Long journeys are nearly always tiresome and boring but throw in cramped conditions and weather extremes and things can get very uncomfortable. Here are our top tips and tricks for surviving and even enjoying a long journey...
Be prepared for the worst
Do your research before any journey so you have some idea of what to expect. Challenging situations are much easier to deal with if you are already mentally prepared for them. Even the smallest amount of research will remove any notion of 5* travel ahead of a bus journey through Laos. If you're utterly shocked at the sight of your onward transport this is not going to be a good start!
Make the best out of it
Sure you've got a tiresome, lengthy journey ahead but it nearly always improves if you look on the bright side and try to make the most out of the journey. Whether your journey takes you through countryside or urban areas; travelling can be a great way to take in scenery and watch the world go by. This is especially true of train travel with lines often running through areas you would never see otherwise.
Long journeys are a great opportunity to share stories and get to know new people especially if you're all heading to the same destination. It can also be a good opportunity to chat to locals; particularly if you're sharing a seat!
Sometimes the best stories come out of the worst situations so try to embrace challenges that arise rather than getting down in the dumps. Delays happen, people will spill things, and you'll probably run out of battery but remember you're going somewhere amazing and it will all be worth it - hopefully anyway!
The majority of transport options in Europe and the West are relatively comfortable but even on the high speed Deutsche Bahn a travel pillow is still appreciated.
Once you travel further afield things can get a bit different and comfort levels can vary wildly. Again it's worth doing your research beforehand so you can decide whether to take anything extra. For instance long trousers or an extra blanket is always a good idea on air conditioned coaches in South East Asia as they often become moving ice boxes. Third class train travel is a crazy cheap way to travel in Thailand but the wooden seats will leave you with a numb bum if you don't take a pillow or some form of extra padding.
Keeping your head in a comfortable position to sleep can be tricky on long journeys and that's where travel pillows come in - what a great invention! Inflatable versions are great for backpackers so you can squish it down once the journeys over. If you don't want to purchase a travel pillow then even a jumper or some kind of padding will help to support your head.
Make sure you take plenty of food and water to last your journey particularly if you're travelling through remote areas or in hot temperatures. A handheld fan can also be a good investment if the weather is warm as windows down isn't always an option.
Start your journey relatively rested. It might seem like a good idea to get extremely tired beforehand in the hope of sleeping the entire way but you are in for a world of hurt if for any reason you can't sleep. We've covered doing your research and taking enough supplies but just don't go too over the top that you limit your own space.
Being in the midst of a brilliant book can be a saviour on long journeys (unless reading makes you travel sick, then not so much) as can anything that holds your attention and breaks up the waiting for a few hours. Most of us now travel with some sort of tech - a tablet, smartphone, laptop, MP3 - whatever it is cram it with apps and music that will keep you busy and don't forget to charge the battery! Take a solar or hand powered charger if you're worried you'll run out of battery on the move. Most trains will have power sockets that are free to use.
It's also worth having a good old fashioned back up that doesn't rely on electricity like a pack of cards, miniature connect four or Sudoku - whatever takes your fancy.
Keeping things secure
Unfortunately tired passengers on long journeys can be a prime target for thieves no matter where in the world you are. Secure your valuables deep inside your bag or if on your person in a secure travel belt not a loose pocket. Travel locks and cable ties are a good option to further secure your bag.
When you finally get there
It's a good idea to book accommodation at your final destination in advance. The last thing you want to do after a long journey is to traipse around looking for somewhere to stay. Also consider what time you will arrive in your destination - will anywhere be open? How will you get from the station to your hotel? All questions that are worth asking before you begin your journey. Long journeys aren't always bad. They can be eye opening, interesting and even fun and the more you focus on the good points the more you will come to enjoy them.
These tips & tricks were brought to you by the guys over at Backpacker Bible, check them out here!
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