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A Survivor’s Guide To Long-Haul Flights

Long-haul flights are exhausting, and not only because of the amount of time they take! Added to that the additional travel time to and from the airport and waiting times for boarding and connecting flights, it’s no wonder that many people shy away from long-haul flights altogether. There are, however, a number of ways to ease the hassle of flying for longer than six hours at a time, to make the journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Choose a direct flight

First of all, look for the most direct flight available to your destination. Not only does this ensure that you get there as quickly as possible, it also reduces the amount of time you have to wait in the airport for one or more connecting flights, not to mention the cumbersome process of boarding and disembarking multiple times! Finding a direct flight will also allow you to make the most of your time in the sky, whether you choose to catch up on sleep, reading a book or getting some work done.

First class or coach

Consider whether your budget will allow you to fly as comfortably as you can. Upgrading to business or first class can make a world of difference, offering you more leg room and personal space, as well as a wider range of options for food, drink and entertainment. More space will minimize the disturbances one can experience due to movement from other passengers. It will allow you to sleep better as well, which is important especially if the flight is overnight.

Where to seat

If budget or seat availability doesn’t allow for the luxury of upgrading, then take into careful consideration where you choose to sit. If movement is important to you, as well as easy access to toilet facilities, then you need to choose an aisle seat. However, if sleep and being disturbed as little as possible rate higher on the list, a window seat is what you need. This is especially the case if you are traveling by yourself.

Sit together

When traveling with family, and particularly young children, contact the airline to see if you can all sit together at the front of the cabin. Most airlines will do their best to accommodate families with young children so that they have as much room as possible, especially for infants. If you travel with your own carrier or car seat for the infant, you can easily use the fold down tray at the front of the cabin to secure your baby. Sometimes, an infant seat is provided, which eliminates the need to walk with any bulky items.

What to wear

Walk with a change of clothes to help you feel clean and refreshed when you arrive. Make sure that you wear clothing that is roomy and comfortable. Tight clothing can be irritating, and cabin pressure when flying can cause swelling of the legs and feet. Wear the most comfortable shoes for long walks to the boarding gate and when on the plane. Better yet, walk with a pair of long, fuzzy socks to keep your feet warm and comfortable during the flight, but still able to breathe.

Chasing the Best View of the Northern Lights – Iceland

One of the main attractions for visitors to Iceland is the opportunity for a sighting of the magnificent Northern Lights. Iceland is perfectly situated in the northern hemisphere to be able to offer excellent views and frequent sightings of this phenomenon. There are many ways to find the best locations, however, and this is key for an optimal experience.

Timing Is Everything

The best times of the year to see the Northern Lights, Iceland’s greatest light show, is between the months of October to March. It is especially important to select a location with consistently clear skies and one that is well away from any artificial city lights. Consequently, it is not unusual to be led to quite remotely located hotels if viewing the Aurora Borealis is your goal. As timing and location are everything, it is strongly advised to travel with expert specialised companies, who are skilled in creating the best possible experience for their guests.

Expert Guides

The lights may not be immediately apparent or visible to first time viewers, so it is a much more rewarding experience if you allow a local expert to guide you to the best known sighting locations at the most appropriate times. These guides are also very knowledgeable about the fascinating science behind the Northern Lights. Iceland also has a rich culture and history full of folklore and superstitions surrounding the lights, which many guides love to talk about. They will also be able to assist visitors in finding the best photography locations and opportunities to capture images of the lights.

Best Methods of Transportation

The country has a fairly rugged terrain that is best navigated by an expert. Most of the excursions will be via off-road trails in a four-wheel drive ‘super jeep’. These vehicles are equipped to handle the rough terrain and flexible enough to access some of the more remote areas, which provide the best viewing opportunities of the lights away from artificial lighting. Obviously, weather conditions will also affect viewing opportunities.

A Unique Experience

For many, the opportunity to view the mesmerising Aurora Borealis is a once in lifetime experience. However, for the best view of the Northern Lights, Iceland provides more than just an ideal location. From the stunning volcanic landscape and geographical spectacles, such as glaciers and geysers, to the exquisite cuisine, a visit to this incredible country is truly awe-inspiring. The slightly milder temperatures of the country (compared to other sighting locations), also makes the experience somewhat more comfortable and accessible for many.

Solo Travel Destinations – Fiji, Not Just for Honeymooners

If you think that Fiji is strictly for honeymooners, read on: Solo travelers are heading to Fiji for scuba diving and an array of options for an active vacation. If you survive “swimming with sharks”, intrepid solo travelers can always rappel down thirty feet next to a waterfall and then swim in a completely dark cave!

Long before tourists discovered Fiji, local legend credits Chief Lutunasobasoba with bringing the first settlers to the islands, apparently coming from Melanesia and Polynesia.

The earliest known contact with Europeans was with the Dutch in 1643. They were followed by British explorer Captain James Cook a century later. He became a permanent part of Pacific Island history when his name was given to the “nearby” Cook Islands, a popular vacation spot in the 21st century especially for New Zealanders. (When I visited them some time ago, the planes used for inter-island flights were so small that each passenger had to be weighed before taking off from Rarotonga on a 6 seater flight to Aitutaki!)

Fiji’s history includes a visit by the Mutiny on the Bounty’s Captain Bligh in 1789 while the French Revolution was occupying much attention on the opposite side of the world. The next century saw the arrival of missionaries primarily from Europe as well as numerous new residents from India.

Fiji’s diverse population has resulted in a warm and welcoming community that greets visitors with “Bula”, wishing them health and happiness. If Fiji looks familiar to you upon arrival, you may have “seen” it through the eyes of Hollywood in films such as “Castaway” with Tom Hanks or older classics with leading stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Senior.

Although getting there requires a long flight unless you live in Australia or New Zealand, it is well worth it. Inbound formalities are minimal. Most countries’ passport holders are automatically granted a four month visa upon arrival with proof of a passport valid for six months. Tourists can also obtain a refund of certain VAT taxes paid.

With the competing allure of so many other Pacific Island like Hawaii and Tahiti, what is special about Fiji, and why should single travelers go there?

Unlike the famed Hawaiian Islands, Fiji is comprised of an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Only about one-third are inhabited. This surely appeals to most travelers’ curiosity or maybe even the secret desire to claim an uninhabited island as their own?

Fiji’s sites for scuba diving and snorkeling are world-class with a reef only surpassed by Australia’s and New Caledonia’s barrier reefs. Known as Cakaulevu, it boasts at least one endangered species.

Beyond multiple world-class dive sites, rare Heliopora or blue corral can be found in Fiji at Rotuma.

Fiji has marine life such as species of turtles that date back more than 100 million years.

For fish aficionados, the islands can claim one fish that grows as tall as a man, the Napoleon Wrasse, which can reach 6 feet in length.

Colorful wildlife is abundant, including endangered species, like the curiously named “Monkey-faced Bat”.

Tourists can visit certain of the uninhabited islands. However, some are less uninhabited than others. One such “uninhabited” island, Yanuca Lailai/Lost Island, does have at least one tourist resort.

Commuting between islands is via boat or small airplanes; however, international flights arrive in Suva, Fiji’s capital, on the island of Viti Levu. Tourists quickly flock to its top beach at Natadola while white water enthusiasts can also find rafting nearby. Beyond pristine beaches, Beqa Island, just one hour away from Viti Levu, provides a chance to see traditional firewalking.

There are multiple other options for those traveling alone:

Yasawa Island’s Sawa-I-lau Caves are a major tourist site. It is possible to swim in a sunlit cave one moment and the next to be swimming in a neighboring cave in complete darkness. While still in the Yasawa Islands, you can swim with sharks or manta rays depending upon your sense of adventure.

From there, it is time for even more adventures: parasailing on Denaura Island, rappelling 300 feet into the Tau Caves or ziplining high above the towering palm trees.