Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Air travel

How to Sleep Like a Baby On a Long Flight

Here are some simple things you can do to make your long-haul journey comfortable.

  1. Say no to carbonated drinks.
    The bubbles in carbonated drinks expand at high altitude, making you feel bloated. Enjoy some fresh fruit juice and plenty of water instead.
  2. Don’t chew gum.
    It tends to make you swallow as you chew on it, which can cause gas. Source:
  3. Eat food that contains Tryptophan.
    Tryptophan is a calming amino acid and food items that carry it in high levels tend to induce sleep naturally. So start munching on dates, cottage cheese, turkey and fish once onboard. Source: Thrillist
  4. Ditch gas-producing foods.
    Gastrointestinal discomfort is one of the biggest problems typically associated with long distance flight. Flatulence can be a cause for discomfort and embarrassment for you as well as your co-passengers. The best course is to cut out on food items belonging to the cruciferous family such as brocolli, cauliflower and potatoes which encourage intestinal expansion.

  5. Choose vegetarian meals.
    Vegetarian meals are served first, so you’re done faster, thus cutting out unnecessary wait before you go to sleep. Simple! Source: American Airlines
  6. Eat something light before boarding.
    Rather than a secret, this is more of basic common sense. If you find yourself really tired and don’t want to wait till your meal is served, grab something to eat before you step onboard and let the flight attendant know that you don’t want dinner.

  7. Always carry earplugs and an eye mask.
    These wonderful sleeping aids are easily available and affordable too. An inflatable pillow is another good investment.
    Source: Alamy
  8. Choose a window seat.
    The benefits of choosing the window seat is three-pronged. You can lean against a solid surface for support while sleeping and not get disturbed by a co-passenger wanting to go to the loo. Plus, you don’t miss out on the view outside. Source: Thrillist
  9. Try and get a seat up front.
    By getting a seat in the first few rows, you can avoid the disturbance caused by engine noise which is loudest towards the rear. You can do this by checking-in online. Most airlines allow web check-in 24 hours before take off. Source: Telegraph
  10. Don’t be tempted to take a sleeping pill.
    A sleeping tablet can increase the risk of a blood clot from sitting in cramped spaces for too long. Besides, it’s good to be alert, not inert, when flying.
    Source: Huffington Post

This story was published in our Nov-Dec 2012 issue. Re-edit: TS intern Siddharth Birla
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What is “shoulder season” and why is it good for travel?

Shoulder Season falls between peak season and off season. So, you get many advantages. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. The crowds have thinned out but are not absent. Airfares and hotel tariffs tend to dip slightly, so you have more money for shopping! The local tourist industry is now free from the pressure of catering to throngs, and you can expect better service.


According to Rick Steves, “Shoulder season varies by destination. Because fall and spring bring cooler temperatures in Mediterranean Europe, shoulder season in much of Italy, southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece can actually come with near peak-season crowds and prices. For example, except for beach resorts, Italy’s peak season is May, June, September, and October, rather than July and August. Paris is surprisingly quiet in July and August.”

Venice (43)

We at Travel Secrets try and stay away from even the best destinations during peak season, because the crowds can be simply too overwhelming. Last year in Florence and Venice, we found ourselves jostling and gasping for the most part. Taking photos ended up being a Click-and-Move affair in places, with the next person breathing down your neck.

A shoulder season trip to Switzerland, on the other hand, was pure relaxation. Under the mild September sun, it was blissful to walk down the quiet streets of Basel, taking in the crisp cool air and lazing by the Rhine. We could feel our lungs turn pink again:)

Basel by the Rhine River (1)Posted by Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

Pix: TS Photo Editor Nitin Gopal Srivastava


What’s the drive from Cyprus airport to Nicosia like?

You arrive at the Larnaca airport, so named because it lies just four kilometres from the city of Larnaca.


It’s a one-hour drive to Nicosia. Expect to see mostly open road and blue skies. The ride is very smooth and virtually bump free.


Notice that the board says “Lefkosia.” That’s the Turkish name for the capital city of Nicosia.

Close to the airport is the Larnaca Salt Lake, next to which stands a mosque. It’s a place of great religious significance:


According to legend, Muhammad’s paternal aunt, accompanying her husband on an Arab raid on Cyprus in 649, was attacked by Byzantine forces here. Unfortunately, she fell from her mule and broke her neck. She was buried on the spot, and the Hala Sultan Tekke was built around her grave.


That is why, the mosque is the fourth most important holy place in the world for Muslims.

The mosque complex itself was built in a series of stages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A shrine was built by Sheikh Hassan in A.D 1760. Later, the mosque was constructed in its present form around A.D 1816/17.

The Salt Lake itself is a special protected area, where 85 species of birds congregate and migrate. When we went, there were no flamingoes around, but on a bird-rich day, the Lake is sure to be worth a longer stopover.

That’s the only stopover worth making on the short trip, but it is indeed a serene experience after your long flight. Once you are on your way again, the landscape opens up, with whirring windmills cheering you along the way!


(Pix: TS Photo Editor Nitin Gopal Srivastava)

I’ve seen most of the touristy Switzerland. Somewhere fresh this summer?

You can always come to us for just the right advice! Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan discovered a stunning Swiss gem on her recent trip. It’s the Klosters region, quiet, lovely and relatively tourist-free, unless you count Prince Charles, who is a regular guest!

Why Klosters

If you are taking a holiday in Switzerland, you probably have greenery and serenity in mind. Klosters ticks those boxes in bold! And if it is adventure you seek, there’s plenty of that to be had here, too.

Nestling in what has remained the rural part of the Prättigau (Graubünden), Klosters, with its romantic village-like atmosphere, stands in stark contrast to the nearby Alpine metropolis of Davos. It’s a tiny town dotted with shops selling outdoorsy sportsgear, and cosy restaurants. A silvery river streaks across the town, and big mountains gaze indulgently down upon the town.


Hotels and homes all over Klosters are laden with flowers. The combination of wood, greenery and brilliant blossoms is heady and irresistible!


The photo above shows Hotel Alpina: we stayed here and totally loved it. Not only is it beautiful, but located right across the small railway station. The cable car up to a gorgeous mountain is also across the road. The rooms have a homely touch, breakfast is delicious, and the staff warm and welcoming. This hotel is proof that you don’t need to be a five-star to be a five star experience!


See? This is a house in Klosters…one among dozens we gaped at! So much beauty, sprinkled all over, just like that!

Lazy, sunlit lunches in Klosters are a food lover’s dream come true. Our dream came true at this one:


Every delicious dish here reflects the freshness and beauty of the region.


And how can you ever leave without indulging in Switzerland’s best-loved comfort food, starring potatoes: yes, we’re talking about Rosti!


Paired with local wine and sunshine, all this good food is the perfect recipe for an afternoon snooze. We took our cue from this bovine beauty and treated ourselves to a nap, too!


The valleys of Klosters will take your breath away. It is easy to lose track of time gazing in the distance and feeling your soul heal. Far in the distance, on gleaming tracks, the bright red streak of a train passing by, is stunning against the green backdrop: quintessential Switzerland!


A whole mountain of adventure awaits to be explored: your kids are going to be floored!


To hear more of our adventures in Klosters, grab a copy of Travel Secrets magazine’s May-June 2015 issue.

What’s it like to be a globe-trotting airhostess?

Morning tea in Paris and evening coffee in Rome!  Truly, madly exciting, isn’t it? Well, that is the life 29-year-old Prachi Bhalla leads. Beautiful, bubbly, blessed. But hey, as they say there are no free lunches in the world, and Prachi pays her price too. Geetanjali Prasad grills her, and feels the adrenaline rush.



Cabin crew for the last five years with a renowned international Middle East airline, Prachi says life on the go is thrilling. She loves the luxury of sometimes flying to two countries in a single day. The idea of a 9-to-5 desk job is alien to her.

Having said that, her own profession comes with its share of exasperating ‘now that’s enough’ moments. Flying can be physically exhausting: cabin pressure and erratic work hours take their toll. Studies show that frequent changes in time zone can make you lose touch with reality, causing mood swings and even depression. Airhostesses often suffer from menstrual problems because of their erratic work cycle.

Prachi is a cosmopolitan girl from a liberal Delhi family, but lives and works in conservative Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia is a chess board,” she says. “Men wear white thobe and women, black abaya, even if the outside temperature is 50 degrees.  It’s a huge culture shock as women here do not have the right to work, travel or even to drive a car. Thankfully my job allows me to fly away often.”

Despite these over the top rules and restrictions, Prachi says she has forged an unsaid bond with the Arab world. She loves their mouthwatering delicacies like kabsa (rice and chicken), fool (mashed beans) and a myriad other mystic recipes.



So does she not miss the comfort of home and family? Prachi’s reply to that is refreshingly cool. “I do miss my folks on festivals and special occasions, but I get enough free tickets to fly home and see them as frequently as once a month for about 5 days. But yes, I really miss home cooked food. It’s difficult to get that authentic taste at any Indian restaurant located abroad.”

She has come to terms with the fact that soon she will have to choose between starting her own family and her lucrative job. “Every take off and landing takes you further away from a stable life. Lack of time and the lust for travel are not conducive to the institution of marriage. It is difficult to find a partner who can put up with the uncertainty with which you live. That’s why most of the cockpit and cabin crew are either separated or single.”

Be that as it may, those on an aircraft have enough company to keep them entertained. “Sometimes language barriers can toss up hilarious encounters,” says Prachi. “One Japanese passenger made sounds of all possible animals to know what is being served, so he went ‘may-may’ for goat and ‘prick prick’ for chicken. Another one on a China-bound flight insisted on meeting the captain. As a policy, no visitors are allowed in the cockpit. So he started banging the cockpit door, forcing the captain to switch to hijack-alert mode. Later, we found that the eager passenger just wanted to get a picture clicked with him!”


Then there are those who come with their own unique character traits. Arab men have a peculiar way to greet each other, for instance. “Men kiss men by touching nose to nose and lips to lips in public. Whereas men in Italy are lovers by nature and their appreciation for female beauty borders on eve teasing. Words like ‘Bella’ and ‘Kareena’ which means beautiful and lovable fall easily off their lips,” says Prachi.

One of Prachi’s most thrilling mid-flight moments happened on a Jeddah-Manila flight. A pregnant lady went into labour when we were cruising above the sea, so an emergency landing was out of the question. We asked her to lie down on the floor and arranged blankets all around her. Being trained in conducting deliveries, we set to work and soon, her daughter was born! We named her Sabah, after the crew member who had cut her umbilical cord.” The lucky baby now enjoys a lifetime of free travel with the airline she was born in. Some people are just born to fly!

For more air hostess stories, check out:

Mandy’s blog – Confessions of an Air hostess.



I am terrified of turbulence! Is it safe to fly during the rainy season?


TS Intern Prerna took the question to Capt VK Madan,  Commercial Pilot and Inspector at DGCA, India.

Flying and monsoon are not the best of friends, but with evolving technology, flying has also evolved to be safe in monsoon.

Lightening  in thunderstorms can be up to a staggering 2 Lakh volts! Turbulence due to vertical winds can be up to 2000 feet per minute.  But, avionics like weather and Doppler radars, and satellite pictures give the pilot exact locations of thunder storms and turbulence which can be avoided and kept at  an arm’s distance of 10 Km or more.

Passengers may experience some minor turbulence but that does not endanger the safety of the aircraft. Moreover, other avionics like ILS (Instrument Landing System)  can land an aircraft in almost zero visibility in the pouring rain.

So relax and don’t let monsoon upset your plans and commitments. You’re in safe hands. Happy Landings!Image

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