up, up, and away!

This week, I’ll be flying back to Montana for about 10 days. My lovely sister, Caroline, is getting married, and I am lucky enough to be one of the few there. It’s just me on this trip – Frank and Evey will be hanging out here at home. I know I’ll miss them terribly, but it will be a nice getaway, just the same, and I am anxious to help my sibling out as she gets ready for her big day.

So, I leave Thursday, but I’ve been thinking about the trip for weeks. I’m one of those people who loves lists… what I’ll be bringing, what I need to buy for whom, what I need to do before I go… and I’m only now starting to think about -ugh – the journey itself!

Dublin Airport Terminal 2, by Pascall Watson

I’m not afraid of flying, but let’s face it, the whole experience  just isn’t fun anymore. I remember my first flight ever, to my cousin’s wedding in Georgia when I was 12, and it was brilliant! I loved flying and couldn’t wait to do it again. Then, there were holiday flights to and from Indiana, which weren’t too bad, and flights to see my sisters. My first international flight was in college, when we went to Rome, and even though it was fraught with calamity, I was so excited to be going that none of it mattered! But now, with all the overseas flying I’ve done, it’s not something I look forward to that much, and I consider myself a casual authority on the whole process.

Seatmates. I’ve shared spaces with a wide range of interesting people, mostly normal. But it’s the other ones… you know them!  The ones with strange ear growths, nervous ticks, loud music, vivid porn, ADD kids, sweating problems, aggressive opinions and rude manners to the flight staff that unfortunately stick out in my memory.  And I know I’m lucky I’m small enough to fit in the seats comfortably, but come on, please share the armrest!

Security. I’m one of the fortunate ones who has not been strip-searched or hassled too much, but it’s still a pain to wait in line, offload everything, go through the Xray without beeping, and scramble to get your shoes back on and all your stuff together before the tubs start piling up on you. Add to that when you fly into the USA, if you’re connecting (which I usually am), you have to re-check all your baggage between flights, which is a huge hassle. Travelling with luggage and a baby with all her kit can be nightmarish, and that’s before you even get on the bloody plane.

Delays. I think I can put up with just about anything… but sitting on the ground in a stuffy full airplane for hours and hours is my idea of Hell. At least in an aiport you can usually find some way to occupy your time. I think it’s the palpable tenseness from the other 100+ passengers in situations such as these that really grates on me, though.

Airlines. There is way too much drama in the airline business, in my opinion. I just want to get from point A to B (or sometimes A – B – C – D and back again!). British Airways is constantly on strike, it seems, and they always time it for a big Christmas holiday or summer vacation, just because they know it will put a lot of people out and get them some leeway. I hate it! Service is also down the tubes, as you know, and they seem to offer less and less on board. I’ve had some brilliant flights and amazing flight staff, and I know they deal with a ton of crap from passengers! But I wish the corporate part of things would get their act together.

I have travelled with Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Continental, Northwest, Delta, American, US Airways, British Airways, Air France, Southwest, Frontier Airlines, and several other small puddle-jump companies that operate in the States. I usually just end up flying the cheapest airline – with the exception of Ryanair, which I have vowed to NEVER, EVER fly. I don’t care how cheap it is – if I’m going to be charged to use the on-board toilet and if they don’t offer so much as a bottle of water to passengers stranded for days at their gates… they won’t have a chance of getting my business. The best airline I ever flew was Lufthansa, back on that wild trip to Rome. Nice meals, free booze, hot towels… I loved it. Now I’m mostly on Aer Lingus, which is OK service-wise, but unfortunately don’t do frequent flier miles.

Airports. I’ve seen a lot of airports. Indianapolis, Atlanta, Denver, Bozeman, Billings, Salt Lake, LAX, JFK, La Guardia, Charles de Gaulle (Paris), Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago (O’Hare and Midway), Minneapolis – St. Paul, Rome, Hamburg, London (Heathrow and Gatwick), Dublin… I think that’s most of them? 

Denver International Airport (photo by World Architecture News)

Most airports are strikingly boring, and some positively awful. Charles de Gaulle has a distinct odour of cheese… stinky cheese… a lack of natural light, and extortionist prices for coffee. Denver is not a bad place to be stuck… the whole place looks like a giant Lemon Meringue Pie on approach, and it’s just as light and airy inside. I spent a night in Minneapolis when I was 15, so I pretty much know the ins and outs of that place… hint, if you’re ever in a similar situation and the place is deserted, try to find a mother and baby bathroom – there is a little seat you can almost lie down on.  Um, Heathrow… don’t get me started!!! I had the best-ever manicure in the Philly airport right before I moved to Ireland. It was New Year’s Eve 2007, and I remember there were jazz bands playing in the terminals. Really nice airport, actually. And of course, Dublin is a perfectly decent airport, all things considered. There are nice little places to shop or have a coffee (Butler’s Chocolate Cafe!), in addition to the normal Duty Free stuff, and I think it’s fantastic that there’s now a Boots in there, too, so if you’ve forgotten any toiletries or you need some Ibuprofen, you’re set.

So now the journey is just a few days away and I’ve got all this on my mind. I know what to expect. I’ll be cool.

My best tips for surviving a flight like the one I’m about to take? (which will be around 19 hours each way, with connections and factoring in the time change):

  1. Wear comfy clothes. I’m planning a maxi dress with a cardigan in case the plane is frigid. Don’t bother wearing your bulky stuff (to save space) unless you’re on a short-haul flight. Seriously.
  2. Treat yourself to a good easy read, be it a glossy magazine, trashy novel, or thick psychological thriller. There’s too much going on when you’re flying to concentrate that much, at least for me! Take my advice, and save that two-ton philosophy book you never get around to reading… for the next time you get sick.
  3. Stay hydrated. As soon as you get through security and can buy a bottle of water, do so. I don’t drink nearly enough water on normal days, but I try to double my intake on flights. It’s dry up there in the clouds! Plus I’m going to be flying from Ireland, which is sea level, to Bozeman, which is 4200 ft. Oh, and hydrate your face, too. I always try to keep some face wash wipes and maybe a small tub of moisturizer in my bag. Even just one quick face wash en route makes me feel so much fresher.
  4. Likewise, have some healthy snacks in your bag. Splash out a bit and get the good granola bars or whatever. Your body will thank you, especially if you don’t get a real meal on the plane. Eat light and often… helps your tummy if there is any unanticipated turbulence, too.
  5. Take advantage of the in-flight movies and radio stations to make the flight go quicker. A lot of planes have personal touch screen TVs now and you can watch whole seasons of shows you may not have even heard of, especially if you’re flying to another country. Go ahead! I promise your brain wont’ turn to mush. 🙂
  6. If you can swing it, SLEEP. I can usually manage a few winks if I’m flying alone and it really does help. If nothing else, it passes the time.

6 thoughts on “up, up, and away!

  1. Lufthansa was that horrid airline that took me from Beijing to Moscow to Paris. They offered me “fish or seafood” as my entree choices (blech!) and the whole plane smelled like…like…I don’t know. It just smelled.

    Emirates is my favorite airline and the Dubai airport is so fun! Crazy being in an airport that has a PDA rule. 🙂 No smoochies in that airport, not even for newlyweds!

    Can’t WAIT to see you soon – travel safe!

  2. maryannk

    Thanks, Chris! I re-tweeted!

    Oh yeah, CK, I forgot about your horrible Luft experience. I’ll bet you could add even more to this post than I – flying to China, Kenya and everywhere inbetween! I’ve heard Emirates and is it Air Singapore? Air Thailand? Something like that is also supposed to be awesome. I would love to spend a few days in Dubai… strand me there next time, please! 🙂

    See you soon!!!!!!

  3. I got an eye ulcer once because of sleeping on an overseas flight in my contacts. One of the most uncomfortable situations ever…and permanent scarring. I also remember when flying was a fun novelty. Now it’s ridiculously expensive, uncomfortable, and stressful almost 100% of the time. Good luck on your trip, though. And I hope you have a great time with your fam.

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