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!