Couple Travel: Red Eye Survival

Our best traveling fights have had one key ingredient: Lack of sleep.  The culprit?  The dreaded RED EYE.   We live in the western US, so our intercontinental flights almost always involve bivouacking in the “flying tube.”    While we are far from being “Red Eye Ninjas”…we have come up some sure fire solutions that make traveling on little sleep a little more sufferable as a couple.

Give me Some Space

lost manIt’s no secret that the fighting couple often takes different flights to the same destination.  Often this is out of necessity, as we may have sky points on different carriers.   With that said, we often elect to travel separate because we can’t stand sitting next to each other. Luci likes to talk to Mike. Mike likes to ignore Luci.  We end up fighting before we even leave the runway. So, we fly separate or elect not to sit by each other if we are on the same flight.

We treat complete strangers nicer than our spouse.   It is the truth!  Flying solo or at least separated might be best for all involved. The thought of being seatmates on our recent 16 hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, Ga is a new definition of hell for us.  So Mike took a detour, made a stop in Paris and our marriage was saved.  Crisis adverted.  Typically, Mike flies with the heavy luggage, arrives two or three hours before Luci and meets her at the gate with a luggage trolley and a plan to exit the terminal.  Sweet huh?

But aren’t you two missing out on great conversation (fight) time in route?  Good question.  No, we don’t think so.  Airplanes have to be one of the worst places to discuss heady relationship concerns.  You really can’t face each other, and hearing each other is always a challenge over the roar of the Pratt and Whitneys.

What if one of the traveler’s flights is delayed or cancelled?  This actually happened to us on our recent trip to Thailand.  Luci’s connecting flight to her international flight out of Portland was nixed.  Stress!  But thanks to email, Mike found out, was able to adjust the plans and he spent a night solo in Bangkok…  Yes, delays and changes can occur.  They always do.  But candidly with flight service, delays and changes seldom extend longer than 24 hrs.  We typically add in some flex time at the front and back end of our journeys to accommodate iffy air service.  If being delayed a couple hours is the worst thing that happened on your trip, you are in good shape.

Plan to Make a Plan

We are planners.  We live by the adage:  Fail to plan-Plan to fail.  We do take it a little overboard.   Mike likes(see LOVES)  his excel spreadsheets! Set your clocks ahead to the destination time, and then lay off the caffeine if the sun isn’t shining in your last stop.  Plan ahead, you know that you have an 8 hour flight.  Make a plan of attack to survive.  Make your list:  one movie, 30 mins of reading and then shut eye.  Depending on which direction you are flying, you may want to sleep on the front or back end of the trip.

fighting coupleDivision of Labor

One of the best ways to avoid the Red Eye Fight is to agree in advance, when both parties are sane and sober, what each is going to be responsible for.   Have a conversation about what bags are going to who’s responsibility.    As we mentioned above, Mike is the muscle for the heavy baggage.  Luci on the other hand is the keeper of the camera and anything delicate ie art work, prints, ect.  Agree in advance who is carrying the passports and cash.  Working together always results in fewer travel fights.

Food and Water

One of the most underrated component of successful red eyeing is body fuel.  Grumpy will move into your relationship if either one has not eaten for long periods of time.  Pack some grub for the flight.  One of the challenges we have run into is landing at breakfast time, when our tummies are telling us it’s time for dinner.

Just a Little Patience

In the immortal words of the one of the greatest rock bands of all time Guns N’ Roses, “It takes a little patience.”  Again, follow the steps above, and build in some sleepy time at your destination before you hit the streets of Rome.    No fights make for happy travels!

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5 Responses to Couple Travel: Red Eye Survival

  1. Jared July 22, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    My general rule is to sleep if flying West and stay awake if flying East. Heading west to Asia? Sleep as much as you can on the flight, then when you’re on the ground, stay awake until it’s local bed time. On the way back, keep your eyes open no matter how tired you get until it’s bed time. It seems to work relatively well, especially if you exercise your first morning in country and stay outside in the sun.

    My worst red eye experience was landing in Zurich late one night, stumbling to my hotel, and collapsing into sleep. I woke up and through blurry eyes checked my watch. 6am – time to wake up. So I showered, got dressed, and feeling quite awake and refreshed opened the curtains to pitch black outside. It was actually 12:30am and I had read my watch upside-down. It took me several more days to adjust to local time.

  2. admin July 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Great advice Jared! You are a pro.

  3. Jessica Dawdy July 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Taking separate flights to the same destination is an interesting idea. We always sit together on flights, but rarely talk to each other. It’s definitely a time when we go into our own zones, and read, work, watch movies, sleep, whatever.

    And I agree that food and water are huge. I hate that most airlines only give you tiny cups that contain about 1 sip of water. I try to bring a big water bottle if I can, because often the dehydration negatively affects me more than the actual time difference.

  4. admin July 26, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    It seems to work for us. Cheers!

  5. Lauren October 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    So true! This is how most of our fights have started too. I get motion sickness as well and the pills usually knock me out. I’m drowsy, groggy and unable to function and my boyfriend is then exhausted and angry.

    We’ve often taken separate flights to stop us killing each other! :-)