Our family and friends have always been spread all over the world, and my husband’s career takes us to many different places. While we are UK based, we have an apartment in Canada where our son is living while he goes to college, and we visit as often as we can. So basically, I fly a lot, and have done so ever since I moved to England from Canada a little over twenty years ago. Travelling as much as I have has given me insider knowledge of how to make journeys by air easier and more enjoyable. Here are my top ten tips.
1. Research your destination really thoroughly.
This can be a really fun family project, especially if you are going somewhere for the first time. It’s good to have an idea of the main places you want to visit, while still allowing room for spontaneity. Even if you have been somewhere before, a rough itinerary of where you plan to go or who you are going to visit when can be incredibly helpful. Also, talking about all the fun things you plan to do when you arrive can help pass some of the time on a long journey.
2. Skip the travel agent and book it yourself.
I have almost always found booking flights and hotels myself to be cheaper. You can receive benefits for belonging to airline and hotel loyalty programs including free flights and stays. You are also far more likely to be chosen for free flight and room upgrades if you are a member. Check prices on ‘budget’ airlines carefully. By the time you pay for your luggage, food and extras, sometimes they are not such great value after all.
3. Pack as lightly as you possibly can.
Having to haul loads of heavy suitcases around is never any fun. If you plan to shop while you are away you can pack a smaller bag inside a larger bag to at least cut down on your luggage on the outbound leg of your journey.
4. Always keep an overnight bag or vanity case packed and ready to go.
This makes packing so much easier, especially if you need to travel at short notice. I always keep a small bag containing a change of underwear, hairbrush, comb, skin care necessities, basic makeup, shampoo and shower necessities tucked away in a closet.
5. Be safe.
Please listen to airline safety demonstrations every time, even if you have heard them so often you can repeat them by rote. In a true emergency, your family’s survival could depend on you having those instructions memorized. And please obey the seat belt sign. Having been hit on the back of the neck by a falling suitcase due to someone who ignored them while we were taxiing to an airport terminal, I know from bitter experience how dangerous this can be.
6. Teach children the etiquette of flying.
This will make travel so much easier and less stressful for both you and your family. Our son flew for the first time at six months of age so I had lots of practice. While many agree it’s important to keep babies to a schedule and allow them to cry on occasions, I let the rules slide when we flew. I fed him whenever he was hungry, made sure he always had drinks (swallowing can help with the ear discomfort children often experience on planes) and encouraged quiet activities. Not only did the keep my son comfortable, it contributed to the comfort of other passengers as well.
As children get older, I suggest ‘treasure bags’ packed full of tiny wrapped treats (small colouring book and crayons, little story books, tiny Lego characters etc). Every hour the child behaves well, they are allowed to choose a treat from the bag. My son’s disappointment if a treat was denied meant that he was almost always a good boy. Today, your iPad, iPhone and other electronic game devices can also provide plenty of entertainment, just be sure to remember the headphones!
Talk about your journey before you travel, and explain to children that planes are places where people use their indoor voices, don’t run around or kick the seat in front of them. You may find your children are better behaved than some of the adults!
7. Drink plenty of liquid.
Drink lots of water and / or herb tea. Minimize your consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Above all, don’t drink to calm your nerves. I occasionally suffer from nerves when I fly and I find using natural remedies, for example, Bach’s Rescue Remedy, really helpful.
8. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Airplanes are incredibly dry places. I deep condition my hair and apply a richer moisturizer in the days before and after a flight, and I always use a leave in hair conditioner on the day we fly. Take a small tube of moisturizer on board to keep your face and hands from drying out. Lip balm is also helpful. I know I mentioned it before, but don’t forget to drink lots of water!
Even if you are on a relatively short flight, a nap will do you no end of good. It’s also good to get children into the habit of sleeping on planes. They will arrive refreshed and so will you. Holidays and visits are too short to waste a day feeling exhausted.
10. Arrange ground transportation before you arrive.
Be sure to arrange your transfer from the airport before you leave home. Just finding a taxi when you arrive is often expensive and can even be dangerous, especially if you are going somewhere for the first time. If you are renting a car, be sure to have a nap and avoid alcohol on the flight so you are okay to drive, and make sure you research the rules of the road for the country you are traveling to. For example, while right turns are allowed on some red lights in the US and Canada, there are no circumstances where you are allowed to turn on a red light in the UK and Europe.
Many people dread a long journey by air, but this definitely doesn’t have to be the case. If you follow my tips, you may even find the journey actually becomes an enjoyable part of the holiday.