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  • Suzanne Radford

How to Survive Travelling by Air – Wear Lots of Hats!

Do you find air travel fun or has it become a chore? We might be excited about the destination but with all the best-laid plans – delays, long queues and navigating the different rules and terminals as per the country you are entering it can make the whole journey stressful.

Earlier this year I travelled to Sydney on a work trip writing and gathering content on Australia’s Manuka honey for Balqees honey. My departure airport was Faro, Southern Portugal, via Lisbon with a 36-hour layover in Dubai planned to break the journey and catch up with friends. It’s a long way to go and I tripped on the first leg!

What hats to wear on a long-haul flight

Travel agent – I travel a lot and mostly on Emirates so I have come to understand the value of the multiticket option which allows you to book all your connecting flights in one go and works out better, I believe, on the pocket. When I travelled to New Delhi from Faro via Dubai it worked really well. This time my client booked the travel through an agent and although I advised booking via the multiticket option, it didn’t happen and all the flights were booked separately. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this.

Negotiator – When you go to check in at the beginning of your journey and are told you cant check your bag through to Dubai or Sydney! If I have to collect my bag in Lisbon I will miss my connecting flight to Dubai. I was flying with TAP Air Portugal on the Faro-Lisbon leg and TAP have a relationship with Emirates so you can book a multiticket. I hoped if I kept the TAP rep talking they would eventually be able to resolve my predicament, I always think there is a solution to any problem and I have learned from past experiences it’s not worth showing your frustration or anger. I held my reserve with a smile and attempted to appeal to their human side. Unfortunately, It didn’t work on this occasion, I couldn’t even get an indicator of how long it would take for me to collect my bag in Lisbon and get to the Emirates desk to check-in. I was passed over to another member of staff at the TAP information desk.

Psychologist – Feeling the stress rising to work against the clock to sort this out before the gate closes the nice lady on the TAP information desk lets me use her phone to call Emirates (my phone is out of credit!). Emirates keep me calm and are really helpful but I’m told that I won’t make the connecting flight and the only option is to reschedule and get the flight the following day, so I pay the fee and make my way to check-in once again. Better to make a decision, cut my losses and move on.

Time manager – Whilst queuing to board the flight I access the airport wifi on my phone and book a hotel close to Lisbon airport. I then let my client know the situation and cancel meetings with friends and colleagues in Dubai, as it turns out the Faro flight was delayed anyway and I would have missed my connection regardless. With my new schedule, I will land in Dubai airport around 1am I will have to stay there until my flight to Sydney departs at 10.30am. Until then I check into my hotel in Lisbon and use the time to work and get some rest.

Endurance athlete – Spending eight hours through the night in an airport is not for the faint-hearted especially when you land in the middle of the night after an eight-hour flight on your second day of travelling. If you are travelling to Dubai International airport for the first time, note, it is huge and made up of two terminals (1 & 3). When I land its too early to find out which terminal I will be departing from and so not sure where to base myself. So I wandered around for a while like a lost soul and was sent to one terminal and back again by airport staff who didn’t seem equipped to advise appropriately so I eventually worked it out for myself.

Tips on spending the night in Dubai International Airport

  1. If you are a Silver (or above) Skywards member you have access to the Emirates Business Class lounges.

  2. If you want to pay to access the Emirates Business class lounges you can do so for around $100 with access only in four-hour blocks.

  3. You can pay to access the Marhaba lounges with the showers and refreshments and if you have a UAE HSBC credit card you can access for a reduced rate (the option I took after exploring many others first).

  4. There are showers available to everyone in the concourse of Terminal 3 but there aren’t any towels so think ahead and pack a towel in your hand luggage. If you don’t have a towel…well here is a retail opportunity. I couldn’t find a towel to purchase. The closest I could find was a fleece travel blanket!

  5. I discovered only after my night in DIA there is a Health Club with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room, and gym you can pay for on an hourly basis.

  6. There are sleep pods available (although they weren’t when I needed them). I have tried similar ones at Gatwick airport and they are really good to book for an hour or more to relax, sleep or catch up on work.

  7. If you have the budget, there is a hotel.

Lessons I learned about long-haul travel

  1. Book the flights yourself.

  2. Allow an extra day if you can to recover and to allow for any delays.

  3. Keep your phone topped up or consider a remote package so you can make calls in different countries.

  4. Keep hydrated and take deep breaths and stretch when you can, sleep when you can.

  5. Wear comfy shoes that are easy to put on and take off.

  6. Take a pashmina or jumper, it might be hot outside but it’s often cold inside planes and airports.

After 72 hours from leaving my house in Portugal, I reach Sydney International airport.

A friend asked if its worth it, after all the hours of travelling, and you know even after the delays and the jetlag I still get a twinge of excitement when I pass through an airport and enter a new country (or return to a country visited before) there is still a flutter in the stomach as I anticipate what is to come, places I will see, people I’m going to meet and what I am to experience. The same was true for this trip…


View of the Sydney Opera House from the Four Seasons Hotel


Taking in Sydney Harbour bridge on my walkabout, allowing a few hours to take in the sights before I start work!

And what about my return journey? Well, I did the whole trip in one go without a hitch. Sydney-Dubai-Lisbon-Faro picked up a car and drove 1.15 hours to my house making the whole journey in around 25 hours.

Do you have an epic journey to share? Let me know…

Happy travels.


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