After making yet another cross Atlantic flight from Toronto to Munich, I realized that were it not without the perfectly-packed carry-on, I would emerge exhausted, unhappy, hungry and basically a train-wreck waiting to happen. What I hate most following a long-flight is the time lost after landing. You know, those few hours where all you want to do is crash and sleep until morning so your holiday can finally begin? Well, having made the trip countless times, I have successfully (thanks to trial and error) developed a list for every traveler hoping to survive the long-haul, without risk of losing precious time upon arrival.
Ready? Here goes!
I’m just going to go right ahead and jump straight to what is most important to me – food. The thought of going hungry on a 9 hour flight literally scares the crap out of me. Go ahead, say it. She can’t go without food for nine hours? Nope, I can’t. I blame the 6 feet of former soccer player who knows and values the importance of eaten a good meal in preparation for game day (in other words, I refuse to admit I’m just hungry, all the time). All the same, one of the most important things for me to do before take-off is make darn sure that I’m prepped for snacks on-board. Favourite snacks include bulk candy, nuts, a bag of veggies, and granola bars.
Beware however, all come with complications. For example, if you have bulk candy, you kind of have to share it with the people beside you. On a recent flight back from Munich, I popped open a bag of Haribo only to see the eyes of the five year old girl beside me light up! How cruel am I? She got first dibs. And it’s not just kids, the same thing happened with a guy in his mid-twenties flying solo en route to Germany. It’s like he could hear the plastic bag opening and all of a sudden he was wide awake! Just keep in mind, if you like the taste of it, chances are so does everyone else, and unless you want to be stationed beside someone who hates you because you haven’t shared, I suggest you choose your snacks wisely.
A bottle of water
I always teeter back and forth on this one, but honestly, in the end I think it’s always better to buy a bottle of water before you board. Dehydration is the most common symptom to strike oversea voyageurs and can easily be avoided. You might be given water in between meals but you might not – why chance it? Yes, a bottle of water is outrageously overpriced thanks to tightened airline policies but it’s worth it. Dehydration can lead to exhaustion and the whole point is to ready ourselves for the minute we land. Think ahead and plan accordingly.
Not to start with the obvious but for many, it’s not so obvious. No one wants to be seated next to the screaming baby and odds are you’ll be located on the other side of the aircraft, but just in case, why not pack a pair of ear plugs? Not only good for protecting against children, but also from chatty Cathy’s positioned directly beside you.. and their best friend. You may not be part of the conversation but you’re going to hear every word and probably suffer a few incredibly loud bouts of laughter every now and then. Laughter is encouraged, but so is sleep, and silence. Plugs away!
If ear plugs aren’t your thing, headphones could be the saving grace you’ve been looking for. The clear benefit of bringing headphones with you is the ability to partake in the on-board entertainment provided. They may give you headphones, but if we’re talking about some of the discount airlines frequented so often by travelers – and backpackers in particular – they might not. Moreover, headphones are a great way to tune out without actually saying “please stop talking”. Even if you’ve plugged them into a device that’s switched to “off”, if you’re wearing headphones, people will normally leave you to your own device.
A pillow, of some sort
I have never owned a neck pillow, although from what I hear… they’re useful? Instead, I’m always sure to wear layers. Confused? Well, I normally wear a long-sleeved shirt to stay warm since airlines tend to blast the air-con full throttle (I recently experienced a ‘malfunction’ on Air Transat where the aircraft couldn’t heat up until an hour or so into the flight – it was freezing!) but I also always bring an additional sweater or jacket on board. This additional layer can act as either a protective shield against malfunctioning air-conditioning OR as a pillow! You know that crick in your neck you get as you head bobbles from side to side? Avoid it by placing a sweater or jacket between your head and neck. It’s much more comfortable and you won’t, as I once did, have an elderly man offering you his shoulder after seeing that you were clearly unable to find a appropriate sleeping position. Luckily, he was very kind and we proceeded to bond over Greek soccer using hand gestures and lots of pointing – but that could have gotten weird.
A good book
It may not have happened to you yet (and if you’re lucky, it never will) but once in a while the on-board entertainment, stops working. Shocking, I know. I can’t convince everyone to LOVE reading but if you’re a book lover, you know that a long flight is the perfect chance to spend some quality time getting lost in a good book. If you’re not a book lover, take a book anyway because if that laptop runs out of battery or the movie you’re watching all of a sudden gets lost in between fuzzy lines, you’ll have one heck of a long trip to endure in complete silence. Shudder.
Travelers Tip – The time in between take-off and landing is the absolute perfect time to familiarize yourself with an unknown destination by reading a guidebook! Read about the culture, the language, the history and mark off some of the things you can’t WAIT to see once you set foot on solid ground. Do keep in mind though, guidebooks are best used as a guidebook and not a bible. Read more here!
When you’re flying at thirty-three thousand feet or however high your flight might take you, things get dry. Hands, but especially lips are susceptible to cracking, chapping and being a complete bother in the air and on the ground. Don’t lose time trying to find a drug store or grocery store once you land, drink your water to stay as hydrated as possible and bring Vaseline as a lubricant for any parts that start to dry up. Just remember, it has to be under 100 ml or they’ll remove it at the gate and use it for security inspections… yikes.
What are some of your favourite things to take with you on-board a long flight? Happy travels!