Taking a long flight, whether it’s for business or personal travel, can be extremely harsh on you mentally and physically. A few things that can take place are becoming dehydrated, experiencing disrupted sleep, and mental sluggishness once you’ve arrived. Not to mention that these effects can linger for a few days after you’ve made it to your destination.
There is nothing worse than not being able to fully enjoy your surroundings, or spending time with your friends and family. Sometimes we may notice that we try to push ourselves, but this can lead to us ‘crashing’ within just a few hours, or even days afterwards. This is not healthy for your mind or your body, so I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help you during your long haul flight, and to combat the lingering effects of jet lag.
What you should snack on
It is wise to bring snacks with you during the flight, just in case you are not too keen on what is being served, or if you need something in between meals to keep you feeling satisfied. It is not recommended to eat too much during your flight due to the fact that the process of digestion is slowed down. However, there are certain foods to help you with jet lag, to promote sleep, and to boost your immune system.
If possible, bring a few bananas with you because they are packed full of great nutrients that our bodies need, such as magnesium and potassium. These allow your muscles to naturally relax, and you will find that the tryptophan in bananas aid in the promotion of sleep. Cherries are also a natural source of melatonin, and are a perfect snack that you can enjoy.
If you are prone to acid reflux and heartburn, protein bars can really help out in this area. You can also just pack some almonds in a zip-lock bag, and besides being high in protein, they also help to curb your appetite, and have a high dose of magnesium just like bananas!
What you should avoid
When flying long distance, you particularly want to try to avoid eating anything that may cause excess gas. Beans, carbonated drinks, broccoli, bread, and even peaches should be avoided. These foods are known to cause bloating, which is very uncomfortable during a long haul flight. Foods with a high salt content, such as french fries, can lead to heartburn and unwanted fluid retention that can cause your legs and feet to swell. Orange juice is also very acidic and should be avoided due to the heartburn-causing effects.
I know most of us really enjoy that complimentary glass of wine that some airlines offer, or a nice hot cup of coffee when they turn on the air-conditioning. Though, if possible, do try to resist the temptation because the caffeine will keep you awake when it’s time to rest your tired eyes. Caffeine is also a diuretic which aids in dehydrating you, and can cause you to take more frequent bathroom breaks.
If, and when, you do manage to fall asleep, this can also affect how easily you fall back asleep once woken up. If you are craving something hot to drink, pack a few decaf green tea bags with you, or ask the flight attendants if they have any on board. Green tea is known to have theanine in it, which helps to promote sleep and relaxation.
A few recommended items
On most long haul flights, that thin, tiny blanket really isn’t going to do much for you when trying to keep warm. In this case, I recommend that you bring a comfortable, over-sized scarf with you to use as an extra blanket. You can easily wear this through the airport so there is no need to stuff it into your bag, as this will only take up space.
Make sure to also bring a portable phone charger with you because not all airplanes have a USB charging station at your seat. I also suggest bringing a few makeup remover wipes and extra tissues along to help you feel clean and refreshed. Don’t worry if you do not feel comfortable bringing the whole pack because you can just take as many as you need, put them into a zip-lock bag, and this will lock in the moisture to keep them from drying out.
Dry shampoo is also another great item to carry with you. In between layovers we usually don’t have time to take a shower, depending on the airport you’re flying into. Dry shampoo will help to absorb any excess oil that your scalp produces, and is easy to comb out, leaving your hair looking healthy and clean. Dry shampoo comes in both spray and powder forms, making this a quick and convenient option.
Move in your seat or around the plane
Since our bodies are naturally programmed to locomote at least a few times throughout the day, staying still during a long haul flight leaves you at risk for serious blood clots, which may develop into deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Improve blood circulation in your legs by doing gentle exercises at your seat, such as leg lifts, knee rotation, and crossover lifts - even simply leg stretches will help a great deal too. If you have no idea where to start, check out the airline magazines at your seat pocket - they will usually have a section dedicated to simple exercises for long haul flights. Don’t forget to get up from your seat every two hours and walk up and down the aisles to keep your blood flowing - and to maintain your sanity as well.
Investing in a pair of good flight socks will also minimize the risk of DVT and improve circulation. As blood in your veins work against gravity to flow back to your heart, compression socks or stockings help by squeezing the leg tissues and the walls of the veins. Good circulation is key to reducing leg swelling and leg fatigue, not to mention that these socks keep your legs warm and comfortable throughout the flight. Who cares if they look atrocious? They’re your best friends during the long journey, and you can always wear longer bottoms to cover them up!
Don't be afraid to switch seats
Something you may also notice, is that not all of the seats on the flight may have been occupied before it’s ready for take-off. In this case, I recommend asking the flight attendant if it’s alright to quickly switch over to that empty seat with no one else sitting in the aisle.
I promise you will end up thanking yourself later, because now you have room to stretch out, and you won’t have to worry about disturbing anyone else when you get up.
Set off on your dream vacation the minute you touch down!
More than ten hours in a stuffy metal can might sound like your worst nightmare, but it can be easily be a dream come true if you follow the above-listed tips! Remember that hydration is key, and try to resist overdoing it on the caffeine, salty, and acidic foods and drinks. A little workout or a pair of compression socks will help a great deal too. So emerge from your long haul flight invigorated and ready to set off on your dream vacation!