So, I know I might be a bit premature on this, but the signs so far aren’t great for a good summer and I am beginning to panic. I have checked my social media posts from last year and by May the weather was already settling into a nice warm pattern which as we all know continued all through June and July and into August. We ran out of water, we drank lots of cider and made plans for outdoor events like we were Australians. By September last year, Met Eireann had declared 2018 to be one of the hottest and driest on record. I know this isn’t good news with global warming and climate crisis and all that but boy, wasn’t it glorious?
However, in our hearts we all know that last year’s long hot summer was an aberration. Ireland, beautiful and all as it is, is usually wearing a grey shroud of mist and rain. So, have you thought about what you will do if we get to September and the sun hasn’t really shone? If we face into winter with no tan and no vitamin D stored in our bones. What then? By the time winter sets in you will have to travel for at least 4 to 5 hours south to find heat and even then, it can be ropey enough in the Canaries in mid-winter. So maybe we should start saving now for that long-haul holiday we have always dreamed of. I’m convincing myself here as much as anything else, you understand?
‘But’, I hear you say, ‘long-haul travel is awful. All that jetlag. It’s not worth it’. Well this I know something about and let me tell you with the right attitude and some advance planning, long-haul travel can be easier than a short haul flight on a budget carrier where you will be squeezed into a seat that is designed for a munchkin, where you will have to stow your carry-on bag twenty rows further down the aircraft which also means you will have to be last off the flight, if someone doesn’t mistakenly kidnap it. Or maybe steal it.
So, what do you need to do in advance of your trip somewhere exotic?
Well the first thing is to sign up for airmiles. Just in case you get the bug. Booking flights online is the same regardless of distance but I often use a travel agent to make sure I am getting the best rate on the particular route.
Your long-haul look!
Once you are booked you can start planning for the journey. First up is to organise your long-haul outfit. You need to be as comfy as possible, so soft, stretchy, forgiving fabrics – your PJs maybe? And wear layers so you can adapt to differing temperatures. And dark colours – you are far more likely to spill your coffee all over yourself when you’re tired and in a confined space. Mind your feet by allowing them to breath and expand (yep, feet and ankles are not great flyers as you get older – or maybe that’s just me). Flip flops or a sandal like a Birkenstock are great, although make sure they are comfortable as you will have to walk quite a distance at the airports. And don’t bother with make-up. You skin will thank you and it will need plenty of moisturising during the journey.
What You Should Carry On
Remember you will most likely be able to check in your luggage in for the entire journey but it’s a good idea to take a carry-on suitcase too with a change of clothes and an outfit or two just in case your baggage gets delayed.
Also, in your hand luggage make sure you have a Ziplock plastic bag with a mini toothpaste, deodorant, a little light cologne, face moisturiser, lip balm and hand wipes. And remember no liquid over 100mls.
Getting Your Head Together
Then you need to put your head in the right space for the journey. You do that simply by seeing your journey as something to be enjoyed rather than endured. Because seriously how hard is it to sit on your ass for hours watching movies, listening to music or reading a book while you are fed and watered?
Keeping Body and Soul Together
Speaking of which bring an empty water bottle with you. You can usually fill it from a drinking fountain near your boarding gate and most large aircraft have water taps by the galley where you can refill as you like. And it’s easier to manage a bottle on a flight than the tiny plastic cup you’ll get onboard. Staying hydrated and keeping alcohol to a minimum is one of the keys to feeling good when you arrive at your destination.
Buy some of your favourite snacks at the airport, as airline food can be a bit, well underwhelming. I like to take nuts and some chocolate.
A Bigger Aircraft Is Better
Long-haul means a larger aircraft and so boarding is very civilised as it is done by zone. You sit and wait to be called – no unseemly queuing. Once onboard you will find both your seat and legroom is better than you are used to and you will likely find a blanket, cushion and perhaps a bag of personal items (toothbrush, toothpaste and eye mask for example), depending on the airline.
Are We There Yet?
As you settle in the first thing you should do is to set your watch to the time at your destination and during the journey don’t allow yourself or your travelling buddies to indulge in thoughts of what time it is at home or what you would be doing if you were there. And do not check the progress of your flight until you really have to. It’s the equivalent of the kids asking “are we there yet” as you reverse off the drive at home. Don’t do it.
Finally, if you’re a reader take a Kindle as opposed to a book, especially if your eyesight is a bit ropey. In a dimmed cabin it’s much easier to read an e-reader than a book.
A word about jet lag. Try to board your flight tired and nap as much as you can. I have long since lost my fear of snoring or my mouth dropping open. During the flight keep focussed on the time at your destination and when you finally arrive, STAY UP. Do not be tempted to have a nap. Power through and go to bed at normal bedtime wherever you are. I have found that by so doing I rarely suffer jetlag.
Sure just thinking and planning about taking a long trip abroad is nearly as good as a holiday itself. No, that’s a lie. Start saving now. It’s going to be a crap summer.