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The long flight survival guide

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

Long day’s journey into night

Airline travel can be tiring no matter the length of the trip, but long flights are particularly grueling. They don’t have to be! With just a bit of preparation, lengthy voyages can be easy as pie and won’t leave you exhausted.
Woman drinking water on plane

Get comfortable

Your first step to a relaxing plane ride is to get comfortable. Bring a neck pillow; they may look silly but they’re life-savers on long trips. Most long-haul flights will also provide a pillow or blanket, so grab one from the flight attendant if possible. Put your carry-on in the overhead luggage compartment so you have the most possible room to stretch your legs. Also dress comfortably and bring plenty of items (books, magazines, mp3 players, movies) to keep yourself entertained.

Move around

Once you have the OK from the crew that you can unbuckle those seat belts, go for a walk once in a while. If you’re trapped in a window seat and can’t get the snoring person beside you to move, never fear: Stretch in your seat. Pedal your feet up and down to stretch your calves, and raise your hands above your head. Keeping the blood flowing will make you feel less stiff later on, and can also help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Stay hydrated

This is one of the most important tips for air travel, and one people often forget: Stay hydrated! Because the air up there is particularly dry, it’s especially important that you drink plenty of water, even if you think you are not thirsty. Beverages with electrolytes, like Gatorade, are also great. It’s also a smart idea to avoid coffee, tea, sodas and alcohol, which are dehydrating. Besides feeling better, staying hydrated can also help prevent DVT.

moisturizerMoisturize

Just as the dry air dehydrates you inside, it also makes your skin extra-dry. Apply a light moisturizer, particularly to the face, before getting on a long flight and throughout if your skin starts to feel dry. It’s amazing how much better you will feel after the flight. Contact lenses also tend to dry out, so be sure to use eyedrops as well. Contact lens wearers may even want to consider wearing their glasses instead.

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Eat healthy

Airplane food gets the job done, but it’s rarely a satisfying meal. To ward off lethargy once you disembark, try to eat as light and healthy as possible. This means no pre-flight fast food and keeping unhealthy snacking to a minimum. If possible, pack a few healthy munchies to tide you over. Fresh fruits and veggies may not hold up for the whole flight, but will be great toward the beginning, and granola bars are perfect for later in the trip.

Take your vitamins

Being in close quarters with hundreds of people and breathing recycled air means that the potential for germs to spread is multiplied. Add to that the dry air, and you’ve got yourself the breeding ground for colds. Staying hydrated and eating healthy will help ward off sickness, but it also doesn’t hurt to take a multi-vitamin before the trip. Water-soluble supplements like Airborne are great to have on hand if you feel a cold coming on.

Check out the healthiest picks for airline food >>

More travel tips

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5 simple rules of air travel etiquette
7 tips for eating healthy at the airport

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