Today, I’m flying from San Francisco to the east coast – a route I’ve done 50+ times. After much trial and error, here’s what has worked best for me to feel my best before, during, and after the flight.
Pre-hydration is key, since the air on planes is so dry. Try to drink water before you get to the airport to help your body perform at its best. Flying is a dehydrating activity, similar to sports, except that it’s more passive than active dehydration. I aim for water and electrolytes, with fewer carbs than a pre-workout mix. My go-to is Nuun Immunity.
I know some people purposely dehydrate themselves to avoid trips to the restroom, but that just doesn’t work for me. Even mild dehydration results in decreased brain function, impairing everything from your judgment to your math skills and mood – I can definitely feel the consequences when it happens.
Protect & Hydrate Skin
Airplanes will also dry out skin. This isn’t for everyone, but after years of wearing makeup on planes (I tend to feel more energized and ready for the day with makeup on), I now opt to go bare-faced. I apply lots of a heavy moisturizer from Kiehl’s to fresh skin, which you can even buy in airport stores. For a quick pick-me-up, spritz a facial spray in-flight, like this one from Herbivore.
Since the skin is a protective barrier between us and the world (germs, people), if I have any cuts or scrapes, I make sure to put on a dot of Neosporin and a bandage.
The first thing I do when I get on a plane is put compression socks on. They look like normal knee-high socks, but are tight to improve circulation. This is important, because when we sit for long periods of time, blood pools in the feet and legs. Compression socks have all sorts of health benefits from increased energy to reduced swelling in the legs. In the past, doctors have recommended compression socks for certain at-risk groups (for example, those at risk of blood clots), but they’re becoming more mainstream now. My favorite brand is Comrad, because they’re the cutest and less intense – made for the everyday wellness enthusiast instead of those with medical conditions.
My posture is far from perfect, and due to years of hunching over a computer, I have chronic neck pain. For flights over 4 hours, I put on these single-use heatwraps that stay warm for up to 8 hours and reduce pain and tightness.
Next, right around takeoff, I like to meditate. The breathing leaves me feeling as good as possible and keeps me occupied during the transition period when in-flight entertainment is not yet available.
Wine & Chill
I’ve found I’m not very productive on airplanes, so it’s better to spend time relaxing. For me, this means a glass of wine, a good movie, and possibly a good cry. I always tear up on airplanes as I find it to be a really opportune time for reflection, without many distractions (sorry, guy next to me). I might have a snack as well, although I’ve noticed that over-eating on a plan makes me feel unwell, so I try to keep it light.
I try to get up once every two hours and stretch in the aisle. My favorite things to do are standing back bends that open up the chest and shoulders, creating room for deeper breathing and better posture, as well as ankle stretches. Neither of these really affect my neighbors (aside from a few strange looks), but they give me an energy boost. After sitting for long periods of time, blood stops flowing to the brain optimally, so it’s good to get up and stretch it out.
Given how much I love stretching, I usually choose the aisle seat. The bad news is, those in the aisle are the most exposed to germs, as they have the most contact with other passengers. The main precaution I take is to consciously avoid touching my face, especially vulnerable areas like eyes and lips and wash my hands in the bathrooms during and after the flight.
Even if I shower immediately before hopping on a plane, I always jump off a plane feeling gross. A quick shower is a great time to cleanse myself of plane germs and start fresh on the other side.
It doesn’t have to be an intense exercise, but I like to at least walk around for a bit or get in some yoga to help with my post-flight energy lull.
Mission accomplished. I’m somewhere different than I was earlier in the day. Air travel really is an under appreciated marvel. Once I land and settle into my new location, it’s time to do what I came here for, whether that’s work or family time.
Have an airplane wellness hack I didn’t mention? We’d love to hear it!