With additional seats rammed into every plane and security getting tighter, it’s a jungle out there. Remember the 7 ‘P’s; proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance. Here are my ABC tips to surviving the long haul flight, expat style.
A-RRIVAL – in order to navigate through security fast;
- wear trainers (as you don’t have to remove these)
- don’t wear a belt (one friend of ours has this incredibly chichi Hermes belt with a quick-remove buckle that you can throw in the tray but I am never, ever going to reach that level of chic sadly).
- Ideally, don’t wear a jacket (just a thin jumper or pack away wrap will do).
- Don’t bother to remove your watch – security normally don’t mind you wearing one.
- Walk fast. Become expert at spotting the shortest queue or sensing when a queue is about to build and make a dash for it but look out for those ‘up-in-the-air’ businessmen wheeling small black suitcases – you don’t stand a chance against them.
B-AGS – It turns out that those sticky label things that the check-in staff put on your boarding pass are not there just for fun but are really important! How do I know this? Well, my bags have been lost before and it turns out that that bar code is your best bet to ever being reunited with your belongings. That and the fact that someone will ask you to describe your bag – so any distinguishing features are good. Do label your bags and even go for bright colours, even if it’s not cool. Think twice about packing smelly cheese or salami and at all costs, avoid the black rectangle wheelie bags – everybody’s got one.
Have one carry-on bag that’s big enough to stuff extra things in to (like a cosy scarf for those chilly night flights, last minute snacks or a ‘just had to pick-up’ glossy magazine from WHSmith). My large looks-like-Longchamps bag is definitely on its last legs but has served me well. I used not to carry hand cream or cosmetics but I am leaning toward figuring out what 100ml is and deciding that it’s worth it. A toothbrush and paste is a nice touch for night flights and I never leave home without a box of mints and lip balm. Also, oh and I almost forgot, your own ear/headphones and an eye mask to hear the movies properly and block out those pesky lights! It bugs me when people carry-on huge suitcases and then make a real performance of stuffing them into overhead lockers but it has made me braver about how much I can get away with bringing inside the plane.
C-HAIR – My 16 year old swears by an aisle seat as far forward as possible for easy access to the loo and a speedy exit. It’s also significantly quieter and less shaky up front and you get better food (i.e. “sorry; chicken is finished” just doesn’t happen). But I occasionally like a gamble and will risk a rear seat, especially on a night flight, if there’s an outside chance of sliding across to a row empty seats (only ever at the back) should they miraculously become available.
- One problem with my ploy is the agony of waiting for final passengers to board whilst wondering anxiously when to jump.
- You spy the seats (If they are within a certain radius they are fair game).
- Next, look around to see who else might be eyeing them.
- You could get territorial and throw a jacket or a bag on an empty seat in order to stake your claim
- but nowadays passengers have a lot more balls than I do and are willing to shift over to MY seats, even before take-off. I’ve witnessed one stranger’s ploy go wrong when a passenger boarded late, indignantly brandishing his boarding pass as he sent the usurper packing (while I smiled).
My worst scenario was when I validly HAD 3 seats to myself and stupidly placed myself in the middle seat. For a good 20 minutes I was hugging myself for my good fortune until a woman slid over from her full row of three and plonked herself next to me with a brief; “hope you don’t mind?” – stated rhetorically before throwing a blanket over her head. Yes I DID BLOODY MIND – but of course said nothing. Grr. Will never make that mistake again. Occupy the aisle seat and spread out your belongings.
D-RINKING – I’m a stickler for keeping hydrated but don’t put your life in the hands of air stewards who offer drinks erratically. Instead buy your own litre of water after security and before boarding. Booze – nope. Why would you want to feel even worse when you get off that horrid flight? No doubt on disembarking you will need a clear head to face the car hire depot fiasco or public transport. Fizzy drinks, not great either – SOOO gassy. Carry painkillers for dehydration headaches that may hit at some point. Don’t drink coffee if you want to sleep, it’s always so strong.
E-NTERTAINMENT – So, you are going to spend hours bound in one very uncomfortable position, holding onto your pee and wondering when the best time to recline your seat will be, while crushed by the person in front who reclined immediately. There’s nothing left for it but to become the most bad-ass film critic imaginable.
- Absolutely Fabulous 2 – drivel
- War Dogs – actually quite good
- Mike and Dave need wedding dates – OMG did my 11 year old actually say she watched this?!
- Genius – boring but sort of worth wading through.
- 127 hours – not on board viewing. I had to fast forward through the bloody bits and held a seat cushion over the screen so as not to traumatise my nice neighbour from Hounslow.
Generally I manage to watch one good film, one bad one and then I stray off to old episodes of Friends and Modern Family, while peering over the seat in front to see what other people are watching.
F-UN OF TRAVELLING WITH KIDS – Painful years of experience from long haul flights with 10 day old babies (twice!), through toddler hell to the relative calm of grumpy teenagers have taught me the following;
- When kids are young, bring a change of clothes not just for the baby but for you as well (including underwear – I’ve been soaked to my underwear more than once).
- Risking 3rd degree burns IS worth it because you DO NEED that coffee – even if there is turbulence and disapproving looks all round.
- Never fear, you CAN zone out and watch a film even if a toddler is bugging you. Your sanity is tantamount.
- Keep your shoes on, you will be making multiple trips to the loos and the floor is not always dry…
- Have wet wipes and tissues handy.
- Be as oblivious to other passengers as possible (unless they are trying to be nice).
G-UILT – Should I work? There are always people tapping on their laptop or ipad, annotating a book or report and I normally experience a pang of “should I be working?” I mentioned this to my husband the other day as he was channel surfing. He said, “Are you mad? It’s Saturday!” And if you are travelling without your family and feel bad about those you left behind, then don’t. Heck, you deserve it. It’s achievement enough to have got yourself on board. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
This is interesting: How Nairobi’s Food Scene is starting to rival London – Evening Standard
Photo credit: Mine…
BBC News latest: UK flight ban on electronic devices announced. Today: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, tomorrow – who knows?
*Yay, potentially less work guilt on long haul flights, but my question is, if you are having to pack your laptop into your hold luggage, will baggage handlers be more careful about throwing suitcases around? And what about theft? I certainly would not be comfortable putting laptops, ipads etc into my main bag – padlocked, plastic wrapped or whatever.