Friday, October 22, 2010

General flying tips

Flying is exciting, particularly being able to find yourself so high in the sky that you're among or even flying higher than the clouds! You'll see land as you've never seen it before however after a while these clouds can seem endless, a bit like seeing trees in the forest or then it may be just nighttime so everything is quite dark... Either way, I'd thought I would share some little tips from my experiences flying that may help you plan not only how you find but how you also take advantage of things such as duty free!
  • Sleeping on a plane – Sleeping can be quite difficult on the plane, but there are times when you’re on a plane that they turn off the lights and everyone around you is sleeping. I flew Air China to Shanghai which is approximately an 11 hour flight from Melbourne. One of the things I noticed was that the lights seemed to be switched on and off throughout the flight although I am yet to work out what the schedule was. They would often turn on the lights about 15-30 mins so that they could serve drinks and meals for us. It’s the same with Qantas as well, although they generally outline meal times on a little schedule for you.
    Airlines will also often give you a little pillow and blanket to sleep with, and you can also bend the head rest so that you head remains upright. You may want to consider bringing along one of those neck pillows, and possibly a eye cover – although Qantas usually provides you with the latter as well as a mini toothbrush and toothpaste (This is generally only for generally long haul flights such as international flights).
  • Meals - Depending on the airline and flight time, there are normally meals and little snacks that you are given on a plane. I flew Air China to Shanghai and was served two main meals for passengers with many drink servings, whereas Qantas to Los Angles serves one main meal but a couple a snacks (biscuits/ cookies).
  • Changing money – in terms of changing money I’ve found that airports are generally more expensive (for example Travelex charges $4 AUD plus funky exchanges rates). I like to change money (just some small notes) before I go only before I feel money comfortable buying smaller things like snacks or for use for vending machines (though the latter you might need coins!). You can also change money at hotels you stay at as well, however the rates will vary. Sometimes the hotel exchange rate can be good, other times it can be quite expensive. In fact, I was actually advised to go to the local casino to change money as they offered better rates and they did ($0.78 AUD to US compared to $0.68). Either way, you will generally only be able to change notes, coins will often be unchangeable. You can choose to donate those into little charity tins if offered the opportunity – Qantas collects small change on behalf of Unicef in this manner :)
  • Duty free – Duty free is a saving on the tax you would normally pay for items outside of an airport. In Australia that would be a possible 10% duty free tax saving and a larger saving (due to the higher tax) for alcohol and cigarettes. Airport duty free stores generally have laptops, headphones, travel accessories, perfume and other little stores. So the GST saving would be applied to these, but you should always compare this with the prices on the market even with GST included.
    • Australia has what they call the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) where you may be eligible to be paid a refund on goods totalling $300 (GST inclusive) or more, bought from the same store, no more than 30 days before you leave Australia. I haven’t tried it myself personally yet as I only just found out about it but further details can be found at: http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page4646.asp
    • Time zones - All airline documents are in local time. That is, when they say "departing 17:30 New York" or similar, they mean departing 5:30pm local time in New York.
    Well, I hope these tips help!