Survival Items For Your Long-Haul Flight

I’ve had my first long-haul flight again in years just two months ago and I must say, I was really prepared thanks to a few items that I brought with me on board. I’ve taken so many flights in the last three years but they were all short (3 hours max) so I wasn’t sure this time how to fight the boredom or to help me get some shut eye. Well the boredom part has been fixed rather easily because I forgot that these flights had entertainment systems but sleeping has really only been easier because of my little helpers. I also provided you with the links to where you can buy them.

Blanket

I got this as a Christmas present from my cousin a few years ago and I got to put it into good use this time. There are blankets available inside the aircraft, sure, but this one is just so comfy and doubles as a pillow when you fold it inside its bag. You can’t have too many pillows!

Hammock

My legs are short, alright. Sometimes those footrests in the aircrafts are not adjustable to a height I can feel comfortable with. This hammock has been such big help keeping me in my seat because I tend to move around a lot when I am uncomfortable. This hammock can easily be attached to your table in front of you, giving your feet some peace.

Inflatable Travel Pillow

I just thought this was the coolest thing ever. I tend to lean forward on the table and hurt my spine for some sleep while sitting inside an airplane. Those days are over though because this pillow lets you get comfortable without really hurting your good posture. And it also folds into this small pouch so it’s easier to carry it around. Even the flight attendant on duty was a big fan.

(photo credit: Amazon)

Memory Foam Neck Pillow

These babies are found everywhere nowadays so just choose one that suits you best. I got this one from TKmaxx. I prefer memory foam over inflatable or microbead ones because it’s just the most comfortable option. It’s not foldable or anything but it’s easily hung on your backpack or luggage or worn in the airport while catching your connecting flight. Believe me, you will not be the only one seen wearing it. 😉

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My First Hostel Experience

As you can see in all of my previous travel posts, my wife has been my constant companion. We plan together, book together, and go together. I like doing these things with her because I think it brings us closer together, if not test our limits. But on my recent trip to Hong Kong, I had to go alone as she also wasn’t part of the whole trip to the Philippines because she was busy with school. I was excited for my first opportunity to travel alone! I had never stayed at a hostel before until this trip because, together, we usually opt for Airbnb or hotels since it’s usually the the most practical when travelling as a couple. The combined prices for the two bunk beds at a hostel is usually pricier than a double room at a hotel and we can save ourselves the trouble of staying in a room with a few other people. Privacy is just more of a priority when you’re a couple.

The Room

So when I took this trip, I wanted to do it the right way. I had booked my stay for two nights at a hip little hostel in the touristy centre of Hong Kong, just a stone’s throw from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. It occupied the 5th floor of a relatively old commercial building. I was greeted by a young receptionist who took me to my room that consisted of three bunk beds and a shared bathroom. There were only two other girls in the room and the top bunks were all free, me occupying the last free bottom bunk. There was a small reading lamp inside and curtains to pull close for more privacy. The receptionist also told me about the cages under the bed where I can put my stuff in. I did not have a lock with me so she offered to sell me one for about 3 €. I later realised that I am the only one in the room actually using one. My room mates were also pretty young, so were the all the other guests that I met in the communal lounge.

Common Room

I went out a few times to get some snacks at the nearby 7eleven. Drinking water – hot and cold – was available for all guests for no extra charge and I’m glad I brought a few green tea bags with me to enjoy in the common room while surfing the internet on the iMac that was also free to use. The place was also equipped with high-speed internet for a decent wifi connection in all corners.

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Just being able to find some quiet to enjoy these simple pleasures is a true gift.

Sleep

I just had some trouble falling asleep on my first night because I was sharing a wall with the communal bathroom and the sound of the boiler came and went caused by some guests who took their late night showers – I can’t really blame them, Hong Kong was very hot this time of the year with very high humidity. But I eventually got some shut eye and was able to sleep soundly for eight hours.

Elevator Entrapment

On my second day, I went out to walk around and do some shopping. I came back in the afternoon to rest and take another shower to be fresh for my evening adventure. I was bound for Victoria Peak – the supposed highlight of my trip. I chose to do it at night because I like to capture the city lights. So I was in the elevator of the building where my hostel was when it suddenly stopped with a loud crashing sound. The impact was so strong it felt like the whole elevator car dropped on concrete. When I previously rode the elevator a few times, I always noticed this funny sign on what to do during a disturbance:

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I followed it and pressed the button, kept my cool. No answer. Lights and ventilation were still on and I had decent reception on my phone to connect to the internet – the mobile data roaming package I purchased for 14,99 € that soon ran low. I texted my wife to keep myself busy while waiting for help but I soon realised that no one really seemed to notice anything despite me repeatedly pushing the alarm button. I could only hear a ringing sound but no one answered. I even called out a few times but to no avail. Eventually I decided to call the hostel reception about 10 minutes in. The lady said she will notify the security guard on duty. I waited but for the next 15 minutes, I did not hear a thing from outside that sounded remotely like help. I called the reception again, this time with a little more frustration in my voice. She said she’ll call a rescue team and asked if I was alright. I had no better answer than “I’m stuck in an elevator”.

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Concrete wall behind the door

10 minutes later, I heard voices outside. I do not speak a word of Cantonese but it was clear that the voice was calling out to me. He tried again in English, asked if I was hurt or felt dizzy. I said I was fine aside from the obvious. He said he’ll help me get out and started tinkering on the machine. At some point he said he’ll have to turn the power off and it went dark for a while. Then he asked me to hold on to the rails and stand steady. I felt myself being pushed upwards and while the door was slowly opening up. My rescuer was waiting right outside and reached out his hand to help me out. Again, he asked if I was alright and if I needed to see a doctor. I said I was fine and he told me I would have to take the stairs to go down. That’s when I realised that I was standing between two floors when the elevator gave. I went upstairs back to my hostel instead and I was greeted sorrily by the receptionist and she handed me a glass of water. I sat on the couch in the common room for a little while to come down a little. When I got up to leave, the receptionist approached me with an offer to transfer to a double room, which I thought was really kind and I accepted.

My first hostel experience of a supposed two-night stay in a shared room was reduced to one night. I had my eye on the double room a few months ago when my BFF was thinking about coming with me and I was considering getting an upgrade so we can both stay there. Even then I thought it was a nice room because of the bathroom that is placed inside a glass cage inside the room:

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I guess you understand now why the offer was hard to refuse. It was my last night in Hong Kong and I slept well. I was bound for the Philippines the next day and because my flight was in the evening, I booked a night’s stay at another hostel in Manila, one where you sleep on capsule beds. I decided to only take it if I arrive in Manila too late to catch the bus home to the province. Luckily, there has been no delay in my flight and I got out early. I didn’t feel like adding another claustrophobic experience to my holiday anyway.

So all in all, the hostel experience in itself was fine. What happened to me in that building could have happened to me in any building. The elevator permit was up to date when it happened so I guess I was just unlucky. I regret not being able to complete the whole experience with the room upgrade and the cancellation of the second venue but I’m sure that if the circumstances were different, I would have pushed through.

Tips:

  • Bring your own lock. If you have one lying around at home, pack it inside your bag so you wouldn’t have to buy another one.
  • Microfibre towel. They don’t take up too much space in your bag unlike your regular towel and they dry quickly. Most hostels don’t provide you with towels and you might have to pay for it when you ask for one.
  • Bring a few teabags of your favourite brew. Tea lovers! How convenient that teabags barely take up any space in our baggage.
  • Always keep your accommodation’s phone number handy. Emergencies can happen anywhere, not only in elevators. Though I was connected to the internet while I was there, I checked if I had the phone number stored on my phone anyway, in case next time I’m not so lucky. Many booking websites have a pass for your booking that you can add to your wallet if you own an iPhone. The hostel’s contact details are on there and you may access it even without an internet connection. Otherwise just store it manually. Either way, they are probably your only local contact in the country and they know what to do and who to call if something happens.

Why we would rather book an Airbnb

My wife and I love to travel cheap. From budget airlines to hotel deals to Groupon offers to planning out what to do when if it means saving money and booking months in advance. When we were planning our first trips together, we had no idea where to begin. As we didn’t have much, we always tried the cheapest option. While there are a lot of hotels that offer great deals from time to time, we soon realised that it just isn’t the best option.

Here are some troubles we faced back when we were booking hotels:

  1. Deceiving ads. Sure enough, no business would put itself out there in bad light on purpose. But, often enough, so many hotels show well-lit, nicely decorated rooms on their web presence only to be placed inside a dark and dank room.
  2. Proximity. If you ever find a cheap room on your favourite hotel search engines, most of the time it will be on the outskirts of the city, far from all the tourist spots you would want to visit. In some cities, this even means that you would have to pay a few pennies more for fare. Time, of course, is also an issue for you will be travelling a bit longer to get to where you want to go.
  3. Access to food. Eating out is nice but if you are staying in a strange city for about a week, having to eat all of your meals in restaurants for a couple of days can really take a toll on your wallet. Not being able to cook your own meals, as it is in most hotels if not all, can surely leave you broke at the end of your holiday if you are not careful.
  4. Culture.  Staying at a hotel does not exactly make you feel like living in a particular city. Instead, you are trapped inside a room that most probably looks like any other hotel room in any given city. If you  would rather feel like a local while you are in a strange place, then this will surely be an issue for you as well. And also, we just find it interesting to see what a typical home looks like in a particular place.
  5. WIFI. This one is rather important especially if you are in a foreign country trying to stay connected to the rest of the world. While most hotels are offering WIFI, not all of them are for free. Not to mention the poor signal many of them still have because of having to share it with the rest of the hotel visitors.

When we tried out our first Airbnb, it was a house in Amsterdam in a very nice neighbourhood within walking distance to the city center. We were a group of eight people and we all had our own beds and we paid about 250 € per night. Now, divide that by 8. It’s just so much cheaper than having to pay for a hotel room (given that hotels, especially in Amsterdam, are really pricey), not to mention we had a full kitchen, cable TV (which was important at that time because it was FIFA World Cup season), a decent WIFI connection, a rooftop terrace and just so much more. We had the whole place to ourselves because the family who lived there were out on a holiday. It is a really good deal if you are capable of respecting someone else’s home and cleaning up after yourself. We always make sure to recommend it to people who would rather be practical when travelling.

And, as I always say:

If you have to pay a fortune to travel, that’s your own fault.