First time I flew to Australia in 2013 I wasn’t quite prepared for such a long journey with two transfers and 30+ hours on the way. Before this experience my longest flights were only about an hour or two within Europe. Not realizing how huge difference it is to fly this far, resulted in me making some stupid mistakes on the way. That’s why I have decided to write couple hacks to help you avoid making such decisions that make your life so much more annoying while flying.
Before you go
I know it is beatiful watching the clouds from above but choosing the seat by the window on long flights isn’t wise. I did that on a thirteen hours long flight from Amsterdam to Singapore as I didn’t realize that every single time I either wanted to pee or just stretch my legs I would have to climb over two sleeping folks sitting next to me. Moreover, at night you don’t see anything outside the window anyway. Long flights? Always get the aisle seats.
When you are choosing clothes for long distance flights always go for the comfy option. I stick with my sweatpants, singlet, long sleeve t-shirt, jumper and sneakers. Don’t bother with any accesories or a belt because you will have to take it off and put it back on at each x-ray control. Annoying. Also girls, wear a sport bra – noone wants to sit long hours trying to sleep with aching boobs from the underwire.
I always pack up some warm socks as it can get pretty chilly up there and even though you usually get a blanket I like to keep my feet warm. All in all always choose your comfort over style on long flights – noone gives a —- about what you look like anyways. Pack yourselves some clean clothes in your carry-on luggage so you can get changed just before landing to the final destination to feel a bit more fresh once you get there.
On long distance flights it is usually less of a hustle to fit in the allowance meassures because you paid quite some cash for the flight, but always keep in mind that each aircraft has a bit different rules. Mostly you will be allowed to have one carry-on luggage (either a little suitcase or a backpack) that is usually between 7 to 9 kg per piece. Having a backpack and a handbag, or another small bag (i.e. with a camera or a laptop) is fine. When you need to be careful is while flying with low cost airways which are trying to make money wherever they can and so they are extremely strict regarding their allowance limits.
Once I flew in Australia with JetStar (something like Easy Jet in Europe) they pulled me aside just before entering the aircraft to weight my suitcase on a scale. It had about half a kilo more than allowed and therefore they made me pay $50 and check it in. Another time I flew with SwissAir and while on the way there my American Tourist suitcase was fine dimensionally, on the way back it was ‘too big’ and I also had to check it in. To summarize it, you cannot always predict what mood the flight assistant that is in charge will be in but bear in mind to check the specific aircraft’s limitations beforehand to avoid unnecessary arguments over 2 cm or half a kilo.
On the way
Sometimes I tend to be oldschool – I like my diaries and taking notes on a piece of paper instead in my phone. Regarding flying though, I learned there are ways to make your life so much easier thanks to evolving technologies. If you fly only with a carry-on don’t bother with checking-in at the airport. You will only be stuck in a neverending line with tourists overloaded with unnecessary amount of baggage. Couple days before your flight you will get an email where you can check-in online – don’t hesitate and do it! Then you can only print out a boarding pass and head right through the security check without any prolonging.
If you fly with a baggage that need to be checked-in I recommend getting at the airport really early before the crowds start to float in. I love time spent at the airport but not the one standing in queques. Get there on time, check your liggage in and go grab some coffee instead. : )
Almost every airport has self check-in panels where you can print out your boarding pass. That is in the case you only have carry-on. On the other hand, some modern airports also have self check-in machines where you can even drop off your luggage. That can be really handy even though I haven’t tried them yet. The problem could be if you have a little overweight. You cannot cheat the robot so if you know you might have couple more kilos than allowed I would reccommend going to the regular check-in with flight assistants that are more likely to close one eye and let you check it in without paying any extras.
What screw me up a little bit on my first flight to Australia was straight away my first transfer ever in Amsterdam, Schiphol. If you have ever been there you probably know that the airport is massive and it truly is. I landed on one side and my next flight was leaving from the very other side. We were a little late on schedule and so when we landed my other gate was already open and in combination with completely helpless assistants that couldn’t speak proper English I was freaking out!
If you need to get yourselves new boarding passes (if you changing aircrafts that aren’t in the same alliance) you will need to look for the transfer desk of the specific airline of your following flight. In Schiphol there was numbers of such transfer desks through the whole airport, so keep ya head cool and just ask for a transfer desk of your aircraft. Although, if you are transfering in Paris don´t count on the staff´s help as much. For whatever reason, they just don´t speak English. In case you are running really late, flight assistants should also be able to print out your boarding pass in the gate of your connection flight, but as I said, don´t trust it and try to make it on the transfer desk.
When leaving the Schengen area, not only wil youl need to go through another regular x-ray control by the gate but also through a specific automatic identity check where you only place your passport and let it scan your face. Put glasses or hats away and your hair from your face to cut the process short. I don’t like stereotyping but I definitely recommend to choose carefully which line you will stand in. If there is families with kids, older people or groups of touristy looking folks it’s always a no go for me. People who are already taking out their laptops and belts probably know well the process and therefore the wait will be much shorter.
If you´re like me and struggle to sleep on planes either from being anxious of flying or from the discomfort, you can either buy some sleeping pills or try my personal recipe and get drunk. Ok, now seriously. There are various products that can be purchased in any pharmacy at the airport especially. They are natural and help you fall asleep. Once I tried this one little bottle of a liquid (can’t recall the name of it) which I bought in Singapore and as promised by the shop assistant it made me sleep excactly for six hours straight! It was pretty cool even though I much rather apply the alcohol method. Im also not particulary a fan of those neck pillows because most of the time you just have to drag them around and on long distance flights you get their pillows anyway.
At the end one last advice. Do not start a discussion with passangers next to you at the beggining of the flight! They will never stop talking. : )
Write us your experience with flying long distances in a comment bellow!