Your plane leaves at twelve, which means you have to be there at ten. That means airport shuttle at nine, which means you’ll start walking at 8:30 am. You have two stopovers of five and seven hours – that’s not enough time to leave the airport but enough to be bored. Check-in, check your luggage, find your way, lose your scissors at security, rush to your terminal – the plane is delayed. Then a taxi from the airport to the main station, and a bus from there to your destination, and then a taxi from the station to the hotel, and on and on goes the carousel of long travel!
Long travel days can be a pain, to say the least. And the worst part is, at least for me, that you don’t ever accustom to it. Sure, at some point you’ve seen an airport so many times you know your way around. But the stress remains the same.
So How Do You Get Through A Long Travel Day?
“Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.” – Brandon Mull
Because we’ve already tried and tested how to survive long travel days, there’s no need for you to go through hours of boredom and stress. Just follow these tips and you’ll be good to go on your next trip.
While I can usually enjoy people watching on my layovers, the flights are not so pleasant. After two hours, I’ll start counting – nine more to go, eight, seven, when will I get out of here? Here’re some tips to make the time fly by:
- You need legroom! If you collect miles, this is the time to use them. Upgrading helps with enjoying your flight, especially if you’re not used to sitting for long periods of time. A fully reclining seat does wonders for your back! If you’re not collecting miles yet, learn how to do so here.
In case you don’t have any miles and upgrading is too expensive, pay for extra leg room. Most airlines offer seats with more space in front if them, and only charge a small fee for reserving them.
- Be smart about your seat reservation! I cannot count anymore how often this has happened to me: “Excuse me, I reserved the seat by the window.” followed by about a billion “Excuse Me”s to get up and go to the bathroom. For me, once I sit, I’m a rock. I don’t move until I have to get out of the aircraft. Which is why I usually reserve the window seat. If you have to move around a lot and get up, take a seat by the aisle. Just that can make your life a lot easier.
- Settle down! It took me a while to not make this mistake anymore. Recently I flew with a friend, who sat down and then started to prep her space. Kindle in the net in front of her, blanket over her lap, pillow at hand. Then she put the table down and built a little sanctuary full of earplugs, eyemask, gum, painkillers and whatnot. Ten minutes in she was set, and I had frozen in my seat. An hour in and she was soundly sleeping, while I was stuck upside down in my backpack, trying to find my Vomex. Which I hadn’t taken out beforehand, because I never needed it. Shortly before we landed, I had to beg for a pen because mine had vanished in the depths of my luggage. Lesson learned! I’ll never again be the person rustling through her stuff all through the flight.
- Bring entertainment, leave work! I have seen them, the suit-wearing business person who type away and seem to do as whole week worth of work on an 8-hour flight. How great, not to let long travel time go to waste! That’s easier said than done, though. Trying to concentrate on a plane is hard enough. But needing to get something done in such an uncomfortable environment only adds more stress to your flight. Also, work does not kill time. Your favorite movie or book does, though! For ease of mind, I’d take long travel days of work.
Now that you’ve gotten through the flight, you have to get through the layover. If it’s short, you rush through to your next flight and if it’s very long, you may get a hotel or a transit visa. But what about these half-hearted layovers, that leave you just enough time to wonder what to do with yourself? Or in countries that don’t allow you to leave the airport? On long travel days, layovers can be quite nerve-wracking.
- Plan ahead! This might seem a bit over the top, but if you’re busy, this is going to be a great help. If you have a map of the airport on your phone, you know how to get around. Get a good overview. Is there a cafe or hang-out area on the way between your terminals? This is where you could get some work done if you wanted to. Is there a spa in the airport? That’s one of my favorite ways to spend layovers. Maybe plan a little duty-free shopping spree, or pretend you’re Tom Hanks and collect abandoned luggage carts.
- Feel human! If there’s one thing that makes me feel better after a long flight, it’s a shower. Granted, airport showers aren’t exactly prestigious, but they make you feel fresh and awake. Throw on a new set of clothes, settle in your lounge and watch an entire season of whatever award-winning series Netflix has recently produced.
- Get in a pay-per-use lounge. Up until recently, only first-class flyers could use them, but you can now pay to enter. It’s not too expensive and more than relaxing. And definitely more comfortable than your regular terminal seats!
Long car rides
No one likes long car rides. Sitting on your butt all day is bad enough, but you also have to concentrate on the road, someone’s always motion sick or has to pee. Many people dread long car rides more than any other form of travel. But sometimes they’re necessary, for example when you go on a camping trip or have a large family with lots of luggage. Here’s how to survive long travel days in a car:
- For the driver: It’s always best to take turns after a few hours when you’re with someone. It’s even better if you work out the driving hours beforehand and stick to them. In case you’re alone, take frequent breaks – stop and take a nap. Sometimes 15 mins of sleep are enough to refuel you. It may be best to drive overnight because the roads are usually rather empty, but that means you have to be even more careful. Also, listening to music can become quite boring. Audiobooks and podcasts are always an excellent way to keep occupied while behind the stirring wheel.
- For passengers: There’s a lot to do as a passenger, besides sleeping. The problem for many is that they get motion sick while reading or watching a movie in the car. If that’s the case with you, try and sit in the front. Motion sickness occurs when your body receives mixed signals – the inner ear says you’re moving, but your eyes say you’re still. It can be overcome by looking out of the window and seeing the landscape pass by. That can, of course, get boring when on a long ride, which is where the audiobook comes in, again. Also, try to keep everything within reach, so you don’t have to spend a long time going through your stuff.
- For the kids: Mount some tablets to the back of the front seats and they’re occupied. Sure, it’s not the most pedagogical attempt, but it’s nice to have some silence when driving. It’s also great to mount a cooler somewhere in the back with snacks. The only thing you can’t fend off is bathroom breaks!
- For couples/families: If there are any tensions before getting in the car, resolve them! You’ll be in a refined space with each other for a long time, and fighting in there will be very uncomfortable for everyone involved. And don’t nag! Under any circumstance, try to keep the mood upbeat.
- If you bring pets on long travel, it’s always good to bring something along that smells like home, even though dogs are usually okay with just their humans. No food the day of travel is also a good idea because even pets don’t enjoy being motion sick. And, of course, make sure they can relieve themselves occasionally. If your pup dreads the trunk, start preparing it beforehand by giving him treats in the back and making sure it feels safe there.
Long ferry or boat rides
It can be just lovely to stand by the railing and let the wind blow around your nose. But for others, a wobbly ferry deck is exactly the opposite of lovely. Here’s how to make long travel by ferry more bearable:
- Take seasick medication. For motion sickness on boats, no rules seem to apply. Sometimes it hits you, sometimes it doesn’t, and being on a boat can make it tough to fend it off. These little tablets will make your journey much easier.
- Get a cabin: Depending on the length of the ferry ride, it might make sense to get a cabin. Sure, that’s not necessary for everybody. But in case your onwards travel requires you to be fit and quirky, it’s nice to get some well-deserved rest and a shower.
- Have a pillow or blanket handy: If there’s one thing I’ve seen too much of, it’s uncomfortable plastic seats! If you have to spend your time sitting in one, try to make it comfortable.
Long bus rides
Bus rides can be especially grueling, depending on how long they are. To learn to survive long travel by bus, read this article.
Long travel by other modes of transportation
When traveling, sometimes no rules apply to how to move from A to B. From the fairly comfortable Thai minivan, to insanely shaky rickshaws and the backs of trucks, horses, camels, and motorcycle taxis, there’s something for every shade of crazy. Here are a few tips on how to (literally) survive dubious rides through shady places.
- The first thing to do is to look for your safety belt or any way you can stay alive in an accident. Sure, this may sound boring and overcautious, but believe me, you’ll be glad. Once your ride starts and the bumpy road throws you around like a bag of potatoes, you’ll have no chance to buckle your belt.
- Hold onto your bags! They roll around just as much as you do, and in an open vehicle, it’s always smart to know where your luggage is.
- Bring a bandana. The one most helpful thing in travel is this little piece of cloth. Sahara sand, Indian sun or Bangkok dust, it can be quite helpful. It also works against the smell of rotten fish when you wobble around in your long-tail boat.