How do I make a 35.5 hour journey as painless and quick as possible?
March 26, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I make a 35.5 hour journey as painless and quick as possible?

Mrs Cultist and I are flying from Auckland (NZ) to South Africa next Friday. It's a long trip – 25.5 hours in the air, 35.5 in total transit. It's the first time in 7 years that I am making a trip this long, and a first time for the missus.

I'm trying to figure out two things: what to do with all that travelling time (both in the air and on the ground), and secondly, the best way of avoiding jet-lag. We're visiting family and I don’t want to spend the first week recuperating from the effects of so many time switches, as we are only there for three weeks.

Both of us are talking laptops, and I have some assignments to mark so that will take care of some of the time traveling; at least, as long as my battery lasts before I can recharge it. I'm not afraid of flying, but I prefer being on the ground than that high up. From past experience I know that I have trouble sleeping while flying, so naps will probably occur during overlays.

Our flight path is: Auckland > Perth (7 hour layover) > Johannesburg (4 hour layover) > George

How do we make this journey go by fast and painless?
posted by New England Cultist to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Melatonin! Get some, and look up the formula for dose timing for your time difference. It drastically shortens your jet lag misery b
posted by bq at 12:00 PM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whenever I take a long flight, I always bring work that I've been avoiding (e.g. a report I need to write, a boring book I need to read). It's truly amazing how fast time flies when you are procrastinating.

What would I rather do: take a nap or write a paper? Watch a movie or balance my departmental budget? Order a glass of wine or read that long document?

This strategy allows me to find new and interesting ways to occupy myself, all while making the trip seem half as long.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 12:33 PM on March 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

My wife's family lives in Hawaii, and we live on the east coast of USA, so I had yearly 16ish hour trips for almost a decade. Double that (plus) is pretty crazy, but here are some things I've learned:

Power, power, power. Get an additional battery for each laptop, if not two. Mark them with numbers so you know which is which. Charging stations might be hard to find, full up, or nonexistent. Likewise with your cellphone, if you have a smartphone. I have an iPhone, and they sell batteries that plug into the phone to keep it going longer. These will be sanity savers.

At first, I was bringing books and buying a few magazines, but then I got wise. Download as many books and magazines and interesting PDFs as you can. I have 40 books on the ole iPhone right now, purely because of the long travels I was making. I subscribe to Harper's magazine, and I went through over 100 years of PDF articles and made a folder stuffed full of things to read. I still haven't made my way through all of it two years later. You can also save web pages for offline viewing later.

Music. As much as you can fit onto whatever device. Likewise with podcasts. If you subscribe to Netflix, rip a bunch of dvds onto your hard drive. The entertainment on the plane WILL suck.

Melatonin works very well. You can also take Benadryl or Tylenol/Advil/Whatever PM to knock you out, should that be your thing. That'll kill a lot of time. I can't sleep on a plane unless I'm loaded, and then I snore, so I just don't bother.

If it's your speed, pick up a book of NYTimes crosswords. I've killed long flights with crosswords and an iPod alone. I never got into Sudoku, but I have friends who work those puzzles and man, it's tough to get through to them when they're in the midst of one.

In the old days before all this great tech, those flights must have been murder. But nowadays, sometimes we land and I'm surprised that we're home already. Good luck!
posted by nevercalm at 12:42 PM on March 26, 2011

I'd suggest springing for the first-class club at the Auckland airport. I don't know what airline you're flying, and I don't know how big the Auckland airport is, but it's worth checking out how much it costs. I had to spend a 12 hour layover in Atlanta once, and I was able to get a shower, they had complimentary food, drinks, places to charge my electronics, etc. It was totally worth the $100.
posted by Mimzy at 1:04 PM on March 26, 2011

I loaded up on ebooks for my 21 hour flight to the Philippines last year but I found myself just reading through the 2 paer back novels that I brought with me and sleeping the rest of the time.
posted by I-baLL at 1:05 PM on March 26, 2011

It drastically shortens your jet lag misery b

Just be careful with dosing and posting!
posted by tapesonthefloor at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look into options for airport hotels or lounges at the longer stops. The ability to have a shower, lie down and be in a pleasant-ish environment should not be underestimated and is my way of coping with long flights.

Have a look at Priority Pass (too lazy to link!) if you can't find any pay-for-use lounges or airport hotels. Also, you can buy passes for United lounges (not sure if you have to be travelling them - look for Red Carpet Club online).

Yes, drugs are of some help, but unlike an 8-12 hour flight where you can knock yourself out for a reasonable portion of it, this doesn't work so well with the 30+ hour versions. Pick the bit you really want to be out for!

Melatonin is good for the jetlag - don't know if you can get it in NZ, as we don't have it here in Australia I think (you may be able to get some off the internet). At your destination, if you are normally a coffee drinker, recognise that you may feel worse than usual because you are jetlagged and then suffering from caffeine withdrawal from not getting your coffee at the usual time of day.

Carry appropriate plug adaptors in your carry-on so you can recharge your laptop - even if you aren't in a lounge, if you wander around looking at the skirting boards of the airport, you will eventually find a power outlet.

I used to bring the 'boring book', but actually, I find it better to bring a lightweight page turner, rather than War and Peace. I find it harder to concentrate, so something trashy and gripping is good.

Take earplugs - cutting out all that noise reduces exhaustion. Don't eat all the meals you are fed on the plane.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:11 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can leave Perth airport, come hang with me for a few hours! That airport is miserably boring, but only 15 minutes to city centre where I live. Getting out of the airport would help on that long layover period. (I'm serious - I work from home)

Paying for a lounge is worth it too - shower, putting your feet up and chilling out for a few hours is great.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I find that taking a xanax and wearing super-comfortable clothing helps.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:00 PM on March 26, 2011

I regularly fly from Chicago to Adelaide Australia and while it usually only takes 27 hours or so including transit times there is one long 12 hour stretch that just sucks. I find podcasts to be a big help. Lots and lots of podcasts of something funny. I usually raid the NPR site for back episodes of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" the only downside is sitting there giggling to myself gets me some funny looks. I find it hard to read on a plane as my eyes get really dry, so I like to have a audio book or 2 on tape so I can just sit there, with my eyes shut and just drift off.

I am also one of those annoying people that like to chat to my seat mates to pass the time, but I do try and read their body language first to see if they are in a chatting mood. I've met some interesting people that way, and hey we're all trapped in there together might as well make the best of it.

I also think noise canceling headphones and ear plugs are a must for a long flight and travel compression socks as my feet can swell up and make it painful for me to walk around for a week or 2 after landing. Best way I've found to minimize jetlag is to try and get my body clock onto local time before I leave. So I start staying up really late and getting up after lunch the week before I head off. This works for me though as I work from home for the most part.
posted by wwax at 4:31 PM on March 26, 2011

FWIW I eschew electronic devices on flights. I find the battery situation frustrating, the amount of stuff frustrating, and backlit devices are generally thought to keep you awake. Most importantly, they have huge clocks, and counting down the hours (or minutes) on an 6+ hour flight is a recipe for utter misery because the time, it d r a g s.

Since you are going with a partner, you can bring cards, games, and puzzles. You can also bring two long books each and trade. Wear compression socks, wear comfortable shoes. Walk on the plane. Bring snacks.

In the airports, get new books, new magazines, and new snacks. crash out in a premium lounge if you can, and recharge anything you can't live without.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:36 PM on March 26, 2011

Ipad. Ipad. Ipad.

Or for the fanboy:
iPad. iPad. iPad.

Then get a ZAGGSparq or some other battery to feed it for longer than it's normal run time. Well worth the investment.
posted by damiano99 at 8:01 PM on March 26, 2011

I used to do a 36 hour trip three or four times a year. Podcasts and a book or two usually got me through. I have two ipods and a laptop, and I could drain the ipods, then watch a movie while they charged again from the laptop, then have another ten to fifteen hours of podcasts and music. Eventually I got to the point where I just kind of automatically zoned out into a half-sleep on the plane, to make the time go by.

I found it much easier with two people than alone, so you're ahead there. As for jet lag, I find the best thing is to wait to go to sleep until a normal hour at your destination, with help if necessary. The 36 hours in transit will screw up all your body's timekeeping anyway, so you can kin dof trick it into resetting at the new normal. It's much easier than with shorter transit times, I find.
posted by Nothing at 8:31 PM on March 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'm onto the e-Books. I've heard some great things about Melatonin from people with insomnia, but I am leery of it and other "knock-out" meds because I take Citalopram for anxiety. A good, strong painkiller is about as far as I will go.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:32 AM on March 27, 2011

I've had good results with not eating for at least 16 hours preceding breakfast at my destination, including no caffeine for 2 days preceding (taper off gradually if you think you might have caffeine withdrawal symptoms). Then eat a good breakfast, with coffee if that's your norm, at the destination breakfast time, and keep to destination time from then on. (No napping, at least the first day). Other than some fatigue - to be expected after 35 hours of travel! - I've felt time-normal from the get-go, even with a 10 hour displacement.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 10:40 AM on March 27, 2011

Use Seat Guru to find the best seat for your plane - and get it now, for all of the flights. If you are stuck in a bad seat, don't be afraid to ask at the gate; they're pretty amenable to moving you if the flight isn't full.

Moving around is a must. The foot / leg exercises your flight attendants will mention at some point are tedious but at least physical. Walks every 30-90minutes make me feel less horrible. Also, a neck pillow was a major upgrade for me. Noise-canceling headphones are also wonderful.

I also bring a small bag of toiletries (toothbrush/paste, deodorant, lotion, chapstick, face wash) to make me feel less like a plane-person. I brushed my teeth like four times on my last Johannesburg flight, and still felt like I had eaten cotton balls.

Water! Drink all the water you can. I used to underestimate the importance of hydration - both for jet lag and lasting through the flights.

If you take prescription meds that need to be taken at a certain time every day, figure out when you will need to take the on the flight to be consistent.

Don't watch the "progress" screen. It is spirit-killing because it only emphasizes how much longer you're going to be on the damn place.

Oh, and random amusements: snacks (for boredom, yes, and because plane food is bad), pen-and-paper games with your wife, cards (knowing a few types of solitaire helps), offline Google Reader.
posted by quadrilaterals at 3:45 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Noise cancelling headphones, and an MP3 player full of podcasts, audiobooks, standup comedy shows...

An inflatable cervical neck pillow.

Facial moisturiser.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:29 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A neck pillow and a face mask made a massive difference last time I flew. You look like a fool, but it's worth it.
posted by kjs4 at 4:57 PM on March 27, 2011

I always take a shower if possible. It can make all the difference, and some airports have free ones like Dubai.

I don't actually find the iPad to be that useful on long flights, since the built in entertainment systems are just fine nowadays on most big flights, including films that aren't even out on DVD.
posted by smackfu at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2011

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