Travel tips – surviving long haul flights

Alex – Semester Exchange to FH Kufstein-Tirol University of Applied Sciences, Austria

Semester 2, 2016

Although in most cases a great country to live in, a visible disadvantage of living in Australia is that in many cases any flight from home will be a long one. Student exchange, while providing plenty of opportunities to prosper, will unfortunately likely include a long, long, long flight towards your intended destination.

No reason to despair though! There are plenty of ways to not only survive your trip, but to also end up enjoying it and gaining plenty of rest along with the experience and knowledge associated with overseas travel.

I believe your trip begins before you board your plane. Unnecessary stress and hardships associated with arriving at the airport, checking in and stowing your luggage, receiving boarding passes, etc, can only make your experience more difficult than it already is. It goes without saying that arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare (2 to 3 hours prior to boarding) is essential. Far better to sort out everything required for boarding and spending an hour with friends or family than to arrive with virtually no time to spare, say goodbye, and speed through the departure gate, hand luggage trailing (and as is its tendency; likely falling over) behind you as you search for your boarding gate. Even for an experienced traveller who knows how the process works and maybe even the layout of the airport, this would be a stressful and difficult experience. And in all cases, completely unnecessary.

Oh, and knowing how much your luggage weighs and that it is indeed below the weight limit set by your airline isn’t a bad idea either I must say… Likewise, checking-in online will save you plenty of time standing in the queue at the airport when dropping of your main luggage and receiving your boarding pass; there are often separate ques for the two, with the substantially larger being for those who have not checked in online.

Too obvious? Perhaps, but it’s often the simple things which we overlook. Got your boarding pass? Main luggage on the plane? Passport? Good. Let’s move on.

I’ll also quickly mention that depending on someone’s preferences, some consideration should be put into deciding whether you want an aisle or window seat and booking that particular seat. Aisle seats eliminate the worry of having to push past people every time you need to stand up and stretch or use the bathroom. The same applies for getting up to talk to a member of the crew and taking something from your hand luggage. Likewise, an aisle seat will be closer to the centre of the plane than a window seat and will therefore experience a plane’s change in direction (as well as turbulence) less severely, I’ve found. On the other hand, window seats offer a better view and more privacy. It’s completely dependent on a person’s taste, but these things can either make your trip easier or more difficult. A light sleeper who needs to get up constantly should consider an aisle seat whereas someone planning on sleeping through the whole flight will likely find a window seat more suitable.

Regarding standing up and walking around the plane, many people seem not to do this, however there is nothing wrong with having a walk up and down the plane to stretch some tired muscles. We weren’t made to sit for over 20 hours with virtually no break. Once again, if you feel that asking people to stand up for you may be a problem, then consider an aisle seat.  That way you will be free to get up as you please. During my most recent flight (at the time of writing it’s been a week following my back-to-back flights to Europe) each passenger I sat next to during each leg of my trip (you guessed it; aisle seat) did not get up once. Perhaps they did not need to, or perhaps they did not want to disturb the person sitting next to them.

I will also mention along the lines of standing up during your flights, to time your bathroom trips. Most people don’t consider that the bathrooms are barely used during normal flying times, and that most of the passengers get up following each of the meals provided by the crew. Once you notice the trolleys come out, why not get up and go to the bathroom; beating the rush which will inevitably follow the completion of meals.

What more to say? If you put a little bit of planning into your trip it will generally be a stress-free experience. Make good use of the entertainment systems (though I probably wouldn’t recommend watching movies non-stop during the entire flight, on a Coca-Cola induced caffeine high like I used to). Don’t forget that sleep can be more pleasant than watching a movie sometimes. Appreciate the fact that you can stick out the headrests on your seats so that you can sleep sitting down easily, without your head sliding onto a fellow passenger. Get to know your fellow passengers so standing up and squeezing past one another doesn’t become a tiring, awkward affair. Make use of the free spaces on the plane in the tail and near the wings to go over there and stretch a moment. Notice that the entertainment systems can be used straight after the PA by the captain, so you can turn on a movie or some music to distract yourself during take-off especially, if need be.

Remember that plenty of people have done this and continue to do this, and that in fact, plane travel is a far more calm and pleasant experience than most people make you believe.

Enjoy your flight.