Five Air Travel Tips to Get You Through a Long Flight

Jetting off to an international destination? You’ll need some air travel tips to survive — and even enjoy — your long flight. Here are our top four.

1. Stay Hydrated

Cabin pressure and that dry, recirculated air is dehydrating, particularly to mucous membranes. This makes it harder for your system to flush out germs, so you’ll want to stay hydrated to avoid getting sick. Avoid drinking dehydrating drinks like coffee or alcohol, which can lower your resistance to cold and flu germs. Instead, bring along an empty water bottle, and flag a flight attendant to refill it often. Your skin will need some care, too, so make sure to pack moisturizer, lip balm and even a hydrating spray.

But above all, drink, drink, drink! (Well, water and electrolytes, that is).

2. Nix Ear Pain

There are few things worse than “airplane ear,” that insufferable state caused by pressure changes during a flight, especially at the ascent and descent. This painful condition occurs when the Eustachian tubes that drain the ears are unable to properly regulate the pressure on the eardrum, preventing it from vibrating properly.

If you walk onto a flight already congested, you’re vulnerable to ear pain that can compromise the body’s natural defenses. This is due to the lack of humidity on planes, which creates a hazardous environment for the tissues of the nose and mouth. To deal with this, be sure to pack some saline spray to irrigate and moisturize the membranes inside your nose, or use an oral decongestant.

You can also naturally work to remedy the situation by activating the muscles in your jaw in order to open up those Eustachian tubes. So, make sure you have gum or hard candy to chew or suck on during takeoff and landing. Yawning and swallowing are also an easy fix when candy isn’t at hand. Filtered earplugs are another trick of the trade, as they work to gradually equalize the pressure on your eardrums.

3. Move

If you don’t move for a long time, blood can collect in your legs and feet. When it moves from the veins to the surrounding tissue, you’re likely to get struck with some foot swelling — which in some cases can escalate into blood clots. Unpleasant, to say the least.

Make sure to consistently flex those feet and extend your legs throughout the flight. When you can, walk around or stretch in a cabin corner at regular intervals so your blood can circulate upwards. You can even do some in-flight exercises, boosting your oxygen levels and preventing fatigue.

4. Create a DIY Airplane Feast

Ever wonder why airplane food tastes so bad? Because it is. What doesn’t help, though, is how the pressurized atmosphere alongside the cool, dry cabin air wreaking havoc with our taste buds, numbing our perception of how salty or sweet something is. This decrease in humidity also dries out our noses, thus dulling olfactory sensors.

So, if you want to avoid the horror that is airplane food, be sure to pack your own healthy meal (no liquids, of course) with fresh veggies and protein. For an extra dose of flavor, throw in some stronger spices like cardamom and lemongrass.

5. Relax

The key to lowering in-flight mental strain is to make it as comfortable as possible — even if that means wearing pajamas. Along with that meal you prepared, carry on some lotions and potions to keep you feeling fresh and books or DVDs to keep your mind occupied. These can go a long way to expand your mind outside the three-inch radius you have around you and the other passengers.

Speaking of which, it helps to maximize your space by keeping only the essentials at your seat.

Bring your own pillow, sleep mask and blanket combo. Not only do airlines frequently fail to supply them nowadays, they are generally uncomfortable and germ-ridden. Everyone sleeps differently, and no one travel pillow works for everyone, but finding the right one can make your flight infinitely more pleasant.

One last tip: Noise-canceling headphones save lives (or at least sanity). Invest in a good pair — you’ll thank yourself later when the newborn baby behind you starts screaming. Not only do these headphones filter out unwanted human noises, but they can also fight fatigue that comes from constantly being exposed to the noise from engines, whirring air stream and that general awareness you’re hurtling through the air at incomprehensible speeds.

So now that you’ve got everything together: Sit back, relax, and daydream about your destination.

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