A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way!
You’ve finally decided to take that long-anticipated trip to La Belle France! Here are a few physical and practical considerations – some things you can do in advance – to ensure you will be fit and comfortable during your trip of a lifetime…
TH&H Part 1 – Get ready to walk!
So much of the enjoyment of visiting new places comes from exploring on foot. A little physical preparation goes a long way toward ensuring a great time. The French are notorious walkers, and many people who live in towns and cities do not even own cars. Yes, especially in places like Paris, the public transportation is exceptional. However, people may still live several blocks from the nearest metro or train station or bus stop, and not every apartment building has an elevator. Imagine carrying your grocery bags up to a 4th floor walk-up apartment. Many Parisians do this, just as a matter of routine.
Additionally, many places in France are, well, downright ancient. That means lots of cobblestones and old stone stairs. Becoming used to walking on uneven surfaces in advance of your trip can greatly enhance your steadiness and balance, especially when navigating medieval towns and villages in the French countryside.
So here are our three most important “walking” recommendations for you as you prepare for a grand adventure in France:
- Put on those walkin’ shoes, NOW! Just getting outside to walk for 30 minutes a day will put you on the road to the level of physical fitness you will need to have a great time in France. Remember that treadmills are fine for what they are designed to do, but the constantly-predictable surface can help just so much to prepare you for “old world” cobbles and stairs. So…
- Get used to walking on uneven surfaces. By all means, walk along sidewalks, if that is all that is available to you. However, if you happen to live near an open space, this would be a great time to explore the trails and walking paths you might find there. Grassy parks with uneven terrain are another idea. Alternatively, just choosing a walking route that has you stepping on and off of the curb frequently can do the trick. The key is to be able to maintain a sense of balance, when the terrain under you is constantly changing.
- Buy and break in any shoes you plan to take with you, around a month before your trip. You will want at least one pair of very comfortable, sturdy-soled walking shoes that you have worn repeatedly to make sure they fit well and do not create blisters. Make sure to walk at least a mile in any shoes you plan to take with you – even “old” ones. We find that for summer travel a good pair of closed-toed walking shoes and a pair of attractive walking sandals can be the magic combination that will take you everywhere you want to go, in comfort. In the cooler months, swap out the sandals for some comfortable low-heeled boots.
TH&H Part 2: Prepare for a Long Flight
Depending on one’s airport of departure, the flight time from the US to France can range anywhere from seven to nearly 12 hours. That’s a long time on an airplane! Over our many years of travel – almost all in coach – we have found that there are some simple things – both psychological and practical – we can do to remain comfortable throughout the journey…
- Allow yourself to become excited about the journey, as well as the destination. Do you remember your first trip in an airplane? Perhaps you were a child, traveling with your parents on a special family vacation. Or maybe you were a young adult, off on your own adventure. Do you remember the sense of anticipation as you boarded the plane, found your seat, and listened to the safety briefing? And then finally that magic moment of take-off arrived, and you were in the sky and heading toward your destination? Each time we fly, we take a moment to once again become that young person, savoring the moment when the plane becomes air-born, knowing that the next time you step onto terra firma, you will be in France!
- Take along some special diversions. Having a couple of favorite activities to look forward to during the flight can really help to pass the time. Is there a book you have really been wanting to read? Find it in paperback and stick it in your carry-on or download it onto your device. Does music send you to your “happy place?” Consider a new download (or some old favorites) on your smartphone or iPod. Are you a crossword puzzle fan? Perhaps a new puzzle book, or some puzzles you have saved from the NY Times, just for this occasion. If you plan to watch movies you have downloaded to your device, you will want to consider bringing a fully-charged portable battery pack so that you don’t run out of “juice” before the movie ends.
- Treat yourself like a 1st class passenger. – Of course, flying 1st class all the time would be nice, but that has never been our reality. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to miss out on all of the amenities. Here are a few things we like to do to create a “DIY” 1st class experience…
- “Some orange juice or water before we take off?” – A pre-flight beverage is one of the first offerings to those traveling in business and 1st Purchasing a small bottle of juice or sparkling water at one of the many airport concessions before boarding the plane means that we can enjoy a little refreshment, too. J
- “Hot towel?” – One of the little niceties of traveling in 1st class is the tray of small, slightly damp hand and face towels that flight attendants bring around before food service begins. We have found a lovely way to provide a version of this nice treat for ourselves, in the form of a tiny compressed cloth towel, the size of a large breath mint. All you do is add a few drops of water, and voila, you have a refreshing towel of your very own! Popular brands are E-Z towels and Pop-Ups, and they can be found in travel specialty shops, as well as online.
- Bring your own snack mix – Ahhh… those warm nuts served on many flights in 1st class at the beginning of the flight can create such nostalgia and longing! Our solution is to bring our own favorite healthy snacks. By bringing along our own, we can control the quality, as well as the portion size. We also bring some high-quality chocolate to enjoy with our coffee, after the meal.
- Create your own “Amenities Kit.” – 1st and Business Class passengers are always treated to the gift of a little cloth bag with some personal items to make the journey more comfortable. Over the years, we have taken this idea and created our own, personalized version. We like to include an eye mask, some fluffy socks, ear plugs, hand purifier, a mini bottle of our favorite moisturizer and/or hand lotion, lip balm, and tiny “wisp” toothbrushes with the toothpaste included.
- Stay healthy during the flight. – Hours of sitting, a small space with lots people, and sometimes questionable airplane cleanliness can create less-than-optimal conditions for health and well-being. Again, there are a few things we have learned to do that help us to stay healthy and happy during our journey…
- Clean your own space. – One of the first things we do after settling in, is to wipe down our immediate space, including armrests, entertainment system controls, and tray tables with a disinfecting wipe. Many varieties of these wipes are available, or you can just apply a few drops of antibacterial hand purifier to one of your tiny towels.
- Stay hydrated. – Due to the pressurization of airplane cabins, the humidity in the air is extremely low. We always bring our own water bottle and fill it in the airport before boarding. In addition, we accept a cup of water every time it is offered to us during the flight. We also ask a flight attendant for refills for our water bottle, if necessary.
- Watch salt intake. – Some people are highly sensitive to salt, which can also add to dehydration. If you are one of these people, you can call the airline in advance to request a special meal. Alternatively, most airports now have concessions that sell fresh salads, sandwiches, whole fruits, and other food items that are packaged for travel. We will often buy a fresh salad or sandwich in the airport, and then when food service is offered, we request only the “set up,” which includes the tray, cutlery, and sometimes a green salad, dessert, and a small bottle of water.
- Get up and move. – DVT (deep vein thrombosis) can develop for some people during long-haul flights. Frequently standing, flexing and moving your feet and legs, and taking walks through the cabin during the flight can help prevent this condition, and also help prevent ankles from swelling. Some people also wear compression socks for this purpose. Others are advised to take low dose aspirin before they fly, to keep blood a bit thinner. Always ask your own physician for her/his recommendations.