I recently flew from Seattle to Bowling Green, Kentucky for a business meeting. Sounds easy enough, right? No! It was truly a “trains, planes and automobiles”-type experience. I spent 40 minutes on a train to the airport, arrived at the airport 60 minutes prior to my flight, the flight time combined with layover time was 8 hours, then a 90 minute drive to Bowling Green. I finally arrived at my hotel, only to get 5 hours sleep prior to my meeting. Then, I did it all over in reverse that evening to get home. While Bowling Green was perfectly lovely for those 18 hours, if I’m going to travel that long, I prefer to find myself in Paris or on a white sandy beach!
My flight home was very late due to storms. I was lucky to be seated next to a fellow traveler who happened to be a flight attendant! Amanda (name changed to protect the innocent) has worked for Delta Airlines for over 13 years. I seized the moment to get a pro's input on how to stay healthy while flying – without having to don a fashionable haz-mat suit! I'm sharing her best nine tips....
1. Get your sleep
Amanda recommends getting enough sleep and stay on the local time zone schedule. Crossing time zones often leads to jet lag, which can result in headaches, upset stomach and nausea, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping. To help alleviate it, get plenty of sleep before you begin your trip. As soon as you arrive at your destination, adjust your sleeping and eating schedule to the new time zone.
2. Avoid alcohol.
The air is very dry (and recycled) when you fly. As a result, the natural diuretic effects of alcohol can be much more potent. Either compensate with more water, or reduce alcohol intake. Otherwise, headaches and bloating may become your unwelcome travel partners. She also recommends avoiding sugar or carbonated drinks – instead, stick to water or hot drinks such as coffee or tea.
3. Avoid junk food
Eat a light meal on the ground before the flight. Avoid junk food, sugary foods or any foods that give you gas like beans, corn, cabbage, onions (as a fellow traveler and potential seat mate, I also appreciate this advice). In the air, bodily gases expand by a third and the digestion process slows down.
4. Help your ears
Amanda recommends that parents bring a bottle, gum or pacifier to help little ears that need to pop due to air pressure. Keep in mind that ears pop all throughout a flight, not just during take-off and landing.
Airplanes are dry places! According to WebMD, “humidity is generally below 25%, in contrast to a comfortable home environment where the humidity level is at about 35%.” This can cause the skin to feel dry, so be sure to slather up with moisturizer before your flight (especially if you’re wearing tights or hosiery) and bring saline drops if flying dries out your eyes.
6. Stay active
Flying can be a pretty sedentary activity if you’re not proactive. Amanda recommends exercising calf muscles and cautions against crossing legs. During the flight, take some time to walk up and down the aisle at least once every hour if you can - getting an aisle seat will make this more convenient. For overachievers, most airline in-flight magazines have a range of exercises to follow which can help your blood circulation.
7. Watch what you touch
If you’re a germaphobe, don’t read this. Bugs and bacteria are found on surfaces in which people come into regular contact. Obviously, beware of the bathroom and bathroom door handles. Use a tissue to open door handles after using the facilities. Then, there’s the seats, armrests, seat trays, in-flight magazines, etc. Amanda recommends using hand sanitizer to wipe down seats and arm rests (she notes that they're rarely cleaned). Avoid unwashed hand contact with your mouth, nose and eyes. It’s never a bad idea to swab down with hand sanitizer – not only for hands, but around your nose and mouth.
8. Bring your own blankie
According to USA TODAY, “Bagged pillows and blankets are not OK to use.” Amanda agrees. She says, “Just because the pillow has a clean pillow case doesn’t mean the actual pillow is clean.”
9. Choose the right seat
If you need to exercise or use the restroom with more frequency, ensure you reserve an aisle seat. Note that the last row or row in front of exit rows don’t recline, so settle in for a straight-backed flight if you choose those seats. She recommends using the airline’s website or www.seatguru.com to ensure you have the right seat for your needs.
Now it's your turn! Give us a 10th tip! What's your BEST stay-healthy travel advice? Share in the comments below!