Pilot Tim Taylor with ultimate packing tips, on jet lag and how to get to know a new city in 3 hours

Can you briefly describe what you do?

I work for a large international operation. There’s a huge variety of destinations – in the space of a month we might fly to 3 or 4 continents. We can be in minus 30 degrees in Siberia one day and plus 30 degrees in Indonesia another day. And it’s both short and long haul – from a 40 minutes flight from Paris to Amsterdam to an 8 hour flight from Tokyo to Indonesia. This is the most fun I’ve had flying, and I’ve flown quite a lot. 

How does travelling as a pilot may differ to regular frequent travel?

I treat travelling as a sport. My aim is that I come out on top. If I don’t enjoy travel, then most of my job becomes non-enjoyable. You must have the right equipment… you wouldn’t play tennis in football boots. Everything you take must be tailored towards travelling. And it starts with the right bag (GATE8 bag being my first choice). You have to pack quite carefully as within the space of a week you can be in Siberian winter. Sometimes you’re away for 3-4 days, sometimes you’re away for weeks. Part of the excitement is doing the research, finding out what the weather will be like, what the location is going to be like… so it’s important that you pack carefully.

And there are some fantastic things on the market. Clothes bags, travel plugs which has a USB socket in it. We tend to be limited on the size of our suitcase so taking travel sized products is a must. There are certain things like espadrilles, flip flops, shampoo that you can buy at the destination and just leave at the hotel.

I try to also pack a gym kit or a pair of shorts and goggles – something to keep you fit and occupied.

What are your most relied-on clothing items?

I have a multi-purpose lightweight jacket that has pockets and is very warm. Beneath that it’s layers of clothing – t-shirts, shirts and jumpers… things that would work around the world. I’m currently looking for a pair of trousers that will convert into a pair of shorts. I pretty much always take a pair of gloves and a hat.

Doing your research and packing versatile clothing means you can do more things – if the opportunity comes up, you can go trekking in Japanese mountains or an Indonesian jungle. Traveling is an exciting thing to do. With a bit of preparation, it’s far more rewarding.

What’s the temperature like in the cockpit?

It’s fine. We tend to fly in a short-sleeved shirt. However, when we get to the destination we need to work outside of the aircraft, and often the pilot uniform jacket is not warm enough. So we’ll have to have something warmer on hand.  

How do you spend your time in between flights?

The world is an exciting place. We’re very lucky to see so much of it, so I try to get out as much.

I have worked with pilots that hate travel. They fly to all parts of the world and never leave the hotel, which I find totally bizarre. From Kazakhstan to San Francisco to India… they just stay in their hotels. But everyone’s different.

Even if you’re in the middle of Russia, you can go ice skating on a frozen lake. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t actually go out.

Do you research things to do before you fly to a destination?  

We tend to fly to a lot of destinations repeatedly. For example, we fly a lot to Tokyo, and we’ve grown familiar with things to do around the city.

But when flying to a new destination, one of the best things to do is a bicycle tour. In the space of 3-4 hours you cover a huge distance and as you’re usually guided by a local you get the insider knowledge. If you do a bike tour on the first day, you will instantly find more than 3 days’ worth of stuff to do. And it’s fun. You get a cup of coffee on the way. You meet some interesting people of different nationalities and occupations. The guide also will have their story and reason for being there.

It’s also always worth asking the hotel staff there of what there is to do around there. If you ask the concierge, he/she will definitely give you some recommendations. And then if you want, you can check them on Trip Advisor.

Your sleeping pattern must be completely hectic. How do you deal with jetlag?

Jetlag is part of the job. We travel to Japan so we arrive at 10 hours body clock difference, and then the next day you might need to work again.

And you can’t really fight it. You need to initially sleep if you can, even if that’s in the middle of the day. You can also try to trick your body in adjusting to the time zone. For example, having breakfast in the country you’ve arrived in might help signal to your body that it’s morning time.

Also just stay hydrated. If you drink more water, you body seems to happier than when you don’t.

And then get out, occupy yourself. If you stay in your hotel room watching local TV, you’ll end up falling asleep and waking up at night time. You have to make the effort, and there’s always a Costa or a Starbucks around the corner.

But it is a challenge, and we do spend a portion of our lives jetlagged.

What advice would you give to your younger, less-travelled self?

Probably to think before you pack. Don’t take everything... Be prepared to wash your clothes in a hotel room. And have some adventures.

Things to avoid for a less-experienced traveller?

Avoid anyone in a hotel or an airport that is offering you a taxi. Use uber if you can. Try to avoid buying drinks at the hotel bar. There is a bar 20 metres away. If you see a guided tour, go the other way.

Are there any rituals or things that make you feel at home wherever you are?

A Kindle an iPad and a travel adaptor. If you pick up a book you’re reading, it gives you a sense of familiarity, wherever you are. And an iPad has everything in one place.

Best city for a weekend break?

One is Munich – it’s a fantastic place. It’s full of history. Fantastic architecture. I’ve it being described as a village of a million people, and it’s true, it’s very friendly. A lot of different nationalities. Good food, great beer.

My second one is Valletta, capital of Malta. A huge number of things going on in the city this year. It’s only three hours from the UK and it’s warm. The people are friendly, and most people speak English. And it’s diverse and multicultural – you walk two blocks from where you’re staying and you’re in a completely different part of the city.  

Best and worst airport

From a pilot’s perspective, Heathrow is the worst. There is a queue for everything. Everyone seems to be frustrated, on the edge. I find arranging at Heathrow always a bit worrying. I much prefer to travel from or to smaller airports. They’re usually much quicker, and the people are friendlier.

The best airport is somewhere it’s interesting and beautiful to fly into. One is Cannes South of France. It’s a tiny little airport just by the sea, surrounded by mountains. It’s not busy. And it’s a great place to go.

Are there any travel-related publications or blogs you read?

I tend to read all of the airline magazines. Sometimes they have guest writers, and it’s interesting to see their choice of places to go. You do pick up some unusual tips. I’ve stopped reading Rough Guide because they’re now so common, that pretty much anything they recommend is the beaten track. Trip Advisor is useful.

What item would you take to a desert island?

I’d take diving equipment.

Next trip?

Tokyo – Bangkok – Jakharta and I think somewhere in China in the space of two weeks.


- Ugne