I wish someone had told me: Tips for first time fliers

“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them, people they’ve met or lessons they’ve learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This post is by Allan, who gave some advice to a CN&CO staff member who hasn’t be on an international flight before…

On Sunday 16 September 2018, team CN&CO with the unfortunate exception of Penny and Josie, will arrive at Club Med – Bintan Island, to enjoy a week of relaxation and experiencing all the wonders of our amazing partner, Club Med.

Last year, I had the misfortune to start working at CN&CO on the Monday, and then the team left for Club Med Val Thorens the following Saturday. Needless to say, there was lots of FOMO as Neo, Emi (grad. students at the time) and myself sat in the office that week admiring the photos that were being posted by the rest of the team.

This year we are all off and as it turns out, for a few of us, this will either be our first international trip or first time to a Club Med resort (or any similar style resort).

In September 2017, Carel wrote about Travel tips for the uninitiated and although I agree with most of them, it is not exhaustive and not nearly as helpful for first time travellers, as my colleague and I had a discussion about what they may not know, while driving from Pretoria to Joburg after spending some time at the FIA offices there.

We went through, in typical Bader fashion, from packing to getting to the airport, check-in and time at the airport to the time spent on the plane.

It reminded me of how fortunate I am to have travelled and even lived overseas. There was then an occasion over the last few days where I was asking questions about our time at Club Med and what is available and my work mate (different one this time) was surprised that I didn’t know if we can get late night food from the restaurant, after a night on the jol. I told them I have never been to this type of resort to which they was shocked and asked where I went on family holidays. My response was to houses at the coast or in the bush. Just as privileged but not to the all inclusive resorts.

So, here are the tips and some reasons behind them, that I needed to mention to the first work mate so they understood better.

PRE FLIGHT

Seat Selection: As a first time international flyer, and considering the time of day we are flying I suggested they take a window seat. Not that you can see much during the flight but at take-off and landing you can see a great deal. Even though you may not know what you are looking at. I like to sit at the back of the plane and always choose an aisle seat as I do not sleep on flights and like to get up and stretch my legs in the galley.

Meal selection: Carel is correct here: select a kosher, halal or vegetarian meal when checking in so you get your meal first. This is great and all but what if you want to hear the cabin crew ask you if you want “chicken or beef?”

PACKING

Main bag: Carel makes a good point about packing light for when travelling around a place but this is different. In the case of this trip as we are going straight to and staying at the resort for the 7 days we are there.

As we will be staying at the resort, there are a number of activities to be done, so when packing, you need to take that into consideration. Will you be going for a run, or playing golf. Both of which you will need the appropriate clothing.
There are also themed evenings, every night. Most of CN&CO loves a dress up, so make sure you have the correct items. Some of the themed evenings for us are: Flower power, Blue/pink/white, elegant and even an Asian night.

What about packing some of your non-essential meds. Like antihistamines, rehydrate (for assisting in recovery after a big night out), probiotics to help keep things regular considering you will be eating a smorgasbord of things.

Hand luggage: Book to read, notebook and pen, travel documents (including copies of your passport and tickets). A spare shirt and change of undies and socks, even a pair of tracksuit pants to change into during the flight. You may want to leave and arrive looking your best but perhaps your best is not the most comfortable travel clothing. Getting changed in the toilet on the plane freaked my mate out but they will see 😉

Toiletries but not too many. And remember to have it in a clear plastic bag no larger than one litre. You must also remember that no fluids exceeding 100ml per item may be taken with you before the security checkpoint. And no, just because your perfume bottle says 125ml and is less than half full, you will not be allowed to take it on and it will be confiscated.
Items to place in this bag: Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant (but less than 100ml) and maybe some hand disinfectant. Facial wipes are also a must.

As we are a #LifestyleBusiness, we will be doing some work while we are there so your laptop needs to be in your carry on. BUT remember that you need to take it out of your hand luggage when going through security. Be ready for this as the queue can be long and people may get agitated because you are taking your time.

Women are also fortunate in that they can take a carry on bag as well as a handbag. And looking at the handbags in fashion right now, that may as well be another carry on bag.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Before leaving home make sure you have your passport and wallet. These are vital, everything else can be purchased.

Make sure you either have a friend taking you to the airport or if you are using public transport, Uber and the Gautrain, you have planned your journey – checking if the Gautrain station will be open and what time the train departs to arrive at your desired time.

WHEN AT THE AIRPORT

Check your luggage and get your boarding pass.

Another little trick that Carel has taught me for OR Tambo Int. Airport is to not use the security check in right by the airline check-ins but rather go to the middle section of the airport. The queue there is generally shorter.

Duty-free: Skip this completely as it is not worth your time. Rather head to one of the lounges if you have a card that allows you access. Most of these cards also allow you to take in a guest for an additional cost. This is what we will be doing come Saturday. Remember, you have roughly two hours before you need to board, so make yourself comfortable, grab a meal and coffee (or a drink depending on the time of the day) and relax during this time. You can even get some last-minute work done.

ON THE PLANE

Admittedly, I like to get on the plane last as I feel I don’t want to be cramped up in the cabin for longer than needed- remember, I don’t sleep, so no need to get comfortable. But Carel’s recommendation on getting on early to get good overhead luggage space is valid. I may try this on this trip.

Once you’re on, find out what is where. Emirates, who we are flying with, has the double-decker Airbus A380, so find out where you are allowed to go, taking into account that sometimes the first class cabin is on the upper level and off limits to us plebs. Or so I’m told.

Also be friendly to the cabin crew as they will be the ones looking after you during the flight. If need be, when walking around, you can help yourself to refreshments, in between food services, from the galley, without them worrying too much.

I think I have covered all the things for a first-time flyer.

If you have any additional tips and tricks for flying that we can use, please drop me a tweet to let me know.

And if you have any recommendations about Club Med Bintan Island or Club Med in general, also drop me a tweet.