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The Flying Nerd and the Neurotic Nerd on what the heck to do during an 11 hour flight

NN: How am I going to handle 11 hours on the plane? Won’t I get terribly bored?

FN: 11 hours is nothing. I sneeze at 11 hour flights. 11 hours!? That’s like a nap.

NN: 11 hours is like the combined sleep I get in 2 nights, on average. I can’t sleep that long! I’m NEUROTIC!

FN: Oh right. How could I forget? Well, I’m also against drugging myself on planes (even though I often really, really need dramamine), I’m too fidgety to tuck in with a book on planes and I read too fast for trashy magazines to last very long. I’d need like 50 US Weeklies for an 11 hour flight.

NN: Let’s talk about the obvious potential solution: booze. Good idea, or bad idea?

FN: I say great idea since you’re traveling with a significant other (I’m assuming this is not just a situation that provides good company but someone to hold your hair back in case you drink too much). Alone, I tend not to drink because I have this tendency to pass out on airplanes.

NN: I got food poisoning in Brazil and it hit on a flight from Sao Paolo to Iguazu.* I puked SO MUCH. There were only Brazilians to hold back my hair. Not fun. (*This is why I do not eat seafood and never, ever will.)

FN: Ew. Okay so I think we can agree that puking can take up a good portion of flying, but I think podcasts and TV shows are better ideas. For my last long flight, I resisted watching episodes of the Layover on iTunes for weeks so I could save them for watching on my iPad in midair. I downloaded a bunch of those free TV shows on iTunes (like Undercover Boss, which actually made me cry and Kitchen Nightmares, which did not make me cry). I also had hours and hours of podcasts downloaded onto my phone: Freakonomics, WNYC’s Radiolab, Wiretap from the CBC and the Tobolowsky Files. The latter two because I like to be entertained and the former two because I like to um, learn stuff.

NN: OMG I love Undercover Boss! It made me cry, too. Specifically the Baja Fresh episode and the Frontier Airlines one. The embarrassing part is that I was at the gym. I pretended the tears were eye sweat. I like watching Pan Am on planes because it’s meta.

The kalua pig, haupia, chicken long rice and and beef stew from Ono's (726 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu) is worth an 11 hour flight. Heck, they're worth at least a 79 hour flight.

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The Neurotic Nerd’s first mileage scheme

white rock letters on the Big Island's endless lava fields

The Neurotic Nerd is getting married this summer (yes, someone is actually insane enough to marry the Neurotic; please stop laughing). Despite her crippling fear of flying, Neurotic is getting married in Hawaii, halfway across the world from where she lives. There is nothing quite so smart as deciding to combine a Huge Life Change with Extensive Air Travel when one vomits at merely the thought of turbulence. Or has panic attacks when flying over water.

Anyway, this epic trip (which includes stops in CA and the midwest) is going to involve at least 2 airlines and 9 segments. Airfare would be staggering, except Neurotic has been mentored by the Flying Nerd and has figured out how to use miles to fly free.*

Neurotic and her better half already have some American miles;** only enough for a one-way flight, however. They have no Hawaiian miles. So step one was signing up for a Hawaiian Airlines Visa and an American AAdvantage credit card. The Hawaiian card got them 20,000 miles outright; after a $1000 charge another 15,000 will post. What will that $1000 charge be? RT nonstop flights from the East Coast to Hawaii, on which they will earn double miles for the purchase. The pair also followed Hawaiian Airlines on Twitter and will get 1000 miles for that. So: very quickly they’ve gotten 35,000 miles plus approx. 5000 from the flight purchase and Twitter follow. Boom. That’s enough to cover their 6 interisland flights.

The AAdvantage card will get them 30,000 miles after a $750 purchase (hotel reservations/deposits), plus a $100 statement credit for American air travel. Those miles plus their existing combined 45,000 mean that they can cover all their domestic flights except one one-way ticket. They’ll buy that with the card and the $100 statement credit will apply, so domestic flights should be free but for approx. $100.

Of course, this is like trip-planning Jenga (It could be AWESOME or it could all topple over and be a waste of time) and it remains to be seen how quickly the miles post to their accounts and whether blackout dates will prevent this plan from working. But if it works, they could get from the East Coast to Hawaii, island-hop 3 times, fly to LA, to the midwest, and finally back east for only the cost of a ticket to Hawaii plus about $100. Not bad for a first effort.

*Not free of fear, but whatever. THAT’S WHAT THE BEVERAGE CART IS FOR.
**Neurotic has six figures of lifetime miles on AA. How has that happened with the crippling fear? She is a frequent phobic flyer, and yes that is masochism.


The Neurotic Nerd: avoid getting sick on planes

Here is the first installment from the contributor the Neurotic Nerd:

Hello from the Neurotic Nerd. I am a recovering hypochondriac who regularly freaks out about the following: money (the lack thereof), bed bugs, apartment catastrophes, and plane crashes. I am also a refugee from the academy. I got my MA in Freaking Out. I will be chiming in on these topics from time to time. Today we’re going to talk about how planes make me sick. Literally!

I complained to my uncle, who is an allergist, that I always get another upper respiratory infection (hypochondriac-speak for cold) or sinus infection after a flight. “I use Afrin before take-off and take lots of Emergen-C and everything!” I whined. “But I still get sick! My nose can’t handle the pressure.” (Granted, some of my tendency toward illness after flying might be due to my fear of flying, which stresses me out so bad that I look and feel like a rag doll that got caught in a spin cycle after a flight. I’m also usually drunk because that’s how I cope. Don’t judge.)

“It’s not the pressure,” he said, shaking his head. “I have a patient who works for an airline. Do you know how often they clean their air vents on those planes? He confirmed what I suspected: never. Planes are a massive circulating germ pool.”
So, ew. Then I started thinking of how many times my tray table has been covered in . . . something wet. Or I’ve nervously flipped through the safety brochure in the seat back or eased my nervous mind by reading Sky Mall. After a zillion other people have touched them. Or taken a sip of the water that clearly didn’t come from a fresh bottle.
Then I started thinking about that guy who had the really bad TB and still flew on a super-long flight, endangering all of this fellow passengers. Didn’t the CDC quarantine him or something after he got home?
Not to get all Howard Hughes on you, but planes are incredibly germy.
Maybe, like me, you want one less thing to worry about while on them. Maybe you also don’t want to spend your trip hacking up a lung from some tropical flu you caught in coach. Never fear, there are some things we can do to fly without phlegm:
1. Travel bleach wipes: I think Clorox/Lysol sells these in the travel section of the drugstore–little travel packs of bleach wipes for the kitchen/bath. (As opposed to wipes for your or a baby’s butt.) Buy some. If you are going to use your tray table, swipe it first. People will give you weird looks. Just think about how they are going to get Montezuma’s revenge from the flight and you won’t.
2. Sanitizing hand wipes: More wipes! Alcohol-based hand wipes are better than the sanitizer from the bottle because they do not just neutralize the germs on your hands but remove the germs from your hands altogether. Use them liberally on a plane, particularly before you touch your mouth or nose.
3. Cocktails: I’m not going to tell you to skip booze on the flight because I’m sure as hell not going to. I will say that you should try to keep hydrated, so have a glass of water for every drink you have. A hydrated person gets sick less. *Don’t drink so much that you wind up peeing in the aisle, like Gerard Depardieu.
4. Water: There are a shit-ton of germs in tap water on planes. Don’t drink it. Buy one of those horrible-tasting bottles of Dasani from Hudson News if you have to (but I would go with Fiji, personally). Avoid ice in drinks.
5. Emergen-C and vitamins: Take some if you are flying. Experts say they probably won’t do anything. But I say the placebo effect is a powerful thing and it’s worth a shot.
6. Scarves and wraps: Let’s say your seatmate is coughing up a lung. This happened to me on a flight from JFK to St. Thomas. The lady near to me appeared to have an illness out of a Dickens novel and it was freaking me out. So I covered my face with my wrap and scooched away from her for the entirety of the 4 hour flight. I did not get sick at the beach. I like to think it was because of my makeshift medical mask. Don’t be embarrassed to cover your face if someone near you is coughing.
Fear of germs should not be a reason to avoid flights. Now, fear of engines exploding, on the other hand. . . . But that’s a topic for another day.