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: TotalTravelBug.com or on Twitter @TotalTravelBug.

About the Author:

is the author of 226 posts on Go Backpacking.

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10 Comments

luna April 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I like #4! A long plane ride is a great way to brush up on your language, if you’re traveling to a place where they don’t speak your native language. I had a 16 hour flight to Japan in high school, and luckily I sat next to a group of students roughly my age who were also American exchange students. When we weren’t asleep, we passed the time discussing where we would be, what we would see, the cultural differences, and practicing our Japanese on each other. It made time fly, and it was a really fun to share such energetic feelings with someone else.
Very great post!

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TotalTravelBug April 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm

That sounds great. Journeys fly by when you make new friends and have new people to chat to!

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Sofia - As We Travel April 9, 2011 at 6:37 am

I always bring a book and put 2-3 movies on my lap top, and that will most often keep me busy for a 12 hour flight.

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Runaway Brit April 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Sleeping pills are a must! You should probably sit by the window though as your fellow passengers may get annoyed if they can’t wake you up when they need the toilet.

Other than that a few good books and movies on my laptop. It doesn’t matter how much stuff I have though I still always get bored :)

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TotalTravelBug April 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I still get bored too. I’ve just had a 16 hour flight and managed to watch 8 movies and even that didn’t keep me properly entertained!

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Dave April 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm

A female passenger sitting next to me on a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong offered me Valium before we took off.

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TotalTravelBug April 12, 2011 at 7:02 am

Haha, I once offered a lad a travel sickness tablet on a boat and he looked at me like I was a drug pusher, trying to get him addicted to crack!

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Annie April 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Great tips Monica!

I never thought about Eye Spy… haha that’s a great idea!

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Hana April 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm

When it comes to bringing laptops, my issue is I wouldn’t want to bring an expensive Macbook Pro or anything like that with me while I’m travelling. What sucks is that those laptops have the best battery life, lasting for up to 6+ hours; lower-grade PC laptops barely last an hour or two, at least IME. Can anyone give me advice on the battery life of netbooks? I’m looking into a small relatively cheap laptop/netbook to purchase for my travels. I would think a Kindle or Nook device stocked up with books and e-mags would also be handy so you don’t have to carry a bunch of physical books with you while traveling, especially if you’re backpacking or travelling light.

I also really appreciate the ‘exercise’ tip – I always forget to stretch and get up and walk around on long bus rides or flights, then I feel like crap afterward.

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Isabella September 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I am 10 years old and I have been on only 1 long flight which was direct from Wellington to Rome. This year my family is going to Bangkok and the flight shall take 12 hours. I need tips/ideas on how to survive it without buying upgrades, as they are too exspensive. Also I can never sleep on flights and tips on that would be very helpful too.

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