I have a confession: Long, long ago, I used to belong to that group of people who didn’t like travel preparations. While I loved travelling, I dreaded the packing (and unpacking), and also wished I can just tele-transport to my destination and skip flying altogether.
But that was long, LONG ago. We’re talking decades ago, when I was around 18 or so.
Many years later and after honing my travelling skills, I now belong to the camp of happy travellers. I now enjoy EVERY step of travelling – from planning, to packing, checking-in at airports, to flying.
I know that most hesitant travellers are dreading about the stresses of packing, checking-in, the possibility of forgetting something, getting caught up in the traffic of airport security, etc.
There are some things that you cannot avoid such as security process at airports, or who sits next to you on the plane, but there are always ways to not get stressed about it.
In Holy Smithereens-land, we’re all about having a ridiculously good time on all your travels, so here’s a list of tips I have on how to have an enjoyable time when travelling.
I’ve taken the liberty to divide these tips in 4 sections: Pre-trip, At the Airport, and While Flying.
Print a Packing List
I still create my own packing list but a week or two before your trip, print a list similar to this one. Look at it everyday. Just glancing at this list will help remind you what you need to pack closer to ‘packing day’ or departure day. By looking at this list everyday while still carrying on your usual day-to-day duties/life, it will help give you a reminder of what items in the list you need to stock up on or purchase.
Pack with Packing Cubes
It doesn’t matter how small or huge your suitcase/luggage is. Use packing cubes! I discovered packing cubes in 2013 and have not packed the same way again. Even the most unorganised packer will be efficient with these cubes.This prevents you from overpacking and also helps compartmentalise things inside your bag.
It also gives me a feeling of security that should airport officials open my luggage , my personal contents are not blatantly ‘out there’.
Here’s a very detailed post I wrote about how I pack with packing cubes.
Research what you can / cannot take into your destination
Most airport stresses are caused by being held by the Customs / Quarantine officials of a country. Australia is quite known for being strict about organic food products and such, and we even have a rather entertaining (and educational) TV show about it, Border Security. But other countries also have their own set of rules. Just do a quick google search to find out what is prohibited to bring to your destination. This will save you a lot of trouble.
At the Airport
This is a very simple tip but often overlooked. Whilst there is the general rule of arriving ‘2 hours prior to departure’ , I always make it a point to arrive even 3 hours prior to departure. Most especially if my flight departs in the early morning at Sydney Airport. This is the peak departure time at Sydney Airport and even though you would have checked in just in time, there’s the long line at Immigration and the X-Ray / Security checks.
Most of the stress that comes with travelling is due to worrying about getting stuck in the queue. You cannot control the queues but you can counter this by arriving extra early so you are not too stressed while waiting in line.
Ensure you have filled out the proper documents
It makes me sad whenever I see people lined up at Immigration only to be sent back because they have not filled out the proper documents.
If you travel often, it will help to have a handful of these forms so you can have them pre-filled when you travel, and not be filling them out hurriedly at the airport (scrambling for a pen, looking for a makeshift desk, etc).
But bear in mind that these official forms change often so don’t stock up on it. Make sure you are aware of the latest formats. And remember, it is illegal to distribute these freely. Just keep it to yourself and only use when travelling.
Make sure what you’re wearing is “Airport-Ready”
Although I still belong to the group of travellers who believe in dressing well while travelling, I also make sure I’m not wearing things that will make airport body scanners beep like crazy. I also want to be comfortable. This means: No buckles, No dangly earrings / necklace, no high heels. Make sure that shoes are easy to slip in and out of. I also pack in a scarf as temperatures can drop inside the aircraft.
*Note: I do not believe that one must take sleeping aids / medication on flights so the tips below are geared toward giving you a most relaxing time during your long-haul flight.
D-I-Y Business Class
If you’re already travelling business class, you don’t need any more tips how to relax on your flight (ha!).
I don’t always fly at the pointy end of the plane (business), and I don’t mind flying economy because I’ve mastered the art of doing a D-I-Y business class. The biggest factor here is securing 3-4 seats by yourself in Economy class.
You can always nicely ask the check-in agent to put you in a zone where there’s less passengers. The biggest factor here though, is choosing to fly on days when there are least passengers (Weekdays, and inconvenient hours like mid-day departures).
Once you have 3-4 seats to yourself, lift all the armrests so you can lie down. You also have 2-3 extra sets of pillows and blankets which you can then use to pad and cushion your instant lie-flat seat 🙂
Boost up on Vitamin C, brush your teeth and drink lots of water
One of the things I buy at the airport and stock up on is “Frequent Flyer”. These are like Berocca, but is loaded more with Vitamin C (than B). I dissolve 1 tablet and drink a glass every 3-4 hours. I will sound like a germaphobe here but no matter how aircrafts are disinfected, being inside a plane on a long-haul flight with hundreds of other people really is the best environment for viruses to be spread, no matter what cabin class you are on.
And I don’t mean to sound like your mum, but — use the toiletry kits the airline gives and brush your teeth before heading to sleep, especially if you’ve eaten. If the airline doesn’t hand out toiletry kits, go to the galley and ask for a toothbrush set. There’s more chance of bacteria and virus developing if you sleep without brushing your teeth.
We’re doing all this because you want to be alive, alert and awake when you reach your destination!
When you’re in a flight, it’s so tempting to accept everything offered to you. After all, there’s nothing much else to do (it’s been said that people eat when they are bored).
But most flight discomforts are brought about by drinking alcohol and eating far too much.
Choose the lighter, healthier options in your tray. When I’m served breakfast, I sometimes skip the main course , or only take a small portion, but make sure to finish the fruits and yogurt.
This doesn’t mean you don’t eat at all. Just make healthier choices ( water instead of soda) and you’ll feel better on the flight.
It also sometimes helps to pack your own snacks like a mix of dried fruit and nuts, so you don’t get tempted to nibble on snacks that the flight has to offer (ahem, like nachos).
Turn your long flight into a facial
Ok, this sounds extremely superficial but this routine will really help you fall asleep soundly and wake up to a glowing complexion.
Because, I don’t know about you but this is the usual journey of my face when I travel long haul:
Sometimes, no matter how I adhere to my own rules about trying to relax on flights, there are still some flights when I end up looking like a serial murderer upon landing, which does not bode well when you’re about to go through Immigration.
So after researching and experimenting, I have come up with a D-I-Y facial during long haul flights.
I wrote about the D-I-Y In-Flight facial in greater detail here, but in a nutshell:
1.) Remove your makeup well
2.) Moisturise your face and put on a transparent overnight mask like Clinique’s Moisture Surge Overnight Mask
3.) Drink lots of water
There you go, I hope these tips will help you in turning all your travels and flights into a relaxing experience that you look forward to!