Travel Tips For Long Flights From a Seasoned Veteran

One of the few perks of having your entire family living on the other side of the Atlantic, besides the natural language acquisition and bicultural upbringing, is becoming a pro at travel hacks. I am not here to tell you about the time I brought home Ukrainian cognac despite not being of legal age in the States (the drinking age across the pond is eighteen, and at the time, I was a hair away from turning twenty). That’s a story for another article.

The total travel time to land in L’viv is around 9 hours for me; 8 to get to Warsaw, and 1 to fly into the city. That’s a lot of time in a crowded space with absolutely no one to talk to. When I was 19, I navigated 3 airports solo -- O’Hare, Chopin, and Danylo Halytskyi. Here’s an uncensored, tough-love-boot-camp of worst case scenario survival tips:  

ORGANIZE!

Whenever I fly to Ukraine, I am allowed one carry-on and one small purse. Your most important possessions, no matter where and how you fly, are your passport, phone, charger, universal adapter, wallet, and boarding pass. These things need to go into your purse, preferably a crossbody, for easy accessibility. Your crossbody (or fanny pack if that fits your aesthetic better) is never to be taken off. Your crossbody should be small, soft, and comfortable. Nothing flashy or excessive. Sleep with it on. If God forbid you get into a weird emergency situation fit for a Hollywood Blockbuster, you have your essentials on you, and you remain hands-free. If you are like me and have some super nutty allergies, have your emergency medicine tucked inside that very same purse. Personally, because I am a weirdo who has an irrational fear that my epi pen needle won’t go through clothing, and that one day I’ll instinctually drop my pants to stab myself (spoiler alert: epi pens can go through most fabric if you believe in yourself), I always wear shorty shorts while traveling, and use my hoodie and airplane blanket to keep myself from freezing.

An actual outfit that I definitely would wear

Baby, It’s Cold in There

Airplanes are notoriously frigid, so have a pair of pants to change into, unless you’re like me and have an irrational fear (see above). Nevertheless, hoodies are always your friends, as are scrunchies to tie up your hair. If you think an entire extra outfit is silly, just remember that if you hurl, or if someone hurls on you, you do not want to sit in that mess for hours. The human body was not designed to fly in an airplane - nausea is typical and to be expected. I would also highly recommend wearing closed toe shoes. I don’t care if you call them sneakers, gym shoes, running shoes… unless you say tennis shoes, because that’s just plain weird. (If you aren’t playing tennis, they aren’t tennis shoes. Duh.) But the point is, nobody wants to see your feet. Or smell them. Plus, it’s easier to sprint in shoes specifically designed purely for that purpose.

Don’t Chow Down

The less food you have in your system, the less likely you are to get nauseated and puke. Stay hydrated, and chew gum or mints. If you do puke, I just want you to know that you will never see any of those people ever again for the rest of eternity.

Bring One Book, Not Seven

If I cannot read the entire Deathly Hallows in 8 hours, neither can you. And I majored in English Literature. And graduated Magna Cum Laude. Plus, books are heavy, and unless you can sleep anywhere and everywhere, you are going to feel really lethargic when you land, so keep the load light.

Cosmetics

I am well aware that I look like a fourteen year old without filling in my eyebrows and combing mascara through my lashes. But raccoon eyes and brown smudge just isn’t worth it. What you do want on your face is a good moisturizer, because airplanes are intensely dry. If you want to look and feel awake and clean when you land, take whatever night cream you use before bed, and smear it on your face once you get the a-ok to take off your belt and access your carry on. You’re not going to look silly. You are going to look like a genius. Plus, because the seats are way too cramped to turn on your stomach and wipe all that product into your pillow case, your skin will be able to easily absorb every bit of it. If you really REALLY have to, do your make up the hour before you land.

Know SOMETHING About the Language Spoken at Your Connecting Flight

English signs are printed in practically every airport everywhere, but memorizing simple stuff like please, thank you, enter, exit, where is the bathroom, and where is gate number #, is important. Write it down on an index card cheat sheet if you really need it. I know that English is spoken pretty much everywhere because of British patriarchal imperialism, but still. 

Identifying your luggage

There is nothing more satisfying than immediately recognizing your luggage on the conveyor belt. To help your groggy, sleep deprived brain out, tie some ribbons on the handles. My personal favorite is a bright lime green ribbon with polka dots. Everyone and their mother owns the exact same black, red, or navy suitcase, so don’t make your brain fire too many extra neurons trying to figure out, which of these 30 identical square shaped fabric squares belongs to me? Also, invest in luggage with four wheels, not two. Trust me. Huge difference. You will glide through the airport with the greatest of ease.

Noise Control  

Wear earbuds or headphones, and do not sing along. Remember that if you laugh your ass off at the featured rom com playing, all that the people around you will see is spontaneous maniacal laughter. I mean, sure, you’ll never see them again, but still. If you puke, they’ll pity you. If you cackle, they’ll think you’re possessed.