A Passion for Travel, Part 11 [Updated]: Coming-Home Checklist

Home sweet home - Felixstowe sunset

Home sweet home – Felixstowe sunset

Having lain awake half the night for the past two nights contemplating all the items on my to-do list, it seems appropriate to update the last post in my Passion for Travel series, ‘Coming Home’.

Since writing the original post, I’ve become more accepting that we won’t get caught up on everything within a day or two of arriving back in Felixstowe.

My current coming-home checklist looks like this:

* Physical
–  try to factor in some recovery time – for additional sleep or rest, a not-too-crowded appointment diary (if possible, at least for the first couple days) and time for the activities listed below
– accept that return jet lag happens and try not to stress about it

* Review calendar and upcoming fixed appointments – make sure we don’t miss or forget anything because we’ve been away and that we do have time planned in the not-too-distant future to reconnect with local friends and family

* Unpack & re-organise for next trip:
– wheelie
– shoulder bag
I store many travel items in one bag or the other; e.g. family travel papers, lingerie bag, laptop security cable, etc. And as per a great comment from KimB on the original post, part of unpacking/repacking includes restocking travel-size toiletries and storing them in the wheelie.

* Get up-to-date with ‘at the desk’ tasks and daily life:
– finances & print-outs as needed of items handled while away
– hardcopy mail (thanking friends D&J for collecting it for us)
– filing of any important papers accumulated during the trip
– items on a running to-do list I keep while we travel, of tasks for ‘when we get home’
– and of course: laundry and grocery shopping

* Edit/purge trip photos — we usually download from camera(s) to laptops/tablets each night but I always take way too many photos and they take up valuable space on our hard drives.

These are so many practical tasks, showing me why it’s virtually impossible to feel ‘all caught up’ the day after we arrive home. On a deeper level, I recommend a wonderful e-book, ‘The Graceful Return: Relish Your Journey after You’ve Come Home’ by author and creativity guru Cynthia Morris. I love this book, available on amazon UK and US and covering many topics, including physical care, expectations, emotions, and suggestions for using art forms such as writing, scrapbooking, and mindmapping to help process the journey.

Much of our travel involves seeing our families, but our next planned trip is a short UK getaway at the end of June. We’re looking forward to visiting the English city of York, exploring its history and reconnecting with one of Clive’s lifelong friends and his wife. Until then, it’s great to be home sweet home.

How about those of you reading this – do you have any tips and tricks from your experience coming home from a trip?

Tree by the sea – blossoming out in the past couple weeks

Tree by the sea – blossoming out in the past couple weeks

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

A Passion for Travel, Part 11: Coming Home

Winter sunset, Sydney Harbour

Winter sunset, Sydney Harbour


It’s great to go away, and it’s great to come home.”

This has been our family travel motto for years. As much as Clive and I share a passion for travel and exploring new places, we equally share a love of being home and spending time together in Sydney.

Jet Lag on the Return

Jet lag can occur at both the beginning and end of a trip.

Jet Lag Jambalaya (Part 9 of this series), covers our recommendations for how to manage the often-inevitable effects of jet lag.

Jet Lag Jambalaya 

As Lilly in Australia and Barbara in France commented (thank you both!), sometimes it’s harder to readjust to the local timezone and life back home than it is to adjust to a new destination when you arrive.

Clive attributes this to the fact that on arrival, there’s usually an adrenalin flow with commitments and the desire to make the most of the trip, whereas upon returning home, the body and mind take over and slow down, knowing it’s finally OK to stop. If there’s an important work commitment immediately after arriving home, it may take longer to readjust.

So Much to Do (and how do luggage contents expand so much?)

As with managing jet lag effects, we’ve learned to use common sense with regard to homecoming activities.

Immediate demands stare us in the face, including unpacking, doing ten tons of laundry (even though we try to keep up with it while away and not let this happen), going to the grocery store, restocking the fridge, and wading through piles of snail mail collected by our wonderful neighbours.

We marvel every time at how the contents of one checked bag and one carry-on for each of us explode into piles and piles of laundry and stuff that take up inordinate space in the apartment. And we pay most of our bills online, so why do we still have mountains of snail mail waiting for us? These mysteries are yet to be solved.

It’s about People

Less in our face but so much more important is reconnecting with loved ones, making phone calls, confirming dates to get together, and making sure we see family and friends as soon as possible.

On our most recent trip, we arrived home shortly after the global swine flu outbreak. We had to walk through temperature scanners at Sydney International Airport. Australia family members were concerned, and we agreed with them ahead of time we’d do a self-imposed quarantine, waiting to visit them until a week or so after we returned. We especially didn’t want to risk transmitting flu to Clive’s elderly mother or his very young grandsons.

Clive’s son and daughter-in-law, along with their two little boys (bless them all), surprised us by restocking our fridge so we wouldn’t have to go shopping the day we arrived home. It was incredibly frustrating to be back in Australia but unable to see and thank them in person. The time passed quickly, and soon we were able to see them, as well as Clive’s daughter, before she left on her own trip to Africa. That will be the subject of my next post.

Technology Migration and Trip Papers

I’ve written about the travel technology we take with us on our trips (Part 5 in this series), and when we come home it’s important to transfer files and photos from our laptops and memory sticks back to our desktop machines.

There’s always a pile of trip papers to go through too, despite our best efforts to sort and purge as we go along. So much information is available on the Internet, but we still find ourselves saving selected brochures, maps, and ticket stubs as souvenirs.

Personal Top Ten Lists

My favourite coming-home activity is when we take a few minutes to sit at our desks and write down our respective Top Ten trip lists. We read them to each other, and it’s fun to compare. There are always a few surprises.

I recommend the Top Ten list as an exercise that provides insight into what each member of the family liked best (and worst, if you do a ‘least favourite’ list) as well as a sense of closure and completion to the journey.

Since I started this blog, I also enjoy writing a few final travel posts after we arrive home. It’s often said writers get to live an experience twice, and in much the same way I used to prepare trip photograph albums, I now like reviewing digital photos, selecting which ones to print, and posting a few on this blog.

Stay Cool and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

For me, this is hardest of all. With so many to-do’s when we return home, I used to get impatient and frustrated if everything wasn’t done in the first day or two we were back.

Gradually I’m learning to recognise self-imposed deadlines do not help, and if it takes a week or more to get everything in order, so be it.  It’s more beneficial to take a walk and reconnect with our physical environment of home, as we did when we went to the Manly food and wine festival

If at all possible, we try to build some recovery time into our schedule. This isn’t always feasible (swine flu quarantine notwithstanding), but we’re at least more aware than we used to be that getting readjusted is a process, not something that happens the first day back.

Where to Next?

I’ll close this series with the same thought with which I opened it, that we are blessed in this life if we have something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for, or look forward to.

After we’ve managed to get our heads above water, our thoughts naturally turn to the question of where to next, and when. Our parents in the U.S. and England ask us before we leave them, “When will you be back?” For their sake, as well as ours, we try to look ahead and form initial thoughts about when we might make our next trip.

For the moment, we’ll just enjoy being home.

Winter sunset, Sydney Harbour

Winter sunset, Sydney Harbour

This completes my Passion for Travel series.  A huge thanks to everyone who read and commented.

Related posts:
 A Passion for Travel, Part 1: Introducing the Series
 A Passion for Travel, Part 2: The Master Trip Calendar
 A Passion for Travel, Part 3: Travel Planning Checklist
 A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic
 A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
 A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight
A Passion for Travel, Part 9: Jet Lag Jambalaya
A Passion for Travel, Part 10: How to Save Time, Worry, and Money: Managing Personal Business While Away

A Passion for Travel, Part 10: How to Save Time, Worry and Money: Managing Personal Business While Away

Desk in our New Jersey hotel room

Travel technology in New Jersey hotel room


Clive and I have personal business in four countries, and currencies, whether we’re travelling or not.

As indicated by the name of this blog, Sydney and Paris are primary locations. Our home is in Sydney and we spend as much time as possible at my apartment in Paris. We also have various accounts in our countries of origin, England (Clive) and the U.S. (me). No matter where we go, it’s critical to stay up to date with personal business.

These tips have evolved over time, and I hope they’ll be useful to anyone who, like me, worries about these matters and wants to be sure they’re handled on a timely basis, even when travelling.

With a combination of planning ahead and making good use of technology, it’s easy to make this aspect of travel worry-free.

Best of all, effectively managing personal business is mentally liberating, and instead of worrying about bills and notices piling up at home, you’re free to focus on your travels.

The Internet Is Critical

This may seem obvious in today’s world, but until we left the corporate rat race and were able to travel for longer periods of time, we hadn’t fully set ourselves up to take maximum advantage of the Internet when we travel.

We’re not the kind of travellers who go, say, trekking in remote parts of the world for months on end. There may be situations where being offline for an extended period means some things need to be done manually.

For most of us, using the Internet is part of daily life, and it’s easy to extend this to using it effectively when travelling. The operative word is effectively.

Many of us like getting away from day-to-day activities, including sitting at the computer and using the Internet, when we travel. I’m not suggesting duplicating daily life at the computer, but instead organising personal business such that the Internet is a tool that helps save time and money.

To use the Internet most effectively while travelling, there are a few activities to do before leaving home.

Three One-Time Investments that Pay Back Forever

The initial time (it doesn’t require much) spent on these activities pays dividends over and over again.

Once you have the baseline in place, it’s simply a matter of making quick updates if and when needed.

1. Organise a hardcopy file of Family Travel Papers

Family File

In my single days, I knew it was important to take a copy of the first page of my passport, and keep it somewhere separate during a trip.

Over the years, I added my marriage certificate and our son’s birth certificate and immunization record. For several years after my husband’s death, I travelled with copies of his death certificate. I never had an unexpected need for any of these papers, but had read in multiple places it was a good idea to take them along.

Our ultimate goal is to travel with no paper, by gradually scanning the items in this file to our laptops and backup memory sticks.

Contents of the file depend on individual circumstances. Last year I added a hardcopy travel file for my mother’s important papers, which I need to have with me when we’re away. I’m working on getting that thinned out as much as possible.

Our family travel papers file currently contains:

  • copies of passports and drivers’ licenses

  • a few extra passport photos

  • copy of my Australia citizenship certificate

  • copy of contact lens & glasses prescriptions

  • hardcopy of e-mail contacts list

  • hardcopy of bill monitor (see #3 below)

When we’re not travelling, this file lives in a desk file drawer and is updated only when one of its contents changes.

The Family Travel Papers file is an item on our packing checklist, and goes into my carry-on. All you have to do when packing is take it out of the drawer and put it in the bag.

2. Set up online bill-paying and other transactions

Bill Paying

More and more companies, governments, and financial institutions are encouraging customers to register and conduct transactions on-line. Travel and being away from home is a great motivator to do this as much as possible.

In the online world, security is critical, which is why our travel technology includes our own laptops and secure Internet devices.

Think about all your personal business, not just paying bills. For many of us, paying bills online is a routine activity (though, as I learned last year handling my mother’s affairs, this is much more common, and much easier to do, in Australia than in the U.S.). Register online so you can view accounts and usage prior to paying; e.g., for telephone and utility bills.

Beyond paying bills, set yourself up so you can pay tax, monitor financial accounts, renew car registration, and do everything possible online. Basically, every time you hold a hardcopy bill or notice in hand, review it and if you’re not already able to monitor and/or pay online (and the ability to do so is available), contact the organisation and register for online transactions. There are exceptions, of course. My mother’s assisted living facility insists on being paid by check.

Last year, Clive realised one of the quarterly tax payments for his company would be due while we were away. It took multiple phone calls working his way up the bureaucratic management chain, but he was successful and able to lodge and pay the return online from overseas.

We still have some hardcopy bills sent to our home, where there isn’t an option to have them e-mailed. In most cases, we’re able to check the balance online and pay online.

Doing business online saves money and time, especially when travelling. There are no more long-distance phone calls to the person collecting the mail and no more time spent writing checks and buying foreign stamps to snail mail bills.

It’s still possible to do everything manually. You can estimate ahead and send checks early, but in our experience the transition to doing everything online is relatively painless. The benefits far outweigh the occasional hassle of registering and becoming familiar with each organisation’s system.

Whether bills and notices are handled electronically or manually, the key is knowing what’s due and when. The third and final step is to develop what Clive named the Bill Monitor.

3. Set up a Bill Monitor & Key Expiration/Renewal Dates

As with checklists for travel planningpacking, and departure, this is a simple list, or spreadsheet in our case. It has only three columns: date, item, and notes. The notes are things like ‘paid by direct debit’ or ‘statement ~15th’.

As you pay bills and get renewal notices, add to the list and before you know it, you’ll have an annual view. Many bills are monthly or quarterly, and the first time through we were pleasantly surprised to find the total list on paper was shorter than the one we imagined (and worried about) in our heads.

We kept referring to the list at home, too, and gradually added other key dates: tax payment due dates (especially important for those of us with tax obligations in multiple countries); renewal dates for passports, drivers’ licenses, car registration, and credit cards; and other key dates, such as when term deposits come due. The first thing I did last year when taking over my mother’s affairs was to do a similar bill monitor for her.

I highly recommend this exercise. It’s so simple, takes very little time, and the output is useful at home and away. Setting it up also highlighted to us where we weren’t yet paying bills online, so we could register to do so before departure.

We have the bill monitor in softcopy on our laptops, but also carry a hardcopy in the family travel papers file. I suspect we’ll never travel completely paper-free.

While Away

Travel technology = explosion in a spaghetti factory

Travel technology = explosion in a spaghetti factory

My post about travel technology describes in more detail what we take with us, or what Clive refers to as an explosion in a spaghetti factory.

Because Internet access is so important, we’ve started to make accommodation decisions based on whether we can get decent reception for our portable Internet devices. If the hotel has free WiFi this is a bonus, but we don’t use it for secure transactions. In any case, I don’t like going more than a week or so without being able to connect, not only to manage personal business but also to communicate with family and friends (and catch up on my favourite blogs!).

In addition to tracking and paying bills using a bill monitor, we have a few other suggestions for making personal business as easy and cheap as possible:

Top Up Phone

  • Top-up cell phones: We bought a Verizon one for the U.S. It only works in the U.S., but costs much less per call than our Australia cell phones, especially for U.S. family and friends when they ring us.

  • Phone cards: This age-old travel recommendation still works today. In England, especially, we tend to buy phone cards and use them at self-catering accommodations and B&B’s. In the U.S. we have an AT&T phone card that can be topped up with a credit card. We use the phone cards when dialling overseas from friends’ houses or hotel rooms.

  • Loyalty and petrol cards: Why not get discounts and rewards, if you’re a regular customer? We’ve accumulated a number of these, which include Stop and Shop, Barnes and Noble, and Borders in the U.S.; Nectar card (petrol and Sainsburys, a major supermarket) and Waterstone’s bookshop in England; and WH Smith bookshop in Paris (thanks for your help with that one, Kim!).

  • A printer of one’s own: We bought a printer/scanner for less than $100. U.S. last year, and use it extensively when we’re visiting my mother and family in New Jersey (see hotel desk photo at top of post). We store it at my mother’s place when we’re away, but decided it would be well worth the cost even if we discarded it when we left. What do we use it for? Printing photos for our parents who don’t use e-mail, copying important documents before mailing, and printing boarding passes before our flights.

Pesky Hardcopy Mail

hard copy mail

I don’t think the world will ever get away from some hardcopy mail. As part of our travel planning checklist, we make arrangements with a group of neighbours who collect each other’s mail when anyone goes away.

On our last trip to Europe, Clive checked our Sydney electricity bill online, was shocked at the amount (especially since we’d been away for most of the billing period), and e-mailed our neighbour asking him to open the hardcopy bill. Our friend replied rates had increased and their bill also went up significantly, so we went ahead and paid. Time, worry, and communication costs were minimised, thanks to the Internet, e-mail, online billing (and wonderful neighbours – thanks, Lesley and Ian!).

For my U.S. mail, my mother, bless her, forwarded it to me periodically for years. I’ve gradually moved most of it online, but my mother and I still receive some hardcopy mail. Last year, friends in the U.S. RV (Recreational Vehicle) community told me about Americas Mailbox, a South Dakota-based, Internet-friendly domestic and international mail forwarding service designed for people who travel and want mail sent to multiple, changing locations.

For the cost of postage plus a reasonable annual fee, Americas Mailbox forwards my U.S. mail anywhere in the world. (The U.S. Post Office doesn’t forward mail overseas.) I’m really happy with this organisation (and have no vested interest in it, nor do I know anyone who owns or works there). I simply go online, enter where and when I want mail forwarded, and it’s sent to Sydney, Paris, England, New Jersey, or wherever I specify. I’m also happy I’m now handling my own mail forwarding needs, instead of relying on my mother or other family members.

Happy Travels

Remember time spent planning will pay repeated dividends during your travels.

Before you go: set up a file of Family Travel Papers, register for online billing, and develop a bill monitor list or spreadsheet.

While away: look for accommodation that has free WiFi or at least reception for a portable Internet device, use local top-up cell phones and phone cards, sign up for loyalty and petrol cards, consider services like Americas Mailbox for keeping up with U.S. mail, and remember printers are cheap and it might be worth buying one at your destination.

None of this is difficult, and these steps save time, money, and worry. The result is peace of mind, knowing you won’t miss important personal business while you’re away. No matter where in the world you may be, you can relax and enjoy your trip until it’s time to come home.


Coming home will be the subject of my final post in this series.

Related posts:
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1: Introducing the Series
A Passion for Travel, Part 2: The Master Trip Calendar
A Passion for Travel, Part 3: Travel Planning Checklist
A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic
A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight
A Passion for Travel, Part 9: Jet Lag Jambalaya

A Passion for Travel, Part 9: Jet Lag Jambalaya

Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Experiencing jet lag is like eating jambalaya, a traditional Louisiana dish made with an endless variety of meats, vegetables, rice, and Cajun seasonings.

The basic ingredients are similar each time you have jambalaya. But depending on their relative proportions and how they’re mixed together, the result can differ wildly in taste and sensation.

As with jambalaya, jet lag is often a stew of ingredients, all mixed up and simmering away, sometimes boiling over.

Jet Lag = Sleep Disorder

Jet lag is technically defined as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east-west or west-east) travel. I broaden the definition to include the challenges of rapidly adjusting to new hemispheres, climates, and foods.

Jet lag upsets the body’s natural rhythms. Symptoms include irregular sleep patterns, fatigue, irritability, headaches, digestive problems, disorientation, and illness. It can affect everyone differently.

Approaches to Minimising Jet Lag Effects

Over the years I’ve read just about every book and article I’ve seen on jet lag.

Advice ranges from practical tips (when to reset your watch) to new-agey suggestions (fully immersing yourself in water). Clive and I have developed several approaches that work for us. It’s important to experiment for yourself to see what you’re comfortable doing and what works best for you.

Here are our tips and techniques for managing jet lag and its effects.

Above All: Use Common Sense

My advice above all is to use common sense.

It’s good to try to adjust to the new timezone as quickly as possible. Much depends on whether and how much you slept on the plane. Sleep deprivation is draining and can have serious and even life-threatening consequences, in situations such as having to drive long distances when concentration is difficult and reaction time is slowed.



Unless you’re an all-night party animal, it’s common sense that sleeping all day won’t be helpful to adjusting to the new environment. But if your body is screaming for a nap and you’re in a position to take one, go ahead and take one.

Don’t let others shame you into staying out late if you know you’ll feel better if you get some sleep. There’s no need to be a martyr. The macho ‘I can stay awake longer than you’ travellers think it’s a crime to take a nap or go to bed early. I am not one of those people.

Before Landing

As I wrote in Top Ten In-Flight Insights, using visualisation can help you relax and make a long flight as comfortable as possible. One image you can visualise is yourself at arrival time, an idea I read in an airline magazine some years ago. The recommendation was to picture yourself arriving, starting with getting off the plane, then going through customs, making your way out of the airport, and arriving at your final location feeling alert, safe, healthy, and happy. This is said to help reset the biological cycle.

I have found it helpful to lean back in my airline seat and with a positive frame of mind, visualise these arrival steps before the plane actually lands.

Maximise Natural Light



For me the most important recommendation to minimise jet lag is to get out into natural light as soon and as much as possible. If you’re stuck in a conference room or business meeting, try to step outside on breaks, or worst case stand beside a window and look outside.

Best of all is if you can get outside and walk, even if only on meeting breaks or for a short time. Being in natural light helps accelerate the adjustment to the new environment.

Orient All the Senses

Before I get to the more practical suggestions, some people including me have found it extremely helpful to focus on all of the senses with increased awareness, being conscious of each one as we enter and spend time in the new surroundings.

Breathing and Scents

From the moment you get off the plane, and especially when exiting the airport (but after you get through the gauntlet of smokers, if groups of them are congregating just outside), breathe in deeply and take in the local atmosphere and weather. This includes various smells and aromas of everything from people to food to airport traffic to humidity to flowers and trees.



It’s so easy to rush into a taxi or train, or look for car rental signs, without noticing the surrounding sights, even inside the airport. It helps the adjustment process if you take enough time to really look around and take note of the new scene. Even if the language and much of the generic airport landscape is similar to that of your departure location, you can still observe signs, people, and often a new view out the windows.

Earlier this week, we left blue sky, bright sunshine, leafy trees, and warm autumn weather in Sydney. We arrived in New York to steel grey skies, sub-zero temperatures, high winds, and mile after mile of bare trees whose branches have no hint of a bud. We’re still marveling at the visual contrast as I write this post.


As with breathing in the new atmosphere, also pause for a few moments to listen and absorb the noises in the new place. When we travel in Asia, it helps me as I’m breathing in to listen to the different languages being spoken all around me. I love hearing French when we arrive in Paris. Listening to new sounds and languages assists in internalising the fact that I’m really in a new country or region.

Touch & Feel

I have read that travellers who are met by caring friends or relatives who give the new arrivals lots of hugs have an advantage in becoming grounded in the new location. I believe there is some truth to this. It may sound a bit new-agey, but the energy of the local residents is said to transfer to the new arrivals via the human touch.



If you’re on a business trip or arriving at a new-for-you tourist destination, you may not have locals to hug. You can still feel the climate, temperature, wind, and humidity on your skin when you pause to breathe in and be conscious of the new location. When I leave Sydney in summer and arrive in Beijing in winter, breathing in the cold air with awareness and listening to Mandarin being spoken all around me helps me adjust not only externally but also internally.

Many of my female business colleagues ended a long work day in China or Japan by having a massage in the hotel. In addition to the relaxing effect of massage, the touch of the local inhabitant would have contributed to this transfer of energy, which in turn improves well-being and adjustment.

Practical Techniques to Manage Jet Lag

Water – Drinking and Immersing

Similar to the need to keep hydrated while in flight, it’s important to drink a lot of water after you arrive. This is especially true if you’re sensitive to new foods and eating them might cause digestive issues. Drinking water will help your body adjust and stay healthy.

Depending on where you are, use sensible precautions before drinking water from the tap. Most Asian hotels provide bottled water daily.

One recommendation I’ve found helpful is to fully immerse yourself in water as soon as possible. If you can swim in a pool, lake, or ocean, this is ideal. If not, soaking in a bathtub and sinking down low enough to duck your head under the water is also said to help the body acclimate more quickly. Even taking an extra-long shower is helpful, not only to remove airline grunge and lingering static electricity, but also to help clean and refresh the skin. Rubbing and scrubbing essentially removes the top layer of skin and freshens it so it can more easily adapt to the new climate and atmosphere.

Taste, Food, and Eating Patterns

I read in one article that changing your diet several days before departure is a partial cure for jet lag. I don’t think this is necessary. Just use common sense. As recommended in my in-flight insights post, don’t eat too much just before or during the flight. Especially avoid any heavy, greasy food that might upset your stomach or make you uncomfortable before you arrive at your destination.

On the ground, make the first meal relatively light and healthy. Then focus on maintaining good nutrition and eating habits each day. This is so important when eating new and different foods. We always pack Alka-Seltzer as a backup, in case of upset stomachs at night.

Eating local foods, and adopting local meal times, helps greatly in adjusting to the new location. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t pack a few favourite snacks (Customs permitting) from home, especially if you’re travelling with children. The overall feeling of adjustment and well-being improves if you can gradually adapt to the food of your destination.

Personal Routines

If you exercise every day, try to get out and do it at your usual time. If you meditate or practice yoga, continue to do so at the destination. One of my business colleagues always travelled with a yoga mat. As at home, use common sense and schedule the most important tasks or meetings for the times when you feel most energetic. For me, this means when travelling east, afternoons and evenings work well. When travelling west, mornings are usually better.

I’m not suggesting you try to fully duplicate your personal routine. The key is to determine which if any activities are most important to you, and figure out how best to incorporate them into your schedule at the new location. You’ll feel better if you include them, and if you do key activities at the times you have the most energy.

Social Interaction – Do as the Locals Do

As much as possible I recommend the approach of ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’. If everyone eats late, try to do the same, even if you crave a cheeseburger at 2:30 p.m., which Clive and I did a few days ago. If locals get out and walk in the evening, do that too. This helps reset the body’s biological cycles to be more in tune with those of everyone else at the new location, and speeds adjustment to the new timezone.

Other Quirks and Considerations



  • There’s an old rule of thumb that says you need one day of rest or recovery for every timezone crossed. This varies significantly depending on the individual and the combination of factors involved in a given trip. Most of us usually need to hit the ground running without any pause or recovery period, even when we’ve crossed ten or twelve timezones. We have found even with a 16 hour time difference we’re usually fully adjusted after a few days. But if you find yourself still dragging, there’s no need to panic since you know it’s part of the body’s normal adjustment process .

  • Direction flown: Another general rule says flying west produces less jet lag than flying east, except for night owls (which I’m not) who can handle flying east better than others. Senior airline staff often choose western-bound flights. I prefer flying west, with the kind of jet lag that results in waking before dawn vs. being wide awake at 2 a.m. For me, flying east and having to get up when the body is still in deep sleep is a struggle. Often with a simple itinerary you don’t have a choice about which direction to fly.

  • When to reset your watch: Some travellers are fanatics about this, insisting you should set your watch to the destination time the minute you sit down in your airplane seat. I disagree, and recommend experimenting (if you care about this item at all) to see if it makes a difference in how you feel on arrival. I usually reset my watch when we land in the new location, but until then I tend to leave it on the local time we left. Clive points out that with airline maps and progress reports on the back of most seats now, resetting your watch is less important than it was in the past. Today you can look at the screen and find out exactly what time it is where you left, time at destination, how long you’ve been in the air, and how long until you reach your destination. For some people, resetting the watch early in the flight helps get a head start on internalising the destination time.

  • Crossing the International Date Line: This can sometimes exacerbate jet lag by adding to a general feeling of disorientation. On Monday, we left Sydney at 11am and arrived in Los Angeles at 7am on the ‘same day’. Sounds impossible! It’s like Groundhog Day, with an endless breakfast service. From New York to Sydney, you might miss your birthday, or even Christmas Day, when you leave New York Friday evening and arrive in Sydney on Sunday morning. People ask, “What happened to Saturday?” In these instances, I find it most helpful to focus on the senses upon arrival and tell myself if I’ve lost a day, I’ll get it back on the next trip and vice-versa.

  • Change of hemisphere, climate, or season: These issues can also disrupt the body’s natural rhythms and contribute to sleep deprivation and feelings of disorientation. What helps me most in these cases is to get as much natural light as possible, get outside and walk, and remember to be conscious of all the senses in being receptive to the new environment.

  • Getting clean and horizontal: Almost everyone heads for the shower after a long-haul flight, and sometimes to showers en route. Clive and I have taken advantage of Tokyo’s Narita Airport facilities a few times. For me, getting clean and horizontal and grabbing even a couple hours of sleep goes a long way to overcoming jet lag at the final destination. When we have an early morning arrival in Sydney after flights from Europe or the U.S., I can’t wait to get clean and horizontal, and take a nap. Clive usually stays up. He says he’s afraid of sleeping all day if he goes to bed in the morning. As with everything else related to jet lag, it depends on how much sleep, if any, you get on the plane and how you feel on arrival.

  • First night, following nights: We often find we sleep well on the first night after a long-haul flight. This is largely because we don’t sleep much on planes and our bodies are so tired we’re able to get a decent sleep. On the second and third nights, the powerful body clock takes over and we experience more fitful sleeps.

  • Leave a light on: We like to leave a hall or hotel bathroom light on during the night. If we wake up in the middle of the night, this helps us quickly get oriented. We also avoid knocking things over reaching for a light switch or stumbling around in the dark.

  • Second (and sometimes third) wave: It’s not uncommon to experience a second wave of jet lag several days or even a week after arrival. Sometimes I think I’ve adjusted and am then hit with another day or two of feeling not quite right. When I moved to Australia in 1995, several expats told me they experienced a third wave of jet lag several weeks after they arrived. Knowing this might happen makes it easier to relax and move through it if and when it occurs.

  • Coming home is easier: It’s always harder to adjust to new, unfamiliar rhythms than to return to an environment you know well. If you’re really struggling with jet lag at your destination, remember it’s usually not as bad when you go home.

What I Don’t Recommend



Some travellers rely on sleeping pills or melatonin to overcome jet lag. Clive and I both feel strongly it’s best to avoid all sleep medications. I’ve read they can be harmful and actually delay the natural adjustment process the body needs to go through. I suggest trying the approaches above before resorting to sleeping pills.

Clive travels completely pill-free. I occasionally get what I call a jet lag headache, and take Nurofen (ibuprofen) to help. I don’t do it often, but I figure it’s common sense there’s no need to suffer when two Nurofen tablets usually do the trick.

Remedies for Jet Lag Jambalaya – A Summary



Like jambalaya, jet lag is a stew of ingredients with multiple variations. Its effects may be different each time you travel. Above all, use common sense. Before landing, visualise yourself arriving, going through customs, exiting the airport, and arriving at your final destination feeling well and happy. Get out into natural light as soon and as much as possible, taking walks if you can. Remember to be conscious of all your senses in taking in the new environment. Adopt local mealtimes, food, and social patterns as soon as possible. Drink a lot of water and make your first meal on the ground a light, healthy one. If certain activities such as yoga or exercise are important to you at home, try to work them into your schedule at the new location.

Remember it may take a few days or more to overcome jet lag, and you may experience a second and even third wave, depending on how long you’re away. Try to stay relaxed, knowing this is part of the normal adjustment process.

The body clock is very powerful. I suggest experimenting with these suggestions to find out what works best for you. Your body will adapt more quickly and easily to the new environment and timezone, and a good night’s sleep with be your reward.



My next post in this series will cover our tips for managing personal business while away.

Cheers and more to come.

Related posts
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1: Introducing the Series
A Passion for Travel, Part 2: The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3: Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight

Still Awake


And still working on my jet lag post, in bits and pieces between appointments and family visits.

It’s kind of strange doing it while I’m jet-lagged.

All is well with us and I hope it is with everyone reading this.

I’ll be back soon with all the excitement from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey.

A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight



As we’ve been doing our final packing today, I realised I forgot an important consideration in making a long journey as comfortable as possible:  clothing.

I also forgot to include lip moisturiser, along with Vitamin E oil and hand lotion, to help counteract dry, recycled air.  My favourite is plain Chapstick.

Here are our recommendations for what to wear when you’re heading out to a long-haul flight.

What to Wear

Layers:  As with other aspects of travel, wearing layers is key.  On a long flight, temperatures can change from stuffy to chilly.  It helps greatly if you can easily adjust to your body’s own comfort level by quickly adding or removing layers.

Clive says he wears layers to lessen his luggage load.  This is another reason layers work well.

Loose and comfortable:  A long-haul flight is no time to be constrained by having squeezed into skin-tight jeans.  It’s crucial to be able breathe comfortably.  It’s also important to be able to get up and down multiple times without worrying or feeling awkward about adjusting clothes.

I usually wear jeans, a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt (I can roll up the sleeves if the plane gets too warm), a lightweight V-neck jumper (sweatshirt), and blazer-style jacket.  I also have a nylon jacket rolled up in my carry-on, but have never needed it on the plane.

Dark colours:  This is a strong recommendation of mine, for adults and children.  Dark clothing saves the day when grunge or spillage occur, and they do occur on journeys of 24 hours or more.

It’s not exactly that you’re trying to hide the dirt.  But if you think about all the places you’ll be sitting, snacking, and (maybe) sleeping, you can understand why clothes often look and feel seedy by the time you reach your destination.  And I’m not even talking about body odour.

No matter how careful we are, accidents do happen by way of spillage and stains, sometimes thanks to other people and sometimes through our own mishaps.  Just sitting on airport and airplane seats for hours on end can make light-coloured clothes look dirty.

I cringe when I see women in pink or yellow tracksuits that seem to be covered in grey film.  The pastel outfits may have been clean when they started out, but they quickly look like they’ve been lived in.

Dark clothes don’t show the dirt as much, and are easier to clean.  They are your friend on long airplane journeys.

Sports bra:  These don’t have any hooks in the back (or front).  When your back is pressed against an airline seat for more hours than you care to think about, it makes it significantly more comfortable if there are no hooks against your skin, only smooth fabric.  Or go braless, if that’s easier.

Jacket with Pockets:  My favourite travel jacket is a suit jacket from my corporate life.  It’s navy blue, has two side pockets with flaps, and an inside breast pocket with a little Velcro tab.

Flap pockets prevent small items (like Chapstick) from falling out, which is helpful when you’re getting up and down a lot.  The inside pocket is where I keep passport, boarding pass, and landing cards.

Clive has a lightweight black jacket with inside pockets that zip.  This is ideal.  Nothing falls out when he takes his jacket off and on or drapes it over his arm.

Shoes You Can Easily Slip On and Off:  This is important at Security and to a lesser extent on the plane.  I wear flat, loafer-style shoes I can easily step in and out of, when needed.

Many Security lines, especially in the U.S., require you to remove your shoes when going through.  It’s vastly easier if you don’t have to untie and tie your shoes every time.

I mentioned in my prior post that I leave my shoes on during the flight (and wish everyone else would too, at least those who have smelly feet and/or aren’t wearing socks).  But if I want to scratch an itch or massage my foot, it’s much easier with a slip-on shoe.  I think feet in slip-on shoes sweat less, too, but that’s just my theory.

Socks:  I advise wearing lightweight (and of course dark) socks.  They protect the skin and keep the feet clean from airline grunge, even on the most pristine airlines.

On a long flight, the floor of the plane gets gradually dirtier.  I don’t know how people can walk up and down the aisles in bare feet.  It’s now a law on most airlines that shoes must be worn into the lavatory.

I know many women like to wear sandals, but I’m happier packing mine.

For a long flight, shoes and socks work a treat.

Pashmina (optional):  several of my female business colleagues carried a pashmina, or silk shawl, in their carry-on bags.  A pashmina is handy if you want a light wrap or if you want to drape it over your face while sleeping.

It’s much nicer to have your own pashmina over your nose and mouth than an airline blanket filled with static electricity.  (If you use airline blankets, Vitamin E oil, skin lotion and Chapstick will be even more welcome.)

When my son wants to sleep on long flights, he often drapes his cotton sweater or sweatshirt over his head.  It makes me smile when I see him do it.  He says, “At least it’s my own air.”

Looking Good

I’m not advocating wearing huge, shapeless, baggy dark clothes on long-haul flights.

I am recommending a few criteria for choosing clothes that
(1) you like, (2) look good, and (3) ensure you feel good, too,
if you:

·        wear layers

·        choose clothes that are comfortable and not too tight

·        consider a sports bra without hooks (or go braless)

·        find a jacket with great pockets

·        wear slip-on shoes and lightweight socks

·        choose dark colours to hide a multitude of sins

·        take a pashmina for both warmth and an elegant way to cover part of your face, if you want to do that when resting or sleeping

My next post will be from the U.S.  I’ll cover our tips for managing jet lag on arrival.

Cheers and more to come.

Related posts (I will update my prior post, A Passion for Travel, Part 8:  Top Ten In-flight Insights, in due course)

  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5:  Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7:  Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8:  Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya

A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights



Clive and I regularly take long-haul flights between Sydney and Europe, the U.S., and Asia.  Other than within Asia, our average journey time, including stopovers, is between 26 and 30 hours.

So how best to pass the time?  What can we passengers do to make time on board the airplane as painless as possible?

We’ve developed a range of strategies to keep this part of the trip smooth.  Two are done before you get to the airport.  One is done after you go through Security.  The rest are done in-flight.

[Note:  this is my longest post.  I had fun writing it, condensed as much as I could, and hope you enjoy reading it.  I have a lot to say on this subject.  If you just want the summary, please skip to the end.]

1.  Choice of airline

My Home City, Sydney

My Home City, Sydney

This is number one in our travel planning checklist.

Our first priority is safety, and we only fly reputable airlines with excellent safety records.  Clive even looks at the age of an airline’s fleet.

Price is not the only important factor.  It’s one of them, but there’s often a trade-off between price and getting a reasonable base level of service.  We highly recommend considering non-U.S. airlines, many of which offer significantly higher levels of service and cleanliness, not to mention better food.  I wrote about this in ‘U.S. Airlines, Infrastructure, and Attitude’.

My first flight on an Asian airline was on Singapore Airlines in 1996.  I was bowled over by the attentive but never intrusive service, the excellent Asian food, and the way the flight attendants constantly cleaned and sprayed the lavatories, keeping them clean throughout the long flight.

We also try to manage our frequent flier mileage accounts as efficiently as possible.  It’s not a primary consideration in choosing an airline, but with partner programs like One World and Star Alliance, you can travel on an Asian or European airline and accumulate miles towards future flights.

Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square, London

2.  Seating

Whenever possible, we do our own seating assignment via online check-in.

This is fast becoming the best (and sometimes only) way to go, and is number one on our departure checklist.

If you can’t do online check-in, the next best solution is to get to the airport as early as possible.  It’s worth being towards the front of the line to get the best seat assignment of those that are left.

Clive and I travel Economy class.  If we win the lottery, it will be Business, but until then, we try to at least get ‘premier economy’ seats, which many airlines now offer to frequent flier members.  They are closer to the front of the plane and provide a little more legroom.

Everyone hates middle seats, for good reason.  Our favourite is a two-only ‘AB’ configuration.  These are hard to come by.

Clive and I both have fairly long legs, and my highest seating priority is to have an aisle seat (which Clive kindly lets me have every time).  If there are two of you together and the seating configuration is ‘ABC’, it’s much better to get the ‘D’ and ‘E’ seats across the aisle.  No-one other than your partner has to climb over you to get out.

My 6’5” son loves the exit row, with its additional legroom.  Despite my height, I don’t like it.  It’s true that with no seat in front, no-one is reclining their seat into your face.  But there’s also no seat in front under which to put a small bag; everything must be put in the overhead.  And exit rows are often by the lavatories, with groups of people waiting their turn and a constant flushing noise.  Ugh.

I also don’t like bulkhead seats, which are torture for someone with long legs.  Similar to the exit row, there’s no seat in front.  With the bulkhead, there’s nowhere to stretch your legs; there’s only a wall.  I prefer to have a seat in front, use the seat pocket for reading material, and have space underneath to stretch my legs and store a small bag.

It’s general practice on most airlines to make the best seats available for high level frequent fliers.

Seating can make a huge difference to the in-flight experience.  It’s worth giving some thought to your seat preferences, then doing whatever you can via online check-in or early airport arrival to get the seats you want.

3.  After Security

wine-gumsAs I wrote in ‘A Passion for Travel, Part 7:  Airport Survival Strategies’, we buy bottles of water after we go through Security.

On long journeys, flight attendants on most airlines come around regularly with water and juice.  We’ve found it’s still prudent to have some of our own.  Staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of being comfortable and staying healthy on the flight.

We also recommend buying a few edible treats before boarding.  We usually take on a few sweets and I try to find a bag or two of rice crackers.  I cover this more in ‘Food’, #8 below.

4.  Boarding & Overhead Compartment Wars

Nothing is more maddening to me than when we board and find the overhead compartments above our seats already taken.

As every traveller has noticed, carry-on bags are getting bigger and bigger.  Most now have wheels, which take up more overhead space.  Airlines specify maximum size allowed, but limits don’t seem to be enforced.  The biggest joke of all is the massive amount of shopping you can do after Security, all of which is then carried onto the plane.

Vintage Vehicle Rally, Suffolk, UK

Vintage Vehicle Rally, Suffolk, UK

Many people never go near their carry-on bags during the flight.  Sometimes people sitting towards the back of the plane put their bags into overhead compartments near the front.  Flight attendants don’t stop this, and despite my best efforts to remain calm, inside I am fuming.  I think it’s rude, unfair, and the height of selfishness to have such disregard for fellow passengers.

To avoid this situation, we board as soon as possible.  On long flights, boarding begins as much as 45 minutes before take-off.  In my experience, it’s worth it to board early, if you want to get decent overhead space that’s above your seat.

In addition to claiming your fair share of overhead compartment space, the other main reason for boarding as soon as possible is to get settled and make sure everything you want during take-off is handy.

5.  Other Passengers – People Should Be Weighed, Too

 Other passengers and their behaviour can have an enormous influence on the in-flight experience.  In the worst situations, other people can cause the most distress or anger (usually but not always supressed) during a trip.

With a Dear Friend (not an oozer), Connecticut, USA

With a Dear Friend (not an oozer), Connecticut, USA


Because Clive graciously insists I take the aisle seat, he is sometimes stuck in the middle, with someone else in the window seat.

He dreads what he calls an oozer.

There are two kinds of oozers.


5a.  The Excessively Overweight Oozer

The first oozer is the excessively overweight person who simply can’t fit into the seat.  He or she oozes into the adjoining seat for the duration of the flight.

On a 14+ hour flight, sitting next to an obese person makes for an impossible situation.  Clive says, “Short of building a fence, you cannot get your space back from this kind of oozer”.  And they know it.  They cannot fit into the standard economy seat.  No matter how early you take your seat, they are going to ooze onto you when they take theirs.

Why aren’t passengers weighed, along with luggage?  It may sound extreme, but we think there should be some sort of screening at booking time, verified at check-in or boarding.  Anyone who exceeds a certain weight limit should be required to purchase two seats.

Passenger weight is also a safety issue. We saw a documentary about a U.S. plane crash which occurred partly because of excess weight.  The crew followed the proper process for weight estimates, but the estimates were faulty because they used 1930’s individual averages.  Everyone knows people are much heavier today than they were in the 1930’s.  The average weights were updated, too late for those who died in the crash.

5b.  The Inconsiderate Oozer

The second kind of oozer is the one who, regardless of weight, thinks, “Your space is my space”.  These people let their legs drift into your space and stick their elbows into your space when they’re typing on giant laptops or eating their meals.

With these oozers, it’s worth getting to your seat early and establishing your space.  As soon as the person’s arm or leg pushes against yours, you can push back gently and possibly prevent them from doing it during the flight.

On one trip, we had a passenger who repeatedly fell asleep with his head lolling on Clive’s seat (and shoulder).  We had no choice but to keep waking him up and telling him to face the other way.

Getting seated early also helps establish whether you’re a talker or a hermit. I learned from business travel to start as I mean to go on.  I get settled and take out a book or magazine, so it’s clear I’m reading, not looking for conversation.  Other passengers love meeting new people and chatting during the flight.  I’m just not one of them.

I love flying on Japan Airlines.  Japanese passengers talk and laugh, but they do it quietly.  They’re polite, calm, and almost never overweight.

Taking my seat early helps me get centred both physically and mentally.  I know we can’t control other passengers or their behaviour.  Millions of different individuals fly on airplanes every day.  We can only try to find a balance between tolerance and assertiveness with respect to what little space we have.

6.  Sleeping (or Not)

Neither Clive nor I can sleep on planes.  At best, we try to doze on and off.  We don’t want to take sleeping pills, though many of my Australian business colleagues routinely took mild ones on long-haul flights.

Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia

Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia

For passengers who are able to sleep, there are various aids available including neck pillows, eyemasks, earplugs, and headphones.

We relax by having wine with the main meal (unless it’s in the morning).  I try to lean back, close my eyes, and breathe deeply when I can’t sleep but want to rest.

7.  Entertainment

Even if you’re able to sleep on planes, on a 12+ hour flight there’s still a lot of time to fill.

This is an area where it’s like chalk and cheese between some airlines.  The vast majority provide a screen on the back of every seat, with hundreds of movie, audio, and game choices.  This is much less common on U.S. airlines.  We expect a minimum of a screen on each seat, as opposed to United’s screen up front, a showing of only three airline-chosen movies, and no choice about watching times.

Felixstowe Coast, Suffolk, UK

Felixstowe Coast, Suffolk, UK

As I wrote in ‘Travel and Books, Part 1:  Will There Be Room for Clothes?’, my favourite part of long flights is being able to read for hours at a time without feeling guilty.  I’m not a big headphone user, except when Clive and I start a movie at exactly the same time so we can watch it together.

We review the entertainment guide first, to see what movies are available.  Then Clive checks out the audio channels.  He likes Monty Python-type humour, which he calls his ‘warped British humour’.  He also listens to what he says is “my final BBC news, before I get starved of world news in the U.S.”

Clive also likes listening to the air traffic control channel on some planes, and watching the live video from cameras underneath and in the nose of others.  I’m the opposite.  I can’t explain why, but I don’t want to hear what air traffic control is saying, and I don’t like looking at what the pilot is seeing, especially when landing.

Many people use laptops on board.  I’ve resisted this, preferring to read, but I might use my new netbook on our upcoming flights.

The most important thing is to bring along a few special treats for yourself.  These could be anything from new books or magazines you don’t normally read to small gifts or games for children to your own favourite music.

I’m passionate about books as the perfect entertainment for children.  Books don’t require batteries (at least traditional ones don’t), they’re quiet, and for children who don’t yet read, books encourage closeness between parent and child.  Electronic games are so prevalent today and I understand children love them.  They will also love books if they have the right ones, suited to their age and interests, on board.

8.  Food

With Dear Friends (also not oozers) in the UK

With Dear Friends (also not oozers) in the UK

Three meals are served on most long-haul flights, with the middle one being a light snack.

The best general rules are:  drink lots of water and don’t eat too much.

Some passengers avoid alcohol and some drink too much.  We tend to have a glass or two of wine, as much to relax as to go with the meal.

Airlines offer so many special meal food choices there’s usually something for everyone.  Sometimes I decline the main, hot item for dinner and breakfast, taking just the tray with side dishes.  The salad, roll, crackers and cheese, fruit, or yoghurt are more than enough from which to choose.  I love Asian food and usually eat the main dish on Asian airlines.

I recommend taking some of your own edible treats for mid-flight hunger.  The airline ‘snack box’ can be a depressing source of a shrink-wrapped mystery meat roll, though it usually comes with a piece of fruit and a little sweet that is edible.

9.  Air Quality, Moving and Stretching, and the Loos

One of the worst aspects of long-haul flights is the dry, recycled air.  Drinking water is important in keeping hydrated, which in turn helps in keeping comfortable.

I also learned from a female colleague to take a small container of Vitamin E oil, and dab a few drops inside my nose every couple hours.  It may sound funny, but it works beautifully in keeping the air passages from going completely dry.  I also take a small tube of hand lotion and use it every few hours.

Vintage Vehicle Rally, Suffolk, UK

Vintage Vehicle Rally, Suffolk, UK

It’s important to stretch and move around as much as possible.  Airlines regularly show reminders about this, especially in recent years with the higher awareness of the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Most airlines provide little slipper socks, so you can take off your shoes.  I always leave my shoes on for the entire flight.  Feet tend to swell, for one thing.  Also, I hate it when passengers with bare, smelly feet take their shoes off, even if there is now a rule that shoes must be worn into the loos.

As for the loos, as mentioned above, I’ll take an Asian airline over a U.S. one any day, especially where lavatory cleanliness is concerned.  If you drink a lot of water and move around the plane, you’ll visit the loo a few times.  This is another great reason to consider a non-U.S. airline when you’re planning your trip.

10.  Breathe, Meditate, Visualise

Finally, given the length of time you’re on a long-haul flight, sometimes the best strategy is the simplest.

Blooms at Floriade Festival, Canberra, Australia

Blooms at Floriade Festival, Canberra, Australia

When in doubt, sit back, close your eyes, and practice breathing, meditating, or visualising something peaceful, beautiful, and positive (or active and noisy, if that’s your preference). 
The minutes will turn into hours, and before you know it, you’ll be making your way off the plane.

A Look at the Future

We recently read that an organisation called ‘Satisfly’ is piloting a new idea with the staff of Hawaiian airlines:  signing up ahead of time for either a talkative or a quiet seating area.

Apparently SNCF, the French national train service, is also offering ‘idTGV’, a similar approach offering two ‘atmospheres’:  iDzen and iDzap. British Rail has had for some time a ‘quiet carriage’ in which mobile phone use is not allowed.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of our top ten in-flight insights.

Top Ten In-Flight Insights

1.  Choice of airline – consider a non-U.S. airline as part of travel planning.

2.  Seating – think about your preferences.  Do online check-in, or get to the airport as early as possible to get the best available seat.

3.  After Security – buy water and a few special treats, including ones to eat.

4.  Board as soon as possible to get your fair share of overhead compartment space.

5.  Get settled in your seat.  Be tolerant but not a pushover if other passengers ooze into your space.  Worst case, ask a flight attendant to help.

6.  Sleeping (or not) – use aids like neck pillows, eyemasks, and headphones, if they help.  If you can’t sleep, try to rest by closing your eyes and breathing deeply.

7.  Entertainment – in addition to movies, don’t forget audio for comedy, news, and air traffic control channels.  If you like video, see if the plane has cameras underneath or built into the nose.  Bring special treats like books and magazines, and small gifts and games for children.

8.  Food – bring extra water, drink lots of it, and don’t eat too much.  Consider taking the meal tray without the main item, just side dishes.  Don’t rely on the airline for mid-flight snacks; bring a few of your own edible treats.

9.  Air quality, moving and stretching – use Vitamin E oil and hand lotion to prevent air passages and skin from drying out.

10.  Breathe, meditate, visualise – sit back, close your eyes, and the minutes and hours will pass (even if you check your watch frequently and it doesn’t seem that way).  Soon you will be getting off the plane.


At Bressingham Steam Museum, Norfolk, UK

At Bressingham Steam Museum, Norfolk, UK


We have a number of family activities coming up in the next few days, before we depart.

My next post will likely be from the U.S. early next week. I’ll cover our tips for managing jet lag on arrival and long-distance personal business while away.

Cheers and more to come.





Related posts:

  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5:  Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7:  Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a:  Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya

A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies

UK Airport Treat

UK Airport Treat


It may sound weird, but Clive and I don’t mind airports.

A lot of people whinge and moan about how terrible they are, and we wouldn’t exactly say they’re fun.  Most are pretty boring.  Some are better than others, and the best, especially in Asia, are quite civilised.  I wrote about Singapore’s Changi Airport in ‘Asia 101:  How Not to Get to Paris’.

Clive wants nothing more than a good observation deck from which to watch planes taking off and landing.  They’re hard to find these days.  He’s always on the lookout for a good viewing area, even if it’s only a large window.

We’ve developed a few strategies to make our time in airports as painless as possible.

Bamboo Garden, Changi Airport, Singapore

Bamboo Garden, Changi Airport, Singapore

Allow Extra Time

One rule of travel, and I suppose of life, is to expect the unexpected.

I’m not advocating pessimism; unexpected events are positive as well as negative.

It’s just that when we set out on a trip, I feel I already have enough to think about.  I can’t stand worrying about whether we’ll get to the airport on time, or have enough time there to check our bags and get through Security.

Experience has taught us it’s wise to build a couple extra hours into our schedule.  Our motto is:  we’d rather read at the airport than stress about getting there.

The Vagaries of Traffic

When you live in or near a large city, traffic chaos is the major risk.  On the day I moved to Sydney with my late husband and son, our Connecticut shuttle bus had a fender bender with a New York taxi on the Whitestone Bridge.  The drivers had a lengthy argument, there were no empty taxis cruising by, and if we hadn’t left home with time to spare, we would have missed our flight.

Last September, Clive and I awoke on trip day to news that the Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed due to an accident, the Harbour Tunnel was backed up for hours, and our shuttle service wanted to know if we’d rather take a ferry and train.  Thanks to having extra time available, we made it to the airport with no drama.

I read an article by a woman who said she spent years becoming stressed and angry at departure time because her husband never wanted to leave home until the last possible minute.  He enjoyed making a mad dash to the departure gate and boasted of his ability to avoid wasting time in airports.

His wife decided it was worth the expense of two taxis for her to leave an hour before he did and meet later at the airport.  She relaxed and stopped worrying, and wondered why she hadn’t thought of it years earlier.

I’m glad Clive and I like to leave home at the same time, but I thought this woman’s solution, obvious as it may be, was brilliant for couples who struggle with one being an early bird and the other a last-minute person.

Check-in before Security

When I walk through the doors of an airport, I feel we’re almost on our way.  I’m constantly amazed at how many thousands of people are coming and going around the world.  Airports are definitely great for people-watching.

Even with online check-in, which I wrote about in ‘A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist’, passengers still need to queue to check bags.  We’ve found it impossible to predict how long this will take or how long the lines will be for any given airline in any particular airport.

If for some reason we haven’t been able to do online check-in, we’ve more or less figured out how use self-service terminals, which are becoming more and more prevalent, and often mandatory.  (I’ll spare you a digression into my pet peeve of businesses making customers do the work.)

Then there’s that little sigh-of-relief moment, when bags are checked, seating is confirmed, boarding pass is in hand, and all you have to handle is the carry-on bag.

After check-in, we find a place to sit down and fill out our departure cards.  We’ve also started taking a bottle of water and snack from home, usually a couple pieces of fruit, to eat before we go through Security.  This avoids paying outrageous airport prices for fast food like Krispy Kreme (always hard to resist) and Subway, which seem to be almost as global as McDonald’s.

Since it’s no longer possible to take a standard bottle of water through Security, we throw our old one away and buy a new one on the other side.

We’re never sure about taking food through, so we don’t.  At Newark Airport last year, the apple in Clive’s carry-on was confiscated as ‘organic matter’.

Many airports have shops before and after Security.  We usually save getting a coffee, browsing, and doing any last-minute shopping as a reward for getting through Security.  Some airports, like Charles de Gaulle in Paris, have almost nothing after Security, and not much before.  In those cases, the reward for getting through is having nothing more to do but sit, talk, and read.

The Security Hurdle

Security is the final departure hurdle these days.  Almost all airports require you to remove your laptop and put it through separately.  Shoes on or off is always a question, so we don’t remove ours until it’s clear it’s required.

The easiest times we ever had going through Security were a few years ago, when for a short time each passenger was allowed one and only one carry-on bag.  We couldn’t believe how much faster it made the process.  Now we’re back to people carrying on everything but the kitchen sink, all of which can cause inordinate delays on the Security line.

securityClive was less than impressed on his first few trips to the U.S. with me, when his boarding pass for every flight came up with ‘SSSS’, for special security line.  He was photographed, fingerprinted, and patted down every time, and his wallet and camera were put through extra X-ray checks.  I’m happy (and so is he) this hasn’t happened in the past year or two.

Lines for passport control and Security are as unpredictable as those for check-in, so we always go through sooner rather than later.

After Security – Aaahhh, the Trip Has Really Begun

For us and I’m sure for many travellers, there’s something psychological that happens when we get through Security.

It’s the big sigh-of-relief moment, when the formalities are over (notwithstanding occasional final gate security with United Airlines), that we really feel the trip has started.  Australia is still there, outside the windows, but mentally we’re now in transit and on our way.

The first thing we do is find a place to sit and have a coffee, and send final text messages to our families in Australia and the U.S.  Then it’s time to browse and maybe buy a few last-minute items.  My favourite browsing is for books.  Clive says, “Really?  I never would have guessed.”  I often find them at airports, which I wrote about in ‘Travel and Books, Part 3:  Always Room for Another Book’.
I  also think books are the perfect entertainment for children on airplanes.

I’ll write more about this in my next post.

Overseas Airports

At overseas airports, Clive usually looks at local newspapers and computer magazines.  In addition to books, I sometimes buy a fridge magnet.

Rowntree's Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles

Rowntree's Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles

Our biggest shopping decadence occurs at London’s Heathrow, where we buy too many of Clive’s favourite childhood lollies (sweets):  Rowntree’s Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles, Maynard’s Wine Gums, and my favourite, Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts.

We always say we won’t open these on the plane.  But after boarding and  spending hours on a long-haul flight, we sometimes can’t help ourselves.

Airports Made Easier

Bertie Bassett

Bertie Bassett (Yum)

Despite the challenges of air travel, we’ve found it can be made much easier if you do online check-in 24 hours before, allow extra time for getting to the airport, checking bags, and going through Passport Control and Security; take a snack from home; go through Security sooner rather than later; treat yourself to a coffee, book, or favourite lolly purchase; and breathe deeply and try to relax before you board.

My next post will cover our tips for how to best use, or at least survive, time on the plane.

More to come.

Related posts:
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5:  Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist

A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist

Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco, 2006

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, 2006


Once you have a master trip calendar and are working through a travel planning checklist, reviewing a packing checklist, and making sure all travel technology is in order, thoughts turn to departure day.

It may sound complicated, but it’s just a calendar and three checklists (planning, packing, and departure), which cover ‘known items’.

Checklists save time, reduce stress, and leave us free to deal with unknowns or unexpected events, should they occur, as they often do when travelling.

Apartment Living – ‘Close the Door and Go’

In our past lives, before we met each other, Clive and I both owned houses which, like many in Australia, had a backyard swimming pool and a garden that required regular care and maintenance.

As part of our decision to share our lives and living space, we each sold our existing home and bought an apartment together.  We wanted a simpler lifestyle, and talked about our goals of travelling together and being able to ‘just close the door and go’.

After years of home ownership, I adore living in the apartment.  It’s a secure building, and we are blessedly free of many homeowner worries, and expenses.  But there are still certain departure tasks that must be done before a big trip.

As opposed to the travel planning checklist, which we use in the weeks leading up to departure, the tasks below are done in the 24 hours before we leave, either the night before or the same day, depending on flight time.

Online Check-In

Korbel Winery, near Santa Rosa, California, 2006

Korbel Winery, near Santa Rosa, California, 2006

I highlight this item because of its relatively recent importance in our ‘travel life’.

We used to get to airports early mainly to confirm (or in some archaic instances, to get) seat assignments.

On several trips, we were disappointed in what seemed a meagre selection available.  Then
we noticed, when boarding, that everyone from children to white-haired grandmothers were holding home print-outs of their boarding passes.

Since then, we’ve added online check-in to our master trip calendar, the day before every flight.  It’s also now number one on our departure checklist.

Departure Checklist

This is, yet again, another simple spreadsheet, with only two columns:

(1)  Who does it – both (meaning either of us), Carolyn, or Clive

(2)  Task

Checklist items:

1.    Both – online check-in 24 hours before

2.    Both – pay last-minute bills (I’ll cover our ‘bill monitor’ in a future post)

3.    Both – mailbox key to neighbours

4.    Both – park car in best place

5.    Both – empty and lock car (including e–tag)

6.    Both – run dishwasher

7.    Both – empty dishwasher

8.    Both – empty fridge

9.    Both – garbage out, including bathrooms and study

10. Both – recycling out – both bins

11. Clive – remove local items from wallet (I do mine earlier; Clive does his while packing)

12. Clive – set DVD for recording favourite shows

13. Clive – turn off hot water

14. Clive – turn off selected power

15. Clive – lock windows

16. Carolyn – hide jewelry

17. Carolyn – move cuticle scissors to checked luggage.  This item was added after I lost count of how many times little pairs of nail scissors were confiscated from my carry-on when we went through security.

18. Carolyn – organise water bottles and fruit/food from home (more about airports and security in my next post)

19. Carolyn – call Mom.  Despite having mobile phones (not to mention having been an adult for many years), I’ve kept up a tradition which started when I went to college, of ringing my mother just before we leave for the airport.  She appreciates it, and I know I’m lucky we have a close relationship.

20. Call for taxi

21. Close the door and go!

Even with check-in taken care of online, we still like to get to the airport early rather than late.

Time at the airport will be the subject of my next post.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Fog, 2006

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Fog, 2006

More to come.

Related posts:
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5:  Travel Technology

A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, 2007

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, 2007


As mentioned in my prior post about packing for a trip, I may be iPod-less, but Clive and I take a lot of technology with us when we travel.

Despite our best efforts starting out, we always seem to end up with a pile of cables, connectors, and chargers that become intertwined.

Clive says it resembles an explosion in a spaghetti factory.

We try to keep everything organised by using twist ties, Ziploc bags, and zippered pouches.

Sharing Lives but Not Laptops

Huangpu River Promenade, Shanghai, 2007

Huangpu River Promenade, Shanghai, 2007

Until last year, we thought it would be crazy to carry two laptops on our trips.

But sharing a laptop didn’t always work.

Partly it’s because we’re away for so long.  We use our travel laptop offline for storing trip photographs, writing drafts of e-mails (or blog posts), recording expenses, playing music, and watching TV in Paris.

In addition, we do the vast majority of our personal business on the Internet.

We found there were too many times when using the laptop sequentially meant we lost time we could have used better, for walking or seeing new sights together.

Having talked for some months about netbooks as a possible travel solution, we decided to make a move and recently purchased one, as I wrote about in ‘My New Netbook’.

Portable Wireless Internet

Wireless Internet Devices

Wireless Internet Devices

On our last trip, we invested in three wireless Internet devices, one for France, one for England, and one for the U.S.

Unfortunately, there’s no cost-effective global device yet.  I call them our ‘Internet sticks’ and these we do share.

In the past, we’ve used libraries and Internet cafés for quick e-mail checks.  But from a security standpoint, neither of us is comfortable using public terminals for personal business, especially banking.

Getting the wireless Internet devices for our laptops was a huge leap forward.  We can now easily stay in touch with overseas family, attach documents and photographs, and keep up with personal business.  I wrote more about this in ‘Family Globalisation:  A New Way to Stay Connected’.

We have eight major travel technology items.  The devil is always in the details, so here’s a summary list followed by other essentials we take for each one.

Travel Technology – Main Items

1.      Laptops

2.      Mobile phones

3.      Digital cameras (we used to share one, but that didn’t work, either)

4.      GPS

5.      Music – Clive’s mp3 player

6.      My favourite tip:  a power strip

7.      Plug adapters for each country

8.      Specialised cables & security devices

Travel Technology – Essentials for Each Item


1.  Laptops plus:

·        A mouse for each computer

·        3 wireless USB Internet devices, as described above

·        Ethernet cable – used only if hotels offers free Internet

·        Memory sticks, now known as flash drives – used for file backups and ease of trading/transferring files between us when necessary

·        Power cords and power packs (the heaviest items apart from the laptops themselves)

·        Security cables & keys

·        USB extension cable – used as an aerial to increase wireless reception in Paris

2.  Mobile Phones plus:

·        Phone chargers – we each take one, since we often charge both phones overnight

·        Car phone charger – for backup in case we need it during the day

3.  Digital Cameras plus:

·        Camera charger (for mine)

·        Battery charger (Clive’s uses rechargeable AA batteries)

·        USB camera cable

·        Mini-tripod

·        We used to take our camera booklets, but found them online and now have softcopies on our laptops

4.  GPS plus:

·        Car power cable

·        Computer connector cable – enables map updates (and can also use for charging)

We’re printing fewer maps and driving directions since we got the GPS, but both of us really like maps and I don’t think we’ll ever completely stop using paper versions, along with the GPS.  I love reading them, looking at the big picture view of the area we’re driving through, and saying wonderful English village names like Barking Tye and Great Wigborough out loud to Clive.  I can’t wait to try to pronounce place names on the map of Wales.

 5.  mp3 Player plus:

·        Headphones

Clive uses his mp3 player when he walks by himself in Sydney (which is rare since we usually walk together), and once in a while when we have long waits in airports.

Mostly we take this because it can be plugged directly into many rental cars’ audio systems, and saves carrying our own CD’s.  That is, of course, when we’re not listening to Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 in the UK, which Clive introduced me to and must be the best radio program in the world.

6.  My favourite tip:  a power strip (or two)

Clive thought of this several years ago, when we were carrying multiple plug adapters for every country we visited.  I can now say, with heartfelt enthusiasm, that taking a power strip is a brilliant solution to multiple problems.

First, power strips are lightweight, and only one adapter is needed for each one, saving the space and weight multiple adapters take up in your luggage.

Second, most hotel rooms and B&B’s don’t have enough outlets as it is (especially if you want to keep the lights on).  It’s incredibly helpful and wonderful to have multiple outlets easily available.

You can take a 4-outlet or even a 6-outlet power strip.  Many travellers today take mobile phone, digital camera, and laptop.  It’s such a luxury to be able to plug in all three, and have one left over (for electric rollers, in my case, when I use them).

I can’t recommend this strongly enough.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

7.  Plug adapters for each country – you can reduce the need for multiple adapters by using power strips, which only need one each.

As my fellow travellers know, there’s no global standard for plugs.  As luck would have it, the four countries in which we spend the most time — Australia, France, England, and the U.S. – all have completely different pin layouts.

Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai

Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai

8.  Specialised Cables & Security Devices

·        USB TV tuner – used mainly in Paris, where we don’t have a television

·        USB cable device to connect an external video recorder to a laptop – Clive’s father in England has old family videos, which Clive copies to his laptop, then converts to DVD’s for the family when we get home to Sydney

·        Australia bank security token – needed for online banking.  In a future post in this series, I’ll write about how we handle personal business while we’re away.

Clive and I sometimes say that when we consider the books I carry and the technology, much of which he carries, we really won’t have room for clothes.

Or, he says, “I’ll have to wear some of this technology.”

Extremely Intrigued by Kindle

On my previous post, Mary’s comment about her Kindle being a travel ‘must have’ reminded me I want to explore this device myself.

Clive and I are both avid readers, and have been intrigued by Kindle, or now Kindle 2, not only for travel but especially for its potential as a lightweight source of multiple books and magazines.

A February article in the Economist stated, ‘The Kindle is an unusual gadget in that it does not obviously target young people, or early-adopting technophiles.  Instead it appeals to passionate readers.’

We’ve read many positive reviews.  Now we’re keen to learn for ourselves exactly what Kindle offers in physical look and feel as well as availability and cost of our preferred reading material.

We don’t know anyone in Australia who has a Kindle, but hope to have a look at one in the U.S. on our upcoming trip.

Moving towards Departure

As we work through our planning checklist and make sure all our technology is in order, our thoughts turn towards departure day and actually starting the trip.

In my next post I’ll write about our departure checklist.


Son's 22nd Birthday, Shanghai, 2007

More to come.

Related posts
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7:  Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8:  Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a:  Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya