We’ve all been there. You’re on a plane, you’re about to doze off, and “Aaahchoo!” the woman behind you sneezes in your hair. You panic. You blow out. You glare. That’s it—you’re sure to be sick. There are no windows to open, there is nowhere to move, you are so totally stuck. It’s just you, 200 other people… and their germs. Welcome to vacation.
At this point it may seem like there is no hope, like your holiday is over before it has even begun, but relax! There are ways to plan for the inevitable. You can and you will fight the bugs. You’ve got to prepare and be prepared before, during and after your flight.
Run, err, fly with these travel tips and you’ve got a straight flight path to health all the way until touchdown.
How to Prep Before Your Flight:
Swap seats—The day before your flight, check the seat map on the app or website of your carrier. If your flight is not booked full and you’re traveling with a companion, change your seats to the window and aisle in the same row, leaving the middle seat free. This way you have a better chance at the middle seat staying empty, which will afford you that much more space. If the plane fills up and someone does end up in between you and your partner, simply ask to trade spots. They’ll be happy to—no one readily desires that dreaded middle seat!
Pack healthy snacks—Airplane food these days is basically a choice between peanuts, pretzels, and/or a cookie depending on your airline. If you do opt to fork out a pretty penny for a day-old, slightly-soggy wrap, good luck. Unless you’re flying first class on Emirates, your dinner has probably been under dry ice for more than a few hours and that lettuce is going to taste like your mouth ate a swamp. To avoid this pack healthy snacks to tide you over. Fresh fruit like grapefruits, oranges and apples travel well. As do snacks like dried fruits, granola bars and trail mix. Food will pass through most security lanes no problem, but always remember, our friends at TSA require all liquids to be less than 3.4 ounces.
Disinfect like crazy—Go ahead, sterilize everything you’re going to be touching. Airplanes are hard workers. They’re flying all day from one spot to the next and are usually only on the ground for quick turns where they are re-catered and cleaned… and quickly. Sure, your seat belt may be crossed and you can rest assured there won’t be banana peels hanging out of your seat-back pocket, however, this does not mean your area has been thoroughly cleansed. Sanitize your tray table, seat and seat belt. Do not stick your hand in the seat pocket—diapers have been there, guaranteed. If you want to read the airline magazine, ask the flight attendant (sweetly) if there are any extras. When using the lavatory, decontaminate everything you plan on using, and when your done, make sure to shut the toilet seat lid before flushing as you don’t want any particles flying up at you when that mysterious giant sky vacuum starts sucking.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate—You know this. You should be doing this throughout every phase of travel (and life) but especially so during the actual flight. Humidity levels in planes are unnaturally low which accelerates dehydration, which leads to every traveler’s nightmare: jet lag. For every hour you’re in a plane drink at least eight ounces of that good ol’ h2o. Your urine should be white or light yellow, and if it’s not, your body is telling you it needs more water. Not a huge fan of regular, straight-up water? Mix it with Emergen-C or Airborne which are stock full of immunity boosting vitamins and come in a variety of yummy flavors. Alcohol should be avoided at all costs. It will desiccate you even more, and at 30,000 feet a glass of vino tends to hit you twice as hard! Another beverage choice that should be avoided is the coffee and tea offered to you by your lovely attendants. Although, airlines are indeed stepping it up and making moves to address the problem, a plane’s potable water dispensers (where the hot water comes from) aren’t quite as clean as they should be. An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 found that still 12% of commercial airplanes (that’s roughly 1 in 10) in the US test positive for bacteria in their on-board water. It’s bottled water all the way, guys!
Be smart about winding down—If you’ve just arrived in a different time zone, adapt to it. Fight the urge to go straight to sleep but rather stay on the local schedule. While in your hotel room, get at the remote control, toilet seat and door knobs with your trusty disinfectant. Discard the comforter as hotels don’t often wash those after each guest, and check your sheets for signs of bedbugs. Once your cozy and settled, soak in the bath or take a dip in the pool. Submerging yourself in water can actually replenish moisture directly through your pores back into your body.
Keep up a routine—You have a strict workout regimen at home, so it’s not time to quit cold turkey just because happy hour is calling your name on a daily basis. Most hotels have gyms, however if your lodging doesn’t have one, resistance bands provide a great workout just about anywhere. They take up as much room as a pair of socks in your suitcase, so there’s no excuse this time. Your body will thank you later.
Armed with these travel hacks you can rest assured your vacation is going to be sick-free. So next time that lady sneezes on you simply offer your blessing and a tissue. There’s that, or there’s always the masks. “Smog couture” anyone?
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. She also moonlights as an occasional flight attendant so it’s safe to say these tips should be trusted. If you can’t find her in the air, you’ll find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media via @lindizzaster.