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A Guide to Healthy, Comfortable Long-Haul Flights

I keep getting asked how I can stand to fly for long periods of time- in any class of travel. Not only do I enjoy flying, for the most part, I tend to stay pretty healthy when flying- and often don’t experience too much jetlag. However, if sitting is the new smoking and you’re stuck in Economy on a 14-hour flight, wondering how can you stay healthy is a pretty valid question- particularly when airplane water is recycled (so not very healthy) and flying way up high can be so dehydrating…not to mention that when you land, you usually have a big dollop of jet lag to look forward to. I find that keeping a regimen helps me stay healthy throughout the flight, which pays in spades when I land- I often can get off the plane and get straight to sightseeing, meetings or whatever else I have in store for me on the other side.

Here are some tips I texted family and friends flying to see me and C. get hitched in Paris last week- and ones that I follow myself on any flight over four hours.

  • I try to start with champagne. This might seem like the antithesis of being healthy, but it helps relax me and start my flight off with a sense of occasion. Usually I limit myself to one or two glasses, and check emails, make phone calls or, if I’m flying with other people, chat with my travel buddies.
  • I buy loads of water. You can never travel with too much water. I buy a litre for every two hours I fly and try to finish it all before I land. Remember that if you have connecting flights, you can’t take water with you through your connections, so only buy what you need to last you through your flight.
  • I stick to my routine. If I’m flying through the night, I bring my toothbrush, facewash, thick socks and eye mask. If I’m flying through the day, I make a list of tasks I can get done on my flight- or download some movies or music to keep me occupied. Even though I change my watch to local time pretty much as soon as the flight takes off, I find that keeping my routine stable helps me minimise jet lag, and it helps me relax and unwind- or at least keeps me occupied- through what can be a pretty uncomfortable experience.
  • I wash my face and hands, then moisturize. I do this several times on a flight, usually after a meal. This just keeps me feeling a bit cleaner since planes are so dirty.
  • Face masks are the best. Nothing helps me relax and unwind like a face mask- plus, it helps moisturise through drying flights. Also, it scares people who are walking around.

  • I try to get up and walk or stretch every hour. Sometimes you’re at the window pinned in by at least one other person, which may make it difficult to get up and walk, but if you can, try to get up and stretch. It does wonders for your circulation, and will help you avoid those niggling aches and pains you get from sitting for long periods of time. It helps if you combine your other breaks- bathroom, washing up, etc., with walking. I typically pace the aisles a few times and then I stretch in the galley.
  • I eat light, or not at all. Plane food typically isn’t too enticing, so I don’t find this tip too difficult. If you eat on a relatively set schedule, eating at odd times only contributes to confusing your body, which further exacerbates jet lag. I tend to eat a nice meal prior to the flight- often with champagne- and then snack lightly on the flight. If I get starving, I will eat plane food, however.
  • I take natural sleeping supplements. I always bring melatonin on flights- it helps me get to sleep when I’m not overly tired, or even when I am, but I’m too wound up to sleep, or if it is too noisy.
  • I set my watch to the arrival time upon departure. This is a biggie. To get acclimated to local time as soon as possible, I set my watch to the time of the place I’m going as soon as the flight takes off- this helps me start thinking in local time, even if I keep my routine solid through my flight.
  • I meditate for at least 15 minutes, and then do breathing exercises. I can be a nervous flier, so meditating and breathing really helps. It also helps if you’re experiencing the stress of delayed flights, connections or just wondering what you’ll do when you get to where you’re going. I use Insight App to time my meditations and practice kapalabati breathing and nadi shodana.
  • I rarely watch in-flight entertainment- I bring my own on my iPad and break it up with little bits of work. Most in-flight entertainment systems are so super tiny, so I tend to bring my own iPad and download shows I’ve been wanting to watch on Netflix- it helps the time go back faster if I’m bingewatching shows!

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