Flying long-haul? What do we take with us to pass the time?

We’ve all been there.  You check-in at the airport and you are staring a 16-hour day time flight right between the eyes.  Ok so this is probably our longest day-time stint (on the way back from the Philippines) but even 12 hours during the day can feel like a long time.  This was the situation we were in when we flew to Cuba.  We had chosen to fly with a budget airline – more down to flight times rather than budget – and as soon as I sat down on the plane and they didn’t have personal screens in the seats, I was grateful for the bag of goodies I had brought with me to keep us entertained.  So what’s on our long haul must pack list?

1. Decent headphones!  With or without screens in the back of your seat these are a must.  Some airlines provide pretty average headphones while some budget airlines will sell you a pair, but when you are seated near two screaming 18 month old twins for 12 hours (yes this happened) you will be grateful for them.  Film or no film – they are a necessity!  I inherited a pair of noise cancelling earphones from Dean and they are now the perfect flying accessory.

2. iPod / iPhone / iPad or critically, music!  If the film selection fails you or you just want to switch off, this is your best bet. Pre make a chill out playlist, or perhaps get into the mood of your final destination with a location specific playlist. If music is not your thing, you can always download four seasons of Game of Thrones!

3. A good book / Kindle – this is always on my packing list, but to be honest the flying conditions have to be perfect for me to read.  The slightest bump and it goes back in my bag!  A good backup though for when you get tired of your music selection.

4. A set of travel Connect Four or Uno cards.  Whenever Dean and I travel (not just fly) we have these in our bags and the dual continues!  Normally one of us gets on a winning streak – annoying the other. (Currently it is me!)

A fun and competitive way to pass the time


5. Water.  I usually take an empty bottle through security with me.  The best airports tend to have water fountains for you to top up your bottle.  Some airlines such as Korean Air give you a bottle as you board – a great piece of service.  At any rate, having a bottle in the back of the seat keeps you hydrated (and makes you go to the loo so is a good chance to walk around!)

6. Head ache tablets – I’m not sure if it’s the stress of flying (yes for all my air miles I’m not the greatest fan), dehydration or flight conditions, but I often end up with a headache.  Some easily accessible tablets are a must for me.

7. Snacks!  For our recent Cuba flight I had everything from cereal bars to boiled sweets.  Everything in moderation, but they pass the time during the hours that drag.

8. A light fleece to wear backwards if the air con is set to sub freezing temperatures.

9. A Buff or Head Scarf. Great to block out unwanted light from the Cabin if you are trying to catch up on sleep. They can wrap around your head in different ways and a scarf can act like an extra pillow.

Buffs are extremely versatile and handy for blocking out cabin light

Buffs are extremely versatile and handy for blocking out cabin light

If, like me, you are blessed (ha ha) with a husband who sleeps on flights, then you might find you don’t get round to using some of these.  However they are all things that will come in handy at some point during your holiday.

Above all I like to sit by the aisle then I can walk-around and stretch my legs.  Flying really does feel more like a marathon than a sprint sometimes.  As we all know it’s a means to an end and one that is worth every piece of the boredom along the way.

–  Natalie

The bare essentials – packing for backpacking!

It’s something that is a cross between a chore and fun. A bit of a challenge as you seek to ‘break’ your own last ‘lightest weight’ record. The necessity of packing ahead of any trip is something that we can’t escape. For some it helps the rising crescendo of pre-trip excitement, for others it’s the last hurdle before departure.

All set and ready to go!

All set and ready to go!

Now we’ve all heard the rule of thumb: lay everything out and halve it. But how many of us do it? Ironically I find it much easier to pack for longer trips. With a long trip you accept that you will need to do washing en route (often a tricky task and when you hand over ALL of your clothes whilst hoping the passers by don’t realise you are stood in your pajamas, you pray to the Clothing Gods that your diminishing supply of socks will all come back). With a short trip you can attempt to raid your underwear draw and stretch it so you have enough pairs of pants to last for the whole trip. Whatever your style of packing, I think there are a few ‘must takes’ for every trip.

Washing line, sink plug, water bottle carrier, packing cells, multi country adapter, carabena and the best travel item ever - my buff!

Washing line, sink plug, water bottle carrier, packing cells, multi country adapter, carabinas and the best travel item ever – my buff!

For me my must takes are practical. For others they are luxury items. For example the hair straighteners don’t make my list, but I know from the questions I get asked at work they are important to some people.  They are not very practical when you are bush camping in the middle of nowhere though!  Some people have lists, others throw in what they remember at the time. For us, it’s a bit of a mixture of both.  To a certain extent it depends on where we are going, but most of the below go with me on any big (and often small!!) trip.  So here we go with my backpacking paraphernalia:

Buff – These multi wear headscarves are the best invention ever!  For me I wear mine as a scarf or a hat, or over my mouth when its dusty but above all I use it to cover my face when I’m on planes.  The modern version of an eye mask as it is so multifunctional.  Well worth the investment

Scarf for ladies (but a sarong can double for this too) – I bought a couple in Morocco that now go everywhere. Particularly good for ladies to throw over their shoulders, head or wherever necessary to cover up a bit more

Dean wearing his buff and me wearing my scarf.

Dean wearing his buff and me wearing my scarf.

Travel skirt
– I have one trusty skirt (if you have ever travelled with me you will know exactly which one!).  It covers my knees, is super lightweight and dries easily and packs into nothing.  Great to dress up or dress down.

Packing cells –  The modern day carrier bags!  We each have a set of three – one for tops, one for bottoms and another for undies.  They keep everything together and so your bag doesn’t quite explode to the same extent when you stop.  Before I invested in these I used to use different colour carrier bags so I knew what I was pulling out!

Multi country adapter: One adapter works in most places.

Small sewing kit – Running repairs will be necessary on any trip when you have limited clothes to wear.  My tip – pick up a sewing kit from the hotel if you splurge one night!

Sink plug – whilst the travel ones are not quite perfect, they are good enough to keep enough water in the sink to do some washing. Handy to wash the three-day old socks out!

Peg-free washing line – This handy piece of elastic hangs between bushes, showers and anything you can improvise with. Just DON’T hang it off the sprinkler system!

Sleeping bag liner – sometimes in the nicest looking place outdoors, you find the bed sheets a bit suspect indoors. Always handy to have in case you don’t trust the sheets or just need a bit of extra warmth. To all those people at work who ask me if they can hire sleeping bags… this is essential!

Sarong – doubles up as beach towel, skirt for a night out and drying tool when your real towel is in the wash

The sarong in action during a break in diving

The sarong in action during a break between dives

Travel towel
– These are an acquired taste, but once you are used to them they are handy and take up less space than your conventional towel

Havaianas / waterproof flip-flops – A must for a lazy day pair of shoes and to wear in the shower

Water bottle carrier – I bought a simple small fabric bottle carrier in Peru and its proved invaluable. Great when you need to take water with you but don’t want a bag

Carabinas – Great for hanging off the front of your bag in case you need to ‘dangle’ anything backpacker style! The simple answer to packing when you are running late (or have too much stuff!)

Small Handbag / Man bag – This might seem like a luxury item, but I have a small handbag that I keep all my electrical chargers and cords in.  Then if I have a night out I empty them all out and use the bag!

Small head torch – hands free lighting is handy. You might look like you are going down a mine, but you don’t have to wear it on your head. You will be grateful for it when navigating to and in and out of a long drop toilet in a snowstorm via the light of the moon (I speak from experience!)

Tiny hairbrush – I would actually argue you could leave this one out really…

Waterproof jacket – not only good as a waterproof layer, they also act as a wind breaker and help keep you warm as part of a layering system. Layers, layers, layers…. The key to warmth!

Down jacket for cold climates – These keep you so toasty and warm, are light weight and  pack down to next to nothing.  Fantastic inventions!

Warmth at a fraction of the space

Warmth at a fraction of the space

In amongst all of this I usually take about four tops and four pairs of bottoms of varying sleeve and leg length. Before every big trip at least one person has asked how I pack for so long. In truth it’s simple – get the above items in and the rest is easy. Above all, we all like to buy souvenirs en route, so isn’t forgetting something important? If only as an excuse to go shopping on holiday!

Happy Packing!

–       Natalie

P.S I don’t have a weight record as such, but if you think this list is long, before the last trip I went away prepared for -30 degrees with 12.5kg of luggage. Not bad going! Don’t ask what I came back with…

Cold Feet

This is a big problem for me.  No matter how many pairs of socks I wear, my feet are often cold.  Cold feet, I’m cold, no fun for hubby! Merino socks have provided some kind of help… but they needed to be paired with a good boot!

So knowing we were travelling across Siberia during the winter, I set about researching good options.  I needed boots.  Warm. Dry. Light. Funky. Boots.  A challenge.  I mean everyone has a place when planning the trip right?  Dean was busy taking care of visas… filling in forms… dropping off passports…. all the fun stuff really?!?!?  So I decided my place was to take care of our shopping needs, and no better place to start than with boots.

Well the options were flooding in, but I kept coming back to two pairs.  The Ugg Adirondack boot  (don’t judge – this is no ordinary Ugg) and the Merrell Winterbelle boot.  If you know me, you know I like purple.  I have systematically transformed my husband’s wardrobe, to the point now where he actively chooses purple, so these boots were the obvious choice…  however there was nowhere to try them on.  Or so I thought.


So I set about a day-long mission to find the Ugg’s.  Well I found them… but in the wrong colour.  They were warm (and probably would still win the prize for the toastiest) and they were practical, but a nagging voice in my head was telling me they were just too valuable to take away.  What if someone pinched them whilst on a train somewhere?  My decision was made when the Ugg website and stores were sold out of my size for the 6 weeks prior to our trip, so that was it, they were out.


Then one random Thursday evening, Dean and I were wandering around ‘Street’ – a  shopping village near my Somerset base.  Bingo – there was  Merrell store (the only one in the country) and in it were my boots.  I put them on, and even Dean, who had been somewhat sceptical about the need for more yet more purple, stated with a wry smile that they were “pretty cool”.  So my Christmas pressie left with me and they are all ready to go.

So whoever said you can’t combine practically and style was wrong.  So far I have worn them around Somerset and they worked well.  Now the real test is about to start…..