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Surviving Longhaul Flights

The Active Guide To Surviving And Thriving On A Long Flight

Sleeping is key to surviving long-haul flightsOK, so you've got a ticket, and you're all set to start your journey down to New Zealand. We run trips in New Zealand, South America, Europe and the Himalayas, and we often attend events in the USA - and even occasionally make it to Europe as well - so we reckon we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about making flights as pleasant as possible. Here’s our advice…

1. A key to making your flight as painless as possible is to do everything you can to sleep on the flight. If you can (and as certified caffeine junkies, we know it's not always possible), completely avoid tea, coffee, and any caffeinated drinks on the day of your flight. Also, drink lots of water throughout the day, so that you're well hydrated. We DON'T recommend drinking too much water on the flight itself - it's a fine balance between being reasonably hydrated - and asleep! - and being up down to the bathroom all night. No fun.

2. On the subject of sleeping, CONTACT THE AIRLINE ONCE YOU'VE BOOKED YOUR TICKET and make a seating request. The ideal, of course, is an empty four-row block, but you probably won't be able to confirm that very easily these days, especially not before the day of the flight. Many people find a window seat makes it easier to sleep, because it gives you something to lean on. It’s definitely worth knowing where you’re going to sit though, and worth the extra few bucks for the peace of mind you’re not going to end up in the dreaded middle of a three row if you’re on your own.

3. As soon as you board, ask the cabin crew for a spare pillow and blanket. This extra "soft stuff" makes it easier to make yourself a cozy wee nest.

4. DO make the effort to procure a few little things that can help you sleep - a sleeping mask, a set of ear plugs, and possibly a neck pillow. Those things WORK! You can buy all this stuff at the airport before you leave, or you can obtain them at your local chemist for a fraction of the cost. Also, opinions vary on this, but we DO recommend taking a sleeping pill if you are comfortable with that. No-one wants to become dependent on sleeping pills - definitely not a good idea - but next time you're at your doctor's, ask him or her for a very small supply of sleeping pills - say 10. Then, when you're on the flight, take one just before dinner is served. Avoid caffeinated drinks at dinner, eat a moderate dinner with a small amount of water, or wine if you wish - and you'll stand a really good chance of getting 9 hours sleep that night.

5. If you’re not too starving, we encourage you to skip breakfast in the morning, and try to sleep through the breakfast service. Often, if you ask nicely, the cabin crew will let you sleep, and bring you a cup of tea or coffee in a paper cup, just as the aircraft is at "TOD" (Top Of Descent). For HUGE cred points, just casually ask for a "cuppa at TOD please". Works like a charm. The airline wakes everyone up at least two hours before landing, to get through the breakfast service, and that makes sense for the airline. But not for you!

6. On that note, we recommend that you bring some "backup" to the airline's service, just in case. You can generally bring water on board, if you take an empty bottle through airline security, and fill it on the "gate side". You can certainly bring some fruit, maybe a muffin or something - and that way, even if you totally skip breakfast, you'll still have something to tide yourself over - AND you'll get to sleep in (just remember not to carry that food through customs when you land).

7. And further, now we're getting serious - just in case, you might want to bring a laptop, iPad etc. with a couple of movies to watch. This gives you total control over your own entertainment on board, and if the airline has one of these rare - but not non-existent - "technical glitches with the entertainment system", you'll be rocking along to The Muppet Movie while the rest of the passengers are wailing and gnashing their teeth. Kermit singing sounds a lot better than passengers whining :). Of course, if you're flying Air New Zealand, there's no risk of a technical glitch - they've got hands down the best entertainment systems on board! 


Trip Reviews

  4.52 out of 5 (from 4878 reviews)

Rimu is Wonderful - A few tips if you plan to go...

My husband and I took the Rimu trip in early November 2016 and had a really terrific time. I encourage everyone who is seriously considering the Rimu to go ahead and sign up. That being said, with all of the fun we had, I do wish we had known a few things ahead of time. I include these tips for you, the soon-to-be Rimu traveler, to make your trip more enjoyable. However, I can promise that even if you do none of these things, you will still have a marvelous time:

1. Guys, if you opt to snorkel with the fur seals be sure to shave your mustache before you leave home. It seems obvious now, but it never occurred to my husband that the mask wouldn’t seal properly to his face with his mustache. Do yourself a favor and shave it off or spend the afternoon dealing with a leaky mask.

2. I also wish I had known just how intense and challenging the 3-day multi-hike through Nelson Lakes would be. If you’re an office worker and occasional hiker like me, then I encourage you to take this trip but do lots of practice/fitness training in advance. Load up your pack and get on the stair-master or start climbing really steep hills. The hike is gorgeous and worth it, but I can promise you it will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re in good shape for it. Also, there are no showers at the huts and only latrines (port-a-potties) for toilets, so bring baby wipes for exactly the same reason you would use them on a baby (wink wink). And also bring hiking poles! I know it says optional on the gear list, but I really found them to be essential. As for the water bottle – leave that at home and invest in a good water bladder system (a “Camelback” or similar). We found the water bottle to be a hassle to take in and out of the bag (forcing us to stop each time), which made us want to drink less water. The water bladders allow you to keep moving and you’ll find you’re more hydrated.

3. The sea kayaks (and, honestly, New Zealand in general) are not made for people over 6’ 2” in height (187 cm). Watch your head everywhere you go, and as for the kayaks, it may help to have the taller person sit in the front seat of the kayak instead of the back.

4. Also, pack enough clothes for a week and then expect to do laundry. Bring some travel-sized laundry soap packets to help save money and make sure you have enough 1$ and 2$ coins for laundry before you get to the hotel (the machines are generally pretty expensive: about $3 for the washer and between $3 - $5 for 30 minutes in the dryer).

5. Bring good cycling shorts – yes, the ones with the weird-feeling padding on the bum. It will help prevent the dreaded ‘grumpy grundle’.

6. And finally, a heads-up to my fellow outgoing introverts (yes, we exist): this trip contains long days of social interaction (think 7:15 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.), with few breaks for introspection/solitude. If you need some down time, skip dinner or unfurl all of the emergency blankets and build your own fort at the back of the bus and hang a sign that says, “Stay Out!” (just kidding about that last one).

A great big thank you to our guides, Rachel and Jordan, who were informative and helpful beyond measure. How they managed to remain cheerful and engaging considering they had to do all of the exertion we clients had to do, plus all of their work on top of it, is beyond me. They are the embodiment of Kiwi hospitality! We are already thinking of coming back for a North Island tour sometime soon.
Lauren Gerth Review Image
– Missouri, United States
Rimu, November 2016
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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Legendary Kiwi Hospitality

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

Expert LOCAL Guides & Trip Leaders

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

Everything is Included

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

A Sense of Achievement

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

Small Groups

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

Diverse Experiences

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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