As a frequent traveler, I often get asked, “How do you do it? How do you travel 2-3 weeks out of the month?” For me the answer is simple: Keep yourself organized and know what to bring with you. Much of what I’ve learned has been through trial and error, so keep the following tips in mind on your next big international flight for better sleep, easier time zone adjustment and an overall more comfortable experience—even in coach.
Clean your seat and open the air vent
Bring antibacterial wipes with you so that you can wipe down your seat, seat arms and tray table. You may think that sickness is spread through the airplane’s circulating air supply, but that is a myth. It is the surfaces that you need to watch out for, so wipe them down as soon as you arrive. You have no idea who sat in this seat before you got here. You get sick from your fellow passengers, not from the airplane’s air supply system! In fact, today modern airplanes have advance filtration systems that trap germs, so you can breathe easier just knowing this.
Bonus tip: Open up that air vent above you at full blast and aim it at your nose. This may very well be the cleanest air that you will get on your entire flight, so make sure it is open and blowing clean air in your direction.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), humidity in an aircraft is 20% or less. As a reference point, a comfortable level at home would be 30-45%. This decrease in humidity tends to dry out your eyes, ears, mouth and skin. So one of the first things you need to do is carry with you a refillable container and fill it with water once you pass through security. A pricier option is to buy a bottle of water at the airport and keep it in the seat pocket in front of you. Just the visualization of the bottle of water should help you remember to drink more, which will help keep your body hydrated. And while you are at it, choose food items that have higher water content—things like vegetables or fruit if available—or bring some with you! I also tend to stay away from alcohol on long-haul flights, as it dehydrates you.
Bonus tip: Bring eye drops and saline solution along for your nose to keep your eyes and nose moist. Place in a plastic baggie and put in the seat pocket in front of you as a gentle reminder.
Get up and move around
Sitting on long-haul flights without much room or walking around can cause decreased blood flow to your legs. This in turn can cause an increase in the chance for blood clots in your legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Some people set alarms to remind them to get up and walk around. I don’t, but I do get up and move after watching a movie or within about the first 3-4 hours into the flight. And then again every 4 hours or so. Plus, drinking all that water helps me remember that I need to get up and go to the bathroom! And while you are in your seat, stretch and move your legs and arms the best you can. Even doing ankle and foot exercises will help increase blood to those areas of the body.
Bonus tip: Drink tea or coffee; they will dehydrate you, but they will also force you to go to the bathroom since they are a diuretic.
Adjust to your new time zone while in the air
Once onboard, start preparing for your new time zone. I usually start early and adjust my clock right away to the arriving local time on my smartphone. This allows me to know when I should be eating and sleeping. Changing time zones messes with your circadian rhythm according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). It is that internal 24-hour clock that gives you cues as to what you should be doing at certain times of the day and night. Some people bring with them a natural sleep aid to get them drowsy for sleeping. I bring along DriftOff, a soothing sleep formula to help me sleep on long-haul flights. Also, make sure you bring earplugs to cut out some of the ambient noise.
Bonus tip: Take cues from the airlines for sleep, as they tend to dim the lights and lower the temperature in the airplane to get the passengers ready for rest.
Pack plenty of electronics
Certainly each of us travels differently, but a few things that have helped keep me entertained, relaxed, or even busy are my Sony EX Extra Bass Wireless Headphones. With them, peace and quiet come with me wherever my travels take me. They come in both over-ear (Sony Incredible Noise Cancellation) and in-ear (Sony True Wireless) styles. I bring both. This helps cut out aircraft noise, crying babies, or even people’s conversations that I don’t want to hear. I also bring along a fully charged smart phone with a smart battery case. With this, I can charge my iPhone and battery case simultaneously for internet use for up to 22 hours and have longer audio and video playback for when I want to watch a movie or TV on my phone. Because I mostly travel for work, I also bring my laptop, however, I see many others with iPads or e-readers.
I always bring a scarf, which has various uses: everything from keeping my neck warm, to covering up my eyes because of the bright light, to being a blanket to keep warm. I also always pack an extra pair of socks, a lightweight sweater, extra clothes for my destination, a sleep aid, a neck pillow, and a toothbrush with toothpaste. These things may sound random, but for me, they are the minimum that I need for all long-haul flights.
My advice to you as an expert traveler is to get yourself in the right frame of mind and make the preparations that do make a difference. It may take a bit of effort to decide what to bring, but if you bring the right things, you will feel more prepared and ready to take on that long-haul flight.
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