Small things spark delight as travellers return to the skies

Well before you reach the lounge, there are plenty of little moments which deliver a dopamine kick...

By David Flynn, November 5 2021
Small things spark delight as travellers return to the skies

Travel, especially international travel, is beginning to slowly and steadily return – at least where some Australian states are concerned.

The coronavirus pandemic clipped the wings of frequent flyers, many of whom would previously have been taking to the skies every few weeks (and often more so).

Now, after being grounded for 19 long months, passports are being dusted off (or new ones applied for), luggage hauled out of the store room, trips planned and flights and hotels booked.

With that in mind, we're asking Executive Traveller readers which of the many little prep tasks of their travel seem to spark inordinate, outsize enjoyment?

Is pulling together your itinerary – selecting your seat (and especially making sure you've got a good one) – choosing a hotel – writing your packing list – making lunch or dinner arrangements with distant family and friends?

For me, two small chores bring on pre-flight frisson.

One is selecting my seat on the flight: this somehow makes the trip more 'real', for want of a better word. Maybe it's the act of visualising the seat that comes with seat selection: looking over my notes or past flight reviews, 'seeing' the layout of the seat and its location within the business class cabin and having an even clearer idea of the view from seat 11A, for example.

Another – and this, I'm told, is quite an oddity – is working out my wardrobe list. Yes, that's a distinct task from my packing list.

The general packing list is pretty much set in stone: my 'tools of trade' (MacBook Air, iPad, charger and cables, battery pack, microphone, notepad, business cards); the travel kit (noise-cancelling headphones, local currency, local transit cards) and the toiletries kit.

But the wardrobe varies from location to location and from trip to trip, based around the itinerary: so it's a matter of looking at this itinerary (meetings and interviews, business lunches and dinners, evening downtime, maybe a day or weekend off), then planning and choosing my clothing to suit, with an eye towards a mix-and-match 'capsule wardrobe' approach.

It's a little time-consuming compared to how others seem to approach packing, but for me it's a happy indulgence done over a cup of tea and a Spotify playlist.

So those are two examples of seemingly small pre-travel tasks that, for me, punch above their weight in delivering what amounts to a dopamine kick.

As frequent travellers, what are the little prep tasks of your travel which, as Marie Kondo might put it, "spark joy"?

JTG
JTG

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 49

I have a peculiarity where I wear a pair of brand new socks on a long haul flight. I fly long haul for the first time for a long while in two weeks time and I am looking forward to going out and buying some new socks this weekend. Once I buy these socks, travel will feel like it is back.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2568

That is both incredibly quirky and actually really sensible, JTG – thanks for sharing!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 252

Yes please!  int travel!!! Shopping  at Century 21 UWS for Pantharella  and italian socks  to show   with your First or Business slippers

Interesting topic! When I'm flying with Singapore Airlines, it's undoubtedly when the time comes to make my Book The Cook selection. Always fun, and I always have the same struggle between my go-to favourites and new or special dishes, or simply ones I haven't tried before.

Like your approach to the wardrobe list, David, not unlike mine, I can't do the "last minute, grab a few clean shirts" approach.

For me it's when I book seats to a show in London or New York when I'm flying there. I always keep an eye on what's showing, and when a trip is starting to firm up I have an idea of what I want to see, and as soon as my trip is locked in I go online and get tickets to the show or shows I want to see. I won't book those seats until the flight is locked in, for obvious reasons, so as soon as the trip is 'on', I book some shows and that's when the trip becomes 'real' to me!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 252

The whole booking process is fun -searching for flights,  which flights have upgrade seats available,  selecting seats,  working out a list of lounges to visit  i neach airport,  booking hotels and working out how to maximize points and minimize cost  -ah the joys of travel  :-)

MrT
MrT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2015

Total posts 36

When the "We are pleased to confirm your upgrade request to business class" text arrives

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Oct 2016

Total posts 21

Before an international trip I usually get a haircut (sometimes even enroute to the airport). A strange habit but I enjoy embarking on my travels with a fresh cut, it actually started because I would try a new haircut before I travel so if it looked bad those who know me back home didn't see it. Lets just say during the pandemic its been a long time since my last haircut. Sadly I am now in desperate need of one but no international trip on the close horizon, this will be the first time in about 10 years I'm getting a haircut without a international trip following.

More specifically for any trip, I also enjoy the seat selection and booking the hotel. What makes it really real is when online check in opens.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 361

That's a good tip, I also get a haircut or a trim a few days before the flight,

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 252

Yes I always get a fresh buzzcut  -  except on one  trip to NYC got an AA redemption  on Etihad First  and got my free  buzzcut (then a nice shower)   in the  First lounge at AUH - back then   it was still free limo  to where u want   landing in NYC and a nice shower on the A380 a couple of hours before landing in NYC  - its hard to find a barber  but I have my goto guy Isaac in NYC  in the West village where I get my second haircut  when flying RTW every Aussie winter - ah  the pre covid days of glory!

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 36

Adding it to TripIt, then seeing the little orange coloured dots against dates in the calendar app - there is a great comfort in knowing there was at least one or two flights 'loaded up' ready to go. Then there is the planning of lounges - finding out if there are alliance options, and if so, who will have better food, or showers...

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 361

I love going through my collection of currency from previous trips, pulling out the envelope with my money for that country plus public transport cards, eg my UK envelope has a wad of Pounds plus an Oyster card. Just as you say, a small thing which pleases me no end!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 252

Yes thats fun too!  Metro card for NY subway,  making sure my US sim has enough funds and my Swiss/EU   sim is topped up - Ive kept my numbers for at least 10 yrs now so  COVID meant topping up without being able to use them   - Also downloading Google maps offline  for NYC  and Israel on both phones and ipad- also for other cities  so you can walk  the best routes  without draining your OS sim data when i pick up my regular rental at Ben Gurion   i remeber my route, but because of the constant road upgrades you need google maps  - my hebrew is for shit  so  the Hertz maps given out only give me a rough idea 

Second best part is lounge hopping at most airports to get max use of amex/priority pass/star gold/first class benefits   and seeing who  has the best champagne  

Working out  mileage runs  in EU  and USA to keep up LH and UA status when   in a city for a week or so  - my fave is a daytrip to SF  from NYC via LAX to use the good United Clubs and sleep a bit  on UA Polaris 787-10  (my motto and usual Seat  in First and C is 1a 1a all the way and if not available working out  which other available seats are good, lunch in the Castro at Harveys, drinks at Q Bar then back to SFO  to NYC via LAX again  with a good sleep  from LAX-EWR on UA 757    or Polaris 787-10 (or JFK  when flying AA Flagship First on A321T - the same seats  as CX C   but 1-1 and 5 rows of F with much better bigger touch screens  than CX C!)  

Preordering meals on QF,SQ  seeing what LH First will offer on board  Ah the days of covid free travel

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 252

Oh  hand booking the RWT  fare   with LH  and/or LX - working out flights which have First upgrades available to use all those UA Globals (plus Points now)  and Lufti Senator Evouchers  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Dec 2014

Total posts 58

Loading my iPad with movies and TV shows to watch. There are some shows that I only watch on planes, so I’m looking forward to finally catching up on Suits after two years! Apart from that I (embarrassingly) have a spreadsheet with my packing list on it, and I enjoy ticking each item off as I go. 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2568

No need to be embarrassed about putting your packing list on a spreadsheet, it's incredibly sensible and organised, the best way to ensure you don't overlook anything, and of course you can always add new items specific to a trip (eg based on destination, season, mix of business and pleasure etc) to keep on top of things! I'd definitely do a spreadsheet packing list if I didn't enjoy the act of writing things out and crossing things off!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

LOL .. Don't be embarrassed about the spreadsheet, @MEL Traveller :-)

I do the same, but have a multiple tab spreadsheet, which includes a tab each for Packing, Home To-Do's, Business To-Does, Conference To-Do's and (overseas) Family and Friends To-Do's.

But my real, true pleasure is looking at the In-Cabin Entertainment List(s) a week or two before my flights to see what new release movies are on offer that may interest me, or what I may chose to watch from the 'recycled' list of popular .. Nothing worse than having to page through 500 or so movies once aboard, just to see what you may be interested in.

I also enjoy trying to find out what wines are to be served on my particular flight - not always easy! If I am unsuccessful, I am rarely disappointed by the choices on QF as a carrier .. but sometimes, other foreign carriers can be either surprisingly brilliant or a bit hit and miss.

The ultimate delight? Sitting down and savouring the first sip or two of that 'welcome' drink and knowing that the hours ahead are mine for complete relaxation and enjoyment. And that after the flight lands, I'll be in a completely different  environment to my usual routine. 

It has been fun planning my upcoming trip to London. I always enjoy trying out new seats so this trip is ticking two boxes for me - new SQ Suites SIN-LHR and the return leg SIN to SYD will be my first time on the Boeing 787-10. Has been fun checking the menus too to make sure I get the best journey after so long trapped here!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2021

Total posts 2

I really love organising my must visit/places to eat at/drink at into lists onto google maps. There's been quite a few times when i've been overseas looking for somewhere to eat only to realise i'm only a block away from a location I had previously saved based on recommendations from friends, families and online communities.

Also love watching Youtube channels on where to eat (Mark Wiens, Food Ranger etc) and the relevant Anthony Bourdain episodes in the lead up to travelling!

Checking in-flight menus is super exciting too! Never been this keen to jump on a long haul flight after so long away


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