So, I’m in London. 40 hours worth of travel, but I’m finally here. I’ll definitely put down some larger thoughts on London in the not too distant future, but I just wanted to quickly put something up on the hardest part of big trips abroad – the long haul flight. Here are a few thoughts (and a couple of tips) to keep you fighting fit;
Food and Drink Choices – Keeping Hydrated and Eating a Decent Meal
This may not pop into your head right away, but I made the mistake of not keeping hydrated during my two leg flight to London. Having a bottle of water with you during the flight is, I feel, crucial to ensuring that you feel good on the other end of your time in the plane. The jets air-conditioning systems will dry out your skin and your body, and so drinking plenty of water will lessen the exhaustion you feel getting off that final flight.
As for food, try and have a decent (i.e BIG) meal before, in-between and after your flight. The meals typically served on planes aren’t huge, and are really just meant to keep you going until you can have something more substantial. Make eating a meal one of your first priorities prior to boarding your next flight.
Time of Day and Route
I had two flights to get from Auckland to London, one from AKL to Los Angeles, and the second from LAX to Heathrow. The Auckland flight left at 7:15pm, arrived at 12pm, and the second flight left at 4:30pm and arrived at 11am. Upon reflection – take-off and landing times were probably my biggest mistakes when choosing flights.
I say this, because the duration of the flights (typically 10-12 hours) can take place either over a day or a night – and I chose, for whatever reason, the night flights. This was an issue for something I will go into later (see seat choices), but to make this a little easier – try and board your flights early in the morning (i.e 7 or 8am local), make sure you have an extended stop over in the hotel (i.e overnight) and then grab your second flight the next morning. This is something I didn’t do (I had a nightflight – four hour stop – another nightflight) and it killed my body due to lack of rest.
This is one of the more obvious things that people think about when travelling, but the best piece of advice I can give is not to skimp on your choice of airline. Virtually all my travel so far has been with Air New Zealand and they are a spectacular airline. It’s never going to easy to make sitting in a tin can for 12 hours easy and comfortable for anyone, but Air NZ give a good crack – decent food, good entertainment and okay seat comfort (I go into the seat choice thing in a minute). Do your research before you fly, and try and find an airline that has a good mix of comfort and price. If its a toss up, pay more, and get the extra comfort you will desperately crave during a long haul.
Most Important: Seat Choice
This isn’t always going to be an easy one to give tips on, but I’ll give it a try. Most travellers will go for the cheapest seat option – bang for your buck is always going to be important when you are on a tight budget. But one thing that I can’t emphasize enough is comfort; ensuring that you have enough leg room, a comfy seat, and somewhere large enough that you can sleep.
Air New Zealand, as an example, has three classes: Economy, Premium Economy (The old business class) and Business (The old first class). Flights one way from Auckland to London in Economy will run you about 1000-1500 NZD, and there are a couple of things you can do to make your journey more comfortable – at a cost.
Air NZ allows you to purchase a ‘priority seat’ – that’s an area of economy where few others are seated and may provide you more space. Air NZ also claims that you get priority boarding – meaning you get on the plane quicker than other passengers.
Priority Seating has two issues – firstly, the ‘Priority Boarding’ part is bullshit, and never occurs. Both my flights never bothered to call up PB passengers, so that part is a waste of time. Priority Seating is a gamble, as you may find yourself seated in a row of three with NO ONE ELSE (In which case you could stretch yourself out across the entire row) OR you may find yourself seated two or three other people – and that is the $39 NZD gamble you make when using seat-select. Use Priority Seating at your own risk.
Air NZ also allows you to purchase a ‘Sky Couch’ Upgrade – that means you get a row of three seats all to yourself, and with a couple of minor adjustments, a bed to sleep in for your travel. The issue with this is the cost: It’s prohibitive at about $1500 NZD on top of your $1000 to $1500 fare, but if you have the money, its well worth it for night or red-eye flights. Be warned that Skycouch is about $1500 PER FLIGHT, meaning around $3000 extra if you have connecting to another Air New Zealand flight. Again, the cost is prohibitive.
The other classes – Premium Economy and Business – are pricey, starting at around $3000 for Premium and nearly $6000 for Business class, but you are paying for comfort.
I can’t stress this enough – if you are on a night or red-eye flight, spend the extra money for an upgrade. Skycouch is the best way to ensure an upgrade on the cheap, and that will run you just under $3000 NZD if you are flying off-peak, but it is worth it. As a mentioned earlier, day flights aren’t so bad, as long as you are willing to spend a night in a hotel to get some rest in between.
So – Keep hydrated, eat well, pick a good airline, with good flight times, and ensure you have a comfy seat. Seems obvious, but these are all crucial if you want to enjoy your travel around the world!