The Secret to Surviving Long Haul Flights

With all the headlines of mayhem on planes, puppies perishing in the overhead bin, folks being dragged off planes, kids kicking you seat,  I have one word that has changed how I approach a long flight...

NAMASTE

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That's right...a word I learned in my yoga classes that serves as a respectful greeting.  Taking my yoga practice on the road has made all the difference between surviving a flight and ending up in the headlines!

Right off the bat, let's acknowledge that the airlines are doing things mostly wrong.  Cramming people in smaller and smaller spaces to maximize profits, neglecting to inform passengers about changes and failing to update passengers frequently. Add to that terrible policies, such over booking and charging fees for luggage, that create even more uncertainly and mayhem at boarding time. But in yoga I have learned something about living in a dysfunctional world.  I've learned that all we can change is how we react to the uncertainty and mayhem! And one way to do that is to greet everyone respectfully and to prepare my body for the journey ahead.

What follows is a list of ways practicing yoga has changed the way I approach flying the increasingly unfriendly skies...

 High above the ground...find a peaceful place! 

High above the ground...find a peaceful place! 

1- The physical practice of yoga has made my body more flexible to fit and endure the average coach seat without arriving at my destination in considerable discomfort. Not only do I start out more flexible and with less aches and pains, but I end the flight feeling better and ready for my trip or business. 

2-The twists and stretches I've learned have allowed me to relax and stretch in my seat during the flight, especially when pinned in a window seat or when the seat belt light never seems to turn off!

3-The breathing practice, or meditation, which emphasizes eliminating distractions, has allowed me to relax during stressful times at the gate and on board.  I have now learned to sleep on board despite being a poor sleeper generally and a variety of annoying passenger behaviors, just by using my breathing practice to ignore them!

4-Yin yoga has taught me to the practice of living with what is, breathing through the discomfort until it passes, and accepting what you can't change. This has allowed me to be more empathetic, respectful and patient with the airline workers, (who also don't like these bad policies, but are stuck enforcing them) as well as fellow passengers whose bad behavior is almost always their own stress response!

 When cancellations or changes in plans get frustrating...try yoga and meditation! 

When cancellations or changes in plans get frustrating...try yoga and meditation! 

So find yourself a yoga class for beginners, one that emphasizes breathing and mindfulness. I do Yoga with Cat with JRO Fitness in Sudbury. Your local recreation  center may offer them, or you can find a yoga center. 

Try a yoga app, such as Yoga Studio which is my favorite for the road.  However, I really recommend you work with a certified teacher first to make sure that you have the right alignment and know what's most important to practice safely.

Practice regularly, if you find yourself waiting for a client call or in waiting room, take those minutes to practice breathing. Once a day, pick a time to practice a few of the poses that make your body feel best. Make it a daily morning or evening activity, or set a timer on your phone. You don't always have to be in a class to practice!

Lastly, don't fear the "woo woo".  Lots of very practical people feel eastern philosophies are a bit "out there" or are afraid they won't be "good enough" or they will be brainwashed.  With the right instructor none of that is true!  ANYONE can begin to understand their own breath and body better, no matter your size, shape or health condition (though check in with your own Dr first before starting any exercise program) you should be able to make it better with the kind of breathe work and flexibility encouraged in yoga.  If anything feels wrong, don't do it! 

By K. Klofft (No compensation has been given for recommendations, these are all products or services I personally use.) Photos: J. Klofft

Crushing Boarding Day on an Ocean Cruise

Today's mass market cruise ships are huge floating resorts with dozens of venues; restaurants, shows, water slides. It can be overwhelming when you board!  If you have an ocean cruise in your future, follow these tips to crush boarding day!

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Tips Before Boarding

  • Check your documents about when you can check in at port, and where the port is, it varies based on your loyalty with the cruise line, the port authorities and what time your ship departs. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to arrive well before the check in closing time, which is often an hour or more before the ship sails, in order to allow officials to approve the passenger list before sailing.
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  • Sign any waivers or online permissions for activities.  This way your kids can participate without you needing to be there to check them in and sign once you board. 
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  • Carry your required IDs and set sail pass in your hand or a super accessible pocket on your carry on...DO NOT leave these in your checked bags at the pier, because you can’t board without these and they may not be able to locate your bags quickly! (And do not let them fall out of your pocket and fall on the family room floor in the predawn darkness, miss your flight and wake your parents with a frantic 3 AM call...oh wait, maybe that's just our kids!)
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  • If you want to change into your bathing suit or out of your travel clothes, pack those in your carry on too. On most cruise lines your room won’t be available till after lunch, but you’ll be able to change in one of the rest rooms and hit the pools or hot tubs right away!
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  • Don't pack your medications or valuables in your checked luggage, keep these with your hand luggage in case your check luggage takes a while to arrive (or very rarely, gets lost all together. This is very, very rare, I've cruised so many times and never lost a bag on board for longer than it takes security to determine that all those bottles in my bag are IN FACT sunscreen. Hey, I'm Irish!)
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  • I like to carry on something I wouldn’t mind wearing to dinner on day 1 just in case luggage is delayed. This has almost never happened to me in 25 years of cruising, but it’s a habit that makes me feel better, just in case!
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  • Check your cruise line's rules about what is allowed on board and what is not, you'll know the obvious stuff, no weapons, candles, or illegal drugs, but some might surprise you! Many heat accessories, like clothes irons and hair dryers are banned, and lines have their own rules about bringing alcohol on board.
 To find all the places to go, check daily ship's program

To find all the places to go, check daily ship's program

 

Where to Go After Boarding

Got kids? 

Get them an arm band right away. Should your kids be in a children's program and the emergency alarm sounds, that band will ensure the staff gets your children to you at the muster station. You go there, they go there, everyone is together, no hysterical, frantic searching.

 Water slides aboard Liberty of the Seas

Water slides aboard Liberty of the Seas

Got drinks? 

If you want a package, there are plenty of opportunities to do that as soon as you board, you literally cannot walk 5 feet without a table, a tee shirt, a server, tent card, billboard, or airplane trailing a banner offering you the opportunity to get your beverage package (ok. Maybe those last two are slight exaggerations) Hint hint, if you can, you should be buying it advance online at a discount. Wait till you get an email offering a percentage off the packages before your cruise and then take advantage of the sale)

Got reservations?

If you want to make dining reservations for specialty restaurants, go to any of the restaurants or dining rooms and you can sign up there. You can also go see your table if you have traditional dining. If you would like get spa appointments, go to the spa and talk to staff there. Some ships have Broadway style shows and might require tickets, even if the show is free, stop at the box office and make those reservations. Lastly, if you haven't planned your activities for the port days, visit the Shore Excursion Desk and talk about what what might interest you.  Some ships will allow you to fill out a form for excursions, or reserve on line in your cabin.  Hint hint, discounts are often offered online before sailing for all of these reservations, and will save you time on board making reservations!

 A specialty restaurant aboard Rhapsody of the Seas 

A specialty restaurant aboard Rhapsody of the Seas 

Hit the buffet!

Ahh, now you are ready to relax, and possibly eat. The buffet will usually be open and very busy! If other venues are open, they might be less crowded. Another option is to put lunch off until the time cabins open up.  Everyone will be going to see their cabin and the buffet should be quieter. 

 Buffet aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas

Buffet aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas

Get a towel!

Not all towels will be made into monkeys. You’ll need a couple of pool towels for your deck chair, and excursions. Get a couple per person now, checking them out with your sea pass and you’ll have them when you need them. When they get drippy, change them out for fresh ones at stand at the pool deck. Some lines keep these in your cabin and will change them out regularly, others require you get them on the pool deck.

 Towel monkey

Towel monkey

Grab a deck chair!

...and relax! Pick one by the pools if you have kiddos, in the adult area/solarium if you don’t. You don't need to hold it all day! There are loads of chairs everywhere, no need to hosey one with your towel, when it's so easy to find another later! Also, if you have kiddos, do they EACH really need a whole chair? Especially when they spend so much time IN the pool that they turn pruney and the pool turns yellowy? Really, I found one chair for me and one for the "kids" to dump there stuff on and for hubby to perch on while watching them in the pool was plenty, I couldn't get them out of the pool anyway!

 Solarium aboard Rhapsody of the Seas

Solarium aboard Rhapsody of the Seas

Hit the bar!

If you’ve purchased an all inclusive drink package, you can get started, otherwise, you can just hand over your sea pass card and start imbibing!  Just remember all those drinks do end up on your bill at the end of the cruise!  Also, be aware of the "souvenir" cup- a drink will cost more if it comes with a cup you can keep...if you don't want the cup, do't grab one off the tray, instead ask the waiter to bring you a drink from the bar in a regular cup.  

Get a room! 

An announcement will be made and you can hit your cabin. Your attendant probably will stop by, to make sure you know when the muster drill will be held. This is a good time to make any special requests you have (mini bar, ice, extra towels, etc) and I always like to let them know when they can expect me to be out of the cabin for dinner, so they can plan out their time to freshen up your cabin each evening.

 A cabin aboard Rhapsody of the Seas

A cabin aboard Rhapsody of the Seas

Get your @&$ to the muster! 

Come on, no one loves muster, but it’s a must, (which is maybe why they call it muster? Or maybe not!) and everyone hates waiting for that one person who shows up late and makes everyone else stand in the blazing sun single file waiting for them. Go on time, you only need your sea pass in hand (which tells crew where your life boat is) and to shut your yap, put your phone in your pocket and listen, the rest is easy and it's over quickly, so you can get back to the fun!

 Most ships no longer require you to wear your life vest to muster, but its a good idea to know where they are in your cabin before you go to muster.  

Most ships no longer require you to wear your life vest to muster, but its a good idea to know where they are in your cabin before you go to muster.  

After this bit of compulsory activity, the rest of the cruise week is yours. Do, or don’t do, there is no required, just this Yoda-like advice!