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It’s safe to say that for most people, flying is the least fun part of any trip. And the longer the flight, the less enjoyable it is, especially for those of us unlucky enough to be seated in coach. The seats are cramped, the food is mediocre, and chances are there’s a screaming baby sitting next to you. How do you survive without going insane? Pack the following items in your carry-on and you might stand a chance of arriving at your destination not feeling like a zombie.
Headphones, iPod, Laptop, DVD Player
While many international carriers now offer free in-flight entertainment, many still do not, especially on their older model planes. Unless you know for certain your flight has it, it’s best to bring your own distractions. Pass the time watching your favorite DVDs on a player or on your laptop, or dose off to sleep to your favorite tunes, which will also help drown out noise of the people around you.
Neck Pillow, Blanket, Ear Plugs and Eye Mask
To keep jet lag at bay, try to get some sleep on the plane. Most airlines stock a limited number of blankets and pillows (though they sometimes run out), but they often aren’t comfortable and they may smell funny. Bring a neck pillow – it may look odd, but it will help you sleep – and your own soft blanket, cover your eyes with a mask, and drown out sounds with ear plugs, and you should be nodding off to dreamland in no time. You’ll arrive at your destination rested, refreshed, and ready to explore.
Books and Magazines
Bring your favorite travel magazines or a can’t-put-it-down novel and the time between boarding and bedtime will pass quicker than you realize. Keep the guidebook for your destination handy so that, in the morning, you can excite yourself and shake off any remaining sleepiness by reading about the destination you’ll soon be reaching. You can also do some last-minute brushing up on the local language.
Water Bottle and Snacks
Plane food is notoriously bland. It’s also usually loaded in sodium, which can contribute to feeling bloated and sluggish upon landing. Skip the free meal and instead nibble on healthy snacks that are a mix of whole carbohydrates and protein and are low in sodium. Don’t rely on the flight attendant to keep you hydrated. Bring your own large water bottle on board and drink from it often. Drinking a few glasses of wine may be tempting as you figure it will help you relax and fall asleep, but try to avoid it. Alcohol will only increase your dehydration. No one wants to arrive hungover for the first day of their vacation.
The best way to make the time pass quickly, and to ward off jet lag, is to sleep as much as possible while en route to your destination. If you have trouble falling asleep naturally, talk to your doctor about a sleep aid. Some people have luck with Benadryl or Tylenol PM. Just be sure you try it out several times at home so you know exactly how your body will react before you take it on the plane, and follow your doctor’s orders to the letter. Don’t mix it with alcohol and don’t take it until the plane has been in the air awhile and it is time to go to bed.
Toiletry Kit and Change of Clothes
After a long flight in a confined space, breathing recycled air and sleeping in your clothes, you can’t help but feel a little gross upon landing. Bring an extra set of clothes on board and change shortly before landing. Stock toothpaste, face wash, minimal makeup and contacts (if you wear them) in your carry-on. About 45 minutes before landing, head to the restroom to freshen up and change. By the time you land, you’ll feel like a new person and be ready to dive right in to your destination.
A Cure for Jet Lag?
One of the downsides of travel to Europe is jet-lag. When I travel to Europe, it is from the west coast, so I really have more hours to make up than you lucky east-coasters; we have a 9-hour time differential. My secret is to stay up as long as I can when I get there and go to bed when it is dark, so I wake up the next morning ready to sight-see. It is when I get home that jet lag seems to set in. I have read lots of different ideas as to how to avoid jet lag. But, Dr. Andrew Weil, botanist, Physician and noted author has come up with what seems to be a good plan. I have tried the Dr. Weil Method, and it seems to work well for me.
He says that you need to drink lots of – you’ve heard it before – water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and limit your sugar intake.
Noting that food is harder to digest at high altitudes, he suggests that you eat light meals and avoid the usual high-salt and high-fat airplane fare. You can do that by ordering a vegetarian meal in advance.
Dress comfortably and while aboard, get up and stretch often to improve your circulation. This also helps you avoid deep-vein thrombosis, a risk for those who sit idle on long flights.
When you get to your destination, expose yourself to as much natural daylight as possible as it is the most powerful influence on the internal timing of your body clock.
And finally, he recommends that you take 2.5 mg of melatonin at bedtime for one or two nights before you leave and before you come home to even further reduce jet lag. You can get melatonin without a prescription at drug and health food stores. But since natural melatonin may be contaminated with a virus, I recommend synthetic melatonin.
Knowing that jet lag can be tamed, I’m ready for my next trip to Europe!
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com
Staying Healthy While Flying Internationally
There are few things more frustrating than the feeling I have had while disembarking from an international flight. My mind is so excited and ready to begin my trip, but my body feels sluggish, achy and ready for a three day nap. Since I travel frequently, I decided to figure out some ways to make the flight more bearable for both body and mind. By following these guidelines, I have had much better results when I travel internationally. I hope you find them helpful as well.
Before you leave
- Consider trying to set your internal clock to your destination’s time zone by adjusting your sleeping and eating patterns.
- Boost your immune system with Vitamin C or Echinacea.
In the airport and in-flight
- Be sure to drink a lot of fluids ( water is the best) before, during, and even after your flight. Avoid drinking too much coffee, tea or alcohol, since all of these can dehydrate you. Staying hydrated will help you avoid jet lag later on.
- Bring hand cream (under 3 oz. so that you can get through security) and lip balm to stay moisturized while you are in the air.
- If you typically wear contacts, opt for your glasses when traveling by plane. My contacts typically dry out and irritate my eyes.
- Bring a toothbrush and under 3 oz. of toothpaste. Nothing feels more refreshing than brushing your teeth shortly before you land.
- If your ears become plugged, swallow hard or chew gum to relieve the pressure.
- Walk around as much as you can during the flight. This will help you to avoid swollen feet and ankles, muscle cramps and soreness. While in your seat, be sure to stretch your neck, shoulders, arms and legs (if possible).
- Wear slippers or socks while you are on the plane. This will allow your feet to remain more comfortable as they swell and will also increase circulation.
- If you have a long layover, try to get out of the airport for a while and get some fresh air. If you stay inside the airport, avoid smoking lounges and smoky bars.
- As much as possible, try to adjust your sleeping and eating patterns to the new time zone while in-flight.
After you arrive
- Take a hot shower as soon as you can after you land. This will help clear your head and relax sore muscles.
- Remember to keep drinking water throughout the day to rehydrate.
- If you arrive at your destination during the day, take a walk near your hotel. The exercise will refresh you and help make it possible to stay awake throughout the day. Resist the temptation to take a nap.
This was written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard