Long haul (economy!) flying essentials

As a long haul novice flying solo back in 2012, I got everything a bit wrong. I overdid it on the inclusive food and drink (and threw up during my transfer…), wore my walking boats to save space in my bag without bringing any alternative footwear for the 13 hour flight, and I dressed for the hot climate at the other end (trekking outside Beijing) as if getting changed EVER AGAIN was simply not an option. 7 years – and countless flights – later, I’ve learned a few things, and I thought I’d share some of my ideas in a post, in case it helps just one other flyer survive their first long haul flight in economy class…

First, dress for comfort! I don’t mean you should ignore the climate at the other end (and layer up for that exact reason!) but the 12+ hours before you get there are pretty important too, and nobody cares what you look like once those lights are dimmed. So think leggings, harem pants, joggers etc. And for the girls, a comfortable and well-fitting bra – I know it’s a flight not a HIIT class but it’s a long time to cope with bra niggles. I usually wear flight socks too, which is even more reason to wear joggers not a sun-dress.

I tend to take a packed-to-the-brim backpack with enough to survive the flight and my first 48 hours if my checked luggage doesn’t join me at my destination – and yes, this has happened to me before. Of course it’s not a zombie apocalypse and there are shops outside the UK, but who wants to waste time shopping when you could be exploring!

So here goes, my suggestions for what to pack for your first long haul flight…

1. Slippers – for ultimate comfort. Remember to pack a washable pair, as they won’t be pleasant after your return flight!

2. Chilly’s Bottle (or similar) – carry through security empty then top up with cold water before you board. A chilly’s bottle will keep the water cold for your flight so you don’t have to keep requesting it, but remember to top up again or save some for immigration, as this can be hot, air-less and long!!

3. Spares – undies, swimwear, change of clothes, whatever you think you’ll need to cover your first 48 hours.

4. Guide book with basic language translation for your destination – It’s just basic courtesy to at least attempt to speak the language. It’s also an ice-breaker when you check your pronunciation.

5. Climate specifics – scarf/hat/gloves, insect repellent, sun-screen…

6. Nap kit – think ear plugs, eye mask, neck pillow – handy to protect yourself against the snorers. The easyJet fearless flyer course has cured my all-encompassing fear of flying, but I’m still pretty vigilant during flights (as though I’d be any sort of help in a mid-air emergency) so I struggle to nap. A good neck pillow and some downloaded meditation tends to help. I love my Isaac Mizrahi neck pillow, it’s super-soft and filled with clever supportive foam.

7. Hydration – for the outside this time, as flying really dries out your skin. I love Origins Original Skin Renewal Serum with Willowherb. Remember a hand cream, moisturising anti-bac hand gel, and lip balm too.

8. Entertainment – book, tablet, notebook, headphones – whatever will help you pass the time! Even if the airline has an amazing film/tv selection, tech issues for the entertainment system can disrupt your fun (does this happen to other people or just flights I’m on?!), so take a few things to keep you going.

9. Hygiene and cosmetics – toothbrush and paste (some airlines provide this, some don’t), make-up (remember to separate your liquids for security), comb, hairband, compact mirror, roll on deodorant, whatever you need so you can step off the plane feeling vaguely human!

10. Things you don’t want to lose – on the whole I tend not to travel with unnecessary valuables, but I do carry a camera and kindle, so I keep these with me in case my baggage doesn’t reach the other end or gets damaged in transit.

I hope this helps if you’re packing for your first long haul flight – or if you think I’ve missed something crucial or just disagree about the essentials, share your ideas on Twitter: @TBSTraveller

Above: A few of my travel favourites.

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Live like a local in Sala Comacina

A few weeks ago Mr TBST and I headed to the pretty, sleepy village of Sala Comacina on the edge of Lake Como. We’ve been crazy busy since our honeymoon, and it was finally time to rejuvenate in one of my favourite places in the whole world – Italy. Each region and city is different from the last, but will greet you like an old friend you can’t wait to join for a chilled drink on a sun-soaked terrace. This year I wanted to explore somewhere new, and if it’s good enough for Mr Clooney…

We found our perfect hide-away on Air bnb – Suite Regina in Sala Comacina offers guests a floor to themselves; a large bedroom with balcony overlooking the lake and a huge bathroom with claw-foot tub and waterfall shower. Hello serenity!

To reach Sala Comacina, we flew into Milan, took the airport express train as far as Saronno, then hopped onto a regional train to Como itself. From there, Sala Comacina is a C10 bus ride away. This post-flight trio took us about 2 and a half hours, but was super easy and the bus tracks the edge of Lake Como, so it’s a very special introduction to the region.

On arrival, our lovely host Wendy gave us a tour of the village’s bars and restaurants, some of which get booked-up for dinner several days in advance, so I’d recommend planning and pre-booking if possible. One of my favourites was the Lido Di Sala Comacina, where you can dine al fresco from a simple but delicious home-cooked menu, with a gorgeous house wine. Locals in every bar/café in the village greeted us with “ciao” and a nod when we walked in, giving us that cosy feeling of familiarity, and plenty of opportunities to try out our Italian lingo (and gesture wildly while speaking loudly in English).

The Italian lake-side streets are incredibly narrow and parking in the villages is limited, so trains, buses, lake ferries and water taxis are the best way to get around, and make it very easy to explore further afield. A ferry-journey away, the “Pearl of the Lake” town of Bellagio offers a panoramic view of the Lake, and its narrow, cobbled streets are full of boutiques, wine bars and tucked-away roof terraces. Isola Comacina is the only island on Lake Como, and its historic ruins, picnicking spots, and viewpoints make it worth a visit. The island can be reached by water taxi from Sala Comacina, or by lake ferry from many of the other towns. Tip: Take your own refreshments onto the island, 2 cans of soft drink and 2 small ice creams cost us almost £20.

Lake Como is naturally and unapologetically romantic, with the kind of distracting beauty that grabs your attention and won’t release it. Waking up beside the Lake and eating fresh pastries on the balcony feels like pure indulgence, but budget airlines and self-catering accommodation make Italy a great, flexible option for couples on a budget, and whether you visit for 3 days or 3 weeks you’ll take something indefinable away with you.  I would visit again tomorrow, and the next day, and for the rest of my life.

Ciao!

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Above: Beautiful architecture in Sala Comacina

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Above: Bellagio

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Above: Sala Comacina village, as seen from the lake