8 Commandments for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

by  Aly Walansky | Mar 18, 2015
Girl on plane
Girl on plane / undrey/iStock

These days, many of us are traveling longer distances more often -- and as much as we may be getting used to the airport nuances, the flight experience is no less draining. But no one wants to start a trip feeling battered and tired with cricks everywhere. Here are the eight rules to follow that will help you emerge from a long-haul flight refreshed and ready to explore.

1. Stay hydrated.
Flying in a pressurized, dehumidified cabin dehydrates your body, and also makes you more susceptible to the affects of alcohol. "When you're dehydrated, your immune system can't function as efficiently, making you more susceptible to germs and contagious illnesses that run rampant aboard crowded spaces,” says Dr. David A. Greuner, a cardiovascular surgeon. We know those in-flight cocktails are tempting -- especially if you luck into a free one -- but swap that vodka tonic for a bottle of water, and your body will thank you at the end of the trip.

2. Stay mobile.
When the pilot informs you that you're free to move about the cabin, do so. Take regular breaks from your seat, pump your calves, and stretch out. “Keeping your body moving not only lessens the chance of neck and back pain, but also prevents blood from pooling in the veins of your legs and arms -- which can leading to cramping, swelling, and potentially dangerous blood clots,” says Dr. Greuner.

3. Sanitize.
Always take along antibacterial wipes, lotion, or gel. “We all know that airplanes are full of people in close quarters, for prolonged periods of time. Not to mention many aircraft are running nonstop with back-to-back flights. It only makes sense to make sure your area is as clean as possible with a little extra help,” Dr. Greuner points out. And always avoid airline pillows and blankets, unless they're individually packaged.

4. Stay comfortable.
Dr. Greuner advises that extra-comfortable clothing will help you choose a more comfortable position, and be more relaxed for your flight, allowing for you to get more rest and arrive intact.

5. Ease your back.
Be sure to stretch every hour of your flight, says Katharine Rust of Trip Tribe. How? Reach your hands up, take a big breath in, and exhale as you bend to one side. Repeat on the other side.

6. Stretch your legs.
Legs get stiff from all the sitting around, walking, and hauling that is involved with travel, so be sure to stretch them. Rust recommends standing upright, hugging one knee at a time into your chest, and finding your balance. In a standing position, bend one knee at a time and reach back for your foot (same hand, same foot).

7. Relieve sinus pressure.
Irrigate your sinuses. Rust suggests using a Neti Pot for running saline water through your sinuses, to help keep things clear, clean, and moisturized.

8. Combat dry, painful eyes.
We often feel gross from the neck down after a flight, but our eyes suffer, too. Dr. Howard Purcell, O.D., F.A.A.O. for Essilor of America, recommends thoroughly cleaning your contact lenses before takeoff and taking them out when you're going to sleep. Remember to pack everything you need for your contact lenses and carry your glasses with you -- or, better yet, just wear the glasses during the flight.  And remember to blink! “You might not realize it, but while you’re reading or looking at your digital devices, you don’t blink as often. Blinking will help refresh your eyes,” says Dr. Purcell. If you have very dry eyes, consider using lubricating eye drops (your eye doctor can help you find the best one for you).

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