Why is it that our "bucket lists" invariably include a dream vacation to a destination that is really far away? Springtime seems to set off these daydreams about once-in-a-lifetime getaways, excursions, and adventures. And this may just be the year you decide to pull the trigger on that wild trip to the Antarctic or the Australian Outback. That's all well and good, but once the excitement wears off, reality sets in and you'll quickly begin to realize there are a few challenges ahead.
For instance, if you live in New York, you are looking at a 10,000-mile journey to Sydney, or about 21 hours with a layover in L.A. Even if you live in L.A., it will still take you about 15 hours to get to Sydney. Then there is the cost of an airline ticket, dealing with drastic changes in time zones, and trying to figure out ways to tolerate a long-haul flight without making yourself or other passengers, completely crazy.
Here are a few strategies and tips for securing the best value on your airline ticket, preparing for time zone shock, and some mind and body exercises you can do while flying:
Pricing Strategies for Airline Tickets
• Look for routes that have competition, as this will drive down pricing
• Look for alternate airports close to the "main" one, as sometimes they offer a lower fare
• Try to book as far in advance as possible, but keep checking the fares after you purchase as sales happen all the time and the drop in price may be greater than the cost of reissuing your previously purchased ticket
• Want to fly premium economy or business class? Look at buying a coach ticket and using miles to upgrade. Sometimes upgrades may be available when awards are not
Time Zone Tolerance
• Jet lag is worst when traveling eastbound, i.e., from Japan to New York or Chicago to London or Paris to Mumbai.
• Generally, the longer the flight the better you will adjust to jet lag after you land so try to avoid connections on long-haul flights.
• If possible, take a daytime eastbound flight. For example, there are flights that leave New York early morning and arrive in London early evening the same day, just in time to get to your hotel and check in for a good night's sleep.
• Although there are many axioms for dealing with jet lag, ultimately you have to find out what is best for you, which includes just staying awake when you are not tired and dozing off during the flight when you are.
• Move your feet in circles while seated
• Stretch as much as possible when you get up to use the lavatory even if you just stand and chit-chat with a flight attendant
If you live in New York, you will likely have a brief layover in L.A. on your return from Australia. To kill some time, you can have some fun with other passengers in the terminal by walking up and asking, "hey, do you want to know what I did tomorrow?"
Chris is the President and Co-Founder of ExpertFlyer.com, a service that helps travelers get out of the "Middle Seat" by providing in-depth flight info and alerts when Awards and Upgrades are available.