Are you looking forward to a summer vacation but dreading that germy flight? Don’t stress – here’s how to travel smart and stay healthy on the way.
A happy and healthy flight starts at home. Get plenty of sleep the night before your trip, shutting down a couple of hours earlier if you need to. Taking a multivitamin in the days leading up to your flight can help boost your immune system, but eating right is the best thing you can do. Load up on foods packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fiber. Pre-flight aerobic exercise (think jogging and swimming) is another good idea because it improves circulation for hours post-workout.
Add a bunch of antibacterial wipes to your “smart traveler kit.” Before settling in, disinfect the tray table, arm rests, headrest and any other highly touched spots. Bring along healthy snacks from home like fresh or dried fruit and nuts and seeds. Speaking of food, it’s a good idea to pack disposable place mats for the flight. That way you can enjoy your treats from the tray table without worrying about what the previous passenger left behind!
Although it may throw a wrench in your pre-flight tradition, you should skip alcohol altogether if you want to keep healthy while flying. All it does is dehydrate and bloat your body. Instead of cocktails, drink plenty of water the day before your trip and consider packing an empty reusable bottle in your carryon. Once you’re through TSA screening, fill it up at a water fountain to avoid inflated airport prices. Avoid carbonated beverages, which not only dehydrate but also cause gas (more on that in the next section).
It’s not sexy, but it happens. The plane’s sky-high climb at takeoff decreases air pressure, which causes the gas in our intestines to expand. This is made worse by the fact that most of us try to avoid the plane’s germ-infested bathroom. Prevent gas all-together by avoiding fatty, fried foods as well as healthy options that are known to cause intestinal expansion, like onions, beans and cabbage. Once you’re air born, alleviate this uncomfortable situation by simply answering when nature calls. Washing your hands is a no brainer, but you can double the germ-fighting dose by using sanitizing hand wipes when back at your seat.
The amount of jetlag you experience depends on how many time zones you cross in your travels, not the actual length of your flight. Get your sleep cycle back on track by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Eat light meals while you’re in the air and try to sleep as much as you can. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, head outdoors to soak in as much sunlight as possible, then hit the hay for at least four hours of shut-eye at night during normal bedtime hours.
It’s not just the things you do before and after a flight that can impact your health. While on the plane, encourage circulation. Get up and stretch, tap your feet or create movement in your legs while sitting to help pump blood through your body. Combat diminished air quality by taking long, deep and easy breaths. Wash your hands and, if at all possible, keep them out of those seat-back pockets. You never know what’s been stored in there!