Saturday, March 29, 2008

Survival Tips for the Long Flight, part 3

O.K., this will be the final post on this subject but it is really an important subject for overall survival, enjoyment and productivity when it comes to traveling overseas for business. Really these final points are perhaps the most important for surviving long haul flights. You see these types of flights are very physically demanding and like any physically demanding activity you should condition your body for it. You wouldn't run a marathon or climb a mountain without training first for that activity right?

The same is true for long haul flying. In order to endure and reduce the effects of these long flights you should be exercising regularly. Really just consistent 3 to 4 time weekly exercise will work. I really am not a big gym rat type guy, I don't like exercising when I know that I am doing it but I really like the feeling of leaving the gym after a good workout and I particularly feel the benefits when traveling. I simply do some basic cardio, some abs and a little strength training. Stretching is really important too although I am the worst at it and need to do more. For me even when I am there in Asia and bouncing around from city to city it’s a must to get to the hotel gym as often as possible.

The next point is getting plenty of sleep building up to your trip. If you were going to run a marathon you certainly wouldn't be out to all hours three or four nights prior to your marathon so the same is true of flying on long haul flights. Get plenty of sleep, make sure your body is well rested before you fly, it helps a ton.

Finally, drink lots of water. Try to stay away from alcohol, coffee, tea and carbonated drinks while flying. If you get tired of drinking just water then drink orange juice. Water and OJ are best to keep you hydrated and to get the extra vitamin c your body is demanding due to the physical stresses of travel.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Survival Tips for the Long Flight, part 2

I've been asked a million times, "how can you sleep on airplanes?" Well the answer is: when you fly international long haul flights you have no choice. Really it's a must, in order to adjust and survive better; you have to get some sleep at times on long flights. For some people it is no different than trying to get to sleep in their own bed. It may be reading or even a sleep aid that does the trick. I'm fortunate.... that generally I can sleep on a flight without much problem.

On flights where I want to sleep (see part 1), I will start by reading a bit before the first meal service, then eat and possibly watch a movie, then I'll settle in, lean my seat back, put on my eye covers, put on my noise cancelling headphones with the volume turned way down and next thing I know, its 5 or 6 hours later. By this time there is only 3 or 4 hours left in the flight, so then I'll read, do some work on the laptop, watch another movie, eat breakfast (2nd meal service) and what do you know.... we're starting to descend! Occasionally I may have trouble getting to sleep if it is the middle of the day for my body-clock. So in this case I will take asleep aid. The over the counter varieties work fine for me. I have tried melatonin (natural sleep aide) which works pretty well but my most trusted sleep friend is just good old Benadryl. The same active ingredient in all of the over the counter more expensive sleep aids, is the same active ingredient in Benadryl. Even the generic Target brand knockoff... Benadryl, works fine for me.

The last but very important point for surviving long flights is that you have to get up and move around at least 3 or 4 times during the flight. There are even good techniques for doing stretching exercises in your seat. These things will help to avoid stiffness (especially if you are a Boston Red Socks pitcher) and the more serious concern of deep vain thrombosis DVT, which can be fatal.

There you go, sweet dreams on those long haul flights.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Survival Tips for the Long Flight, part 1

The main problem flying to the other side of the world is the time difference. It is 11 to 19 hours different depending on the time zones in Asia Pacific you end up in (for example Eastern Standard Time to New Zealand time is up to 19 hours difference). This difference is what causes that good old "Jet Lag" for most people. Top this off with being cooped up in an airplane for 12 hours or more and this can really wreck havoc physically and mentally for the first few days or up to a week on us average humans.

So here are my personal strategies for surviving long flights. Flights from most of U.S. cities will take any where from 10 to 16 hours depending on were you are departing from and then arriving to. To Sleep or not to Sleep, this is the question. To answer this question I first determine what time of day will I be arriving to my destination. If I am arriving in the afternoon or evening then I will try not to sleep at all on the flight over so I can basically force myself into the normal day-night sleep patterns there. For example most flights to Japan arrive in the afternoon/evening, so by the time I get to the hotel, get settled in and get something to eat I am then ready to sleep, really ready. The hard part is depriving yourself of sleep on the plane and then all the way to the hotel. One thing I do is watch a few foriegn movies with subtitles; if the movie is good then reading the subtitles keeps me engaged and awake.

The opposite is true for my sleep strategy if I am arriving in the morning (for example to destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore or Australia) I will try to get all the sleep I can on the flight over so that I will basically wake up around the time of descending and it is like waking up at the normal morning hours of the destination, Get it? These techniques help me to adjust much quicker to the time difference and get (some what) normal sleep sooner. In my next posting I'll cover part 2 of surviving long flights where I'll cover tips for sleeping on airplanes and tips for avoiding stiffness/soreness and other health risk common with long flights.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top Five Airports in Asia

There are a lot of nice airports around the world however it seems that in Asia they bring the airport experience to a new level. Most major airports in Asia offer the waiting traveler many options to pass the time in comfort and or activity. In this post I will list my top five airports for convenience, ease of use, comfort, amenities and style. Just a point on amenities; it seems these days that the designers of airports have really thought through the reality and often displeasure of traveling to provide a better overall experience.
Airports are like little communities within communities separated from the local experience in many ways. You can experience everything from beautiful relaxation gardens to movie "rooms" to foot-massage/relaxation centers to fitness centers and hourly private room/showers just to mention a few of the amenities available at some of the better airports in Asia. In Singapore, my number one top Asia airport you can get all of these and even a resort style swiming pool for a little fun in the sun. Of course there are all of the standard amenities at most Asian airports as well, like shopping, dinning and areas for internet and TV viewing. Here are my top five airports in Asia that bring the airport experience to the highest levels:

1. Singapore
2. Hong Kong
3. Kuala Lumpur
4. Tokyo Narita
5. Osaka Kansai

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Airport Lounge

If you spend as much time as I do in airports particularly with long layovers and delayed flights you need a place to relax, get something to eat and drink, check e-mails and even get a shower. Well if you're flying first or business class then generally you can enjoy the airline lounge as part of your airfare, the best I have experienced is the first class lounge of Cathay Pacific Airline at the Hong Kong International Airport, two words "Noodle Bar." For those who travel frequently but fly coach (this includes yours truly some of the time) there are still ways to enjoy the pampered indulgence of these little havens. Most airlines allow individuals the opportunity to pay an annual membership to use their lounges but usually this is expensive and the number of lounges is limited. Most major airports in Asia have pay-per-visit lounges but for those that travel a lot this is the most expensive option. The best program I have found is called Priority Pass. This is a worldwide network of lounges (over 500) that are quite nice and offer great services, even free 15 minutes of massage in a location or two that I have visited.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Never Check Your Bags

After having too many incidents where airlines have lost my luggage I no longer check any bags, if I can't carry it on I don't bring it. Some of you may think that this would be impossible for a trip longer than 4 or 5 days but all of my trips are over three weeks long. I bring two suits, 4 shirts, 5 ties and a couple pairs of shoes. I also bring workout shoes and clothes for the gym. I rely on the hotel laundry service about every other day. I have one 22" Tumi carry on size bag and one Samsonite Tote-On-Wheels large size briefcase. My briefcase holds everything from a laptop, projector, Ipod and about a hundred other necessary items. If you need some additional items or larger things you can always ship them to your hotel UPS air for a price. If I can do it you can do it and just think how nice it is to beat everyone through Customs and out of the airport because you didn't need to wait another 30 or 40 minutes at the luggage carousel.

Dress Comfortably

Here is my first rule of International flying. Dress comfortably. These days with all of the hassles of security and the long waits in airports I recommend you fly in casual attire whenever possible. I wear comfortable; lose fitting pants and shirts with the shirt un-tucked and with no belt. I wear comfortable slip on shoes so that I can take them off and on easily at security checks. So for me it is definitely comfort before style!