What’s In My Carry-On

Deciding what to pack in a carry-on can be a daunting task for the inexperienced traveler, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think! If you want to walk through security with ease, keep your carry-on baggage to a minimum. Keep jewelry to a minimum and leave most in your checked luggage to avoid setting off the alarm and keep your bag organized so that you can unload what needs to be unloaded quickly and minimizing that flustered feeling of having everything falling out all over the place.

I have a few items that are always in my carry-on.

carry on essentials

1. Passport – a no brainer. Keep your passport safe and on you at all times during your pre-departure and flight.

2. A small packet of facial wipes lets you remove makeup before a long flight and feel refreshed after a red eye flight. Keeping makeup to a minimum is a good idea to let your skin breath and to avoid dull skin when you land.

3. Headphones are a must for me, at all times. I’m often on overnight flights and I have a calming playlist ready to go that helps me to fall asleep and block out any noises from the people around me. Listening to a bunch of people snoring in close proximity is not the ideal situation for sleep.

4. An eye mask is another essential item to help you get the best sleep you can on a plane. You’ve got the headphones to block out the noise and the eye mask to keep out the light.

5. Vitamin C Energising Face Spritz from The Body Shop. This is the perfect travel size (100ml) and is great not only to help keep your makeup in place for day to day use but keeps your skin from looking dull after a flight and is an instant pick me up that refreshes the skin. Plus a quick blast of cool spray on the face helps to wake you up.

6. My skin is notoriously dry and having a mini hand lotion keeps my skin soft and smooth and a good lip chap keeps them from drying and splitting, especially after sitting in a plane for a long period of time with less drinking water than I’m used to. Planes and long flights are a breeding ground for dehydration and dry skin. Drink up and moisturize!

7. A novel can keep me entertained for hours. I prefer to read the old-fashioned way with a real book in my hand, despite the extra space and weight it takes up. But if you are tight for space and want to carry multiple books with you, a kindle is the way to go.

Though not shown or mentioned here, having some healthy snacks is always a good idea. Nuts/seeds or dried fruits are great non-perishables for flights to perk up your energy and hush a starving belly.

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Sunday Snapshot: Above the Clouds

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There’s no feeling like that of an airplane taking off into the setting sun. Today’s sunday snapshot is a photo that I took today on my flight home from a weekend with an old friend. Views like this are just one of the reasons why I love the window seat!

So You’ve Got a Reaaallly Long Flight… Now What?!

“When you get into an airplane by yourself and take off,
you find yourself in this lovely, three-dimensional world
where you can go in any direction. There is no
feeling any more exciting than that,”
– Gene Roddenberry

The harsh reality of travel (for some) is that it can quite literally take days to arrive at your destination, even by plane. For those on a budget, this is even more of a reality in which you end up having to take a plane, bus, and donkey just to get from one city to another in order to save a couple dollars. Even without all of the transportation switch-ups, it can take a 24 hour flight to get from, say, Canada to Australia. So you’ve decided where you want to go and that no amount of distance can stop you. Congratulations! You won’t regret it, but there are a few things you can do to make the travel time a little better.

1. Stay hydrated!
It can be easy to forget to drink when you’re on a flight because you’re not particularly exerting yourself. Take advantage of those little cups of water that come around every so often, but also try to bring a larger amount of water for yourself. We should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day and it makes all the difference. Once you land, your skin won’t appear so dull and tired as it might feel.

Also, carry facial wipes to wipe your face on the flight. This will remove excess dirt and oil from the day and it’s just better for your skin to breath without makeup blocking up your pores.

2. Dress for comfort.
I’m always one to dress for comfort on planes. Leggings, a comfy top, a sweater in case it gets chilly (and it always does!). A scarf makes for an excellent accessory to use as a cushion for your head or blanket to keep warm.

Wear clothes that allow your body to sit comfortably, to fall asleep in without snagging, squeezing, or being generally annoying.

Pick shoes that are easy to slip on and off. If you’re on a long flight, slipping off your shoes is wonderful.

If you can dress for comfort and style at the same time, then do it! It will help you look and feel a little more put together after sitting around for 10+ hours, in and out of sleep.

3. Move around.

Try not to stay seated the entire time. This can lead to sore muscles, stiff joints, and a numb butt. Stand up, walk around, do a few simple stretched to get your limbs loose and your blood flowing.

4. Entertainment

There is nothing worse than being stuck on a 10 hour flight with no form of entertainment. Not all aircrafts come with TVs on the seats (you may want to check for this when booking a flight). Other forms of entertainment include books, ipads/tablets, games on your phone, music, pen and paper if you like to draw or write, and of course the tried and true… CARDS! Pull out a deck of cards and be friendly, chat with the person sitting next to you (as long as they’re not trying to sleep).

5. Make your meal requests beforehand.

If you have specific dietary concerns (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergies, etc.), its important to mention this before the flight. Usually you are able to do this during the booking process and thankfully most airlines are accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or preferences.

6. Opt for food that is light and healthy prior to boarding.

You don’t want to be stuck in close proximity to a bunch of other passengers with your stomach feeling like it’s been loaded full of rocks.

7. Try to sleep.

If I will be arriving to my destination during the evening, then I usually do my best to stay awake for as much of the flight as I can. This helps me pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow at my accommodation.

If you’re arriving during the day, it’s important to try and sleep during your flight. Both of these suggestions help to reduce jet lag. To help get you to sleep, I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs. These are incredibly useful on the flight and if you are staying in shared accommodations like hostels.

What I wouldn’t suggest bringing is a blow up pillow that wraps around your neck. They really aren’t that great and it’s just an added thing to have to carry around with you afterwards.

Some travelers opt for sleeping pills to help them nod off. Melatonin is a more natural sleeping aide that has helped me in the past. I’ve also used Ambien on my flight home from Thailand, which was a little miracle. However, I probably wouldn’t take any type of sleeping aides on my first long-haul flight unless I knew how my body reacted to them already.

8. Handle Turbulence and Nausea.

Not only does turbulence make some folks jittery, it can also cause nausea. Again, refrain from eating fatty foods before the flight. Excess fat plus turbulence can lead to stomach troubles. Same goes for carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Picking a seat in the middle of the plane, by the wing, will result in feeling less turbulence than sitting in the far back or front.

Ginger pills are a natural option for preventing nausea. Take them before take-off and landing.

Practicing some deep breathing exercises can also help clear your mind and calm your body.

9. Relax :)

You can’t change the circumstances of your flight. Accept this, sit back and relax. Don’t forget, there is bottle service for those who like to have an alcoholic beverage or two. Try not to drink too much though, as you can end up feeling even more exhausted after a flight thanks to the alcohol dehydrating your body. There is always a journey to be had before arriving to your destination so you might as well try and enjoy it.

Do you have any other helpful ways to make a long flight better?

How To Make The Airport A Little More Fun.

I love airports. I mean I really, truly, love them. My longest time in an airport was ten hours but I’m certain I could spend an entire day in one and never get bored of it. Airports are a beautiful place, they’re filled with some of my favorite things. Some people are departing on an exciting adventure and I am always curious as to where they’re heading and why. Others are returning from a place just as mysterious with a look of mixed feelings — happy to be home and in the presence of their loved ones, yet sad that their time away is over. Emotions run high no matter which way you look. People are embracing, seeing friends or family that they haven’t seen in a while. Young travelers have their backpacks strapped to their backs, looks of excitement and fear plastered on their face at the prospect of their first adventure abroad. People are tearfully wishing people a safe flight and others are joyfully greeting someone returning home.

For a lot of people, airports are the tedious part of travel. It’s something that is required, with all sorts of rules and restrictions that seem to get stricter every time you set foot in one. Not only that, but then you have to find your gate which can be a nightmare in a foreign airport, and then you have to wait. God forbid. Lucky for you, I do have a few things you can do to make your airport experience a little less stressful.

1. Check-in Online.
Checking in online saves you loads of time at the check-in counter. Once you make your way to the row of airline professionals ready to check your luggage and hand you your boarding pass, you get to go to the line designated for the folks who checked in online, before arriving at the airport. Checking in online is a simple process. You provide some information, all found on your travel itinerary that you receive after booking your flight. Get into this line, which is often  much shorter than the regular line. Step on up, exchange your luggage for your boarding pass, and off you go to security.

all aboard!

2. Security Tips.
– You are not allowed to take any drinks with you through security. If you have a drink, chug it and leave it behind. You can purchase snacks and drinks on the other side of security that you are allowed to bring on a plane with you.

– If you are bringing any form of liquid with you through security, check before hand that it is in a container that is 100 mL or less. If it’s not, transfer some into a smaller container or pack it away in your checked luggage. Otherwise, it will be confiscated.

– Be prepared to take out all of your things and place them in the little bins for scanning. Shoes comes off, laptops come out, coats, belts, and anything that will react to the metal detector must be placed in the bins. When walking through the detector, it’s just you, your clothes and socks. If you’re traveling with a pet, you need to walk and/or carry your pet out of it’s carrier with you through the detector.

– Have your ID and boarding pass ready to show at security. Don’t have it lost at the bottom of your purse, have it in your hand so you can just flash your info and be on your way.

3. Dress to make yourself happy.
Okay, now that the most tedious aspects of your airport experience is covered, let’s talk about fashion. When I say dress comfortably, I don’t mean to dress like a slob. Dressing in your pajama pants and your hair all over the place never makes me feel good in public (maybe when I’m comfy and at home, but not in public). You can dress comfortably but still look good. Leggings with a cute shirt, a cardigan, flats or boots and a hint of makeup is a look that’s easily achieved and comfortable but also looks somewhat put together. Make sure that whatever you are wearing is breathable, allows you to move and sit comfortably for a long period of time, and is well suited to the weather that you are heading to. I live in Canada, so when I’m leaving in the dead of winter to somewhere hot, I wear something warm to the airport, pack a nice change of clothes in my carry-on and make a quick outfit change after security so that when I reach my destination, I’m not sweating buckets.

waiting

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re new to an airport or this is your first trip out in the world alone (or with a friend), don’t be afraid to ask for directions! On my first trip abroad, I asked an airport worker which way my gate was after every turn. Who cares? You haven’t asked them before, they don’t know you just asked five people before them, and they are always more than willing to point you in the right direction. This is always so helpful if you feel nervous, stressed, or are completely lost in an airport, especially when you’re running late!

5. Give yourself time.
This is one of the most important things I can say. Give yourself lots of time!!! If you don’t give yourself enough time, no amount of organization is going to make your experience less stressful because you’ll STILL be in a rush! If you are going on an international flight, arrive 2-3 hours prior to your departure time. If it’s a national flight, I would arrive 1 – 1 and a 1/2 hours before boarding time.

plane's arrival

6. Plan to have fun!
Airports can be a fun place, I promise. Whether you are with friends or traveling solo, there are always restaurants where you can grab food or a few drinks if you have time to kill — whether you arrived way too early or your flight was delayed. There’s tons of little shops to pop in and out of, browsing if you’re on a backpacker’s budget or buying a few trinkets or treats for the plane ride. If you’re feeling bare faced or grungy, take yourself into the duty free makeup area and the ladies and gents there will be thrilled to give you a mini makeover.. or you can do it yourself. Grab a lipstick, a swipe of liner, and a spritz of the newest perfume and you’re golden.

Sit and watch all of the beautiful planes take off. I love doing this: watching it slowly move it’s way down the runway, gathering speed and then off it goes, pushing off into the sky and disappearing before your very eyes, never knowing where it might be headed.  If you’ve done this all already, do it again (at least the drinks, always have another drink) or grab the book you packed (because you were smart and planned ahead) and dive into a fictional world to speed up time. People watch — airports are probably one of the very best places for people watching. Catch up on some much needed “you” time. Meditate and be mindful, write in your beautiful new travel journal, paint your nails, have a nap, dare I say grab another drink?

Have you got any tips to add? Share in the comments below!

Thailand Travel Misadventure/Bucket List: Fly First Class

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths
and untrodden depths of the wilderness
and travel and explore and tell the world
the glories of our journey,”
– John Hope Franklin

I was supposed to fly home on a Tuesday. Three days later and I was still wandering the streets of Bangkok, not by choice. I guess you should be careful what you wish for. Only days before leaving Koh Tao I was saying how desperately I wished I had more time in Thailand, how I really did not want to go home. I got what I wished for, just not under the circumstances that I was dreaming about. It all began when I arrived in Bangkok, after a ferry and a bus from Koh Tao, in the middle of the night. It was only then that I realized that my passport was still back at the resort and that I had traveled across sea and land without even thinking about it. In my panic, I stayed awake until four in the morning, making frantic phone calls to my insurance company, the resort, the Canadian government in Ottawa. My passport was a bus and ferry ride away and I was supposed to catch my flight home in thirteen hours.

After numerous meltdowns in the internet cafe, my voice catching so badly that the kind man on the other end of the line was having a hell of a time understanding me and all the Thai folks on the computer staring at me like I was a martian, I had gotten absolutely nowhere. Feeling completely helpless, I walked back to my guesthouse for a quick two hour sleep before getting myself to the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok. As I left my room that morning, I gave myself a pep talk. All would be good, it was part of the adventure, what’s a few more days in Thailand? Then my tuk tuk driver told me he had no clue where he was going, told me to find it on the map and show him. It was not on the map. This one small thing made me start crying all over again. So much for my morning pep talk. By the time the tuk tuk driver found the place, he had made me laugh and was telling jokes and I felt much better. It was all going to work out.

I spent the next two hours waiting, talking to a lady who also, coincidentally, had to ask me to please calm down because she couldn’t understand me through my sobs, and finally making some progress. Two more hours later, my flight was changed for three days later.

Don’t get too excited, all was not well.

I was confirmed for the flights from Bangkok to Taipei and Vancouver to Edmonton, but I was waitlisted for Taipei to Vancouver. A bit of an important part of the flight, right? Over the next few days, I called the airline company numerous times only to be told the same thing. I was still waitlisted. It was Thursday, the day my flight had been changed to and they told me I wouldn’t be able to take the flight because, again, I was still on the wait list. The only thing that could be done was that each day, they would put me at the top of the wait list again and again, day after day, but they couldn’t tell me how long it would be before I got through. Could have been two days, a week, two weeks.

So, I took matters into my own hands. I ended up calling my parents in the middle of the night their time. Hearing my voice on the machine, my mom picked up to listen to me panic about what to do and we laughed over how crazy it all was. I decided to say screw it and book an entirely new flight home. Everything seemed fine until an hour later I received an email asking to confirm my purchase by emailing a photocopy of my passport as well as the front and back of my credit card. Well, that was weird. Someone could easily steal my identity with that information. I called the number five times, each time the line went funny and wouldn’t go through. I emailed, no reply. Eventually, I said screw it again and booked another ticket, through a company I had actually heard of and sent a firm email to the previous company telling then I refused to send that information and to cancel my purchase. Thankfully, I quickly got a reply then confirming that it was cancelled.

Finally, I had a flight booked for five o’clock AM on Friday, only six hours later. Or so I thought.

I paid the taxi, walked to the check-in, handed up my bags, ready to go. Only to be given a strange look from the lady  behind the counter and told ‘I’m very sorry, but it says here that your ticket is for tomorrow morning, not today.’ I was adamant, insisting that no, my ticket was for Friday, July 27th, today. But ‘no, I’m sorry, that’s tomorrow. Today is Thursday, the 26th.’ I insisted so much that it was Friday that she physically pointed up to the screen that clearly read ‘Thursday, July 26th, 3:30AM.’

Honestly, how much could I possibly mess up? Frustrated, I went back to the guesthouse in Bangkok, only to find out that within the two hours I was gone it had become completely booked. Thankfully, things ended well for me. I caught my flight on Friday morning and finally, a stroke of well-deserved good luck came upon me. Just as I was about to sit in my economy class seat(a really terrible seat too, middle seat of the aisle row) a stewardess came and showed me a slip of paper, asking if that was my name. It was. ‘I’m really sorry, but economy class is overbooked. You have been upgraded to executive business class instead, if you could follow me. I’m sorry to disrupt you.’ Sorry! To disrupt me to move from my crappy seat to first class? I was thrilled! Delighted, I followed her to my seat, 5A. My own little cubicle of a seat, nobody to disturb me. A blanket that wasn’t scratchy, a pillow that was fluffier, free wine and champagne flowing, a real meal when I was meant to have none(I didn’t pay for any meals in my economy class) and a seat that reclined all the way back. After watching a movie and taking two sleeping tablets, I was peacefully asleep for the next eight hours, only woken up by the kind steward shaking me awake to offer me my breakfast and tea. They even address you by your name! Miss Belair, this and Miss Belair that. It was absolutely wonderful and I woke up with no kink in my neck at all.

In all the times that I have traveled anywhere, I have been lucky. I have never been mugged, nothing has ever been stolen from my bag in a hostel(except for my towel… gross), I had never lost anything. So I guess my third summer abroad, it was about time to add a little bit of stressful excitement. But, it was all worth it to get a first class seat for that ten hour flight!