For weeks now, I’ve been thinking about penning a “Career lessons I learnt in my 20s” kind of post. It just seemed more purposeful than telling you what I’ve been wearing lately (which, by the way, can only be described as a heavy rotation of stretchy leggings and a tank top with holes in it).
I would never usually do this, but since my thoughts truly capture the spirit and cornerstone of the aforementioned post, I thought I’d share my reply to a comment I recently received from a reader that stopped me in my tracks tonight.
When a young woman has the opportunity to get a University education do you think that writing a blog at the end of all that effort and work would inspire them to bother [if] you were in the position of advising/mentoring a teenager now? It is disheartening that those who have been granted intelligence in life do not take full advantage of what has been given to them. Would your husband be satisfied, I wonder, to only write a blog on Pharmacy after he completed his education and gained his qualifications? You could do SO much more than this!
Wait. What? You mean there’s more to life than taking photos of yourself? There are more meaningful things to do in life than Instagram what I’m eating for breakfast? There are actually more intelligent things to write about than the nine types of shoes every girl needs in her wardrobe? Damn. I actually thought I was onto a good thing here with my glorified sweatpants and my Rockstuds…
J.J., whilst I can kind of see the thinly disguised point you’re trying to make, consider this: Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard dropout. Forbes compiled a list that encompasses self-made billionaires who never bothered to get a uni degree. The late Steve Jobs – also a dropout but better known as an inventor – who singlehandedly replaced compact cameras with an iPhone. He did this with little more than a fervent entrepreneurial spirit and his parents’ garage, no less. Heck, Einstein barely finished high school before his balls could drop. And I think he turned out just fine.
My point is, “Intelligence” doesn’t always come neatly packaged up as 200gsm ivory parchment paper affixed with a crimson wax seal.
An oft-glorified university degree is not the be-all and end-all.
Nor should it validate one’s intelligence.
I also kind of think it’s insulting, judgmental, short-sighted, snide, and rude to make an unapologetic mockery of what people (university-qualified or not) choose to do for a living, whether it’s blogging or bookkeeping.
I am the first to admit that a Bachelors’ degree has its place and its value in an ever-increasing competitive job market. But I’m also one of few to admit that so can a blog: something that says to all the smug, social media-phobic Baby Boomers out there: “Rather than spend my free time channel surfing on the couch, I’m building a website and getting my name and my work out there because – to be perfectly frank with you – a uni degree will only take me so far”.
I think, first and foremost, it’s so important to consider that everyone (“writing a blog” or not) lives a life with differing priorities, goals, and pathways as to how to get to where they want to be.
And let’s be real here; we can’t all be the next Amal Alamuddin (sorry, Clooney). Last time I heard, there are more graduates then there are jobs. So what can us mere mortals do?
Stand out from the masses of black mortarboards and take your qualifications further – do as I have done and use a blog as a means to build your personal brand online; to showcase your work; as an “online CV” to give future employers a reason to recruit you, as if to say, “Hey, I can be good at something other than my day job, too, you know.”
When I landed my first “real” marketing role eight months after graduating with a degree in Finance and Marketing (back before Facebook even existed), I will freely admit it were my formal qualifications and a handful of work experience that got my foot in the door. No doubt about it. But it has been this very blog that has given the edge. This blog led me to co-write two published books (one of which has gone on to receive an international award); I currently have the honour of contributing to Vogue.com.au. This blog is the very reason I’m currently spending my days as a part-time freelance marketing strategist. And it has given me the absolute privilege of presenting training workshops, which in turn, gives me a chance to inspire people to make a positive difference in their lives.
And you know what else a HELP debt and Commerce degree hasn’t bought me? #friendsforlife.
In other words, I blog to help get me to where I really want to be – to build a meaningful, gainful, and purposeful future when I eventually do “retire” from the blogosphere (I’m not so naive as to think my blog – and potentially every other blog out there – doesn’t have an expiry date). So whether I’m blogging to help me establish a small business, engage new clients and employers, embark on a new career, or to simply meet new people; is that such a disheartening thing? In my humble opinion, that is the epitome of taking full advantage of what life has thrown at me.
But I can only speak for myself. Fact is, I don’t blog full-time. I spend 90% of my life off the interwebz.
So in light of my version of War and Peace in reply to your comment, what’s my advice to the next generation?
Everyone has his or her own story. But it’s no one else’s business as to how they choose to write it.
I have to admit, I’ve spent at least two or three weeks writing this, mostly out of fear that I’ve missed ‘important’ nuggets of info for you all to read word for word (ha!). This is the third and last part in my Travel Tips & Tricks series and, at around 3,500 words, I honestly hope it is helpful to at least one person out there. As per Part 1 and 2, this has been generally written for the novice/first-time traveller – so whilst this isn’t a definitive guide – there are plenty other invaluable tips and tricks if you scour the interweb!
Like most things in life though, I’ve learnt you can never be completely prepared for a bout of travelling. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? There’s this opportunity to conquer the unknown; discover far flung places before any ‘city guide’ can; and find a new perspective that no textbook can give you. After all, they say that to learn more about home, you just have to leave it.
Even with the best of intentions, travelling on a shoestring is so hard. I’ve tried on my most recent Europe trip and (according to my husband) I failed. Miserably.
Leaving expensive purchases aside, I’ve found food and metro tickets to add up frighteningly quick, particularly in places like Paris, London, Switzerland, and generally all Scandinavian cities.
From my own travels, here’s a brief and general guide as to the cost of day to day living (food, transport, accommodation) is in various cities:
Paris $$$ (e.g. a 330ml bottle of Coke will set you back 4.50 euros at a café) | South of France $$
London $$$ | Prague $ | Leuven (Belgium) $$ | Berlin $ | Rome $$ | Cinque Terre $$ | Venice $$
EUROPE – SCANDINAVIA
Copenhagen $$$ | Stockholm $$$
EUROPE – NORDIC
Reykjavik $$$ (car hire is reasonable though – on par with Australian prices) | Helsinki $$ (in my experience, the least expensive Scandinavian city)
EUROPE – BALTIC
Hong Kong $ | Singapore $$ (food is inexpensive but designer bags/clothes are the most expensive in Asia)
Ho Chi Minh City $ | Kuala Lumpur $ | Shanghai $$ | Bali $ | Tokyo $$ (whilst food is reasonably cheap, hotels are pricey for their sqm)
Maldives (ok, not exactly Asia, but close enough!) $$$
New York City $$$ | Las Vegas $$ | Boston $$ | San Francisco $$ | Vancouver $$
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON FOOD
These days, we spend our dinners in the comfort of our hotel room or apartment, rather than at a café or restaurant.
As an example, a typical 2-course meal at a mid-range restaurant in Paris would typically set us back 50 euros for both of us without beer/wine. A stop-off at the local Paul’s patisserie or a nearby Monoprix gets us dinner sorted for under 10 euros in total (and that’s with beer or wine!). Whether we were eating in the middle of Jardin de Tuilluries (Instagrammable picnic or not) or on the banks of the Seine, or taking it back to our apartment, it was still fun. And the great thing about most parts of Europe is that public drinking (in the civilised sense, at least) is not illegal like it is here in Australia. So you don’t have to be sitting at a restaurant and having a meal to be enjoying a drink.
Of course, though, holidays are meant for splashing out, and we’ve been fortunate to experience the most incredible dining experiences in the world (aside from the Michelin-starred restaurants, Noma and Waku Ghin have been notable highlights). But whilst my husband would have no qualms eating pre-made cous cous from Franprix each night in an effort to save money, I would. I prefer my food fresh and not pre-packed with preservatives and what-not.
The deal was that we’d eat a big breakfast (preferably by booking a hotel that offered a breakfast buffet), then skip lunch (most times we’d pick up a small snack in the afternoon to tide us over) and then only eat out for dinner every second (or third) night. It’s not a shoestring solution by any means, but it’s a good compromise for us.
THE RULES OF EATING OUT
On the other hand, if you are eating out in a very tourisy city (e.g. Paris, Rome, et al) and you prefer not to be ripped off by exorbitant restaurant prices, I have a few tips that might point you in the right direction:
Get off the beaten track
Often the more authentic (and cheaper) places are found away from main tourist drags. I’d walk at least 800m-1km away from touristy areas to find something that fits the bill.
One time in Rome, we made the mistake of having lunch at a pizza and pasta bar around the corner from Trevi Fountain (in our defence, we were hangry. And my in-laws were with us). When the bill was brought to the table, there was a mysterious 6 euro charge for the four of us, in addition to the food we ordered. Guess what that charge was? A ‘sitting’/service fee. I was so livid. I mean, my pizza cost 6 euros. It’s probably quite common amongst ‘touristy places’ to be honest but that was the only restaurant I had eaten at in Italy that demanded such surcharges. Moral of the story? Get off the beaten track.
Try to avoid restaurants that openly advertise English menus
Ok, so it sounds a little stupid given I don’t speak any other languages except some really awful Vietnamese, Teo Chew (Chinese) and English, but if you want to go to the other end of the extreme (assuming you couldn’t care less about accidentally things like reindeer meatballs) then go for it. My husband gets anxious when he can’t understand a menu but I’m personally ok with it, aside from that one time I accidentally ate reindeer meatballs in Helsinki. What’s the worse that could happen? Unless you’re in questionable parts of remote China (like I have been) food’s food at the end of the day. I’ve found restaurants with no English menus tend to have the most authentic food going around.
There are some really great apps for your phone which help you find nearby restaurants and save you money. Think of it as Urbanspoon with coupon codes.
If you’re heading to France, Spain or Switzerland, it’s worth downloading The Fork. My friends used this app on our last night in Paris and we ended up having a really fantastic dining experience at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
GETTING OVER THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
That said, sometimes it’s just impossible to fly by the seat of your pants when you’re eating at a restaurant or navigating your way around a foreign city and you don’t speak an ounce of the local language.
If you don’t have internet access when out and about, there are heaps of free language apps that you can download on your smartphone (some are equipped with phonetic functions!) or you can carry a pocket-sized phrase book with you too.
It always helps if you at least learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” in the language of the country you’re visiting without referring to a phrase book.
We were so lucky to be seated at a restaurant next to an Austrian English-speaking couple in Dijon recently that sensed my husband’s anxiety and offered to translate the menu for us from French to English. It was so kind of her to do so, and we ended up chatting about our respective travels and cities. Although French is not the most difficult language to decipher (try Japanese!) it just goes to show if you ask someone nearby (whether it’s a waiter or a fellow traveller), chances are they’ll be willing to help.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN EACH CITY
This really does come down to personal preference. Some people are satisfied with two days in Paris; whilst for others, two months isn’t nearly enough!
As a general rule of thumb though, I try not to spend any less than 2 or 3 nights in any one city (there are exceptions to the rule – usually this applies to tiny towns). It’s tempting to squeeze in as many countries as you can when you’re a 36 hour flight away from home (heck, even I’ve done 3-4 cities in one week…), but I’ve personally found after factoring in the time, cost and hassle in actually getting in and out of cities, visiting a place for such a short amount of time is really such a waste. For me anyway, it takes a few days to truly soak up what a city or town to the point where I feel unhurried and can leave knowing I’ve had a good chance to explore both the sights and the hidden back streets.
It can be hard to gauge how long to spend in a city when you’ve never visited the place before (asking friends/family helps, but it’s not infallible!). For those curious, here’s roughly how long I’ve spent in some of the cities I’ve been to:
Berlin – 4 days (7, if I had my time over)
Boston – 2 days (about right, though could spend up to 3 or 4 days here)
Copenhagen – 4 days (5 or 6 if I had my time over)
Cinque Terre – 3 days (about right)
Helsinki – 4 days (about right, but probably no more than 4)
Hong Kong – 5 days (not nearly enough – I could spent up to 9-10 days here!)
Las Vegas – 3 days (just right)
London – 2 days (more than enough for me – I didn’t enjoy London and almost went bankrupt after a couple of days! For the average traveller though, I’d say 4-5 days)
Maldives – 3 days (about right, though more if we signed up to activities & day trips)
New York City – 9 days (it didn’t even scratch the surface. At least 2 weeks here)
Paris – 8/10 days (see NYC)
Reykjavik – 4 days (could definitely have spent up to 6 days here)
Rome – 2 days (I didn’t warm to Rome either – I blame the dodgy area we stayed in! So 2 days was perfect, and I also got to explore the Roman Forum at a comfortable pace).
San Francisco – 3 days (4-5 days would have been ideal. It took me so long to enjoy San Francisco and when I started to, I had to leave!).
Shanghai – 3 days (could have spent an extra day or two here)
Tokyo – 12 days (at least 2 full weeks, if I had my time over. See NYC & Paris)
Vancouver – 3 days (about right, but we didn’t go doing ski season. I LOVED Vancouver and could definitely spend more time here exploring the landscape)
Venice – 1.5 days (2-3, if I had my time over. Venice is incredible)
Of course, the best way to get around the conundrum is to not plan or book anything. At all.
EASIEST WAY TO GET AROUND A CITY
Aside from a map in hand, GPS (we download the TomTom app on our iPhone – it’s not free but it’s worth the money) and/or Google Maps app have saved us so many times. During our self-guided bike tour in the South of France, we ended up ditching the paper maps we were given and used our TomTom instead (let’s face it, a map is only as good as the signage). If you’re heading to an Asian city (like Tokyo) be prepared. Even with a GPS, finding a place can be impossible. And if all else fails, ask for help.
As for public transport, this is our most used option. Walking or cycling is our preferred option. You see so much more of the city this way, but only if time is a luxury. Cycling gives you the best of both worlds though – and it’s easy on the feet!
Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, most cities in Europe including Scandinavia have some of the most efficient subway systems in the world. NYC can be chaotic and slow (and deafening!) and the Tube in London can be horrendous. F0r such a populated city, Paris is really efficient and easy (aside from peak hour).
For my husband and I, we don’t have the luxury to be chauffeured from place to place and taxis are only ever used to and from the airport (if it’s an early morning or late night flight) because it’s often crazy expensive, too.
If you don’t have internet connection when you’re out, taking screenshots on your phone (I’ve never owned one but I’m sure you do it on an Android too) before leaving your hotel in the morning is indispensable (assuming you’re using wifi in the hotel). I take screenshots of everything when travelling – addresses, maps, photos, you name it. It beats writing everything down. All I have to do is open my Camera Roll and then type the address into our TomTom app. It’s foolproof.
Oh, and this is also a good thing to know.
CLAIMING TAX ON HOLIDAY PURCHASES
This is probably the best (though laborious!) part about shopping overseas.
It’s important to note not all countries and cities offer this option (definitely Europe and most of Asia, but – correct me if I’m wrong – not all parts of the US yet).
Basically (to the uninitiated) if you’re a traveller, you can claim back tax on your purchase. In Europe it’s called the VAT. In places like Singapore, it’s called the GST (like in Australia). The only condition is that you have to be leaving, say, the EU within 3 months of purchasing that item.
It’s also worth noting that tax rates differ from country to country. Minimum purchase amounts also vary from country to country. And some countries (like Denmark) adopt a tiered approach to tax rates and purchase amounts. You can find all this information on websites like Global Blue or Premier Tax Free. Generally, you’ll find you can get anywhere between 10-20% off your purchase.
Because getting your tax back on your purchases in a foreign country can get a little tricky though, I thought I’d impart a few tips based on my own experience:
At time of purchase
- Unless you have a rather intuitive sales assistant, you’ll have to tell them you’d like to claim the tax back on the purchase. They’ll then fill out the form & attach the receipt for you which you’ll need to claim tax. Do not lose these forms!
- Generally speaking, you’re not allowed to open or use your purchases before taking them to the airport’s tax refund office. Some countries (like Finland) will actually staple your shopping bag together. Some countries don’t, so with purchases like handbags, it’s possible to sneakily use them and then pop them back in its dustbag (just keep the swing tags)!
- If you’ve made multiple purchases, claim them all back at your last stop within the EU. Aim to arrive at the airport at least two hours earlier than usual (more if it’s a big airport and you have heaps of stuff to claim). You’ll need this time to line up, get the customs stamp, line up again at the foreign exchange counter, then post off the forms, and then to re-pack your suitcase.
At the tax refund counter
- If you’re wondering if customs check specific contents of your purchases at the airport… they usually don’t (in my experience!). That’s all I’ll say… in terms of packaging (paper bags/boxes), you generally don’t need it, as long as you have the actual item with you. This is handy if the packaging is really bulky! My girlfriend purchased a Birkin in Paris and was able to obtain a tax refund at the airport after shipping her empty Hermes box back to Australia.
- You can opt for a credit card refund or cash refund.
- In cities like Paris (and I assume in other cities too) there are tax refund counters dotted around the city from which you can receive your cash or credit refund (instead of receiving it at the airport). I’ve done this and it’s super simple and convenient if you need the extra cash. An important note: you STILL need to obtain the customs stamp at the airport though as a final ‘paperwork’ step, even though you’ve technically already received the refund. If you don’t get the stamp and post off the forms at the counter, you’ll have your refund debited from your credit card (which is why they ask you for your credit card at the counter).
- I know most people head to Paris to make big-ticket purchases (because it’s well-priced and the range is bigger). I recommend the Global Tax Refund office on the ground floor (next to the shoe department) at Galeries LaFayette. For the love of God, though, go early in the morning – before 10am – to beat the hoards of impatient, pushy Chinese tourists (only speaking from experience here). Global Blue can give you a cash refund (in euros) on the spot, and will only charge you (a small) commission if you didn’t make that purchase at Galeries.
- If you want to carry your purchases in your checked luggage, head to the tax refund counter before the check-in counter. This is why it’s important to arrive at the airport 2-3 hours earlier than you normally would – Rome, especially!
DUTY FREE PURCHASES IN AIRPORTS
I just wanted to include some sage advice on this so that you can all learn from my (costly!) mistakes.
Things like cosmetics and alcohol can be much cheaper than back in Australia, so whilst it’s tempting to while away a huge chunk of transit time at the airport by shopping, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be mindful on liquid restrictions if you don’t have your checked luggage with you at time of purchase (because you’ll get them confiscated through security screening, obviously).
- Be mindful of your destination. We once travelled from Europe to the Maldives and stocked up on super cheap whisky at Heathrow. We forgot that Sunni Islam is the state religion of Maldives, so upon arrival at Male Airport, we ended up having $300-$400 worth of whisky confiscated (you’re not allowed to consume or purchase alcohol in Maldives, unless you’re at a restaurant/resort). We tried everything – asking to have the alcohol shipped back, asking if we could store it at the airport and pick it up upon departure… but there’s only so far you can push the envelope with poker-faced guards carrying machine guns.
- Be mindful of where you’re travelling from and where you’re travelling to. One other time, my husband wanted to stock up on whisky at HKIA but thankfully before he made a purchase, a sales assistant thoughtfully advised us that if we were travelling from Hong Kong to Australia, we weren’t permitted to bring alcohol back in our carry-on, due to tough restrictions Australia has imposed on incoming liquids. One other time, we were at Shanghai International Airport and I thought I’d stock up on Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream. The duty free store even sealed the clear zip lock bag for me so that it could (apparently) get through the security checkpoint. Well, guess what? It didn’t. I ended up having all 3 tubes of it taken away from me by Qantas at time of boarding. There’s a brief explanation on alcohol restrictions here but you can obviously find more info on Google.
STAYING SAFE WHEN TRAVELLING
I couldn’t round off my Tips & Tricks without mentioning a word or two about safety and security when travelling. The rise of cashed-up tourists in certain cities, comes an influx of petition-signing, string-wielding, pillow-carrying scam artists and ‘gypsies’ who try to make a buck (or more) off an unsuspecting traveller.
I travelled with my father in-law through Rome last year and he was (almost) the victim of a pickpocket who shoved a pillow in his face and put his hand into my FIL’s shirt pocket. I have to say; it wasn’t the worst part of my Rome experience, though. To the first time traveller who has all these romanticised notions of cities like Paris and Rome… please be mindful, prepared, and your expectations (and common sense) in check.
- Don’t use an ATM in a deserted, dark, or dodgy place. If you have to use an ATM (even in a seemingly scrupulous place) try to have a friend or your partner with you.
- If you’re asked to sign a ‘petition’, ignore them and walk away. Fast.
- Same goes if someone comes up to you with string in their hands and asks if you speak English.
- If you’re standing on the street waiting for a friend, try to have your back to a wall at all times.
- Don’t carry more cash than you need.
- When dining outside at a café or restaurant don’t leave your phone or wallet visibly sitting on the table.
- When walking out of a luxury store after making a big purchase, keep your blinkers on and purchases close to you. It’s also a good idea to drop your shopping bags at your hotel room – it’s not only a pain to lug them around all day, but it can also be bait for a not-so-nice mugging.
- Using a money wallet (slung unfashionably underneath your clothes is a great idea – I usually get the husband to do this. Hahaha.); as is carrying a crossbody bag in front of you. If you’re carrying a shoulder bag, make sure it has zips and always carry it in front of you on the subway or when walking through a crowded place. I also always make sure the ‘zip’ faces the front, not behind me. In some cities (like Kuala Lumpur), it’s best not to carry a handbag at all.
- If you’re travelling with valuable jewellery (like your engagement/wedding rings) turn the rings around (on your finger) when on public transport. Of course, the most cautious thing to do is not to travel with expensive stuff in the first place.
- We always carry our passports with us (for shopping purposes – ha!) but my husband always tucks them into a money wallet under his shirt.
- As far as hotel rooms go, we’ve never had an issue with getting our stuff stolen by housekeeping or others etc. But we do exercise a bit of common logic, like stowing away shopping bags out of sight, locking the suitcases before we leave the room, and not leaving cash, laptops, tablets and other valuables around (we lock them up in the luggage).
Jump to Part 1 and 2 of my Travel Tips & Tricks:
And you can browse the rest of my Travel posts here.
Apologies for the radio silence. As many of you may have already figured out, I’m home!
The jet lag is finally starting to wear off (so is that horrible virus, thankfully) and reality/normality is beginning to settle in. Although I could travel the world three times over and still have a sense of wanderlust tugging at my heartstrings, there’s a certain bliss that comes with being home after a month away.
I know Part 1 of my Travel Tips & Tricks was a hell of a lot to take in (I’ve made minor updates to the post if you would like to cast your eye back on it again – I’m sure I’ve still left something out, though). And thank you to those of you who left your kind words and thoughts (more importantly, thank you for those of you who managed to get to the end of the post!).
With that in mind, this next instalment is decidedly short and sweet, because let’s face it, the less drawn out the ‘layover’ is, the better, right? If you’re playing the part of travel agent for your upcoming holiday, I’ve harnessed a few lessons I’ve learnt from my own travels to help you take out the guesswork with the dreaded layovers.
Safe and happy travels!
Getting to the airport on time
My general rule of thumb:
Two hours for an international flight if you’ve already checked-in (but still need to do a baggage drop).
Otherwise, arrive three hours before your flight is due to depart if you need to take care of some housekeeping (like visiting the Tax Refund counter – but more of this in Part 3) and are unfamiliar with the airport. This is super pertinent if the airport is a major hub). And time flies even when you’re not having fun, trust me!
I’m not sure if everyone makes a point of checking in online before their flight, but judging by the 100-person deep queue (wish I was kidding) at the Qatar check-in counter (compared to the three-person deep line for web check-in) before we flew home, I thought I’d mention this.
Regardless of whether I’m travelling to Sydney or Stockholm, I always take some time the day before (or day of) my flight to check-in online. Most airline send a courtesy email to remind you, so I just follow the link. It only takes five minutes and just in case, have your passport handy.
Even if you still have baggage to drop (even better if you don’t), checking in online saves so much time queuing up, so I highly recommend it.
Connecting flights & layovers
Usually when you’re booking your own flights, you’ll have a few different departure and arrival times to choose from. The devil is always in the detail – allowing enough time to make it to a connecting flight without re-enacting your own version of the Amazing Race through Heathrow, but not having so much time up on your sleeve that you end up snoozing in a corner of an airport just to pass the time.
From my experience, you should always – if you can – allow around two hours (the control freak in me says, no less!) between a connecting flight – especially if the connecting flight is on a different airline. 2-3 hours allows me to comfortably disembark, collect any luggage off the carousel, proceed through customs/security checkpoints, find my gate number for the next flight (and, if necessary, travel to a completely different terminal), then arrive at the gate 30-45mins before the first call for boarding. This is usually how the two hours is tediously spent!
Allowing at least 2-3 hours for a layover also comes in handy if your flights are slightly delayed.
Not all airports are created equal
It’s a fact of life that some airports are a lot less efficient than others. It’s best to keep this in mind when organising your flight times so that you allow enough time as a contingency.
In my experience, some of the most efficient (major) airports have been:
Hong Kong (there is a massive Zara store here, too!)
All the Scandinavian airports (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Reykjavik)
Charles de Gaulle, Paris (ok, so not the best but not the worst, either)
All of the above airports also offer free (and usually quite fast) wifi.
The not so efficient (i.e. slow to check in, lining up to get your passport stamped, slow to get through security, and a pain in general):
KUL, Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2 terminal – where the Air Asia hub is – is especially painful) Fiumicino, Rome (we arrived 4 hours before our flight was due to leave and we literally had 10 minutes spare)
LAX, Los Angeles
Heathrow, London (security is to the hilt here)
My essentials for a comfy flight
Ok, so I have never actually tried, but the thought of getting on a long-haul flight in skinny denim and four-inch heels terrifies me. How do you all do it? I’m always the one in Economy with two-day old hair in sweatpants, makeup-less, and a cardigan three sizes too big for me (so cosy, though!).
The following are things I always keep in mind when thinking about what to wear on a plane: Is it easy to take on and off during security (i.e. shoes/coats/belts)? Same goes for in-flight bathroom trips. Will I be traumatised if I spill free airplane food on these clothes? (i.e. don’t wear anything white or too precious). Does it stretch? Will it wrinkle? Because let’s face it, nothing is safe or sacred after 36 hours in transit. I also rarely take my designer handbags onboard (unless it’s stowed away in the overhead cabin) as I find my Longchamp nylon totes are durable and well-sized enough to fit under the seat in front of me.
This is a typical outfit I’d wear, whether I’m flying 5 or 15 hours.
1. Saint James striped shirt (love this online store!) 2. Equipment cashmere sweater 3. Etoile Isabel Marant trackpants (these ASOS ones are also a favourite) 4. Acne Studios mohair oversized cardigan 5. Acne Studios Canada lambswool scarf (doubles as a blanket) 6. Porselli or Repetto leather ballet flats 7. Muji travel accessories (I swear by the eye mask and travel pillow) 8. a good tote bag, and a good book (currently reading Joan Didon’s The Year of Magical Thinking).
Find Part 1 here and stay tuned for the third and final part in my Travel Tips & Tricks series. If you have any specific questions at all, just leave your name and comment below!