For those who can’t sleep on long airline flights, there is a solution. Many of us have wished for a chance to lay down for a nap without having to pay 2-3 times the economy fare for one of those business class seat. It used to be possible back in the old days when flights were not jam-packed full – I can vividly remember the pleasure and comfort of having a whole row to myself (or the envy towards anyone else who won the gate agent lottery for a seat assignment like that). Now, Air New Zealand offers ‘Sky Couch’ options (aka Cuddle Class), and this provides an opportunity for various seating configurations – all of which are more comfortable than a standard seat assignment. On the 13 hour flight from LAX to AKL, my wife slept for the first seven hours … which is simply amazing since she can seldom sleep on a long flight. She would have enjoyed stretching out for longer, except made the mistake of looking at our daughter and subsequently swapping seats with her.
The Sky Couch is a configuration whereby the seats are similar to Lazy-boy chairs, with footrests that come up to seat level (and fill the space where your legs would normally go). When you do this for 2-3 of the seats, you have a nice wide flat surface where you can stretch out. Each such row was provided two fluffy pillows and a duvet, so made for a significant improvement over the standard thin pillow and blanket. Additional seat belt components were provided for use in any of the various seating configurations (all very self explanatory once you got used to the idea).
On our flight, I remained seated on the aisle while my wife stretched out with her feet resting in my lap. She also tried lying the other way, and said that both were quite comfortable. Many other passengers on our flight seemed to follow this seating configuration, although several other options were clearly possible. I stayed awake long enough to watch a few movies on what I would consider the most advanced entertainment system I’ve seen on any airplane flight (and I’ve flown extensively on several airlines in the past).
The following link takes you to the Air New Zealand site which further describes the Sky Couch concept:
In addition, here is an external and independent link to the Airline Reporter.com article which gave this revolutionary seat concept an “Awesome Medal”: http://www.airlinereporter.com/tag/sky-couch/
Take a long trip to the homeland of Air New Zealand, and pay the extra to travel in cuddle class … you’ll arrive more rested than otherwise, for a fraction of the cost of business class. However, do stay awake long enough to enjoy at least one movie on the high-tech entertainment system. This seating option is presently available between Auckland, Los Angeles and London.
We are traveling across country as part of a move to New Zealand. This type of travel is much different to the business trip where it’s all about the art of the carry-on, with micro-computers/media devices, ensuring no liquids, metal belts or lace-up shoes. Our trip is more about maximizing the checked luggage (reference my previous review post about the luggage scale) … so we ended up with 11 checked bags for the five of us (plus 5 carry-on’s and 5 personal items – making 21 articles to keep track of). The first rule when traveling with lots of people and bags, is that it’s important to keep a good count on everyone and everything – and avoid the ‘Home Alone’ possibilities.
I’ve often wondered what the absolutely most important item is for keeping in your hands for use during the flight. I’ve tried many things over the years, and often find my iPod is the best since I can listen to some tunes during the long hours on a plane. My son just bought a Nook colour and I really liked using that as an e-reader – even if it doesn’t provide the same texture, feel and smell of a good book.
However, it’s hard to overlook a comfy eye-shade, blanket and neck cushion as my daughter demonstrates. It reminded me that we need to consider the different needs of everyone in the family when we’re helping prepare for a long trip. We made a point of stopping in Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) on our trip since she was born nearby. There’s not much that compares with the contagious excitement of a young child about the simple pleasures of life – such as visiting the city of her birth. Sometimes it’s worth making an extra layover instead of simply taking the direct flight. Not only does an extra layover break up a long flight into smaller segments, but it allows you to experience the culture and atmosphere of a different place. Each airport seems to incorporate the character of the city it serves, and DFW isn’t an exception – and truly feels like you have landed in Texas.
Getting a large group of people and bags to and from an airport isn’t a small challenge either. Using a shuttle is usually the best option, whether a free service or on a cost per person basis. We’ve used taxi’s and limo’s before, but there are limits about how many people and bags can be moved at one time. When we landed in LA, we were able to get a GMC Yukon XL, and it was an ideal size for our family of five with all our stuff. I shudder to think of how we would have managed with a smaller vehicle. Of course, moving house and home is a much more challenging movement than a holiday, but it’s important to consider these things when planning out the trip. In addition, with a family of five it’s important to choose a hotel room carefully. In our case it made sense to get two rooms with a connecting door – the extra space goes a long way to avoiding the pressure cooking experience of sharing a room with a couple of teenage boys.
Plan your family trip so that there is adequate time to visit the Sky Club Lounge (or equivalent) at each of the airports you visit along the way. Allow an extra 30-60 minutes so that you can relax in comfort, and don’t need to rush between gates. It’s best to minimize anxiety and stress at every opportunity.
Also, make a point of visiting DFW – it’s also one of my favorite airports and is very well organized. The new SkyLink makes a fabulous way to see the airport from 50 ft above the ground, plus makes for a quick connection between terminals.
Those who have travelled with me over the last three decades will generally know that I like my gadgets. Certainly I’ve been through various phases with certain items, and have a veritable collection of useful things that I seldom take on trips any longer. Having just recently returned from a one month family trip to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, I am compelled to make my first review about the most recent gadget in my drawer … the Chi Air Digital Luggage Scale.
I cannot imagine going on a family trip without taking this valuable gadget. This hand-size unit enables you to measure the weight of your luggage from the comfort of your home, hotel, or hosts accommodation. This means it’s much more convenient to redistribute your rock samples (or souvenir books) from one bag to another, thus avoiding overweight bag fees at the airport check-in counter (they know most people would rather pay the fee than struggle with their dirty laundry on the terminal floor).
The scale provides measurement in either metric or English units, and has a stated capacity of 50kg/110lb, far more than any airline will allow. The unit takes one CR2032 3V battery, and easily lasted through rigorous uses over a one month trip – and is still going strong. I see these units listed online for about US$20, and is well worth it if you’re ever going to travel heavy.
I try to pack relatively light when travelling by myself, irrespective of whether it’s for a few days or for a few weeks. After all, it’s usually not the end of the world to be missing an item – and most travel items can be replaced if essential. However, when travelling with a family it’s a really good idea to be as prepared as possible, meaning it’s a good idea to have a little extra stuff on hand … just-in-case! As such, the weight limits imposed by airlines are much more meaningful when I’m travelling with my family. A small digital scale such as the Chi Air Digital Luggage Scale could easily save the purchase cost in avoided airline fees. Of course, don’t forget to check the airline luggage weight limits prior to travel.