Until last year, I’d never actually been on a long-haul flight before. I’d only ever travelled within Europe, so 2.5 hours was probably the longest I’d ever spent on a plane – much shorter than the 11.5-14 hours required to reach Chile… In the months leading up to the trip, I’d been busy preparing the luggage, insurance and vaccinations necessary for a University-led field trip in the deserts of South America, and at times everything seemed a bit overwhelming – especially as I’d never had to do any of this before.
For fellow first-time long-haulers, or people interested in the few travelling tips I’ve picked up along the way, I thought I’d write this quick 10 tip blog post (with lots of field trip photos) because I know I could have done with one of these to read before I began preparations…
- Photocopy and screenshot all necessary documents
This might seem like an obvious one, but simply making sure you have copies of all the necessary documents is a huge first step. I took a small plastic wallet with photocopies of all flight information, tickets and my identification documents – just in case anything went missing/ got stolen or flights/ connections were cancelled. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the other side of the World! It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
2. Know the luggage limitations
Double check the weight limits and number of bags the airline you’re flying with allows you to have. You really don’t want to be loaded with added costs or have to give up a bag just as you’re checking in. Most airline websites have a section outlining their baggage policies, so it’s always worth double-checking these before you pack.
Long-haul flights typically provide in-flight entertainment in the form of small touchscreen TVs in the headrests. These usually show very recent film releases and older classics, while also providing flight information, music and several games. I brought my iPad with me, thinking I’d need some to provide myself with form of entertainment on the way, but there really isn’t any need to bring consoles or tablets with you when it is all already provided. Unless you really need it with you, I wouldn’t recommend wasting valuable hand-luggage space on something you won’t use.
4. Vaccine check
Always check which vaccines you need before you go, and make sure you have the injections well in advance as you may need more than one injection to cover you against one disease – and a series of injections will usually need to be spread out. I needed about 7 injections to cover me against 4 diseases before I flew to Chile. These cost me around £350 and were spread over 3 months, so I’d do some research beforehand just so you’re aware of the added costs and time restraints before you book any expensive flights…
5. Wear appropriate clothing for travelling
Again, quite an obvious tip, but long-haul flights are no place for high fashion! I chose to travel in trainers and yoga pants for maximum comfort, but I would have travelled in pyjamas if I could! The lack of leg room and super-close proximity to fellow travellers made sleeping very difficult and leg cramp is ever-present and never ideal, so wearing warm, comfortable clothing is an absolute must in my opinion.
6. Only pack the essentials in hand luggage
My carry-on bag contained everything I needed to survive 14 hours on a plane. This included a change of clothes, makeup, medication and toiletries as well as the usual snacks, money and other travel essentials (travel pillow!). Don’t forget the deodorant (!) and think about what you’ll need well in advance. I wanted to stay as clean and comfortable as I possibly could, and I would recommend that everyone else tries to do the same.
7. Research phone providers and SIM cards
Unfortunately I did not take this advice. It ended up costing me over £5 per day to use my phone in Chile, which totalled more than £100 in all – not really ideal. I should have copied my friends and bought a cheap £20 pre-paid SIM card to last me through the trip. No hidden costs or worries about using too much 4G or sending too many texts!
8. Exercise on the plane
I have a fear of deep-vein-thrombosis and other travel-related health conditions, but I’ve always been told that you can minimise the risks by moving around and keeping slightly active during the flight. Even a trip to the loo every few hours is better than sitting still for 14 hours, so take the time to walk up and down the length of the plane at least once.
9. Book an aisle seat
I learnt this the hard way. On the way to Chile I was sat next to an older couple, and I had no problems being next to the window until I needed to pop to the loo half way through the flight and they both refused to stand up or move. This resulted in me accidentally tripping and sitting on a complete stranger’s lap – so that worked well for everyone involved… So, lesson learned. If you can, book an aisle seat so you are free to walk to the toilet whenever you need to and stretch your legs out into the aisle. Also, maybe don’t be that person who won’t move to let someone pee… just saying.
Somehow I didn’t realise that passengers on long-haul flights received at least two free meals on the plane, so of course I had a Burger King dinner just before I boarded – (I then ate the free dinner as well and it was surprisingly good…). However, just a warning to fellow nut-allergy sufferers – more than one of the food options on both of my flights served meals with allergens such as Soya and Almonds, so I’d read the menu carefully and ask for alternative options if there are any problems. I’d also bring a bag of sweets and a few snacks with you as well, because the in-flight meals are relatively small and I definitely needed my Werther’s Originals to stop my ears popping upon landing!
I hope you found at least one of these tips useful! Do you have any go-to ideas when travelling?
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