How do you feel when you see an airplane fly over head? I immediately think 'Ah when my next next holiday I can not wait to be going on a plane again!' Yesterday on the way home from a weekend break my boyfriend and I were dropped at Heathrow airport by friends traveling further on to Cambridge – we were to get the tube in to London. Driving up to the drop off zone, going in to Departures just to use the loo, we were both overcome with the possibilities! Especial considering that it was payday, we could literally have just booked a flight and ended up in South Africa, where my boyfriend's family live.
Alas, it was not to be, we are clearly more sensible than I am proud of! Nonetheless, it got me thinking about holidays, and airplanes, and airports, and wondering why airplanes and airports are so thrilling?
Is it unusual that when I'm planning my clothes and packing for a holiday, that I always specifically plan my airport outfits? A couple of summers ago I went on my own to Australia for 3 weeks to visit my boyfriend who was working out there. The journey to get to Australia involved an extremely hot & sunny drive to Heathrow, transfers through 4 airports, 3 flights, an hour bus journey in Melbourne and a 15 minute walk at the other end. All in all, leaving home on the Thursday at 1pm, and arriving in Melbourne on the Saturday at 11am, even taking off the 11 hour time difference that's like arriving at midnight on Friday – that's a pretty long journey, about 35 hours! Plenty of time to see all the pros and cons of life on a plane or in an airport!
We probably already know most of the cons of international jetsetter lifestyles! Whether it's the preparation for no-liquid hand luggage, Ie spending as much on miniature toiletries as you would have for hold luggage, or sometimes it's booking a 7am flight thinking that's great for maximizing your time away, forgetting that this realistically means getting out of bed in time to leave the house at 4am, and so being exhausted by the time you get to your destination even if it's only a 2 hour flight!
Then there's always the possibility of arriving at your destination without your hold luggage (something I both dread and wish for – funding from the insurance for a whole new wardrobe just to tide you through until you receive your own possessions back is very appealing!), missing a connecting flight, or being so close to missing it that you arrive on the plane in a sweaty crumpled heap ready to sit there uncomfortable for a 12 hour flight! Getting cold feet can be a pain, so I always take thick socks for an overnight flight. I also get 'restless leg syndrome' on long flights and have to wriggle around, and it sometimes stops me from sleeping. I prefer an aisle seat so that I can stand up and walk around as often as I like without having to trapped in by someone sleeping next to me if I'm in the window seat.
The cost of spending time in different airports and on multiple planes can really add up, and when you add in the different rules in different countries you can waste a lot of money! I bought two bottles of water in the airport in Abu Dhabi once I was through security, only to be told I could not take them on to the plane – as Australia does not allow any food or drink to arrive in the country, whilst in the UK as long as you bought the food or drink after security, you can stock up for your in-flight needs! And all of this was after I had been told on landing in Abu Dhabi that due to it being Ramadan no one was allowed to eat or drink in the airport, which takes some of the fun out of a 3 hour wait for connecting flights. It was alright as once the plane took off to Australia, they were very generous with handing out bottled water – which often is not the case on other airlines / flights, where I end up dehydrated, which leads me to another of the worst factors of flying.
Being dehydrated feet uncomfortable when you're thirsty, but it also affects your skin on long flights too, and I always feel the need for a good scrub and moisturize session in the loos! It can be difficult to arrive after 35 hours travel, seeing your boyfriend for the first time in a few months, and feeling groggy, exhausted, dehydrated with dull & dry skin! So always prepare your hand luggage accordingly with mini face washes and moisturizing creams, as well as deodorant, toothpaste and your tooth brush!
It just pays to prepare yourself buy buying well, with essentials in case you should lose your luggage for the first couple of days (Ie hair straighteners and phone charger for me!), Refreshing toiletries as above, and a pair of underwear and t -shirt if you fancy getting changed prior to arrival.
Of course not all aspects of air travel are negative, far from it! There's so much fun to be had! Take books or a kindle on to the plane, take an iPod with lectures or music that you've never had time to really get to before. Buy magazines if you never normally have time to yourself to indulge. As a treat to myself on my trip to Australia, I bought the last season of my favorite box set at the time (it's so uncool but was perfect watching for me, One Tree Hill!) And used my laptop for hours on the long flight when I could not sleep. There's always loads of cool films on the plane's in-flight entertainment systems, often they're not even out yet in the UK and you can see them first!
People are not always keen on airplane food but I love it to break up the flight, I especially love to treat myself to something like cheese and wine, or beer and pretzels, again to pass the time. The views are amazing at times. One flight to South Africa a few years ago the sky was gorgeous & bright above the clouds, and we could see planes all around us above, below, and level with us. It was like being on a futuristic airplane highway, absolutely fascinating to see!
Of course, one of the best of all parts of traveling is the duty free. I do not think this requires any explanation, although it's always worth checking allowances before purchasing! On my boyfriend's orders I bought a pack of tobacco, and ended up throwing of of it in the bin on arrival as Australia's customs did not allow anywhere near as much as we'd thought in!
Of course the absolute main pro of air travel is that you pretty quickly get to where you're going, so whether you're visiting new lands or cultures, or going home to visit family after a few years abroad, or hopping over to Mallorca for a friend's 30th, air travel means that we can achieve so much more travel than we could have in centuries gone by – so although there are some negatives of air travel, we really are lucky to live in a world where this is so accessible to all of us!
Is it worth it?
We had an amazing holiday, spent the first week in my boyfriend's flat before he moved out, spent some time with friends in Tasmania, then in short-stay apartments in Sydney for a few nights, and finally a luxury night in a hotel in the Dandenong Ranges, attending a wedding of friends we'd made in England. I was guided to have made it over, but less guided the morning after the wedding to be on countdown for my flight home, leaving the Dandenong hotel at 9am to make it to Melbourne airport for a 12 o'clock flight. And so commenced the day and a half's flight home, just in time for my Granddad's 80th birthday party luncheon. The time difference worked in my favor this time so I made it by Sunday morning ready for lunch – by 4pm though I was able to keep my eyes open anymore, but I think Granddad was feeling the same way!
In a 3 week period I had visited friends, my boyfriend, been to a wedding in the Southern Hemisphere, visited Sydney, Melbourne, and Tasmania, had a brief insight in to Abu Dhabi (only in the airport), been to my Granddad's 80th on the English South Coast, and generally had a delightful time. I would say to all of that, it was absolutely worth it! Also – if I had a bigger budget I could have reduced my travel time to more like 24 hours, than 35, but I do not think I could bear being cooped up for one long flight so for me, airport fatigue marginally airplane discomfort !