Long-haul flights

Long-haul flights

If there’s anything that provides an authentic travel experience, it’s long-haul flights.  As a flight attendant, I commuted to work by air from Dallas, London, Germany, and Singapore while being an international flight attendant in New York.  It is not a commute I would recommend, but it worked for my lifestyle at the time.  Here are a few tips for anyone taking a long-haul flight, especially in the times of Covid.

Sanitizer wipes

Sanitizer wipes are a must-have for travel to help protect yourself from the Covid virus.  In the case of travel, the more you have, the better.  Instead of using one wipe for all the different surfaces, you are cleaning, use one per item. For instance, one wipe for the seatbelt buckle and another for the tray table.  Doing this prevents cross-contamination.  You will always be able to get more at your destination as they are readily available everywhere.

Masks

You cannot board an airplane without wearing a face mask as you are more exposed to many more people and spaces that you are unaware of.  However, as with all face masks, frequent changes are necessary. It is preferable to wear masks that do not directly touch your face for long-haul flights as they are more bearable for breathing.  Most airlines will provide face masks, but face masks come in many different varieties, and if you have a preference, then it’s logical to have extras of your own.

Comfortable clothes

Wearing comfortable clothing makes sense.  However, depending on how many flights you have, a change of clothing between flights is recommended to prevent cross-contamination and spreading any virus you may have touched. Travelers should have a separate bag to place any used clothing.

Snacks

On long-haul flights, unlike domestic flights, snacks are usually provided.  However, having your snacks prepared by your hand is highly recommended.  Not only will your snacks be prepared by you, but they will be of your preference and maybe a healthier option than what is provided by the airline.

Class of service

Many will say that all passengers arrive simultaneously, so the class of service does not matter.  If you’ve even had an opportunity to travel in premium cabins, you may beg to differ.  Traveling premium class is not all about fine dining and china. There’s something to be said for more legroom and being able to recline more than 4 inches on a long-haul flight.  Arriving at your destination tired but not worn out is the ultimate goal of premium class travel.

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

Travelers Beware-Drug mules.

I recently wrote about theft on an airplane and got so many responses.  Today I’d like to discuss another aspect of air travel many do not consider.  As flight attendants, we knew to look out for the warning signs of drug mules, excessive sweating, refusal to eat or drink, or acting nervous.  I recently saw a post on social media where a lady shared the story of her interaction with a drug mule.  I like to write short insightful pieces, but I had to share this as is. This story is not my story, but I am sharing it because it is accurate and does happen.

COPIED (As was written by the unknown author without correction)

If you travel by air a lot, beware of over friendly chatty seat neighbours.

 The older lady comes and sits next to me inside the plane. She asked me to help her put her bag in the overhead luggage compartment. But a gentleman sitting across quickly came through. (I am not very tall and the overhead luggage compartment is something I try to avoid at all costs.

Immediately she sits down she strikes up a conversation.  She was very pleasant and well spoken.  So we chatted all through the flight to Dubai.

Suddenly, when the pilot announced that we were now proceeding to begin our descent into DXB, my good friend ‘developed’ stomach pains.  Me with my good heart, I pressed the stewards button, and the stewardess came to find out what the problem was.  I told her my seat mate was not feeling well.  And this lady, she suddenly began to address me as ‘my daughter’. The stewardess told me that there was nothing they could do except give her some painkillers and wait until we landed.  The pilot announced that we had a medical emergency on board and advised us all to stay calm.  My new friend was crying and sweating like crazy.  And she refused to let go of my hand… everyone assumed we knew each other. 

So we landed at DXB and the same gentleman who helped put up her luggage in  the overhead compartment removed her luggage.  But as he removed the luggage, he advised me to distance myself from this lady and make it clear to the cabin crew that we were NOT travelling together. He was a godsend!

So indeed, the cabin crew came and asked me if we were related, I categorically told them we had met on the plane.  I didn’t know her at all.  So we began to deplane and as I said goodbye she kept begging me to carry her handbag. I was so torn… but the gentleman looked me in the eye and emphatically shook his head.  He passed me a note telling me to let the cabin crew handle her. 

So I exit the aircraft and leave my ‘new friend’ to wait for the wheelchair and be handled by the cabin crew feeling very guilty. 

As we waited for our luggage to come through, I hear this commotion. My ‘new friend’ was running, trying to escape the cabin crew, having gotten out of the wheelchair! She left the stewardess with her handbag and just ran towards the exit with the rest of her hand luggage! Luckily the airport police were faster than her.  They got hold of her and brought her back in handcuffs. 

This lady starts calling out to me.. my daughter… my daughter!.. how could you do this to me….. that’s when I caught on.  She was carrying drugs and she was trying to implicate me!

Luckily for me, the gentleman who had helped her with her luggage came forward and told the airport police that me and her had just met on the plane.  The police took my passport and asked her to reveal my full names if it was true we were travelling together.  By God’s grace, I had not even told her my first name! I was still asked to follow the police to a little room where I was questioned extensively.  Where did I meet her?… where did I board…  where did she board. Etc… And my luggage was extensively searched and dusted for fingerprints. 

They dusted all her luggage and my fingerprints were not found anywhere on her luggage or on her handbag!

I was let go with advice never ever to touch anyone’s luggage either in flight or at the airport.  So from that day, I don’t care how much luggage you have, you will deal with it yourself.  I will not even offer you a trolley to put your luggage on! Your luggage… your problem….  is my policy.  And if you can’t reach the overhead compartment, and I am the nearest person, please call the cabin crew because all I will do is give you a blank stare and then look away!

A lesson to glean therein for intending air travelers.

COPIED.

Just as I wrote about theft on the airplane, I could not have relayed the dangers of being too friendly more pointedly.  Travelers should be relaxed and have fun, be nice, but most of all, be cautious.  I hope this story opens your eyes a bit.

Travel and stress.

Travel and stress.

Travel is a stressful situation. As an international flight attendant, I served over twenty years in the travel industry.  I have seen the realities of stress on travelers firsthand. Based on the latest incidences in the travel industry, it seems like travel and stress have increased significantly.  Here are a few thoughts to reduce the stress around traveling, not only for yourself but for everyone around you.

There are many reasons why travel can be stressful. There is a financial strain associated with travel.  Air travel can be expensive and places a burden on many. At the same time, many people think of travel to get away and destress from financial situations.  The reality is that the stress relief expected at the end of the travel experience requires lots of financial planning and logistics many do not anticipate.  Many travelers have worked hard to save and plan for their trip.  Therefore, maximizing every dollar is essential to them.

As a flight attendant, I often heard many frustrated passengers claim, “I paid for this seat.”  The reality is they paid for transportation from point A to point B.  All the service received between is extra.  Even if you preselected a seat, there would be no guarantee that you will be assigned that seat.  In addition, the overhead bin above your seat is not your designated space.  It is a shared space. Hence, frustration and anger when seat selections are not honored, or there is no room in the overhead bin for carry-on luggage.

Covid has brought on the realities of reduced onboard services.  Many travelers are often taken aback by the lack of services.  Again, they assumed that what they paid for was service. This is far from the truth. When travel expectations are unrealized, this creates a stressful situation the traveler has no control over. Most frustrating is the fact that they have already paid for what they believed to be their rights. Expectations do not meet reality and they try to vent their frustrations.

Most importantly, think beyond yourself when traveling.  Those in customer service positions in the travel industry have not met you and have no personal grudges against you.  They work for the company you paid and did not personally receive your hard-earned dollars.  In most cases, they are also trying to save for the experience you are trying to have. Rules and restrictions govern them, and it is their unfortunate job to explain to you those same issues you find aggravating.

So please give grace to yourself and others when traveling.  Remember that the stress you are experiencing is often an everyday reality for the customer service personnel.  Whether they be flight attendants, gate agents, or TSA, they too are only doing the job they were hired to do.

I hope these thoughts have given you pause.  Practice kindness when traveling. It will improve the experience not only for yourself but for everyone else.

Staycation tips.

Staycation tips.

Being a frequent traveler, COVID left me mentally exhausted.  I was living on an island state and Singapore, took the lockdown seriously.  The missed travel opportunities left me consumed with lockdown exhaustion, so when Singapore came up with the idea of a staycation, I was immediately on board.  Here are my five tips for making your staycation a pleasure.

1. A big bed! You’ll be spending plenty of time in bed so enjoy the pleasure of a nice large bed. The hotel will make your bed every day, and you’ll feel pampered sleeping in a freshly made bed during your stay.

2. A room with a view.  Staying in is part and parcel of the staycation so try to have a room with a view.  The higher the floor of the hotel, the more you will enjoy the view. Some hotels limit guests at the pool, gym, restaurants, and most public spaces in the hotel. While I understood this safety measure, it can restrict your hotel’s enjoyment, so having a nice view can make a big difference.

3. In-room service.  Dining out can be a big part of your travel plans, and dining in during a staycation was a guilt-free pleasure.  Even if it’s one meal a day, it can make your stay feel more like a travel experience and a way to pamper yourself.

4. A bathtub.  A bubble bath can be another indulging experience.  You will want to soak in the tub as long as you desire, so first, make sure the tub is clean.  Since you’re on a staycation, taking liquids such as bathtub cleaner with you only makes sense. Take your favorite bath oils, scents, or even floral petals like roses. The best part is you don’t have to clean the tub!

5. A night out.  Even though all restaurants are not open, some will be.  Make a reservation well in advance at a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try.  I was pleasantly surprised to get a reservation at a Michelin star restaurant that previously had a six-month waiting list. There was plenty of social distancing at the restaurant. I just told the chef my preference, let him do the cooking and deciding. It was indeed a dining-by-design experience.

Have you taken a staycation? It is well worth the splurge and can maybe relieve your travel angst.  Not to mention no airline tickets! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2021 Travel resolutions

2021 Travel resolutions

It’s a new year and time for travel resolutions. Due to COVID 19 and its impact on travel, many could not realize their 2020 travel resolutions. We’re still dealing with the COVID virus, and its implications for future travel is uncertain. If we keep this in mind when making our 2021 resolutions, we may fulfill many more of our travel hopes and dreams.

Travelers should decide if they want to travel internationally or domestically. With the COVID virus and its global impact, there is much to consider when traveling. Different countries have special restrictions based on where you are traveling from or where you have traveled previously. Traveling domestically also has parallel realities, with individual US states having unique requirements for entry or stay within the state.

Travel does not need to be expensive or exotic, nor does it have to be long-distance. Consider a staycation, where you check into a hotel and explore your city from a tourist point of view. It’s always eye-opening to see the many valuable travel ideas that are within our reach without the hassle of long-distance travel.

At the end of 2021, you should be able to measure your travel hopes and dreams to your travel realities. Before COVID 19, I would have advised focusing on a specific destination. I believe focusing on a singular goal keeps you motivated to one particular intent, and there is less chance of being tempted to switch travel ambitions. However, in today’s COVID climate, when you focus on a specific destination, your travel may not come to reality due to a particular country’s restrictions.

For 2021, let us decide to travel, regardless of the destination. Traveling has so much to offer, and if we keep an open mind about our travel plans, I believe we can accomplish so much more.

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