By Sarah Pridgeon
Queen Elizabeth II is officially the most widely traveled head of state in the history of mankind, if reports from back home are to be believed. This is both fascinating and unsurprising if you consider that an American president, for example, has a limited tenure during which to make visits, while the Queen has been jetting around the planet for 65 years.
It would seem that she hasn’t sat still for more than two minutes since her first trip to Kenya in 1952. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, she had made 261 official overseas visits and 96 state visits to 116 countries, including 27 visits to Canada and 18 to Australia.
Her longest trip was in 1953, when she toured the Commonwealth and covered over 44,000 miles while carrying 12 tons of luggage (for which I imagine the overweight bag fee was significant).
In total, she has traveled over one million miles, the equivalent of 42 trips round the circumference of the Earth. That sort of schedule would be exhausting for a mere mortal, but the Queen has it easier than the rest of us. She needn’t arrive at Heathrow three hours before her flight and they don’t make her remove her crown to go through a security scanner.
Not to mention that she makes use of a handy loophole that renders it unnecessary for her to line up at the arrivals gate. A British passport bears the following words on the first page:
“Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”
Because she is the majesty in question and the passport is issued in her name, according to the official website for the royal family it’s not necessary for her to possess one herself. The rest of the family must still go through the bit with the eye scanners, but the Queen can head straight for the luggage carousel.
Well, sort of. Since 2009, she’s still had to give her details whenever she enters Britain, including name, age, nationality and place of birth. Imagine for a moment being the customs agent who must ask the Queen, one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, what her name is.
As someone who is swiftly becoming a veteran of international travel, I feel nothing but horror at the idea of spending as many long hours on airplanes as my monarch has over the years. How does she cope with all that jet lag?
Apparently, she has a secret remedy for the airplane blues: barley sugar. This is a traditional hard candy from back home that tastes somewhat similar to caramel.
The Telegraph asked the appropriately named Dr. Nick Knight what exactly this habit achieves. He said that it can help to continue your daily habits, such as sleeping and eating, in line with the time zone you are heading for; the Queen is basically using her sugar metabolic pathways to adjust her body clock.
“It is a little niche, but essentially the same should happen if you were to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner at times that match your destination before you get there, regardless of whether you’re hungry or not,” he said.
Naturally, most of the habits my monarch has developed are more difficult to emulate when traveling coach. It is unlikely, for example, that I will ever have the means to take a 34-person entourage with me to see to my needs.
That’s a shame, because it sounds heavenly to have someone sorting out my catering while someone else figures out my itinerary and another fixes my hair. I will also probably find myself having problems at customs if I attempt to take packs of my own blood with me on my travels, just in case I need them.
I will be sternly reprimanded if the customs gate if I carry gin and slices of lemon with me on vacation, but I could perhaps follow her lead in taking a monogrammed kettle with me everywhere I go and a decent stock of Earl Grey tea. Queen Elizabeth also lists a hot water bottle, pine scented soaps, framed family photos and sausages from Harrods among her must-haves for every trip.
It’s nice to know that Her Majesty likes the same down-to-earth foods as the rest of us, but we’ll probably never know what her favorite meal is. A representative for the Master of the Household arrives at her destinations early to make sure they go easy on the spice and garlic, but refuses to reveal the secret of her meal because, as one of her staff commented, “If she said she had a favorite meal, she would never get served anything else.”
We should also avoid taking three outfit changes per day with us on our trips, each of them numbered and secured in steel wardrobes on wheels. Not just to avoid those baggage charges, but also because we don’t have a Traveling Yeoman to make a test run and check that our luggage will get through every doorway and down all the stairs.
There are few tips from the British head of state that the ordinary traveler can make use of, but I will be stocking up on barley sugar the next time I head across the pond. I might not be planning to rack up quite the same number of frequent flyer points as the Queen, but I could sure use more ways to make my regular 10,000-mile run a little more comfortable.