Modern airline advertisements lull you into this false sense of ease about international travel. They only ever show the guy leaning back into his seat on the flight with a glass of champagne, a content smile on his face, before he nods off into deep, baby-like sleep. Mellow classical music plays in the background.
Real life is nothing like that. You have to worry about a million things, including overbooked flights, fluids in your cabin baggage, weather, money changing, and that most dreaded final step: taking the taxi from the airport.
So the least you can do for your body and mind is to get some sleep on the plane. Therefore, before embarking on a recent trip abroad, I decided to do some research on efficient flight-sleeping. Most online tips and techniques made great common sense.
First, do nothing except sleep. No reading, listening or watching movies on the flight. If you are catching a mealtime flight, eat before you fly and ask the cabin crew to not wake you up for grub.
But how to get the perfect seat? How can you make sure you get a great seat with legroom and generous recline?
This is where Seatguru comes in.
Frequent flyers rave about the service on online platforms. And rightly so. Seatguru contains detailed listings of all possible seat locations for most airlines. Not all Indian airlines are covered, but it does have data for IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air India and Air India-Express.
Log on to the Seatguru website and give details of your airline and flight number. The site pulls up a diagram of the airline cabin and highlights the best and worst seats for your flight. Seats highlighted in green are good seats, yellow seats have some drawbacks and red seats are poor choices. The rest, in white, are just standard.
In my experience, Seatguru gets it better than the online check-in interface of many airlines. For instance, I had no idea that the absolute best seats on Jet Airways’ Chennai-Colombo flight (9W 252) were 17A and 17F. Because the seat positions in front of these two are empty, you have spectacular legroom. This takes out some of the trial and error while checking in online, when you often choose an over-wing seat, only to discover that it doesn’t recline.
Also helpful is VirtuallyThere, a website run by Sabre, the civil aviations services company. For many airlines, including Kingfisher, you can enter your booking details on the VirtuallyThere website to access flight details, place delay alerts, and find profiles and weather updates for your destination. VirtuallyThere also lets you create a personal profile and manage all your trip details in one location. Particularly useful if you want to give someone access to all your flight details in one location without mailing them multiple tickets.
Once you reach your destination, you can use services like Foursquare and Yelp to tell you what to do with your leisure time. Foursquare has apps for most handset platforms and can use assisted GPS, i.e., location from wireless towers, to tell you things to do around your current location (for instance, on my BlackBerry 8520, it currently tells me that I should investigate Oxford Bookstore, Palika Bazaar, or just go to Keventers in Connaught Place for a pineapple milkshake).
While India is still warming up to the Foursquare concept, travellers to the US and Europe should find plenty of tips and recommendations. Some cafés and bars even offer special deals to Foursquare users.
If you’re an iPhone user, you can find plenty more apps that can help in your travelling at www.apple.com/webapps/travel/
Next time, before you pack your bags to travel, spend a few minutes with your mobile phone or laptop. It could make your travels less traumatic and more fun.
Note: If you absolutely must listen to music on the flight, or there are crying babies, I highly recommend Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports album. Combined with some noise-cancelling headphones, it is the most legal means of achieving instant blackout.
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