I travel a lot. I did the math for 2017, and I was away from home for 31% of the year. Most of this travel was to far-off places, involving back-to-back long-haul flights from my Hawaii home to my final destination.
All this travel means I spend a lot of time in airplanes, and I’ve made it a priority to get good at it. Read on and learn how to make 14 hours in a metal cylinder a little less shitty.
Here are my top five travel tips for long-haul flight survival (and maybe even enjoyment).
Travel tip #1: Hydrate like a mother.
Literally, I’m saying that you should drink fluids as if you’re hydrating for two. And water isn’t enough. Remember, you’re not just losing water when you’re sublimating moisture from right out your skin. You’re also losing important minerals like potassium and sodium. So drink water and have a banana and a packet of salted nuts.
Or, better yet, if you have a chance to pack some raw or lightly steamed vegetables in your carry-on, do it. The fiber will help your body hang onto the water you drink, and it’s way, way better to eat veggies than the overpriced caramel popcorn from the snack cart. My favorite grab-and-go airplane food is a box of triple-washed organic greens, some baby carrots, a tub of hummus and a half-pound of fresh ahi poke from the local supermarket.
For next-level planning ahead, try this hydration hack. Before you leave home, take two minutes in the kitchen and prep the ingredients for warm salted lemon water. Cut a lemon or two in half, then sprinkle the cut sides with a pinch of good sea salt. Bag ‘em up and throw them into your carry-on. Once you’re through airport security, squeeze half of a salted lemon into your HydroFlask and visit the nearest coffee kiosk for some hot water. This beverage is tasty and great for sipping while you’re in that desiccating airplane air.
Fun fact: I know I’m dehydrated when my bracelets/rings leave deep imprints on my skin.
Also, DRINK WATER.
Travel tip #2: Cover your mouth.
Okay, you know how you can walk through any Japan airport and count scores of people wearing those white paper surgical masks? And maybe you think, oh wow, they’re so polite about their cold symptoms or bad breath or whatever? Here’s the deal with those: the masks aren’t for you; the masks are for them.
Turns out, face masks that cover your nose and mouth are brilliant at keeping your own personal moisture in and much of the ambient nastiness out. This means no more crusty boogers or nosebleeds from dry airplane air, and less risk of airborne irritants getting all up in your breath holes.
Also, you look super hip to the cool Asia travel ways, yo.
For extra health- and comfort-boosting effects, I put one drop of essential oil on the inside of my mask. The antimicrobial compounds in eucalyptus, the calming aroma of lavender and the stink-masking scent of lemon are all regulars in my aromatherapy applications.
If you’re going to try this tip, bear in mind that you’ll potentially have this mask on for hours and hours and hours, which means that even one single drop of straight peppermint right next to your nostrils might be a bit too brissssk, ya feel me? Like that time I used peppermint Dr. Bronner’s in the shower, undiluted, as body wash, everywhere. MMMMINTY. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Make sure undiluted essential oil won’t make direct contact with any sensitive skin. As another option, I sometimes make a skin-safe dilution of essential oil in a carrier oil like coconut, and then it doesn’t matter if the oil touches my skin or not.
Pro tip: Instead of a disposable paper mask, get yourself a reusable cloth mask that filters out more pollutants, fits better to your face and is way cuter. I wear Vogmask brand, size L.
Travel tip #3: Buckle up tight.
And I mean TIGHT. Wedge your ass into that economy seat, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and then pull the end of the strap until you feel your iliac crests pressed back and your butt bones forcibly snuggled deep into the cushion.
Here’s why. Often times the reason for back pain is shear forces resulting from an unstable pelvis position, plus sub-optimal abdominal muscle engagement because your body has nothing to push against. Therefore, if you use the seatbelt to lock your pelvis in place, your spine has a nice foundation AND you’re in maximum contact with the back rest so your torso is mostly well supported, too.
For a demo and explanation by a real doctor of physical therapy, check out this video from mobility badass Dr. Kelly Starrett: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k94954VQGRA.
Travel tip #4: Pack your own food, or plan ahead.
Airplane food is weird. (Unless you’re in first class. Maybe. I wouldn’t know.) It’s often over-salted and over-sugared. The portion size in these “meals” is just enough to piss me off. I usually decline the meal service (if there even is one) and bring my own food. For a flight that’s 9+ hours, I’m bringing aboard two solid meals and several snacks.
My meals always include a heaping portion of cooked vegetables, like steamed broccoli. Remember travel tip #1? Yeah, my carry-on is mostly food.
If the airline provides a complimentary meal, I request a “special meal” at the time I book my reservation, as a kind of food insurance. I find that ordering a special meal increases the chances that I’ll receive something less awful than the standard fare. And bonus, these special meals are served before the meal service carts begin their slow procession down the aisles, so I get my hot food way earlier.
A bunch of international airlines offer extensive meal choices if you book in advance. I’ve seen vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, diabetic meal, low-sodium meal, halal, kosher, the tempting and mysterious “soft and bland” selection… the list goes on. Not all carriers have these options, though, and most frequently the only choices you’ll hear are “pasta or beef?”
Moral of the food story: bring your own whenever possible because it’s somewhat controllable. Don’t leave your nutrition up to chance, especially when you have to sit in the same seat for another 8 hours while your gut deals with the consequences of whatever you put in your mouth.
Travel tip #5: Pick your airline wisely.
I am famous (in my mind) for budget shopping for my flights. I am also famous (again, in my mind) for dropping an extra couple hundred US dollars to fly with a carrier that I trust and enjoy.
Fool me once, shame on you, you crap-airline-that-shall-remain-nameless. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I will sing the praises of Hawaiian Airlines forever and always, plus their codeshare partners Emirates, Japan Airlines and JetBlue. These carriers have consistently delivered great service for me.
Also, Hawaiian Airlines has my favorite boarding music and best safety video ever. After more than two months away from my O‘ahu home, there’s nothing like the sound of Henry Kapono singing “At Home in the Islands” as I slide my duffle bag under the seat in front of me. As for the safety video, check it out here: https://youtu.be/-W93gQO6AtA
I wish you good travel ♥︎
Now, over to you, friend. Which of these five tips are most useful to you? Do you have a favorite strategy or genius travel hack to share? Would you like me to share more of my travel tips?
Leave a comment below, and let’s travel the world together with ease, style and FUN.
Big hugs to you, fellow explorer.