Travel Tips

Published on August 23rd, 2013


15 Tips for Easing the Ugh of Travel Days

Whoever said that “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”* uh… clearly never bumped along in a chicken bus for 14 hours, nor enjoyed the ambiance of catching a few winks on an airport floor on a 12 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur.  Well o.k. perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but the truth is – despite the miracle of being able to whiz to pretty much any spot on the globe within 24 hours – getting from point A to point B on this Big Blue Dot is anything but glamorous.

Indeed, most any traveler will tell you – though we adore exploring ever new far away places, and even relish the challenges of wandering in confusion amid a sea of gibberish tongues, and maneuvering our tushes strategically above dubious squat toilets – it is the travel days that are the worst – the bane of all travelers.

And given that I’m presently in the throes of just such travel ugh (indeed, this post will likely auto-publish as I rise off the tarmac in HCMC headed for Malaysia en route to Nepal – a two day taxi-ferry-taxi-flight-bus-bus-flight-taxi affair), easing the sherpa days is clearly on my mind.  Though nothing overly brilliant here, nonetheless, these are my own mainstays for easing those inevitably less than jolly travel days.

15 Tips for Easing Travel Days

  1. Pack light.  Though you’ve heard it said a thousand times, this simple tip can never be repeated too often.  Less is always best.  And paring down the stuff you have to lug around on travel days is the single-most useful way to ease the drudgery.
  2. Charge phone, Kindle, iPad, all your techno gadgets just before departing, and keep the charge cords/plugs handy to rejuice them whenever you spy a spare socket along the way.
    (Recent find:  just before leaving for Nepal, in Vung Tau, Vietnam I unearthed a most nifty *12 foot* long charge cord for my iPhone.  Soooo handy when the only socket in the airport/bus terminal is perched on a post above your head with nothing but the floor to set the phone on whilst charging.)
  3. Arrive early for your flight or bus or train departure.  Not a second less than the 2 hrs. recommended for most international flights, but add an extra hour to allow for unexpected traffic or other delays en route to the airport.  Personally, I’d much rather settle in for an extra hour sipping a caramel macchiato and reading my Kindle, then stress myself into a frenzy ‘cuz the family of six in front of me in the security line have been flagged for buried contraband in their twelve bits and bobs of carry-on baggage.
  4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and dress in layers.  NEVER get on a bus or plane without a light sweater or better yet a pashmina to wrap around you when the aircon dips to Arctic.  A pair of socks can also come in handy.
  5. Earplugs are your best friend when traveling.  Use them to drown out the chatterboxes beside you on the plane to get some sleep, the squawking music blaring on chicken buses, crowing roosters at dawn, 4 am calls to prayer, and ubiquitous barking dogs all over the Planet.
  6. Hydrate, hydrate, H.Y.D.R.A.T.E.  Absolutely nothing will keep you feeling at your best than plenty of water.  The fatigue you feel on arriving at your destination after a long flight (often known as ‘jet lag’) is in part caused by breathing dry cabin air over and over again for a long duration.   An air traveler can lose about 1.5 litres of water during a three-hour flight.  13 hours to Tokyo, you say?  You do the math.  Likewise on that chicken bus bumping slowly along the equator.  Even with a/c, you’ll be losing about a liter of water – just from breathing!   Nosiree, dehydration is serious business for the traveler (ask me how I know).  So chug, chug, chug that good ol’ H2O.
  7. The edible corollary to travel day ugh reduction tip #6 of course is – NEVER travel without a few high protein snacks tucked into the spare corners of your carry-on pack.  A few granola bars and a small bag of shelled peanuts will prove most welcome when a flight is delayed or your bus breaks down along some g-forsaken road in the middle of nowhere.
  8. Next “NEVER” admonishment concerns the less-than-posh powder rooms of the developing world.  N.E.V.E.R. travel without at least a tissue or three for empty (or non-existent) TP rolls on the trail.  A small packet of antiseptic wipes will likewise come in handy.
  9. On any mode of travel, chat with your seatmate a spell (not constantly as nobody likes a chatterbox – see tip #5 above) especially if you’re lucky enough to be seated next to a local of your destination.  Even if language looms a bit of a barrier, give it a go and trust that such exchanges often lead to offers of private airport transfers and/or at the very least tips on how to catch the cheapest shuttle/taxi, the going rate for local transport, etc.
  10. For long bus or plane journeys, set a goal to pass the time.  If you blog of course, you’ve ALWAYS got a post to write, so plan on churning out a couple of those even if it’s just scribbled on paper whilst bumping along.  Alternately, you could take pics of passengers’ ears or simply bits of the color orange.  Just some silly goal to pass the time (just THINK of the awesome video you could create!).  Yes, music and movies and Kindle books are great, but these eventually grow tiresome on a long journey, and mixing in a goal of some sort can make the hours fly by.
    Btw, I often see folks whiling away the hours slowly paging through the digital pics on their cameras and hafta wonder…  I mean, g-knows camera battery juice runs out far too quickly as it is, best to save editing your pics for when you have an outlet nearby to recharge the battery.
    And finally, a most useful goal for those hours on the plane/bus?  Learn a few words of the local language (another good reason to befriend a local seatmate).  Arriving at your destination with at least a rudimentary vocabulary of “Hello”, “Thank you”, “please”, and “BATHROOM???” will do much to enhance your trip.
  11. Likewise on bus/plane gigs, do periodically take a moment to do some mini-stretches in your seat (curl toes, foot calisthenics, shoulder scrunches – whatever small stretches and wiggles you can muster.  Better yet, every hour or so take a stroll down the aisles (another good reason to opt for an aisle seat so as to be free to get up easily w/o disturbing your seatmates).
  12. Avoid arriving in a strange city after dark if at all possible.  Haggling for ground transport and finding your hotel, etc. can be stressful enough.  But doing so in the dark after hours on a bus or plane is surely not the most ideal way to greet a new country.  Speaking of which…
  13. Though many (myself included) may well pride themselves on their loosey-goosey style of “no plan” travel.  Do yourself a huge favor, and at least pre-book a hotel or hostel for the first night of your arrival in a new land.
  14. Carry a handful of U.S. dollars in small denominations.  $1s are great for tuk tuk rides, etc. in most countries until you can find an ATM and get a load of the local currency.
  15. Check ALL possible modes of travel to your destination.  Though those 16 hr. bus rides are mighty cheap, there’s a price to pay in discomfort. Indeed, the cramped marathon pretty much shoots your first day in a new place just recuperating from the angst of an interminable bus ride from He!!

* Actually, it was none other than Ralph Waldo E. who is responisible for this string of mots – but he was speaking of the journey of life in general – not trudging with a backpack from point A to B.

What about you? Please share your favorite Ughy Travel Days tip in the comments.


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

14 Responses to 15 Tips for Easing the Ugh of Travel Days

  1. These are all wonderful reminders—made with great humor, too!
    Best wishes for the New Year!
    Irene S. Levine kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Where we went: 2013 in picturesMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Thanks Irene. Given your own whirlwind 2013 travel schedule, no doubt you’ve have plenty of “ughy” travel days yourself.

  2. Neva Fels says:

    You gave a very complete list needed for traveling. I remember when bottled water wasn’t always available and we worried about Montezuma’s revenge.
    Neva Fels kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Anticipating another Great JourneyMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      So true Neva, potable water in developing nations is always suspect. But I must admit – those MOUNTAINS of plastic water bottles that are now piling up all over the globe are my personal “fingernails-on-a-blackboard”. An abomination, a scourge. And in developed nations like the U.S. – purely a (sadly, very successful) marketing scheme to get folks to buy their H2O (and thus oceans of plastic) in bottles, rather than simply drink it out of the (long most potable) tap.

      In short, don’tgetmestarted! 😉

      Yes, having those (tragically) ubiquitous bottles of water wherever we roam these days is mighty handy. And Montezuma/Delhi Belly et al surely ain’t no fun at all (askmehowIknow). But… I highly recommend travelers carry a filtered water bottle or a tiny little steriPEN and pass on buying a plastic liter of water at every turn. At the very least, refill the same bottle from trusted sources as often as you can.

      [sorry, demurely stepping down off my bottled-water soapbox here] 😉

      That said – truly thanks for dropping by, Neva, and I love, Love, LOVE that amazing quote from the Olympic skier from the New Year’s post on your blog – thank g, and “cherish the journey”, indeed!

  3. Marcia Frost says:

    Great tips! I recently found a plug (no bigger than the regular ones) that has two usbs so I can charge the IPad and IPhone at the same time. Finding airport power is still not easy.
    Marcia Frost kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Mixing Scotch with RoyaltyMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Ah yes Marcia – the never-ending quest for juice to power our many travel gadgets. And two usbs can be very handy on long trips when you have a phone, a tablet and a camera to charge on a layover..

      True, in many airports it’s mighty tough to find an (unoccupied) outlet. Though I must say, Changi airport in Singapore (considered the BEST airport in all the world – imho for good reason) has very nifty (free) banks of little lockable charging boxes (so you can snooze/grab a bite without watching your precious gadgets).

      There’s also battery packs for recharging on long haul flights and/or when you’re out in the boonies (like the Gobi – ask me how I know?) 😉 for days on end. But yes, groveling for juice to run our many techno toys is the bane of today’s travelers.

  4. Patti says:

    I hate arriving anywhere after dark – it’s so hard to navigate when you can’t see landmarks and such, especially if I’m driving in an area I’m not familiar with. And I completely agree about having the 1st night booked – really important when you’re jetlagged or as you say arriving after dark. Great post with helpful hints!
    Patti kindly contributed to world literature by posting…When Harry Met Sally & Auld Lang Syne ~My Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Patti, though I generally don’t nail down my itinerary with pre-booked reservations in my travels (as it’s impossible to know just where/how long I’ll want to hang out in any given locale), when arriving in a new land (esp. after a long-haul flight or double-digit hour’s bus/train ride) that waiting bed for the first night is miiiighty nice.

      And FWIW, I generally book all my accommodations on agoda. So easy, and I get “points” (redeemable for cash on future reservations) for pecking reviews.

      Thanks for stopping by – glad you found the hints helpful!

  5. I admit this post made me feel a little queasy since we embark on a month of intense travel in 10 days, starting with 9 take offs and ( hopefully) landings over 36 hours of travel to get from Philadelphia to Chang Mai. And then I read the addition about ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT. I try to picture myself like a duck in water and just let the trials and tribulations roll off my back. Before you imagine me being all serene, I will admit that I’m inconsistent in my duckytude.

    • Dyanne says:

      LOL Suzanne – yes, yes, let’s do hope that your number of take offs match your number of landings! 😉

      And yes too, the loooong trek from the U.S. to most anywhere in Asia is anything but a walk in the park. But look at it this way – at least the long haul doesn’t include any 14 hr, rickety bus rides.

      That plus… in the end – you get to meet ME! 😉

      But seriously – hope your whiz across the Big Blue Puddle goes smoothly, and I look forward to tipping a Chang with you to toast your arrival here in Chiang Mai.

  6. Four Letter Nerd says:

    Nice list.

    One additional item I’ve found useful is actually a 3 in 1. It’s a magazine sized rectangular stuff sack which holds my fleece top and inflatable neck pillow. On Asian transport with seat backs too short for my torso, the pillow stays in the bag and I adjust air pressure and presence/absence of fleece (or anything else handy) until the combo fills the void between my lumbar area and the seat back.

    The other is an attitude adjustment reminder. When the grind of travel day threatens to convert my dampened spirits into crushed spirits I tell my self ‘This sure beats [slower and less comfortable travel mode which I have painful memories of]’.

    • Dyanne says:

      Ah yes FLN, how could I forget the greatest travel trudge day tip of all: AA – Attitude Adjustment. Indeed, after taking all of the above precautions, the very best thing one can do is simply let loose of any delusion you might have that you’re in c.o.n.t.r.o.l. (silly you!) and just lean back and enjoy the ride. And yes, especially – remember, you COULD be working as some drone in a dreary cubicle somewhere. I mean – at least you’re on your way to explore some wondrous new corner of the globe, yes?

  7. Christoffer Moen says:

    Awesome tips! I’ve had my fair share of sleeping at airports or catching up on sleep in transit.. the earplugs and sleeping mask are definitely a must-pack for me 🙂
    Christoffer Moen kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Any Traveler Should Love Timelapse, We Know We Do!My Profile

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