8 Tips & Tricks for Surviving Long Airplane Trips
Sometimes travel is quick and painless; other times you just keep hoping that the destination is worth the trouble it takes to get there. Trust me, it almost always is. Here are a handful of pointers for surviving long airplane trips. Maybe equipped with these tips and tricks, the next time you have a 30-hour trip with four layovers, it’ll be manageable, or even downright enjoyable!
1. Pack Snacks
My number one rule for both life and travel: always bring snacks. I recommend a combination of pretzels or crackers to ease a surprise upset stomach, candy or dried fruit for a pick-me-up, and nuts to keep you going between planes or less-than-satisfactory meals.
2. Carry a Refillable Water Bottle
If you’re in a country with drinkable tap water, fill it up once you’re past security. This will save you a lot of money on airport bottled water, especially if you have a long layover. If you’re in a country with sub-standard tap water, use this insider secret: once you’ve boarded the plane (but before take-off), ask the flight attendant to fill up your bottle. This might seem silly, but it’s better to have a full bottle at arm’s reach—you never know if turbulence will delay the drink cart or if you’ll be sleeping while they make their rounds. Nothing makes a flight worse than dehydration-induced headaches or nausea.
3. Take Money
Bring a small stash of dollars AND euros with you, in addition to your credit card. Or even better, the local currency if you can get your hands on it ahead of time. This is for times when you have the urge to impulse-buy airport souvenirs that are three times the price as they are on the street, when you have a sudden hunger attack, or when your flight gets cancelled and you’re stranded. And in the most extreme cases, you may have an unexpected detour to a new (unforeseen) country. [Yes, this really happened to me with a long, impromptu layover in Burundi while traveling from Rwanda to Kenya. Hours in, I got really hungry and was in a bind because clearly I didn’t think to stock my wallet with Burundian francs.]
4. Consider Getting a Passport Cover
Besides sprucing up your boring passport, you might also shield yourself from the unwanted attention, expectations, and/or animosity that sometimes comes when people see you’re a certain nationality. Added bonus: It’s always fun when you can feel everyone around you playing “Guess-her-nationality”.
5. Think about Investing in a Soft-sided Suitcase
It’s less protective than a hard suitcase and generally doesn’t have wheels, but it makes your luggage malleable—this means you can pack in a lot more clothes, presents, and other goodies in your bag. This flexibility might even make the difference between being able to stuff your suitcase into the overhead compartment and having them force you to check it at the gate…after having painstakingly removed your liquids at every security checkpoint, lugging your bag around for hours, and squeezing it into the tiny stall every time you went to the bathroom.
6. Dress in Layers
This may sound like mom advice, but dress in layers. Just because a hot airport leaves you sweating, doesn’t mean the plane won’t be freezing. Plus, by wearing your layers, it saves space in your suitcase!
7. Don’t Bring Your Computer with You
It’s not worth the space, weight, or risk of theft. Besides, there’s plenty of time to peruse Facebook when you’re sitting at home and NOT roaming around an exciting new city. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, these might be worth bringing to make sure the people at home know you’re alive, to look up last-minute sights and routes, and to help document your trip. PS: Definitely bring an extra memory card for your camera so that you don’t have to worry about deleting possible gems before being able to see them full-size on your computer.
8. Make New Friends!
Yes, of course, pay attention to stranger danger. Don’t leave your bag with someone you just met. (No matter how heavy it is or how quickly you’ll be back.) Don’t give someone your hotel information or remaining travel plans if you feel uneasy. But at the same time, travelers are often a wealth of information and looking to share their travel experience. Maybe it’s your first time in Greece, but the woman you’re sitting next has gone once a year for the past 20 years. Maybe a friend of theirs owns a cool restaurant that will become your new favorite. Maybe the guy across from you has an extra concert ticket for an artist you’re dying to see.
By being a prepared traveler, you can sit back and enjoy the trip [almost] as much as the destination. Stay open, stay safe, and stay empathetic to those around you. Bon voyage!
By Ashlee Sang