If you plan on travelling a lot it is inevitable that you will end up on a long haul trip. Whether this is all on the plane or a lot of time in airports, long haul trips are NOT fun. There are some things you can do to make them more bearable. Here are some tips to make long haul trips less than terrible.
Before You Go
Do your research
Once you have your flight booked, find out where you’re going to be. Is it a direct flight? If not, how much time will you have between flights, do you need to change terminals? Get all the info you can get your hands on and get familiar with it. If you know you are going to have a layover, or need to walk a lot with our things, make sure your carry-on isn’t hard to carry with you. While I love my shoulder bags and backpacks, if you’re going to be wandering around a lot, something with wheels can be useful. However, if there’s a lot of stairs involved the ability to carry it easily is key.
Every airport will have a website. It’ll tell you what facilities are available. This will give you an idea of what kind of activities will be available to you. For example, when I go to Seoul, South Korea, it is likely I will be travelling to Incheon Airport. This is my favourite airport to date. Whether I get in at an odd time or will have a long layover, I’m not concerned. They have a jimjilbang (spa like area) and sleeping area, they have all kinds of food, cafes, and even a movie theatre!
I need to know whether or not I’ll have wifi, work areas, showers, food, ANYTHING. If they don’t have much, I know to bring snacks with me, a book, a pillow, and download movies. If, however, there are lots of activities, wifi, and lounges, I’m less concerned about this.
Keep everything organized. If you’re bringing a checked back, make sure it fits your airline’s size and weight requirements. If not, you’ll end up paying some nasty fees at the airport. Don’t forget to add something special to your bag. You don’t want to confuse your plain black suitcase with someone else’s.
Remember that most places will have the essentials. Every destination will have a clothing store, so don’t bring something you might wear or need, only bring what you know you will.
For your carry on – AKA your most essential piece of luggage, keep it as organized as possible. Have at least one change of clothes, all your valuables (don’t check your laptops and cameras unless absolutely necessary), and anything important.
Before you leave, print your flight confirmation and have any documents you may need before flying. Keep everything accessible. For security, have your electronics, liquids and documents all easy to find. Packing cubes are great for this.
Check in as early as possible or pick your seat ahead of time to avoid the dreaded middle seat. I’m a window seat fan myself as I like to sleep.
If you have a layover, find out if you need to pick up your bags here or if they’ll be sent to your final destination. They usually get sent to the final destination, but in some cases, you’ll have to lug your stuff around during your layover.
On the Plane
Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes! You’ll be stuck on this bus with wings for hours on end and you don’t want to be stuck wearing something too tight or with itchy fabric. Stick to lightweight and breathable fabrics.
It is also very important to layer during long haul flights. Some airlines enjoy making you freeze, so having a few layers keeps you warm. If you’re someone who is naturally a little warmer, then you’ll be happy you had that t-shirt on under your long-sleeve or cardigan.
Be comfortable, but don’t look like a bum either. If you want any chance of being bumped up to first class, you’ll have to look like you belong there. It’s unlikely they’ll move someone up in sweatpants over a person who looks more put together.
Sleeping makes the flight go by much faster. Sometimes you’ll need a little assistance in this; the free red wine on the plane is my favourite sleeping aid! If you choose to take sleeping aids just be sure you’ll be alert enough by the time you land.
Don’t forget to get up and stretch every few hours. DVT is real and you DON’T want it.
If you don’t have a layover, skip right to “Upon Arrival”
If this is your first point of entry in a country or region, you may need to go through immigration here. If you planned correctly, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Have all your documents together, be polite, and off you go.
If immigration causes you to be late for your next flight (trust me, it happens), try not to worry too much. Go to the check in people, explain to them the situation, and you’ll be on the next flight.
The length of your layover will determine what activities you’ll want to do. If you have a layover of 8+ hours, see if there are any sightseeing tours from the airport. You can get a mini-trip in and possibly explore a new country! If not, find out where the showers and lounges are and try to find a nice spot for a nap.
If your layover is between 4-8 hours, consider finding the airport lounges. You’ll be stuck in the airport for a while and you’ll want to be comfortable. More often than not, you don’t need to have a membership, you can simply pay a day or access fee. In doing so, you’ll often get free food, drinks, and better wifi. There will also be much more comfortable seating and better amenities overall. Definitely worth it over sitting in uncomfortable gate areas the whole time!
If your layover is less than 4 hours, just hang out. Grab a coffee or meal, read a book or watch a movie on your laptop or tablet. The time will pass faster than you think.
Your final destination is most likely where you’ll go through immigration. Make sure you have your documents in order. You don’t want to be that person rummaging through their bag at immigration. A travel wallet is great for keeping all your documents together — get one with RFID protection for extra security.
Once you’ve arrived head to the baggage area look for that special item you put on your bag to recognize it – luggage tags, ribbon, ANYTHING.
If you’re a super-light packer (you can do it!) and went for the carry-on only route, you’ll have saved so much time and you’ll never have to worry about lost luggage.
Hopefully, in the research stage, you found how you want to get from the airport to your desired destination. If you don’t have data yet, most airports will have wifi so you can look it up. Otherwise, head over to the information booth and they will almost always speak English. Make sure you have the name and address of where you’re staying and they’ll help you get there!