10 Long-Haul Travel Tips, Part 1

My good friend Gagan at Of Peacocks and Paisleys suggested that those of us who travel frequently should swap and share tips.  This seems like a great idea, especially at the time of year when many of us are taking to the skies to be with loved ones.

While I’m certainly not a constant traveler, I do make the 5000 mile trip from San Francisco to London regularly enough to have developed my own little quirks and habits. Here are my suggestions for minimizing the hassle factor.

1. Designate a travel drawer somewhere in your home.  Naturally, your passport, foreign currency, and other useful bits will live here.  But mine also holds comfort items that I like to have with me when I travel, including a self-made amenity kit with my favorite products, socks and a ready-to-go clear plastic bag with my carry-on mini liquids. Even if your airline gives out a few goodies, I much prefer to bring my own as you never know when essential items will disappear due to cost-cutting measures. And if there’s a good book you’ve been meaning to read but never quite get to, pop it in your travel drawer and it will be right under your nose when the time comes to pack a bag.

Gulliver's Travels

2. If at all possible, reserve your seat when you book your flight.  This is much more feasible if you’re making a long trip than a short hop, but some airlines allow you to pick your spot when you buy your ticket, rather than waiting for the 24 hour check-in window.  Watch out for those like British Airways, which cheerfully charge you extra to reserve a specific seat, alluding to the sinister alternative of “take your chances at check-in”‘.

Seat plan via Virgin Atlantic

3. My favorite spot is at the back of the plane.  Huh?  Doesn’t everyone strive to be as far forward as possible? I know my choice means I will be 5-10 minutes longer disembarking at our destination (but in comparison to a 10-hour flight, that’s small change).  The reason I am always over-the-moon to snag seat 61K, or equivalent, is that most Boeing 747s are arranged with a 3-4-3 seat configuration.  To snuggle and sleep undisturbed in a window seat, that means two strangers for me to climb over when I need to answer a call of nature.

However, as the plane narrows at the back, the seat pattern becomes 2-4-2. Aha!  Not only does that mean only one pair of strange knees in my way, but I also get a generous amount of space beside my seat, to park my stuff.  Frankly, I think these are the best seats in economy class.  If you’re traveling as a pair, they’re even better.

Water bottle, Life is Good

4. Liquids are not allowed through security with you, but an empty water bottle is.  As soon as I’m beyond the delights of X-ray, I make a beeline for the nearest water fountain to fill up, for free.  My water bottle is usually hanging from a carbiner clip, so I can attach it to the seat in front of me and not be scrabbling around in my bag somewhere over Greenland.

My other 6 tips focus on getting some rest on the plane, and tackling jet-lag when you arrive.  I’m so good at sleeping on board, I have managed to be asleep before take-off and to miss in-flight meals.  Check back later this week if you want to know how.

What are your favorite flying strategies?  Let me know and I’ll be sure to link back to you in Part 2.

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21 Responses to 10 Long-Haul Travel Tips, Part 1

  1. GB says:

    LOVE your tip on the seating arrangement. Would never have thought of it—have to try and snag one of the 2s in the 2-4-2.

  2. Shelley says:

    We have a travel drawer too! It contains American hairdryer, the travel iron, and certain clothes only likely to be worn when abroad in warmer climates. Bill discovered those 2 seats near the back as well and goes for them every time. He loves the window and I like the aisle (to get to the loo) and so it works beautifully for us when we can manage it. I try to ignore some of the stupider threats airlines make to squeeze a few more quid out of our wallets. We, too, carry an empty water bottle. The only other tip that comes to mind is to remember to share toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo to save space in your liquids bags and I generally end up putting some cosmetic or other in Bill’s when mine is full, cause he always has spare capacity. I keep my toiletries bag stocked (it is under the bed, but the travel drawer would make better sense, wouldn’t it?) and a couple of appropriate ziploc bags in it. Anything else I know is probably here:
    http://shelleyshouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/packing-lessons-learned.html

  3. Tricia Rose says:

    I keep everything as simple as possible, try to get a window seat and then just zen out. We often have horrific puddle-jumping trips squeezing many stops into one week (the last one we missed both lunch and dinner three days running!) and the best way to cope is plenty of water, lip balm and stoicism. The important thing is to get there!

  4. Ana says:

    These are GREAT tips, thank you! I actually try to avoid travelling these days, the whole process just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. And somehow, I always end up with a flagged ticket and have to deal with the extra searches. Cause I look so menacing.

  5. Bromeliad says:

    Slip on shoes when traveling in the US.

    No jewelry. (metal detector)

    Wear your bulkiest or dressy clothes to save space and avoid wrinkling.

  6. Love this post! Also, when reserving your seat, seatguru.com is a great resource! (It tells you, for example, if the bulkhead seat on your selected aircraft has underseat storage or not — vital info if, like me, you love the bulkhead row. Or if that seat tends to get particularly cold or particularly noisy. Amazing resource.)

    I did two posts with my best travel tips, especially those for women a few months back. Here they are, Part 1 and Part 2.

  7. Steve says:

    I love your tips… Can I add one more? I have a travel belt from a national outdoor chain that has a plastic buckle. It’s one less thing I have to remove when going through TSA: it doesn’t set off any bells or whistles.

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