Ten Travel Tips: Long haul flying

Guy Roberts photo on Unsplash. Dubai terminal.

Flying to Australia isn’t the quickest of air-plane journeys. But the positives of a placement in Australia definitely outweigh the long journey time to Australia 1000:1.  I’ve actually done the trip both to and from Australia already. So I know a thing or two about how to get through the long haul flight. The good thing is you don’t have to do it very often throughout the year and it’s only a tiny fraction of your experience working abroad.

To make you feel better, I  never set foot in an aircraft in my life until I had to fly to Australia for placement and I managed to get here without getting lost somewhere during stopover. So if I can manage I’m sure you’ll be fine. But to put yourself more at rest I’ve come up with a couple of tips on how to manage the long haul flying based on my experience.

  1. Get a good flight.

Flights come in all sorts of types when travelling to Australia so just remember to pick one that suits you. Certain airline companies are more experienced when it comes to these long haul flights than others. Making your journey as comfortable as possible will help make the travel stress free. Companies like Emirates, Etihad or Quantas might not be the cheapest but they are reputable airlines that have been doing long haul flights for a long time. I flew with Emirates but I know a lot of international student have flown with Etihad and had similar good experiences. Don’t be afraid to do a bit of research into the flights available and what best suits you.

Things to consider when looking at flights would include

  • Length of flight and length between flights: you don’t want to be rushing through airports to get on connecting flights. Giving yourself a couple of hours between flights will help break up your journey. It also means you have more flexibility with time – for example if travel journeys take slightly longer than anticipated you shouldn’t encounter problems with connecting flights. My stopovers have all been somewhere between three to five hours which I think is a really handy amount of time. Considering it took me almost an hour to get from the plane to my gate for the connecting flight in Dubai.
  • Where your changeover is: A lot of companies stopover in the Middle East: Dubai, Abu Dhabi or maybe even places like Hong Kong or Singapore. All should be relatively easy to navigate because they deal with many changeover flight daily – also downloading the airport app is a good way to know your way around the airport. Just watch out for stop-overs you are less familiar with as these airports might handle stopovers differently.
  • Amount of changeovers: I had three changeovers on both my travels to Australia. The first was Dubai and Perth and the second was Dubai and Singapore (Singapore was actually just a matter of changing planes). I actually think having the three stop overs helped split up the journey into more manageable sizes. But two changeovers should be fine too.

Photo by Aaron Barnaby on Unsplash

  1. Make your own flight itinerary

Physically making a copy of your flight itinerary is a good way to remember where you have to be at what time for your flights to work. Also it can help keep family and friends in the loop. It would be good to send this on to your supervisors too so they have an idea of your journey intentions. On the itinerary maybe include your tracking number both family and friends and supervisors have an idea of where you are at during your travel if it becomes difficult to keep in contact (during flights). For the departure flight make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, check in and get through security, normally the airline will offer advice on check in times, but remember you might encounter traffic on the way to the airport.

  1. Hand luggage

Hand luggage is important because it’s what you will have access to most of the flight. So make sure anything essential is included in hand luggage. I’ll just run through a quick list of what I took in my hand luggage:

  • Plastic wallet of documentation: Visa, health insurance, CofE, booking confirmation and flight itinerary, study abroad handbook.
  • Change of clothes, shirt, 1 pair of trousers, a couple pairs of underwear and socks.
  • Laptop/tablet/camera – I recommend buying one of those slim laptop covers so its easy to pull in and out your hand luggage.
  • USB, charger for laptop/phone, headphones + backup headphones (also power pack if your phone battery isn’t great).
  • Notepad + pen
  • Toiletries: Travel-size toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturiser (definitely worth investing in), deodorant.
  • Chewing Gum + Aspirin
  • Water bottle
  • Travel pillow (if you can have it attachable to your hand luggage)
  • Wallet, passport and boarding tickets (If you can try get hold of a boarding ticket holder/ Passport holder)

Seems like a lot but I managed to get it all within the luggage allowance which is normally around 7 Kg.

Bambi Corro on Unsplash

  1. Wear comfortable clothing.

Although you might have the opportunity to change some of your clothes during stopover, try and remember comfort is key when picking what to wear on the flight. The difficulty is you go between different seasons, so flying out from the summer UK you arrive in a wintery Melbourne. It’s a good idea to have layers you can take off easily or put on easily. I have a warm jacket which was perfect for the plane and a thick jumper that I could wrap around my waist in changeover when it was warmer. The plane does get cold so ensure you have enough to keep warm. – a scarf is a great because it can be used as a scarf and a pillow / blanket depending on size. You should get a complementary fleece but I wouldn’t rely on this on its own.

  1. Download Apps.

Airport apps are a great back up because they normally have good detailed maps that you can use if you need to get from one area of the airport to another, though there are signs as well it might be good for peace of mind. Also the airlines should have their own apps which will help you keep track of your flights in the days leading up to departure and inform you of any delays, issues or notices. You can often check in using the app too which saves you heaps of times queuing at the check in desk. Checking in before arriving either online or through the app is a must. Airports are great for free wifi to allow you to stay in touch with the rest of the world while you travel and keep family and friends updated through using things like whatsapp or messenger. Just remember you will be travelling through several time changes so its a good idea to keep track of time differences on your phone.

  1. Keep yourself entertained.

Most flights do have some form of in-seat-entertainment meaning you can binge watch like crazy for the whole journey if that floats your boat. But it might be a good idea to have some downloaded programmes on your devices just encase something doesn’t go as planned, perhaps your screen doesn’t work or you might have part of the flight without the entertainment. Also this means you can keep occupied during longer stopovers if you have some time to kill. Also a good chance to get all of those BBC iplayer favourites locked in before it becomes hard to access.

  1. Keep hydrated.

Having a water bottle is a great way to ensure that you stay hydrated during your flight. It also saves you asking the cabin crew constantly for those smaller water pockets that only normally get delivered around mealtimes. Staying hydrated while in the air is key to comfort, and thought to reduce the impact of jetlag – I think. Also things like tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks can have the reverse effects on the body. Water is costly at airports so if you bring and hold onto a bottle you should be fine – just remember before you go through security to make sure the bottle is empty.

Benjamin Voros On Unsplash

  1. Keep moving

You often get reminded on screens to move around a bit during the flight. On a long haul flight this is definitely important to get the blood pumping round the body and ensure you don’t cease up trying to get off the plane. You can do a few little things sat down, but make the most of those bathroom breaks in terms of moving around.

  1. Sleep 

Sleep can be hard on a long haul flight but it’s not impossible and really rewarding – It also makes the journey go way faster. Plan some times throughout the flight where you’d like to squeeze in some sleep. This is highly dependable on your departure and arrival time and you personally. Some people try and set sleep to Australian times, but I think if you feel you can get sleep in anywhere try to. I know on my first flight which left the UK around 7 pm, I slept after the evening meal which meant I got a good few hours flying over Eastern Europe. Also on the second flight I managed to squeeze more in – being the longer of the flights.

  1. Don’t stress.

Like I said at the beginning if I managed to go from never flying before to managing to do a long haul flight I’m sure you will be fine. I had no personal knowledge of flying or the procedures you do at the airport and I managed to get here without any major disruptions to my journey – though I did accidentally walk through security without saying goodbye to my family – woops. Also If you do encounter any issues get in contact with the airport customer services. On my flight back to the UK, the flight I intended to take was delayed but with some contact with the airlines involved I managed to rectify the delay and get home for Christmas actually earlier than anticipated.

One final note, I was the only one on a work abroad placement going to Melbourne, but if there are more people you know of heading out it may be worth seeing if you could travel together. The last placement students to visit from Ulster University travelled together- they did know eachother beforehand but it’s always nice to have someone to travel with- but not impossible on your own as I hopefully proved.

Don’t stress I hope this helps. Like I said the flights are one tiny fraction of the work abroad year and when you look back it is completely worth the travel thinking on all the wonderful things you get to experience out here in Australia.

My original take off flight in July, waiting to board the airbus at Heathrow.

My Christmas air-plane meal, yes we actually got a Christmas dinner on the plane