meal on the flight. You can also get some work done in the
lounge. Or just hang around reading papers, drinking Bloody Marys.
- In the air
If you have to deal with jet lag, you better have a plan. If you're not
blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, anyhow, you need to plan your
trip. Plan for 3 hrs sleep. In order to get this, it's a good idea to ruin
previous night's sleep. I usually do my packing late the night before
("Where the hell is my gray shirt?" "Honey, you're wearing
it...") and then get up as early as I can. This ensures that I will be
dead tired on the flight. A flight in coach/economy class usually means that
your first wait, get a drink, then wait, then get dinner, then wait, then
they show a movie, then wait, then wait, then a lighter meal before landing.
A good plan is to sleep thorough the middle waits and the movie. A key to do
this is alcohol. Note: If you're flying in a morning and have to be at your
best when you land, you might want to be a little easy on the booze.
Otherwise, get a beer or some champagne. Then have a (tiny) bottle of wine
to go with the food and a whisky or cognac after the meal. This should get you a bit
tipsy and sleepy. With the previous night's preparation, this should be
enough for 3 hours sleep, which is a good start in fighting off the jet lag.
Don't drink and drive.
Take off your shoes. Remove your contacts.
Flirt with the air hostesses. Be very kind to them. Compliment their
service. This always pays off, sooner or later. You know that you've been
good when they ask you to fill in one of the airline customer satisfaction
surveys right before landing.
Important to air travel is your equipment. You should always have loosely
fitted, comfortable clothes. Skip the tie. Bring earplugs and one of those
stupid eye covers. Also bring a book, a magazine, a bottle of water, lip
balm and a laptop. The last is of course luxury, and if you have no use for
it at your destination, you really have to think about its usefulness, since
you'll end up with back problems from dragging it around. There are two things that you can do while in air that are invaluable:
Surf how? Easy. Just spend 30 mins downloading your favorite sites from the
net. There are several tools for this, and if you don't run a do-it-all-your-bloody-self OS - which you probably aren't if you have a
laptop - and use Windows instead, Internet Explorer has a fairly easy to use
tool for downloading of sites for offline browsing. Just go to ENN and tell
IE to download it all at one links depth. It's fantastic to be on e2
offline, trust me. No disturbing chatterbox. And when you eventually find something really
interesting, do what I do right now. Node.
Yes, as the following noders say, be careful with the alcohol. Drink lots of water, hence the bottle of water that I mentioned.