How to Survive a 12-Hour Journey

by Guest Blogger on April 6, 2011 · 10 comments

The following is a guest post by Monica Stott. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines.

A Malaysian Airlines jumbo jet

A Malaysian Airlines jumbo jet.

I love travelling. I love meeting new people, seeing new places and exploring new cultures. The bad thing about travelling is…well, the travelling part.

I’ve had more than my fair share of 12-hour, 24-hour and even 36-hour journeys.

They are usually a mixture of buses, coaches, ferries, trains, taxis and planes, and every time I pick up a few extra tips to make it slightly more bearable.  What follows are my tips for how to survive a long journey.

1. Make Friends With Your Fellow Passengers

If there’s anything that makes time go faster, it’s chatting with fellow travellers and swapping travel tales and tips. Or even better, find a local who can offer some local advice.

2. Sit At the Front

I still have a teenage instinct that kicks in whenever I get on a bus and it pulls me towards the back seat like a magnet. The ‘cool kids’ may have sat on the back seat in school, but during a long journey you’re much better off at the front.

There’s nearly always more leg room, there’s less chance you’ll get travel sick, you get a better view and you’ll be first off the bus and first in the queue for the toilet.

Check out Seat Guru for the best seat on a plane.

3. Entertainment Options

Having a laptop expands your options massively. As long as you have a decent battery life you can watch movies and play games (with headphones!) for more than half your journey. If you don’t have a laptop, stick to a good old fashioned book, crosswords, puzzles, papers, magazines.

A pack of cards can keep you entertained for hours and will also attract other travellers (see point 1). If you’re the trusting type, swap iPods with other travellers for some new tunes.

And I don’t care how old you are, Eye Spy never fails to entertain for at least half an hour. You can play this with anyone of any age and it can be a fun way to learn the language.

4. Be Productive

A long journey can often feel like a waste of a day unless you use your time wisely and do some of those tasks you’ve been putting off.

Write some postcards or letters, learn some local phrases, organise your photos and delete the rubbish ones, write in your journal and if you write a blog, take the chance to write some posts in advance.

You can also grab a guidebook and plan what you want to do in your new destination.

Overnight train in Vietnam

An overnight train through Vietnam.

5. Buy an Inflatable Cushion

If you plan to catch up on some sleep during the journey, a cushion is a must, not only for comfort but to avoid your head resting on the random person next to you.

Those U-shaped cushions are great to stop your head lolling around like a puppet, but I prefer a rectangular one as they double up as a bum cushion during those long journeys on bumpy roads!

6. Take a Jumper or Sarong

If it’s hot outside, you may be lucky enough to have an air-conditioned vehicle in which case it can get chilly after a few hours. If not, you can roll it up and use it as a cushion.

7. Take Healthy Snacks

You’ll obviously want a goodie bag full of snacks for your trip, but try to avoid sweet or salty snacks. They may be tasty and convenient but they’ll leave you dehydrated and a sugar rush is the last thing you need whilst in a cramped space.

Dried fruit, fresh fruit and water are your best bets.

8. Exercise

Yes, do those exercises they always tell you to do on an airplane and take a little walk as often as possible. You’ll avoid DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and it’ll perk you up a little bit.

9. Safety

Keep your valuables close and beware that theft on buses is common. If your bag is small enough, use it as a pillow while you sleep and keep your passport and money in a money belt around your waist.

10. Take Baby Wipes

Whenever I pull out a pack of baby wipes, I always end up handing them out to all the other travellers on the bus. They’ll quickly freshen you up and make you feel a bit more human.

And if all else fails…take a few sleeping tablets and you’ll be there before you know it!


About the Author: Monica Stott caught the travel bug when she was just 10 years old and is currently on a 2 year trip around the world. You can read her tales at: or on Twitter @TotalTravelBug.

About the Author:

is the author of 255 posts on Go Backpacking.

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please reference the author's byline in the post above for more information. If you would like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines. For information on advertising opportunities, go here.

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