How to Stay Healthy During Airplane Travel

“Take a bus, take a train, go and hop an aeroplane,” is a line from Perry Como’s classic Christmas song, “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.” And if you’re someone who’s taking a bus, train, or airplane to get to your final destination this holiday season, then you’re probably wondering how to stay healthy while traveling.

With lots to pack, plan, and prepare, you may already have a pretty big to-do list — but staying healthy while traveling should be at the top of that list if it isn’t already. Here are a few expert tips on how to stay healthy while traveling this holiday season.

person looking out window in airplane

How to stay healthy while traveling by airplane

1. Clock quality sleep

One of the best ways to ensure you’re staying healthy while traveling is to clock quality zzz’s. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a recent study found the likelihood of developing a cold was greater with less than seven hours of sleep, compared with eight or more hours of sleep. 

Think about how you might get more rest before, during, and after your holiday travels. If you don’t plan ahead, it’s all too easy to stay up late the night before travel while you finish any last-minute packing — so get to it sooner rather than later.

If you’re hoping to clock some quality zzz’s on a long flight, try earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, a small pillow, and a sleep mask to help you fall asleep. Just bring your own blanket or pillow — because who knows where those airline blankets and pillows have been. Yuck!

2. Maintain a balanced diet

It’s also important to maintain a balanced diet while traveling. “If you are stressed out, your body goes into starvation mode and it stops producing its normal antibodies, which makes it harder to fight off illness and diseases,” explains Dev Batra, MD, of the Dallas Vein Institute. “It is best to eat foods that are packed with nutrients and vitamins. If possible, eat foods that are rich in prebiotics and probiotics. These are healthy and friendly bacteria that keep your digestive system working properly.”

3. Stay hydrated

Although you may be tempted to make merry and kick off your take-off with an in-flight cocktail or glass of wine, alcoholic beverages can have a stronger effect when you’re cruising at high altitudes, notes USA Today. Plus, the effects of drinking alcohol during a flight may enhance jet lag symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and mental grogginess — and no one wants any of that.

Let’s also not forget alcohol, as well as caffeinated beverages like coffee, is very dehydrating. What’s more, airplanes, and the high altitudes at which they fly, create a very dry setting — so why exasperate that even more? 

When flying this holiday season, it’s best to drink plenty of water. Skip the overpriced bottle of water at the airplane kiosk and opt for an empty reusable water bottle you can fill up once you get past security. (One of my personal favorites is this gorgeous glass one designed by WaterDrop.)

4. Take immune-boosting supplements

On the day of your flight and the days leading up to it, take an immune-boosting supplement such as Airborne or Emergen-C, recommends Jordana Tobelem, RDN at Health Canal. “The vitamins and minerals in those supplements can give your immune system the extra boost it needs before traveling,” she says.

5. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer

I feel like ever since the ‘vid, everyone has been more cognizant of washing their hands or using hand sanitizer — but if you plan on traveling on a plane this holiday season, you’ll want to mind your hand hygiene even more.

The Cleveland Clinic recommends keeping your hands away from your face and washing them or using hand sanitizer after touching any surfaces touched by other people. Just make sure your hand sanitizer bottle is less than 3.4 oz.100 ml to abide by safety guidelines. 

You can also use hand sanitizer towelettes, which are an easy airplane-friendly way to keep hands clean and reduce any risk of picking up any germs.

The bottom line on staying healthy while traveling

Staying healthy while traveling this holiday season doesn’t have to be hard. Incorporate these five tips the next time you book a trip so you don’t have to worry about how to stay healthy while traveling. Your immune system will thank you.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a lifelong passion for all things health and wellness, Ashley enjoys writing about topics to help people live happier and healthier lives. With a foundation in fitness, food, and nutrition, Ashley covers it all including sexual health and travel topics.