The Niece Project 5.0 had a bumpy start. We had no idea that simply getting there would be so hard. Throughout the continuous bad news of delays, lost luggage, and changed itineraries, I thought about the learnings and flying tips we could take away from it. Specifically I thought about the lessons it would teach my niece, Lindsey, about travel and how to deal with customer service agents, as she would be making the journey back home alone.
Our flight and journey from Minneapolis to Auckland New Zealand via Sydney was supposed to be 30 hours and that’s a long time to be on a plane and in airports. Both Lindsey and I were used to long flights, and we both strangely like them too. Here’s what we did to combat the long journey time.
How to Prepare for Your Long Haul Flight
Wear comfortable, breathable clothes – you may be in them a long time
My number one flying tip – comfort, comfort, comfort. Especially if you fly economy like me! This is probably the most important thing you can do on a long flight. We were prepared with our Exofficio travel gear. Good long haul flight clothes should be stretchy or loose fitting, have lots of pockets, and breathable – and bonus for elastic waistbands! Bring layers in case you get cold like I do on long flights. For our long flight we went for comfort and Lindsey wore her Bugs Away SolCool Jacket and Bugs Away SolCool Pant (Jogger) – all part of the new Exofficio 2017 line. And I wore my Zhanna Reversible Leggings and Bugs Away Lumen Hoody and my old Storm Logic Jacket (which I love!).
Be Prepared with an Alternative to TV
Sure – most long haul planes offer entertainment these days, but I been on a few that haven’t (Ahem… American Airlines to Spain and China Eastern…) – horror! Plus – I actually get tired of staring at a screen 15 inches in front of my face for 14 hours, so I try to make sure I bring other options to give my eyes a rest. Before you go, download your favorite podcasts or music on your listening device. There’s even a podcast that will put you to sleep called Sleep with Me. The host just drones on about stuff that is so boring it actually makes you fall asleep! Lindsey had another great idea, she downloaded some standup comedy tracks from Spotify and we listened and laughed to it the whole trip! Give your eyes a break and just listen for a bit.
Take Your Shoes Off
Your feet naturally swell a bit on a long flights as you aren’t moving much, so make sure you wear some comfy socks or even bring some slippers and take off those tight shoes and get comfortable. But beware – if you have smelly feet (like me!), don’t gross our your whole row, make sure you have some wet wipes or wear SmartWool socks that are odorless!
Get up and Stretch
Speaking of moving around, do yourself a HUGE favor and get up every few hours and walk around the plane. Stand in an area out of the way if possible and do some stretching. Ever since my sister had a big scare with bloodclots/DVT in her legs after a long flight that landed her in the hospital, this is something I do religiously.
Keep Your Chargers Handy
Make sure you have your laptop, phone, and ipod chargers nearby. On a 14 hour flight you are bound to have to charge something.
Always Say Yes to Water
Drink, drink, drink – water that is. Sure a little alcohol won’t kill you either (see below), but water is your lifeline on a long flight. The flight attendants are walking up and down the aisle with trays of water for a reason…because you need to stay well hydrated to combat jet lag, sickness, and the general dryness of the air in the pressurized cabin.
Bring a Neck Pillow
Lindsey didn’t have a neck pillow, but she quickly purchased one in LA. It was probably her best purchase she made – it was certainly the most used on her trip. She got my favorite style, the memory foam neck pillow and it was her savior on the long flight. In fact, she barely ever took it off, I just got used to seeing it on her!
I on the other hand have to always be mindful of space and don’t often have room for extra bulky things like neck pillows. I use my Exofficio Storm Logic jacket that doubles a neck pillow by folding up inside of itself into a little tube. The Storm Logic jacket is actually an old version from a few years ago, however here’s the latest one they have, the Cosmia Jacket, that also turns into a neck pillow. This is one of my top 5 pieces of travel gear – the coat is easy to wash, it’s warm but lightweight, has a ton of pockets and is a neck pillow. I’d marry it and have its babies if I could.
Make Sure You Sleep
For a long flight like this – it’s good to bring along things that will make you sleepy as you really do need to sleep a little on long flights. Things like Dramamine, an antihistamine, or Melatonin (more natural) work well. Or just have a couple of glasses of wine with your dinner and that should also make you pretty drowsy! Just don’t forget to also drink water!
Plan for Things To Go Wrong
As much as you don’t want to believe it will happen to you…it will. Something may go wrong in the trip and you’ll be stranded or have your luggage lost or miss a flight. There are a few things you can do to plan for that and make your ‘wrong time’ a little easier.
Take Pictures of Your Suitcases
I snap a photo of all of my suitcases before I leave just in case one is lost or delayed in transit. When you are at baggage claim filling out forms describing your missing suitcase or bag, it’s much easier to just show them a picture and let them describe it on the form. I did this for this New Zealand trip and it sped up my time at baggage claim considerably.
Pack In-Case Items
On a long flight put a couple of extra items just in case in your carry on. Lindsey carried on for her flights, but I couldn’t. However at the last minute I took a few items from my checked bag – underwear, pants, shirt, pjs – and put them in her carryon. This proved really handy as when we were delayed for 24 hours in LA, I actually had a change of clothes- whew!. I also wore my Zhanna Reversible Leggings which meant instead of one pair of leggings I essentially had two! It’s also wise to make sure you pack any prescriptions/drugs and toothbrush in your carry on too for any long flight.
Wear Things That Dry Quickly
You very well may be missing luggage for a while and having clothes that dry fast allows you to wash things out in a hotel sink overnight and have them dry in the morning! This is why most of my suitcase is filled with running clothes and Exofficio clothes as it’s all quick dry!
Purchase Travel Insurance
Many credit cards have some level of travel insurance provided if you purchase the airline ticket with that card, or look into separate travel insurance. I’ll be putting mine to good use on this trip as I had to pay for extra hotel nights because of the delay.
What to do When Things Go Wrong
I’m not good at this – but I do know that you get better results dealing with customer service agents when you are kind than when you are a bitch.
Ask for What you Deserve
Don’t be afraid to ask for things like a hotel and food. Many times airlines don’t offer this unless you ask. I asked and got Lindsey and I a hotel and food in LA, but the young girl next to who was also stranded thought she was going to have to sleep in the airport until I suggested she ask for a hotel. Since it was a delay that was the airline’s fault, they gave her the hotel, all she had to do was ask.
Don’t assume people will do what they say they are going to do. I was told I would be called and notified when they located my bag in Sydney – but I wasn’t. I hadn’t heard anything from anyone. Finally I called and learned they had already found my bag and had transported it to Auckland. I was supposed to be contacted, but wasn’t.
Put your seatbacks in their upright position and buckle your seatbelts, we’ll be landing soon! See how fast that long flight went when you do a little prep before hand and bring the right things!
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