When Mary, our friend and Kenyan safari partner, announced that she loved long-haul flights, we were more than surprised. Neither of us sleep well on planes, we're both tall, so leg room is left to be desired, and it's just overall tiring. But the longer we've been away, the longer our flights and bus rides seem to get, and with it, our tolerance has also stretched. We've come to see the bright side of long travel days and get excited about plane trips. As you embark on your own trip, here are a few of our tips to help put the 'joy' back in 'journey'.
Now, we'd better start by clarifying what exactly "Long-Haul" travel means. We're reluctant to define it by a number of hours because circumstance lends so much to its meaning. Our 31 hour bus ride from Ushuaia to Trelew in Argentina was arguably better and easier than some of the 4 hour bus trips we did in Africa. It's necessary to think through the situation and know if you can handle it before committing to any sort of trip. Will you be adequately comfortable sitting in a squishy, hot, dusty bus next to a stranger, with someone else's bags under your feet and your neighbour's baby on your lap for 8 hours? If not, you might need to break the journey into two (or 4!) parts. (We finally had to admit to ourselves that we weren't going to be able to do an 8 hour drive hanging onto the back of a truck in Uganda (top right).
* Know your Route
Research ahead of time to know which side of the bus will have better views. It made our 9 hour bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza exciting because we were keeping track of our location on Google Maps and knew to look out for Acongagua (on the left), the tallest mountain in South America. From Puerto Natales to El Calafate, sit on the left again to enjoy views of the mountains and valleys.
Equally important is which side of the bus the sun will be shining on. Even our nice South American buses had their internal temperature soar well above 30 on sunny days. This meant that if your seat was on the sunny side that you would keep the curtains closed and not see anything much of the time.
Always pick the seat with access to the window. You'll find that many locals prefer to have the windows shut...they're a lot more used to the heat than you are.
In Argentina and Chile, the front seats on the double decker buses are so awesome...wide views out the front and extra leg room (sometimes
). You'll need to reserve these seats ahead of time. If these seats are full, take the ones on the right side of the bus directly after the stairs (about mid-bus). They'll also have more leg room and no one in front of you will be reclining into your space (front of the bus, top right; mid-bus, left
*Bring your own TP
No matter where you are in the world, bus bathrooms never seem to have any toilet paper, and there likely won't be any in bus rest-stops if you're travelling outside of North America or Europe. And even then...
These are essentials for us now on long-haul flights:
- water, water, and more water (if you're allowed)
- comfortable clothes with an extra pair of socks/leg warmers
- toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste
- a couple of cleansing face wipes
- change of shirt, socks and underwear
- buff to use as a face mask
- earplugs and melatonin
Erin finds it much easier to sleep on a plane if you feel fresh and keep some kind of normal night-time routine. After they serve you dinner (preferably with one glass of red wine to help you relax) and you're ready to 'go to bed', get up and brush your teeth and wash your face with your cleansing wipe. Layer up in your fleece, take off your shoes and put on your extra socks. Get as cosy as you can. Take a melatonin, pop in your earplugs and pull down your mask. Don't fret about actually sleeping...let the goal be to rest. If you actually sleep, all the better.
Craig's strategy is to stay up all night watching movies. When asked if he would like red or white wine Craig will always ask for one of each.
To cut down on jet lag, drink lots of water before, during, and after the flight. Physical exercise is meant to help adjust the body to your new time zone. Whenever possible, try to schedule your arrival for evening time. Even if it's day-time for you at home, you'll be tired from travelling so sleeping will be easier. If you're arriving first thing in the morning, like we did for Paris and Buenos Aires, resist the urge to lie in bed all day. It'll just make you feel worse. Get outside, get some sun, see a few things, then take an afternoon nap, if needed.
*Make the Most of Layovers
It's important to move as much as you can to stretch your legs and minimize jet lag, so walking the airport is always a good pastime. Airports for us have come to provide more comforts of home than the country itself does. In Africa and India, we took the opportunity to load up on salads and fresh veggies because we knew everything would be treated properly. In Qatar, we could find drinks with soya milk for Erin, and in Singapore, we even did some shopping. Then, of course, our recent layover in Houston was the best...a soya chai latte and a $2 heap of bacon made for a great start to the day. Filling our water bottles with tap water was an even bigger treat!
*Bring your own Snacks
For the food restricted traveller, always bring your own snacks. Even if you've requested a special meal, bring enough to feed yourself. On almost every single flight we've taken, Erin has not been given the special meal she ordered. Instead, she usually gets a shrug, sometimes an apology, and one rare time a flight attendant gave her a piece of fruit from her own packed lunch. Always call the airline ahead of time to request the meal, then confirm when you check-in, and try to confirm with the attendants at the gate before boarding the plane as well.
|Most importantly, try to be flexible.|
Things won't always go as planned!