My most recent excursion involved travelling to Central America, starting in El Salvador and backpacking my way through Guatemala and Honduras, and finally arriving at Utila Island to get my open water scuba diving certification. What an incredible experience! However, getting there took a bit of effort. Brisbane to San Salvador: 54 hours in transit. This is why I should never be left in charge of booking flights, and there are a fair few people that will back me on that one.
My older sister Sam and my friend Wade were, shall we say, a bit furious after I booked us flights a few years ago with China Southern back to the UK from Australia…including an 8 hour stopover in Guangzhou, which due to delays turned into 11 hours, and when we finally did reach boarding time our seats had been double booked so we all had to separate.
Unfortunately these delays meant that we missed our third flight (Amsterdam to London – why we needed to stop in Amsterdam, which is one hour from London, I’ll never understand – this was already a sore subject with Sam and Wade), meaning that we had to wait again and be put on the next flight. As we touched down at Heathrow, they were not happy. What can I say, they told me to book a cheap flight!
So here it is, 5 pieces of advice to help survive long-term airport transit:
1: Spend the extra dollars on better flights
I say that to all you travellers out there. However, I was, again, recently left in charge of booking the flights from Australia to El Salvador. Can you guess who I booked through? China Southern. Why? I can’t take my own advice. Learn from my mistakes.
I basically booked the first lot of flights to USA going the wrong way around the world, over Asia and Europe and across the Atlantic, rather than the normal quick hop over to LA via New Zealand, which is what everyone else does. Not me, never one to follow the crowd, no I’ll go the long way round and save $100…
2: Stay positive, enjoy the little things
So all in all we had 4 flights, and fairly long stop overs between them…if I’m being honest, some very long stopovers! It’s at times like these where you just have to enjoy the little things, so I always keep a notebook, and write down the good parts:
Flight #1: Fish and potato for breakfast (I can’t remember why that was a positive thing, I must have enjoyed it although it sounds horrible), extra leg room and sneaking into business class bathroom!
Stopover #1: Eight hours in Guangzhou (deja vu?!), did some yoga, used stolen blankets from our first flight for a lovely nap
Flight #2: this flight was 11 hours long, we flew over Jeju island, which looked like a magical light show in the middle of the East China Sea. Made friends with a lovely Nepalese fellow in the seat next to me, and exchanged email addresses for when I make it over to Nepal (which is very high on my list!).
Flight #3: I guess at this point my positivity was fading, to quote my notebook: “San Fran – Houston, 3.5 hours? Don’t even know. Too tired. Stupid grumpy old fat lady wouldn’t let us sit in our own aisle seat. Ebs got to hold a baby though.”
Stop over #3: Houston airport, terrible coffee. 49 hours since Brisbane. Thank god for stolen blankets.
Bring snacks. That’s it. Pretty simple, the price of airport food is extortionate.
4: Pre-empt jetlag
Change your watch to local time, and stop counting the clock. Stop trying to work out what time it is in the previous country, what time it will be in the next country, how long you have been travelling for and how long you have left.
It’s pointless and all it will do is make you wish you had slept more. Let your body clock do its thing!
5: Focus on the end game
Remember why you’re going, remember the epic adventure you’re about to start, think about that beach you’re going to be lounging on, that crystal clear water you’ll be swimming through, that culture shock you’re going to feel exploring a new city, that incredible food and cheap-as-chips ice cold beer you’re about to buy! Its all worth it and you know it!
Luckily I had pre-booked the airport transfer to our hostel in El Tunco (very organised of me, weirdly), so we jumped in the back of our taxi (taxi being a local’s pickup truck but it did the job!) for a 40-minute drive and arrived at our hostel “Tunco Lodge” at about 11pm, where we ditched our backpacks and went for a wander to explore the tiny surf town.
We bought a cheese pupusa each (El Salvador national dish – $1) from a little street vendor, grabbed a nice cold beer ($1.50), sat on the beach and watched a lighting storm over the sea. Suddenly it all seemed worth it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below! Cheers everyone!! Steph