Flying can be scary. Even if you don’t have a fear of planes, the prospect of a 23 hour trip on one can be a bit unnerving. After all, how often in life do we do one thing for 23 hours straight?
Having flown to Australia and back from London a few years ago (and survived!), I thought it was worth sharing some tips:
If at all possible, sleep.
This might sound like an obvious one, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. 23 hours is a long time, and the more awake you can be arriving in any new place, the better you’re going to feel about it. Even a couple of one-hour power naps are going to make all the difference, and will help you adjust to the enormous time difference once you arrive in Oz.
If your airline doesn’t provide them, take a pair of thick socks (nobody likes to sleep in their shoes), a travel pillow and something to cover yourself with (it doesn’t have to be a full-on blanket – a pashmina will do). Also invest in an eye mask. I didn’t use one on the flight to Melbourne, because I assumed it would be uncomfortable and it wouldn’t work for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had one on my flight to New York earlier this year, and it allowed me at least two hours sleep I wouldn’t otherwise have managed.
Take a good book – or several.
When you’re not sleeping, you need to make the time pass somehow – unless you’re really lost in your own thoughts, and you have an imagination that can entertain you in an unchanging space for that length of time. So make sure you have plenty of reading material.
If you’re a quick reader, bear in mind that one book may not be enough. On the Singapore – London leg of my trip, I’d run out of things to read, so I treated myself to a new book at Singapore airport. (If you’re wondering, it was Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.) The problem was, I had so much time to kill at the airport before I’d even boarded the plane, that I had finished it about half an hour into the actual flight. Cue 12 hours with no reading material.
Fill up time with films.
This is where the films come in. Personally, I love watching films on aeroplanes. It’s the one time I can relax and watch films without feeling even the slightest bit guilty that I ought to be doing something else. Nice long films are always good. If you’re measuring time in films, then watching Titanic three times feels like a shorter flight than watching, say, Snow White six times. (Although I wouldn’t recommend watching any of the films too many times. I also wouldn’t recommend disaster movies about failed transportation systems…)
NEVER under any circumstances watch the little picture of a plane as it travels across the map of the world.
This is designed purely to give you false hope. ESPECIALLY NEVER look at the plane as it passes over the West Coast of Australia, and think, ‘oh look, we’re in Australian airspacce already – we must be nearly there’. THIS IS A LIE – there are still hours to go. (This is less of an issue if you’re flying into Darwin or Perth, but if your destination is somewhere like Melbourne and Sydney, you’re probably not even half way through the second leg of your journey yet. Sorry.)
Pack a spare pair of underwear.
And a toothbrush. And deodorant. After twelve hours of sitting on a plane (plus goodness knows how long travelling to the airport beforehand), you’re probably going to want to freshen up a bit during your stopover.
But be warned: not everybody will do this, and you could end up sitting next to someone who smells all too strongly of those twelve hours and that previous flight. Let me just say from experience that this isn’t pleasant, and your only real option is to grin and bear it, or hope he covers himself with the provided blanket for most of the flight. (Or just hope that free squirt of perfume you tried in the duty free holds out.)
Don’t burst into tears as you’re taxiing towards the runway at Heathrow.
Again, let me speak from experience, when I say that it will make for a very long and awkward flight for both you and the strangers sitting either side of you. However much you think you may get homesick, try to rein it in.
And I think that’s my lot. Other than that: just enjoy the destination!