Taking to the skies this summer — or sooner? Whether you’re a seasoned jet setter or a more infrequent traveler, you may be interested in strategies to improve your experience of going from Point A to Point B. I’m a firm believer in the concept of enjoying the journey. Air travel can be unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways you can make your next flight more relaxing… or at least less painful.
You’ll feel better if you stay hydrated during your travels, so drink water whenever you feel thirsty. Water is the only thing that will actually quench your thirst. Stay away from alcoholic beverages while in the air.
“The air in an aircraft is very dry and, coupled with the diuretic effect of drinking alcohol; you may become dehydrated much faster than you would on the ground,” KLM explains. If you want to feel your best during your trip and minimize the toll traveling takes on your body, then skip the alcohol.
I also recommend staying away from carbonated beverages (unless you have an upset stomach, in which case you may want a carbonated beverage).
Most airlines offer juice (apple, orange, cranberry) in addition to water from their beverage carts. If you want a flavored beverage, choose fruit juice instead of soda or an alcoholic beverage. You don’t have to worry about ending up with a cup of Tang: In my experience, most U.S. airlines nowadays are serving one hundred percent juice out of large juice boxes, not juice made from concentrate or fake juice made with powders.
Skip the ice whenever you get a beverage from a flight attendant.
While the water airlines serve is typically bottled, the ice could have been made in an ice machine using tap water that came out of the airplane’s water tanks… and with the notable exception of Southwest, airlines don’t have such a great track record when it comes to tap water quality.
A 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that one in eight airplanes had water that totally failed safety standards. A more recent round of testing, in 2013, showed not much had improved.
Also, by skipping the ice, you’ll end up with an empty cup when you finish your beverage (ideally water or juice, as mentioned) instead of a cup with still-melting, possibly also sticky ice cubes that could spill.
Avoid coffee and tea for the same reason.
To ensure that you have water at the gate as well as in the air, bring an empty Kleen Kanteen or a HydroFlask with you in your carry-on.
After you pass through the security checkpoint, fill your water bottle using either a filling station next to a drinking fountain or ask someone working at a bar or restaurant in the concourse to fill it. Don’t use a drinking fountain spout because some people put their mouths right on the spout.
If you want to be comfortable while in the air, be careful what you eat while at the gate and on the plane. In addition to avoiding alcohol, it’s also best to avoid greasy and sugary foods like burgers or pizza along with cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower.
And, to avoid irritating your neighbors, I suggest skipping smelly foods like garlic, canned fish (sardines, tuna, etc.) and onions.
Stay away from chewing gum, too… it can contribute to bloating. (Yawn, as deeply as you like, to pop those ears safely and effectively.)
Here are some foods that you can enjoy while on the plane. You should bring snacks as well as an entree or two for a longer flight.
- Cherries. They’re one of the few natural sources of melatonin.
- Chicken and vegetable wrap. This can be your main course.
- Pasta salad. If you’re a vegan, this could be your main course.
- Bananas. They go down easy and are a good source of potassium.
- Lemons. You can use them to flavor your water if you want.
- Whole grains like quinoa and brown rice for an energy boost.
- Protein bars for a non-messy treat in between meals.
When flying, there are some must-haves that you’ll want to keep with you besides that reusable water bottle (which is the key to staying hydrated).
- Something to read. You can’t use a laptop during takeoff and landing, but you can read from a printed publication or handheld. To minimize weight, bring a magazine, a tablet, or an e-book reader instead of books. If you do pack a book, make it a paperback.
- Disinfecting wipes. Airplane seat-back tray tables are dirtier than your toilet at home. Disinfect them, your armrests, and seat buckle as soon as you’re seated with Clorox on the go wipes or an equivalent product.
- External battery. Not all planes have USB charging ports, so it’s a good idea to have an external battery pack with you, like the Anker PowerCore series.
- Noise canceling headphones or earbuds. There’s no shortage of options right now when it comes to noise canceling headphones and earbuds. Most do an excellent job of filtering out the hum of a jet engine. Connect the pair that’s right for you to your smartphone or an inexpensive audio player like the Sansa.
- Sleep kit. If you want to catch some Z’s while at 30,000 feet, pack an eye mask and a neck pillow.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and arrive at the gate. Remember, you can always read a book or work on your computer at the gate until it’s time for your flight.
If you’re not stressed out, you’ll feel better and have a more pleasant trip.