For Anglophiles

Limey Long-Haul Travel Tips, Part 2

{This piece originally appeared on my previous blog, in 2010.}

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on Part 1 – I’ve summarized your wisdom a bit further down.

Once upon a time, I worked for an airline and enjoyed the delights of business class long-haul travel. Alas, those days are long gone and I’m now in economy for 100% of my trips. Luckily, I have perfected the art of sleeping in my little seat. My rituals help me hugely and I believe they convince my body it’s time to nap.  My sleep routine includes:


5. Shoes come off and are replaced with the loose socks I brought with me. I am, however, a teeny bit superstitious and never do this until we’re nicely above the clouds, just in case a fast exit through a fiery cabin is needed as a result of a botched take-off. (Don’t worry, this is a highly unlikely scenario!)

6. Earplugs and eye mask are essential. Even if you think your earplugs aren’t blocking out sound, after a few minutes they will expand in your ear and help enormously in drowning out the squeals of little people in distress. Unless, of course, you are traveling with little people, in which case you might need to re-think this one. If anyone can tell me where to buy an eye mask stamped with “Wake Me For Meals“, I’d be truly grateful.

7. Get yourself an inflatable neck pillow, but make it a posh one with a flat piece behind the neck, so that your head isn’t pushed forward. If you get lucky and get a seat with ‘ears’, your pillow becomes something to cuddle – always a better choice than the stranger next to you.

8. I have a little pot of ‘Sleep’ temple balm by UK company Boots, which is basically an aromatherapy signal to my brain that it’s time for Zzzzz. I think this Badger product is similar.

9. After 4 hours of somewhat helpful sleep, I’m always hungry when I wake up. On no account should you rely on the airline to feed you sufficiently – their rations are getting smaller, even on flights where there are allegedly two “meals”. Bring your own snacks, but to avoid the indignity of excited sniffer-dogs at your destination, leave anything forbidden on the plane before you disembark. Once, I did such a great job of sleeping that I missed breakfast. Cabin Crew can get quite grumpy when that happens and you ask for your meal late. Anyone would think they had been deprived of sleep all flight, themselves…

Your tips from Part 1 included keeping your toiletries bag stocked and sharing liquid capacity with your travel companion (Shelley)… bringing plenty of water, lip balm and stoicism on your trip (Tricia Rose)… wearing your bulky or dressy clothes but no jewelry (Bromeliad)… and finding a belt with a plastic buckle (Steve).  Unlike my trips, when I try to travel calmly even if it takes a little longer, frequent-flier Tanja at Postmodern Hostess aims to optimize the whole airport process.  She’s posted really useful insider knowledge with women travelers in mind: here, here and some super-topical scanner advice, here.

10. There’s no getting round the fact that after crossing 8 time zones, you’ll have to deal with some jet-lag. Flying west-east is definitely worse, but since that’s the usual direction of my trip, I refuse to let jet-lag eat into my vacation enjoyment. My trusted anti jet-lag tactics are:

a) Napping on the plane always helps me arrive feeling a bit more human, regardless of the direction of the flight or time of day.

b) For some reason, brushing my teeth while waiting for my bag perks me up no end. (This is the poor-traveler’s equivalent of the arrivals lounge shower which the Gold-card holders enjoy!)

c) I make conscious efforts to seek out sunlight at my destination, since that seems to have a powerful affect on re-setting my body clock. Sunlight acquired during a 3-5 mile jog/run is even better. It gives a temporary energy boost during daylight hours, and helps make sure I’m sleepy when bed-time arrives.

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