In This Issue
- Keeping Safe When Flying
- Beating Jet Lag
- Best And Worst Airports For Making Connecting Flights
- Options To Sped Up Getting Through U.S. Immigration
Keeping Safe While Flying
Note: In the times of the Covid pandemic there is actually a bit of good news for air travelers. First, people are much more aware of the risks of contagion when flying and the airlines are taking more precautions. Also with all the emphasis on mask wearing you will no longer stick out in a crowd if you use masking as a precaution. While some airlines were requiring N95 masks to fly it’s a good idea to embrace the idea. You can find the N95 masks HERE. Likewise because of increased airline sanitation it is becoming less likely that you will pick up a bug from flying. It’s still recommended that you don’t let your guard down though.
Even cruising often requires a flight to get to the ship and some of these can be really long distance flights. This exposes that love-hate side to travel. Getting there is great but traveling there not so much. Long distance flights are usually no fun at all, especially if you fly coach and with a price difference on international flights as high as ten times, many feel the pain is worth the price savings.
It’s often suggested to get up and walk around to help circulation but that is just not practical on night flights where you are stuck between two or three people on a wide body jet. The cabin crew isn’t pleased either with isle walkers getting in their way.
You can find some relief if you plan ahead on those long flights, especially if your cramped in coach. One area of particular concern is the toll it can take on your circulation. It isn’t unusual to discover that your ankles swell and maybe even hurt on and after a long flight. While the risk of developing blood clots on a flight is pretty low, it does go up with age and as travel length increases.
A lot of athletes and seniors already know the solution. Ask you doctor and he’ll tell you to wear compression socks. These stockings help increase circulation and reduce the risk of swelling or worse, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and clotting on long flights.
An excerpt from the Mayo Clinic explains, “Compression stockings steadily squeeze your legs, helping your veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently. They offer a safe, simple and inexpensive way to keep blood from stagnating.” Find them HERE.
Masks and Nose Filters
Another concern with flying is getting trapped in that enclosed environment along with a number of people sneezing and coughing. It’s not uncommon to come down with a flu or cold within a few days of a long flight. One approach is to do what a lot of Asian flyers do and wear a face mask (with Covid that is getting much more acceptable). While it may seem odd to see an entire group exiting a plane wearing surgical masks, it does have a practical side. Another option is to use nose filters. They’re discreet little adhesive pads with HEPA filters that you stick to each nostril. There are several kinds with one called First Defense. You can find them on Amazon and Ebay. There are a number of competitors out there including 3M and WoodyKnows that claim to offer the same protection.
Sanitize Sanitize Sanitize
Another practice that has become common after the recent pandemic is using hand sanitizer. While airlines claim to sanitize the area around seats there’s no harm in doing a little sanitizing of your own. Spritz the trays, control panel and seat arms as a minimum.
Another lesson that now gets a lot more attention is keeping your hands off your face as much as possible. The most common way to catch and spread a virus is to give it access to your mucus membranes. Mouth, nose and especially your eyes, and it’s remarkably easy for your hands to pick up a bug off surfaces. In the case of most bugs they can’t gain access to your body without contacting a mucus membrane. Not touching your face is really important but washing your hands frequently is a must too.
Jet Lag –
The Modern Curse Of Air Travel
In the last dozen or two years we have made a number of international trips. There have been times when we hardly experienced jet lag at all, but a few trips took days to recover. Our experience has taught us a few things including what causes the worst jet lag. It seems that traveling east causes more problems with jet lag than traveling west. We also believe that what time the flight starts can have a big impact on how serious jet lag will be. Generally late evening flights are the better than morning flights especially on long trips. Our biggest issue is usually insomnia with the worst being a Singapore to Florida trip that literally took a four days to readjust from.
The most serious issue is flying across time zones where your body times evening becomes the destinations morning (or other way round). In addition to insomnia there is often gastrointestinal issues, and you can experience difficulty concentrating.
Instead of just letting it happen you can reduce jet lag by preparing for your flight and making sure during your flight you get as much sleep as possible. After the flight spend as much time as you can out in the sunshine to quickly adjust to the local time.
Here’s what the experts suggest:
Before Your Flight
Adjust Your Schedule
A few days before the trip adjust sleeping and eating schedule. Depending on the trip start a couple of days to up to a week before the flight. Traveling east, go to bed between one and two hours earlier each night. Traveling west, go to bed one or two hours later in the days before the flight. This gives your body a chance to adjust to new time zones ahead of time.
The same applies to your eating a few days before your flight. Change meal times closer to when people eat at the destination so your body gets used to the new meal times. If dinner time is several hours behind in your destination, have your dinner an hour or two earlier than usual.
To reduce stress on your system avoid coffee and alcohol a day before your flight. Studies have shown that drinking coffee and alcohol before you fly can make your jet lag worse. Try to stay away from coffee and alcohol before you are set to fly. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water leading up to your flight.
Carry a water bottle and fill it in the departure area. You can also have the bottle filled on the plane so you can stay hydrated while in the air.
Book Flights At The Right Times
Whenever possible book an overnight flight. This allows you to have dinner at a normal time in the evening making it easier to sleep on the flight during the night. Depending on your destination, you then arrive in the morning after an overnight flight having gotten some sleep. This makes adjusting to the new time zone once you land much easier. Try to avoid long flights where you land in the evening as these can aggravate jet lag.
Change your watch to the timezone of your destination when you board your flight. If you wear a watch, change the time so it matches the timezone of your destination. You can also adjust the clock on your cellphone. Doing this will help you get accustomed to the new timezone and ready for a new sleeping and eating schedule.
Get Rest During Your Flight
Airlines seem to want to distract passengers during a flight and often provide food, snacks and drinks and often show movies in flight. Even if it’s a movie you wanted to see, is it worth suffering serious jet lag for a day or two afterwords? Travel with a pillow and eye mask. It’s really important that you get some sleep on the plane. You could also pack headphones or earplugs to block out noise or distractions on the flight.
Taking Sleeping Pills
Only take sleeping pills during the flight if you are used to using them. If you are not used to them or taking too many can make you feel groggy when you land, and could end up making your jet lag even worse. Discuss this with your doctor before taking a sleeping pill during your flight.
Try and Get Some Exercise
Get out of your seat some and walk in the aisle of the plane, especially during a long flight. Doing light exercise and moving your body can help improve your blood circulation on the flight. It can also help you get to sleep more easily.
Avoiding Jet Lag Once You Land
Get Outside Once You Reach Your Destination*
It’s important to get some exposure to natural sunlight. Light exposure regulates your body’s circadian rhythm and helps you adjust to your new location. If you traveled westward, go outside in the evening so your system realizes it’s late. If you traveled eastward, in the morning get exposed to sunlight early in the day.
*Avoid going outside if you’ve traveled more than eight time zones. If you’ve traveled more than eight time zones to the east, wear sunglasses and stay away from bright light in the morning. Then, try to get as much sunlight as possible in the afternoon.
If you traveled more than eight time zones to the west, avoid outdoor light a few hours before dark for the first few days so you system can adjust to the local time.
Eat At The Local Time
Once at your destination, try to have meals at the local time so your system can adjust. If you land at night, for example, have dinner at the local time. If you land in the morning, have breakfast at the local time.
If you find yourself getting hungry between meals times, have snacks to keep you satisfied. Only have large meals at the local time so you can adjust better to the new time. Keep hydrated. Make sure you have a lot of water with your meals. Dehydration can make your jet lag much worse.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule.
You should sleep based on the local time and stick to a “normal” sleep schedule. This will make your jet lag less intense and help your body better adjust to the new time zone. If you land in the early evening, stay awake until the late evening so you can go to sleep at the new appropriate time. If you get in early in the day, stay awake until the evening so again your sleep time matches the local time.
Take Melatonin To Help You Sleep
If you struggle with going to sleep in the new time zone, consider taking melatonin. Melatonin is a nonprescription drug that has been shown to help set your internal clock and make going to sleep much easier. Having 3 milligrams of melatonin before bed for several days after arrival can help regulate your sleep schedule. Again talk to your doctor about taking melatonin before you go on your trip.
The Worlds Best And Worst Airports For Making Connecting Flights
Calculating airport time is always a major part of travel planning. Arriving an hour before your flight can often not be nearly enough time. When booking flights that include connections what’s the minimum time you need to make it to the next departure gate? Trying to avoid a tight connection could leave you with extra hours in the airport but missing the connection can cost a whole day. When booking a cruise or package tour often you are dependent on their booking office unless you’re willing to pay an up-charge.
After you’ve missed enough connections you start paying attention to which airports are the worst and which are the best for making those connections. In looking at reviews of airports there are some common threads that help define the best and worst. The better airports for connections have a high rate of on-time departures and arrivals, good layouts and internal transportation, well staffed security and passport checkpoints and a reputation for assisting people with tight connections. Following are the results of a 2019 study of airports and their connecting times.
Worst Airports For Making a Connecting Flight
- Madrid Adolfo Suarez – Barajas Airport (MAD) +1.75 Hours
- Frankfurt International (FRA): +1.5 Hours
- London Heathrow (LHR): +1.5 Hours
- Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG): +1.25 Hours
- Shanghai Pudong International (PVG): +1.2 Hours
- Los Angeles International (LAX): +1 Hour
- Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD): +1 Hour
- Tokyo Narita International (NRT): +1 Hour
- Boston Logan International (BOS): +1 Hou
Best Airports for Making a Connecting Flight
- Zurich Airport (ZRH): <10 minutes
- Salt Lake City International (SLC): <15 minutes
- Tampa International (TPA): <15 minutes
- Orlando International (MCO): <15 minutes
- Charlotte Douglas International (CLT): <20 minutes
- Denver International (DEN): <20 minutes
- London Stansted (STN): <20 minutes
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL): <25 minutes
- Dubai International (DXB): <25 minutes
- Hong Kong International (HKG): <25 minutes
This won’t guarantee you can avoid missing connections but it can go a long way when planning that trip.
Of course there had to be an App to help. If you fly a lot FlightConnections can be a real asset. So don’t waste hours searching airports, airlines, flights and connections. Download FlightConnections! On The App Store or Google Play.
- Interactive Flight Route Map.
- Plan a trip based on your preferred departure airport.
- Find new, nearby airports on the map.
- Filter by airline or travel alliance.
- Discover airline routes and flight schedules / timetables.
- Compare direct flights or connecting flights.
- Show connecting flights with one or two stops.
- Show connecting flights with different airlines, or the same airline only.
- Find cheap flights and book flight tickets for the best price available.
Options On Getting Through U.S. Immigration & Customs
A bit of an introduction to our adventures with Customs and Immigration. Before a few years ago, when returning to the United States, there weren’t a lot of choices, so we would fill out our custom form, pick a line (always the slowest moving) and wait for our turn with an agent. Rarely did things go quickly. Today there are a number of travel options for speeding up those processes dealing with the government.
- TSA Pre-Clearance – Costs $85 and gets you through airport security with a faster screening.
- Global Entry – Costs $100 and gives you a fast-pass through immigration and includes TSA-Pre.
- Nexus– Costs $50 and allows Americans and Canadians fast immigration checks at airports and boarder crossings.
- Sentri – Costs $122.50, is similar to Nexus and includes Mexicans.
A couple of years ago we discovered Mobile Passport and added the app to our phones and it really did get us quickly through immigration. Over a year ago we decided that we would apply for Global Entry since in 2020 we would be leaving and re-entering the country at least five times and would be flying with a number of airlines that did not normally provide us with TSA Pre-Clear.
Well, 2020 didn’t work out as planned and we haven’t left the country yet. In addition my wife got Global Entry and and I’m still waiting to be allowed an interview.
When my wife went in for her Homeland Security interview we spent some time talking with agents and came away with some good suggestions. The agents recommendation was to get the Mobile Passport app even if you have Global Entry. While it doesn’t provide for TSA-Pre it often gets you through immigration faster than even Global Entry and at $15 a year it’s well worth it for frequent international travelers. One comment they had was often the system on their side doesn’t work, they still just wave Mobile Passport people through.
Did you know there’s an App for that?
While we were excited some time ago with the self-service kiosks that were being installed at a number of locations. After a few times through that system we realized this wasn’t the answer to our prayers. It just didn’t happen that fast. You had to scan your passport and everyone had to do it – not just the head of household. You had to get your picture taken by the kiosk than respond to CBP inspection questions and submit biographic information, whatever that was. After that you were given a printout strip and than you went and stood in line again anyway.
While traveling we have come to realize that some other countries have figured out how to get people thru the process. Our favorite is Australia – scan your passport at a kiosk, tick off a couple answers and show the receipt to the nice person as you exit. Maybe the online visa Australia makes you get helps them with the process though? Somehow going thru our CPB process doesn’t make me feel any safer coming into the U.S. than entering Australia
The Real Solution
Starting two years ago we started using the U.S. CBP approved App Mobile Passport. First you have to download the Mobile Passport App on your iPhone or Android device, it’s free. Use the App to scan your passport and save the information to the system.
Here’s what to do when you arrive back in the U.S. using the Mobile Passport website. Once you are at your port of entry (airport or sea port), open the app and connect to wireless or wi-fi, fill out the information and click to submit your data to CBP. Remember: when you submit, you are confirming under penalty of law that your information is correct. Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours.
Next follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and they scan the barcode on the digital CBP receipt. And that’s it!
The system is currently active at twenty-four U.S. airports and three cruise ports with more planned.
After the first year we had to pay a $15 annual subscription fee in order for the Mobile Passport to continue to store your passport information but we now consider that a small price to pay.