Like you, many of us have been on really long flights, trains, or buses. Here are a few of my longest journeys.
Mr. Mike and I endured a 12.5 hour bus ride from Ushuaia, Argentina to Puerto Montt and Chiloe. We thought it would be preferably to back tracking our flights back to Buenos Aires, then back down to Puerto Montt, where we wanted to continue our trip up the country of Chile.
No, it was not Amtrak cross country here in the U.S. It was the ultra long Trans Siberian Railway, across 8 time zones, and ultimately two weeks (eight days if you go nonstop) of rail travel from Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast to Moscow. A mere 5772 miles, I extended the trip, starting in San Francisco, flying to Tokyo. Then two smaller flights from Tokyo to Vladivostok via Seoul, Korea. On the back end, I took another train to St. Petersburg, and flew home via Frankfurt to San Francisco. Total miles amounted to a trip around the world or 24,901 miles!!
This is purely a guess on my part, since I have taken so many long flights. But Air New Zealand from Auckland, NZ to San Francisco would be FOURTEEN hours, or 6532 miles. Sydney to SFO would be longer, but fortunately, we ended up in New Zealand. It was nevertheless a very long flight, in coach no less. But I did find a row with some open seats, and slept a good part of the way home!
The big question or questions, is the ability to cope with these long trips. Despite my many years of travel, I still have great difficulty, even when I use my miles to upgrade! Here are some helpful tips, that may or may not agree with the experts.
One suggestion I agree with is hydration. But I urge moderation. In my case, I don’t want to fall asleep, then get up constantly to run to the toilet. I like to change it up, with some sparkling water, tonic, or club soda. Just don’t get carried away!
Easier said than done, try to break the trip up into shorter segments. But this is difficult to do on a bus in the middle of Argentina, or a 12 to 14 hour flight. Most train travel can accommodate shorter segments. But remember, the train is more conducive to walking around for some exercise. And it makes numerous stops for fresh air and exercise. On my trip across Canada, many people were doing yoga on the platform at stops of more than 15 minutes.
Trying to keep your food intake as normal as possible always helps. The food issue is controversial. Some extremists recommend using laxatives at least 24 hours before flights. But I do carry dried fruit with me on long trips. For my meals, I tend to focus more on cooked rather than raw vegetables, some decent protein, and minimal amounts of bread. Always remember to bring your own snacks, in my case, the dried fruit, trail mix, apples and cheese, and sugarless mints.
Reducing stress at both the start and end of your trip is a luxury that few of us partake. We seem to be in a hurry. When I travel with an experienced traveler, like Mr. Mike, we don’t seem to be scampering around like a fire drill. Often times, we might have a cold beer, or go for a walk around a strange airport. And keeping activities to a minimum on your first day or night in a new city is also a stress reducer. A short walk and very light meal are perhaps best.
Privacy is perhaps quite underrated when traveling. I don’t stay in hostels anymore, and I like the seclusion that airline upgrades bring. I also like my little sleeper room on Amtrak. Peace and quiet are valuable commodities on a long trip. Even when doing an entire free lance trip, the nice, quiet hotel bed on the first night is required in my book.
The most enjoyable part of most long trips is meeting other travelers. I have made lifelong friends, whether finding them in the now defunct internet rooms, common dining cars, and lounges. Talking to strangers has a double benefit. It helps pass time, but I have also learned so much from them. And not just about travel, but just life in general. Some of the stories are just amazing! Unforgettable! My gratitude to all of you who I have met along the way: Barry the V, Jason and Chun, Michael, Katy, and countless others whose names I have forgotten.
When everything else fails, I just go to sleep. Easier said than done. I always bring light reading material, music on my phone, a camera, and several throw away reading materials. And a light sleeping pill, like Ambien. I do not enjoy video games, and most of the movies on the plane are terrible. But they help me fall asleep!
With upgrades on flights, I do get a reclining seat or a lie flat bed, and pillow and blanket. The roomette on Amtrak is fairly comfortable, as long as you don’t get stuck on the upper berth. And the new FlixBus and Mega Bus services offer real beds!!!
Your phone is also a great source of entertainment, as long as it is used for fun and not work. I always have my favorite music, but rarely do I watch podcasts or movies on my phone. That just seems a little obsessive to me.
Having a good book is always a treat. I always carry light reading, like a John Grisham novel. Problem is, I read it so quickly, I am stuck with it, or need to trade it with someone. And I always carry a travel guide, though many times this works like a giant sleeping pill.
I diverge about 180 degrees from the experts on the subject of alcohol. I usually have about two glasses of bubbly, and maybe a half glass of red wine or after dinner drink. For me, it is just enough to start dozing off after the meal, about the time the movie I am watching hits a climax!
I don’t have too many self imposed rules. But one is to always have a water bottle!!! And rule 1A is to have some of your own food and snacks. And it is even more important in Economy! For the sake of the environment, please bring your OWN water bottle!!!
On layovers, always try to get some exercise, even if it requires running to catch your next flight. Once I find the gate for my next flight, I try to take an extended walk assuming I have some time to kill.
I always opt for aisle seats, even in First or Business. I would rather get up to let somebody out, than feel confined to the window seat. I like the freedom, and it seem roomier. My leg and elbow are FREE!!! Might I miss the view?
Dressing comfortable is almost as important as the water and food issue. No problem in First or Biz, but Coach rarely has blankets. I like to have a jacket or light coat to cover myself when I fall asleep.
On the subject of neck pillows, I have probably owned many during my lifetime. Just find one that you like. Even in First or Biz, the pillows are marginal.
Talking to your seat mate is a great way to pass the time. In the past few years, I rarely talk to anyone. I prefer a little quiet time. But on the rather rare occasion that you find the perfect seatmate, I say go for it!!! Just remember that excessive and loud talking is bothersome to those seated nearby. Even worse are the card players and video game nerds.
Just remember, there are no set rules for the long and winding road. Just learn what works best for you, and keep fine tuning it as only you can! Oh, and please share them with me!!
CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 26: An electronic board shows flight delays and cancellations at O’Hare International Airport after an early winter snowstorm left more than 7 inches of snow at the airport on November 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The storm also caused scores of traffic accidents and left thousands without power. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)