long haul

Scared of flying? Here's how to actually survive long-haul travel

What do you fear? Is it spiders? The dark? Being perpetually trapped in Oxford Circus tube station at rush hour?

I fear flying. Which, you know, is great and everything for someone who travels every two or so months, and wants to hit as many countries as poss before she’s dead. Awks.

Well, to be more specific, I fear the feeling you get when the plane takes off, drops, or lurches. That kind of free-falling feeling you get when a plane moves in any direction that isn’t straight. 

In May, I’ll be taking my longest flight to date - to Australia. And unlike on the flight to Bali, I won’t have a buddy to hold my hand or soothe me at any slight movements. Freaking out? Yeah, a bit. 

Having searched my brain, the internet, and my friends for any advice that isn’t OD on G&Ts or “distract yourself” (IT DOESN’T WORK, PEOPLE), here are a few non-bullshit ways to get through the flight and to whatever beautiful country you're heading to in one, non-nervous wreck piece.

Find your comfy place
I find the most 'comfortable' way to endure the tummy drop is to be sat forward in my chair, shaking one leg up and down while holding onto the armrest, or a (long-suffering) family/friend's hand. While I may actually look like I'm having a nervy b as my leg bobs up and down, I'm actually focusing on moving my knee to a beat only I can hear.

Centre yourself
“If there's turbulence, place your feet flat on the ground. And, instead of focusing on the shaking, take deep breaths and notice how your feet are still and never move. It helps with the feeling of being out of control,” says Emily, my lovely ex-housemate who is one of the reasons I’ll be getting on this long-arse plane to Australia in the first place.

Sleep whenever you can
Food > sleep (well, just), so usually I don’t mind too much if I’m woken up when food is involved. However, not on a plane. If you're lucky enough to bag a window seat, or you're sat next to someone who doesn't mind straddling your unconscious body when they want to head to the loo, food is technically the only time you have to be awake during the flight. Don't worry about jet lag or adapting to the new time zones when you arrive at your destination; that's ground-you's problem. Plane-you, enjoy the quick passing of time that comes with being in the land of nod as much as physically possible. If wine, Kalms, or something heavier (head to the docs for some sort of sedative) helps, then load up, baby. 

Don't give yourself anything extra to worry about
"Organisation is my tip. A mobile phone that works, a printed version of where your staying and the route of how to get there from the airport. That kind of stuff gives me peace of mind to just sit, relax, watch a few movies and fly," says Jess, who has flown all over Oz, Europe, and some bits of Asia in the last few years.

Keep flying!
Which sounds like an unhelpful “face your fear” comment, but it genuinely does get better. I bet my mum would never have thought that that 15-year-old who grasped her hand so tight and went green in fear on a short haul flight to Spain would routinely fly on her own, let alone consider putting down her own hard earned cash to do it for 21 hours... (f***. I need to not focus on this part :|) Yes, there have been many flights since where I have grasped for my friend's/flatmates'/personal trainer's hand at take off, but there have equally been many times where I was sat next to strangers and didn't have this comfort blanket. 

And, until this day comes, like I said earlier, there are always sedatives. Or wine.

How to prep for a long-haul trip without freaking the F out

Once the flights have been booked and the hotel paid for, you can get properly excited for a holiday. It's now a solid plan and not just a flash-in-the-pan, kinda-something-I-wanna-do idea anymore. But when you're going cross-continent there is a lot to consider...

Going to a brand new continent, filled to the brim with food, people and cultures you have never encountered before is exciting. But, how are you actually getting there? I don't mean by plane, train or automobile (lol, if you're going to a different continent by the latter two, good luck), but rather, what do you need to do in order to prepare for a long-haul trip?

I'm preparing for a trip to Bali in April and, having never been to Asia before, it's a minefield and a half. I am SO excited, but a lot more prep is going into this trip than a standard weekend away to Europe.

Here is a little checklist to make sure your preparation is as smooth as freshly shaved, beach-ready legs:

Use your friends
"It's all London, baby!" If, like me, you live in this multi-cultural city, chances are you have made friends from all corners of the Earth, who will have a wealth of knowledge you can fully exploit. The amount of information I've asked of my friend from Malaysia, who has traveled all across Asia, is unreal. From water quality to estimated taxi prices, it saves on SO MUCH Googling and you may find some extra little nuggets of info that you wouldn't have got online.   

Connecting flight?
There are a few things to consider. Firstly, check the layover time. Anything over four hours can be a drag, especially if the stay is overnight. One friend spent 7 hours overnight in a Greek airport, which could have easily been avoided for an additional £50. Unless, ya know, you're open to splashing out even more on a hotel, once you inevitably given up on those rock hard airport chairs. A comfy bed, they do not make. 

If you do have a long daytime layover, see if you can do a bit of sightseeing. Have a Google: check if the city is easily accessible from the airport and if you need a visa to enter the country (i.e. leave the airport). If the answer is yes to the first and no the second, grab your camera and venture outside of terminal 2.

Lastly, check the suitcase limit on both flights. On large international flights, the accepted weight may exceed the amount allowed on your smaller connecting flight and you will run into additional charges. This can easily be done online during, or after, booking. 

Some countries recommend you receive certain injections before travelling to specific regions. For example, when staying by a rice field for a long period of time in Bali, it is recommended you get your jabs for Japanese Encephalitis (that is not some sort of STI, FYI). Some injections are required at least a month, or two, before you travel, so give yourself some time and do your research.

It's worth booking an appointment with your doctor to chat through what they recommend, as they can give some pretty good advice. My doctor advised not to pick up my prescription for a particular injection until two hours before my appointment, and not to listen to the chemist if they advise I just pop it in my fridge at home.

Also, see if you can find out what injections you had at school. If you're in your early 20s, you may still be covered by the tetanus and diphtheria jabs you had in your Year 8 assembly hall.

Bask in the glory of being free from those pesky, carry-on only liquid restrictions. It's hard enough sticking to the under 100ml rule already, let alone being a make-up wearing woman. Try being a contact lens-wearing asthmatic who loves good nails, bright lips and soft skin. Its like a game of Tetris and, sometimes, somethings gotta give (sorry shampoo, its gonna be a 'hair up all holiday' kind of trip).

Post-conditioner and toothpaste, head to the chemist and grab mosquito spray, Savlon, anti-septic gel and hand sanitiser. These little bottles will come in SO handy, even if you do end up smelling of lemon all holiday. Better that than being eaten alive and getting Malaria, eh. 

Beware of the time difference
Speaking of meds, a little tip for right before the trip: if you take the pill, prepare some alarms on your phone. The time difference will f up your pill taking, and therefore your cycle. Obviously, when you're fifty thousand feet in the air with your phone on airplane mode, God knows what the actual time is. Set your alarm for 24 hour intervals, taking into consideration when your phone will automatically change time zones, once you've landed. 

Happy planning!