Long haul travel, certain destinations, and business travel all have the potential for increasing discomfort. Take as many steps as possible to control your environment and take care of yourself.
Since I consider all travel an adventure, I usually love flying as long as I have some legroom and the person in front of me isn’t reclining into my lap. As a result, I do whatever I can to book exit rows, upgrades or distract myself. The only travel secret I won’t reveal here is how I get exit rows in advance from the few airlines that still offer that, but if legroom is a priority for you, you can probably find your own way.
Flyertalk.com is an excellent resource for people who want more information about evaluating frequent flier programs, improving comfort and determining the best routes for long haul flights.
Seatguru.com shows the seat maps for most aircraft used by major airlines. A good place to check before booking any seat.
No Jet Lag pills work well for me for long haul flights. The first time I went to Thailand it took 2 weeks to acclimate to the time difference. In 2008 I took the No Jet Lag pills religiously during my flight, arrived in the evening, went to sleep at about 10pm and was fine the next day.
Jet Blue is my favorite US airline because they will allow you to book and prepay for more legroom seats, among other reasons. If they serve a destination, I usually don’t even look for cheaper flights. For a 5-6 hour flight, $30-40 is a small price to pay for the equivalent legroom of a domestic First Class seat. And, this smart airline keeps the overhead bins closed – and monitored by flight attendants – as the plane is boarded from the rear, so that there is overhead room for everyone on the plane.
Continental will let you purchase a more legroom seat 24 hours in advance. I’m not a fan of this policy (why not at booking?) but it’s better than nothing. And, as much as I love AVOD (personal audio/video on demand), I prefer the Jet Blue system where the “remote” is on the armrest, so the person behind me isn’t pounding on the back of my seat for 7-8 hours like on Continental flights.
Upgrades – if you’re an elite frequent flier on an airline, you’re likely to be upgraded depending on their policy and availabilities. Since my corporate travel budget has been cut to such an extent lately, I’m not logging as many miles and rely on American Express Rewards miles for upgrading longer or overnight flights.
Noise cancelling headphones make flights, loud buses and waiting rooms a lot more bearable. Unfortunately, they come in bulky cases and if you’re doing multiple destinations you want the case to protect them, and it ends up taking up room. My Audio Technicaheadphones which are a fraction of the cost of the ones from a famous maker, are worth it.
Electronic items. Ebooks like the Kindle enhance a traveler’s life in countless ways. You can carry thousands of books around without the weight; if you run out of reading material you can easily order more from almost anywhere in the world; and you no longer need to schlep guide books. Ipads, iPods, portable DVD Players and laptops are also great for passing time.
Clothing. In flight, you want to be as comfortable as possible. Wear unrestricting clothing, but try to wear something useful at your destination. When I’m leaving NYC in winter for a tropical destination, I always wear a short sleeved shirt under heavier layers. As it warms up on the plane, I remove layers and put them in a SpaceBag to condense them into my carry on. I also always have a skirt to change into before landing so I’m not standing on the tarmac, or a taxi/bus line in 100 degree weather. And, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane, to save room in your bag, and because these are usually your comfortable walking shoes.
If you’re checking luggage, pack a zip lock bag in your carry on with liquids that make you more comfortable in-flight. Hand cream, hand sanitizer, lip gel, toothpaste/brush, for example. If you tend to get sinus infections after ever flight, Ayr saline nasal spray is worth packing. Ever since my ENT doctor suggested I try this, my chronic post flight sinus infections have diminished.
Hotel rooms. If the hotel you’re planning to visit has an affinity program, join it. It doesn’t cost anything and you may as well take advantage of the perks provided to frequent guests, or people who indicate they plan to become a frequent guest by taking the steps to enroll. Common perks are early check-in and late check-out. Room upgrades, free welcome drinks at the bar, and often small gifts like chocolates, wine, etc. The Kimpton Hotels let their program members “raid the mini bar.”
When you join the affinity program for a hotel group, your preferences are added to your profile. What sort of pillow do you like? Do you prefer high or low floors? Quiet room facing a wall, or one with a view and potential for street noise?
In my case, all I want a room away from humming things like HVAC systems and a down pillow. Feel free to request these things. But, when you’re booking through a discounter, keep in mind that it’s more difficult to convey requests and it’s likely that a request for 2 double beds for a “girlfriend” trip could result in you sharing a king! Make every attempt to communicate directly with the hotel when possible and confirm any special arrangements in writing.
More and more manufacturers are developing products that enhance your comfort on the road. Down travel pillows, silk bed sacks, bed-bug prevention items, Tempur-pedic memory foam eye shades are all small and lightweight items that can make a difference in the quality of your stay.