I don’t think there is any worse time to realise you’ve made a terrible, awful mistake than in an airport. Actually, there is a worst place: in the air.
There’s a first time for everything, even flying. And, as a result, there are a few common rookie errors that can be easily avoided if you plan accordingly. Because you really don’t want to look like an uncultured travel newbie when you’re in the middle of the international terminal or surrounded by strangers for 12 hours. SO embarassing.
Rookie Error #1: “I’ll sleep on the plane” Ha! Good luck with that.
You wish. Even if you plan to catch an overnight flight to land in your destination bright and early in the morning, your body clock will be beeping something very different when you’re crossing over time zones. Not to mention, you don’t yet know who’s going to be in the air with you – there might be a screaming baby in the seat behind you, or a deep sleeper (think, rumbling chainsaw snoring) right beside you.
There are some things you can do to catch some Z’s on the flight. Consider bringing some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, a travel pillow, and a sleep mask (like this Orbis one, a little bra for your eyes). And if you plan to use any sleep-aids, test them at home first to avoid any nasty reactions.
Rookie Error #2: “I’ll just eat on the plane”, no you’ll starve.
You could. But if you’re anythign like me, you need to be fed regularly. And though you may have a meal paid with your ticket, but airlines don’t always get the timing right – it’s going to be a log gap between courses.
Pack some snacks to spare yourself, your wallet, and your fellow travellers from your hangry urges. Packets of biscuits or chips, muesli bars, protein balls – all the stuff you’ve been missing since primary school lunchboxes – just check any restrictions. But please, avoid nuts or anything with a really strong or strange scent, you won’t make any friends that way (and you may kill someone with an allergy).
Rookie Error #3: “I’ll just watch the in-flight movies.”
Don’t hurt your eyes or your soul this way. Just don’t.
Bring your electronics with you in your carry-on, with their cords. Make sure you charge them the night before and download all the entertainment you think you’ll need and then some. That’s your entire Netflix List, all your podcasts and audiobooks, your e-books and music, everything. The in-flight movies can be your first point of call, but they might not have the movie for your entertainment fix. So bring backup.
But don’t rely on the digital screens alone. They’ll cook your eyes, and you’ll want to save battery for making it to your hotel when you land. Bring some old-school entertainment. But not something too bulky, and not unusual – if you’ve never been much for sketching or writing, don’t bring a blank notebook or colouring book. Or just opt for a book. Know yourself, be prepared.
Rookie Error #4: “Sweet! 14-hours to chill! I love DVT!”
Do you think blood clots in your veins, searing leg pain and swelling sound funny? Yeah, deep vein thrombosis is no joke. And if you don’t keep your legs and body mobile throughout the flight, you’ll understand why. If you can’t get up and go for a walk along the aisle, at least stretch your leg muscles (here are some great moves for even the most cramped planes).
Going for a quick walk down the aisle gives you a chance to ask the hostess for a glass of water, go to the bathroom (remember to take some antibacterial wipes with you), or try some of the more mobile stretches. A short strut down the aisle can help release the wiggles and tension, and may even provide the entertainment you didn’t know you needed.
Rookie error #5: “No, thanks, I don’t want a cuppa.” Actually, yes you do.
Maybe you don’t want the tea, but you do need some liquid.
Staying hydrated while flying helps prevent irritation of breathing passages and will help your ears function and adjust better to the ‘pressure pop’ as you hit the clouds.
Water is your best bet to stay hydrated. And you can bring your own (empty) bottle through security to fill before the flight. Take advantage of the drinks on offer to you – tea, coffee, juice, maybe even wine if it’s offered (though brace your wallet to pay up). So it’s unlikely you’re gonna get smashed on a plane and do you really want to deal with that when you land? No. Water is your best bet.
And please, don’t order anything fizzy. The bubbles will take forever (or may never) go down. The air hostesses may end up quietly resenting you.