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Long-haul Travel Tips

Two days ago marked the one month point to my arrival in Singapore in December. In light of this, I am reposting something that I wrote a little while ago to prep for the long-haul flight. Some of these things may seem silly if you’re a seasoned long-haul traveller, but nonetheless I think that they are helpful!

Living in Germany and having most of my family in Australia and Singapore (and in general, an insatiable lust for travel), has made me a frequent long-haul traveller, mostly flying from Sydney to various parts of Europe and stopping over in Singapore. One of the longest distances I can imagine. I have made this trip many times, and will probably do it many more times.

I understand that there are only about a million articles on this topic, and a lot of it is just common sense, so I will keep this one personal as I really believe that it depends on the individual.

1. A good personal music (and/or media) selection.
This should consist of not just ‘good music’, but songs and/or artists that make you feel good and relaxed. I, for example, have a playlist called ‘Train rides’ because I used to commute 2 hours a day back in Sydney, but it’s really useful for flights too. I was on a Virgin flight once where you could also plug in a USB device and watch movies or listen to music. I hope this becomes more standard with time!

2. Hydration.
A lot of the articles about long-haul flights that I have read, say to drink plenty of water, but I say (from no health/medical perspective) just drink how ever much you need or usually drink. It sounds silly, I know, but if you drink more than usual because of an article you read online, the result is that you will just need to go to the toilet more frequently and will have a stomach full of liquid which will make you feel uncomfortable.

3. A good stretch.
I think you tend to notice it less when you’re sitting for such a long time, but your joints get quite sore and it really helps to walk around now and then (granted, there is limited space on a plane for this) or even to go to the bathroom when there is less of a queue to freshen up and have a good stretch.

4. Security.
In light of the last point, I think this one is an important one to keep in mind. I tend to leave my things at my seat (or, under the seat of the person in front of me, as we are instructed) when I get up, but seriously, don’t tempt fate. Take anything extremely valuable/important with you if possible, or stow it away in your bag in the overhead compartment. Also common sense, but don’t go flashing your valuables around during the flight, and check that all your things are still in the same place when getting ready to get off the plane.

5. Toilet breaks.
Many people seem to try to go to the bathroom at the same time, creating a huge backlog of people lining up around the toilets and inconveniencing those who really, REALLY need to go immediately. Spread them out, and try to avoid the typical rush times like the hour before the plane lands, and around meal/refreshment times. Also, consider that if you’re a person who needs to go to the bathroom frequently, choose an aisle seat.

6. Noise-cancelling headphones.
These feel like a bit of a luxury when flying because it gives your ears a break from the constant sound of the plane pushing its way through the air. I have a great pair of Sennheiser foldable, noise-cancelling headphones which can be used as regular headphones as well, with just the flick of a switch. They also can be used without the noise-cancelling function without using up your battery (unlike my Bose headphones), which is a real advantage and something to take into consideration when purchasing. Depending on which airline you fly with, you may also require an adaptor to allow you to plug your headphones into the armrest, but adaptors are pretty cheap and usually available at the airport.

7. Reading/entertainment materials.
Personally, I don’t read much on planes. But, if you’re so inclined, or don’t think you can handle the long journey without a good book or magazine, or even sudoku puzzles, then why not. Whatever makes you more comfortable when thinking about how you will occupy your time. Remember, to save weight, there is usually a good selection of movies and tv shows in-flight, and increasingly, airlines are also including a larger selection of games in their entertainment systems. A favourite of mine is playing Super Mario on Singapore Airlines.

8. Snacks and/or drinks during the flight.
Don’t be afraid to ask for them. On offer is usually a good selection of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and snacks to cater for a range of tastes, and also flight attendants who will bring them to you. Press the attendant button, make the most of these if you need them, but try not to annoy them! Plus, it’s free unlike on domestic flights!

9. Rest.
This one is definitely an obvious one, but whenever you get the chance, get some shut eye. I tend to get sleepy right around take off, and grab the opportunity to have a nap. Even if it’s only for a short time, it’s better than nothing. If you’re a heavy sleeper, or don’t go to the bathroom so frequently, it’s an idea to choose a window seat. Also, try to time it so that it matches local time (if possible). This helps with jetlag, and means that when you see your loved one(s) again, you will be less of a zombie.

10. Take a break – stopover.
To round out this list,  this point is about taking the opportunity to breathe some fresh (albeit, airport-recycled) air, and make the most of a short (or long) break before hopping onto another plane to complete your journey. I have never done a long-haul trip without stopping over, for example, in Singapore for a few days, or even a few hours and I wouldn’t want to experience it. Sometimes a stopover will only be for 2-3 hours, giving you just enough time to grab a treat for yourself (there’s duty free, but just make sure you’re not taking more than your allowance) and head to the next gate, but this tends to be enough. Just follow the ‘transit’ or ‘transfer’  signs as you get out of the plane and the air bridge, and check which gate you need to head to next. If you didn’t get a boarding card for the second flight when you checked in for your first flight, then head to the relevant airline counter to get one printed and then be on your way. Not too long to go now…

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