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TRAVEL Q&A

How to Cope During the Long Flight to Australia

If you're looking for lodgings in Panama, one Travel reader suggests Casa del Puerto, with impressive views of the Pacific Ocean. The B& B is about a four-hour drive from Panama City.
If you're looking for lodgings in Panama, one Travel reader suggests Casa del Puerto, with impressive views of the Pacific Ocean. The B& B is about a four-hour drive from Panama City. (Www.panamacasadelpuerto.com)

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Q. My wife and I are planning to travel to Australia in 2009. Any tips on how to cope with the 23-hour flight and to prepare for the 15-hour time difference?

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Walter Armstrong, University Park

A. The human body (and spirit) can withstand only so much, especially in coach. So that's my first tip: If you have frequent-flier miles, use them to upgrade to business or first class. Or if you're flying United, buy an upgrade to Economy Plus, which has five more inches of legroom.

Otherwise, no matter what you do, you're going to be very, very cranky when you land. But here are a few ways to minimize the horribleness:

· Drink lots of water throughout the flight. Fill your water bottle or buy bottled water after you pass through security.

· Try to sleep. My personal long-haul survival kit includes eyeshades, an inflatable neck pillow, slipper socks, a fleece or shawl (avoid scuzzy airplane blankets) and noise-reduction headphones. A prescription sleeping medication such as Ambien is a must for me, but check with your physician.

· Zone out with a book, MP3 or DVD player, or on-board entertainment.

· Keep moving. Deep-vein thrombosis is a possible danger on long-distance flights, so get up every hour or so (when you're not napping) and walk up and down the aisle. Do isometrics and stretches in your seat. Consider wearing compression hose.

· Set your watch for the time of your destination and plunge into local time when you land. Resist the temptation to nap. You should feel halfway normal the next morning.

My wife and I have the opportunity to go to Oulu, Finland, this March. We have significant concerns. Too cold? Too dark? What is there to see and do in March in Oulu?

Terrence H. Scout, Chestertown, Md.

News flash: Finland is not cold and depressing in March. So says Helena Niskanen of the Finnish Tourist Board. "March is a really beautiful time to visit, with plenty of sunlight and glistening snow. Do remember sunglasses."

As for Oulu, did you know you're headed for the Paris of Finland? The largest city in northern Scandinavia (population 130,000), it has museums, a cathedral, spas, markets and a university with the attendant complement of cafes, culture and cobblestones. Voila, the City of (Northern) Light. Special activities in March include the Oulu Tar Ski Race, the world's oldest nonstop long-distance skiing event (March 7), and a music festival with a variety of concerts, including a performance by world-famous Finnish opera singer Jorma Hynninen (March 10-19).

Try to fit in a day trip. Niskanen recommends taking a bus to the town of Kemi, where you can take a cruise on an icebreaker (http://www.sampotours.com), with optional "dip." "They throw you in this icy cold water in a survival suit and then you have a nice lunch with vodka." She sounded happy just thinking about it.

More info: Scandinavian Tourist Board, 212-885-9700, http://www.goscandinavia.com, or Oulu Tourist Office, http://www.oulutourism.fi.

Your Turn

To our list of kid-friendly attractions for the family visiting the Outer Banks in the winter (Travel Q&A, Dec. 7), Natalie Seitz of Mechanicsburg, Pa., added the crowd-pleasing North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo (252-473-3493, http://www.ncaquariums.com/ri/riindex.htm). . . . Karen and John Modler of Catonsville, Md., recommend the Dunes Manor Hotel (800-523-2888, http://www.dunesmanor.com) at 28th Street and the ocean in Ocean City, Md., for the reader seeking an accessible oceanfront hotel (Nov. 30). "All rooms have an ocean view, some are wheelchair-accessible, they have a nice restaurant and lounge, and guests receive tea and cookies every day at 3 p.m. in the lobby. . . . They have off-season rates and lots of decorations. It is our favorite place in Ocean City." . . . William H. Jennings (no town given) wrote to take issue with readers' comments about the amount of muscle required to pilot a canal boat in Britain (Nov. 30). "Piloting a canal boat is an active vacation, but well within the capacity of many 'wimps,' " he wrote, adding that he navigated the Avon Ring (104 locks) as one of a quartet of 75-year-olds and did just fine. "A narrowboat at 3 mph is by far the most delightful way to enjoy the English countryside." . . . Regarding our suggestions for lodgings in Panama (Nov. 16), Margee Iddings (no town given) recommends "a wonderful additional treasure on the Pacific Ocean," about a four-hour drive from Panama City. The bed-and-breakfast Casa del Puerto in the village of La Enea de Guarare (011-507-994-4982, http://www.panamacasadelpuerto.com) is owned by a former Peace Corps volunteer who immerses her guests in the crafts and music of Panama. . . . Paul Voelcker of Culpeper, Va., an experienced European river cruiser, wrote to recommend two more companies to our list of cruise operators (Nov. 9): Phoenix Reisen (011-49-228-9260-555, http://www.phoenixreisen.com) and Transocean Tours (011-49-421-3336-181, http://www.transocean.de). "Both companies have only German-language Web sites but do have English-language agents" to assist callers, Voelcker said.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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