It’s crazy, I know, to whine about bad travel days. But the truth of the matter is some travel days can really suck big time. As much as we are grateful for the opportunity to travel, every now and then we’ll have to endure a miserably long day. With convoluted flight routes to online booking woes, to turbulent flights, to cancelled connecting flights and stormy weather, some travel days are just really unnerving. Some days I wonder why we put ourselves through it. Why does anyone?
“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather
To say our trek home from Portugal was arduous, would be an understatement. Our flight took off 45 minutes late from Lisbon. This was not a big deal as we knew we were facing a 4-hour layover in Newark, NJ, but it was annoying just the same and it set the pace for the day.
Our flight from Washington, DC to Lisbon – one month earlier – was consistently turbulent for the better part of the flight. I had high hopes we would not have a similar experience crossing the pond on our return flight, but my hopes were soon dashed as we bounced our way on/off for eight hours across the Atlantic. Our final dissent into Newark, NJ was through a storm which proved to be particularly unsettling. Plain and simple. It sucked.
Which Gate Is It?
Once again on solid ground we made our way through customs, checked our bags on to our connecting flight and found our way to the gate only to discover our flight had been cancelled. The airline – United – booked us on to a flight two hours later and gave us a new gate number. Then we were given another gate number and then a third, but only because we kept asking. Had we not been paying close attention, we would have missed our connecting flight as it actually left from a different gate and no announcements were made.
Travel Days Can Really Suck
Did I mention there was a storm hanging over Newark, NJ? Well, what lands in NJ has to take off from NJ right back in to the storm. Fortunately, the flight from Newark to Washington, DC is only 45 minutes – but it was a long flight just the same.
Interestingly, once we arrived in DC only one of our bags came out on the luggage carousel. Our other bag had flown on an earlier flight and was waiting for us in the baggage claim office. Our bag could fly earlier, but we could not. Go figure. To add insult to injury, once we arrived at our Metro stop, 19 hours after leaving Lisbon, the train doors opened and we stepped out in to torrential rain.
There’s a children’s book titled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I’m pretty sure our trek home from Portugal could easily be a chapter in Alexander’s day. I’ve never been so glad to be home and if I never get on another plane again, I’d be good with that. But…
“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” – Al Gore
I’m Calling Bullshit
If you look for them, you’re bound to find a plethora of blog posts about how to manage and sometimes even enjoy long flights. Pinterest, is loaded with pins offering a wide variety of tricks of the travel trade and supposed encouraging words of how to get over your fear of flying. Ha! Such posts often encourage a neck pillow, or a play list, or an eye mask.
If you have an innate fear of flying, no neck pillow or eye mask is going to cut it. Sure, it might make one a little more comfortable, but it isn’t going to conquer the fear. I would love nothing more than to not be afraid of heights, or turbulence or creepy crawly things, but the fear is real. So, I’m calling bullshit on the so-called how to get over your fear of flying with cozy pillow lists.
OMG, Will it Ever End?
If you’re like me and pretty much loathe every aspect of flying, and turbulence sends your heart racing, and you spend the better part of your time counting down the hours, here’s my realistic tricks of the travel trade for long (OMG will it ever end?) flights and how to get through marathon travel days.
- Valium. Let me repeat that, Valium. It calms the nerves.
- If you don’t prescribe to pills, enjoy a cocktail or two or three or however many it takes.
- Bring your own set of ear buds that fit comfortably.
- Put on a sweater and blast the a/c right in your face.
- Choose an aisle seat so you can get up easily.
- Bring a fully charged Kindle with loads of books so you have choices.
Abi can attest to my disdain for the flying tin can experience. While he has a calm set of nerves with regards to flying, he does not enjoy the endurance of a long transatlantic flight. Now that we’ve given up on the airline miles programs, we’re going to take a serious look at finding deals for business class seats so we can at least be reasonably comfortable. As much as I dread it, I will fly again because it gets me where I need/want to go. But, I don’t have to like it.
“When fears are grounded, dreams take flight”. Anon
Oh, your last cartoon was perfect and you can whine and whinge all you want Patti. In fact, I’ll provide the accompaniment. Travel days do suck and the anxiety of watching the minutes/hours click by while you’re wondering if you’ll make a connection or finding out about a gate change at the last minute always leaves me wiped out by the time I snick my seatbelt closed. Oh yeah, and then there’s the actual flight to get through … Valium away!
Anita @ No Particular Place to Go recently posted…Just Like Riding A Bike, A Little Procrastination And Leaving Lagos
I know you well understand, Anita, having done as much long distance traveling as you have. It’s such a gift to be able to travel as much as we do, but it just feels as if anything and everything having to do with flying has become such a chore! Wah… Wah… Wah… 🙂
I totally feel your pain; I’ve definitely had my fair share of terrible travel days too. This ones sounds like a particularly awful one though, sometimes everything just seems to go wrong! I was never anxious about flying until we had some really bad turbulence on a tiny plane in Borneo that had some passengers shrieking in fear. Now, every time a flight gets bumpy I get anxious. Like you, flights and travel days in general are something I just grit my teeth and try to get through, knowing there’s an adventure waiting on the other side!
I remember your stories about your flight to the start of your base camp trek. I don’t know how you got back on that plane!
Oh Patti my heart goes out to you! I fortunately do not have a fear on planes. But my husband has a fear of crashing. So I have some understanding of the great angst he experiences whenever we experience turbulence & storms when flying.. plus any other incident that may set him off. I LOVE your realism with your tips to get through flights as best as possible. And, like you, we endure all the challenges that go with flight travel to live the life we choose. Thanks for sharing this great post.
I envy your ability to feel no fear when flying. Abi has the same calm, of which I am also envious. Living in Australia, you really have some long haul flights to reach Europe or North America, or pretty much anywhere. I feel for your husband, I totally get it. Thanks for the feedback of my realistic tips. Based on some of the articles I’ve read, I think most people who write about how to get over your fear of flying actually have no such fears and absolutely cannot write about what they don’t understand.
Oh man I hear ya!!! I HATE turbulence so much it just turns me into a nervous wreck. I am way too nervous to pop pills because my thinking is that if I am sedated and there is a problem, I will need my wits about me. And I don’t drink… so I clutch on for dear life trying to use my yogic breathing and bead counting I learnt at a meditation retreat in a temple in Thailand. But I am not doing well….
Recently we had quite a fiasco enroute to the US. We had to fly from Amsterdam to London (short hop) in order to catch the flight to Chicago. That Chicago flight got delayed and gates changed, much like you describe… and Ben luckily had the initiative to go online book us into a hotel at the airport and book us onto the flight for the next day. All this HOURS before everyone else did when eventually after a 7 hour wait, the flight was as he predicted… cancelled. And then mad panic…. All hotel rooms gone and the only flight out of Gadwick to Chicago no seats (ours was secure) but other people went home or got stuck in London for days…..
The only good part was the rule in Europe which has to do with a certain amount of hours of delays = getting a partial payment.. and after many emails and weeks of waiting and persistence, we were dispensed $600 each (I think thats the amount more or less) as well as refund for meals and hotel bill… Ah the joys….. haha.
Oh Ugh, Peta, I feel ya. I know airlines can’t control the weather, but I don’t know why airports and flights and such have to be such a chore. Glad you were compensated! We asked about compensation for the cancelled flight but we were told a flat out no. I suppose because they got us another flight just a couple of hours later and they said it was a decision of air traffic control. Hmmm… not sure I believe that.
I used to like airplanes better than airports, but not anymore. Wouldn’t it be nice to just, “beam me up Scotty”? Glad you survived this ordeal.
Oh, Gaelyn, if you only knew how many times I’ve thought the exact same thing… beam me up Scotty!
Our longest travel day was 40 hours and 5 take offs and landings: Philly to San Francisco, San Francisco to Manila with a refueling stop in Honolulu, Manila to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Around Honolulu, where we weren’t permitted to deplane, I started having my “What ever was I thinking?” thoughts. OTOH, in 40 hours, we were on the other side of the world. Magellan would have been impressed. My sister with a serious case of fear of flying, uses the Bloody Mary method of anxiety management. She learned about it when a flight attendant, seeing how unhinged she was becoming, brought her one unbidden.
Oh, no way! I could never endure that kind of flight. Were you in business class I hope? I would have gotten off the plane in Honolulu and spent a few days on the beach. Great story that the flight attendant saw that your sister was in need of a Bloody Mary. I try to hide my emotions, I don’t need anyone looking at me. Usually, my cocktail in a pill will keep the emotions in check, but this flight was just a bit too much.
I am not a big fan of flying, but unfortunately sometimes there is no other way to get to our destination. I am planning to travel a lot in 2019, but fly very little. Would you consider coming over to Europe on a cruise rather than flying? Although rough seas would probably be worse than turbulence
You are fortunate in that you’re on the European side of the pond, Gilda. I look forward to following your 2019 travels. We took a cruise to the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago and it was lovely, but 2 days at sea and I was ready to get off the boat. I can’t imagine an transatlantic cruise and your assessment of rough seas is spot on. I really need someone to build a transatlantic railroad!
Patti, I don’t have a fear of flying, I have a fear of crashing! Even mild turbulence is unnerving for me. Love the cartoon of the seat. Malcolm is a magnet for getting stuck with the biggest person on the plane. On a recent trip, he sat in an aisle seat, with a woman who was breast feeding next to him. That in itself was uncomfortable enough, but her husband, who was in the window seat was two sizes too large for the seat and spilling over into the wife’s seat, who was spilling over into Malcolm’s seat. You get the picture. This experience will soon be forgotten 🙂 and the next adventure will begin.
Funny enough, I don’t think of crashing when we’re flying, I just become overwrought with the turbulence. It dates back decades when I had a slightly terrifying experience in a single engine plane. The fear has stayed with me for a lifetime, unfortunately. I definitely get the picture! People are so crammed in to the space, it’s really uncomfortable.