It can be really hard to stay hydrated on long flights. The humidity level is extremely low, which can lead to dehydration and also make it harder for your body to fight off any viruses you come into contact with while traveling. Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated during even the longest of flights.
My job as an international flight attendant had me traveling on flights up to 18 hours long, so I know what a struggle it can be to stay hydrated. I also know what it can do to your body if you don't drink enough water on long trips, and it's not fun. So here are some tips from someone who has spent hundreds of hours in the air on how to stay properly hydrated when flying long distances.
Hydration Tip #1: Pre-hydrate
It's a lot harder to stay well hydrated during a flight if you're already dehydrated when you step onto the plane. I suggest that in the days leading up to your trip you ensure you're drinking the recommended daily intake of water. This will also result in fewer lavatory breaks during the flight, as your bladder will already be accustomed to the amount of water you're ingesting.
PRO TIP: Waterlogged is a great app that lets you keep track of the amount of liquids you're drinking. It lets you set a daily goal as well as schedule reminders if you need them. It's available free for iPhone. A similar app, WaterMinder, is available for Android.
Hydration Tip #2: Pack a water bottle
We all know you can't bring more than 100ml of liquids through airport security, but you can bring an empty bottle. The benefit to this is that you won't have to keep asking the flight attendants for small cups of water, or buying expensive bottles onboard the aircraft. It's recommended that adults consume about one liter of water for every 5 hours in the air.
I also recommend that you fill up the bottle at the airport (after security, of course!) as the flight attendants will probably be quite busy with boarding and may not be able to help you right away. Never fill up your water bottle with lavatory tap water though - it's not safe for drinking. If you need to refill on board, just pop by the galley and ask the crew.
PRO TIP: I've been using a Camelbak water bottle for several years and love their durability. If you want something that takes up less space, consider the Nomader or Hydrapak Stash collapsible water bottles. For those traveling to countries with questionable water quality, the LifeStraw Go bottle includes a filter system so you can fill it up anywhere.
Hydration Tip #3: Infuse your water
We all know that water does not taste as good as sugary drinks. This can make it difficult to sip it regularly throughout a flight if there are more tempting options available. To combat this, I started to infuse my water by throwing some fruits and herbs into my water bottle before I leave, and then adding water after security. In addition to tasting good, this can also aid digestion, prevent bloating, and provide a boost of Vitamin C. Just remember to dispose of any fruits before you exit the plane, as they may be on the restricted list of the country you're traveling to.
PRO TIP: Citrus slices & mint leaves are a classic infusion that makes water taste refreshingly good. For a more unique twist, try also playing around with combinations of pineapple, raspberry, ginger, strawberry, orange, kiwi, apple and cucumber. There are also water bottles made especially for infusing beverages, like the Infusion Pro, which comes with an insulating sleeve and strainer.
Hydration Tip #4: Pack some hydrating foods
Celery, watermelon, cucumbers and even strawberries are packed with water and vitamins, and are a great alternative to the salty snacks they serve onboard. If you want to take it a step further, bring your own meals. Food tastes more bland at high altitudes, so many airlines add extra salt to their food to compensate for the loss of flavour. This extra sodium can make it even harder to stay hydrated. Again, check what you're allowed to bring into the country - if your snacks are on the prohibited list, make sure you finish or dispose of them before you exit the plane.
PRO TIP: Pack some ready-made meals into a product like JIAJIBAO's collapsible food storage containers that are insulated and leakproof.
Hydration Tip #5: Limit alcohol
You already know that alcohol dehydrates you. So do I, but I still like a glass or two of wine to help me sleep. If you can avoid consuming alcohol on your flight, do it. It's better for you. But if you're on vacation and want to unwind a bit, try to at least limit the amount you're drinking, and match every drink with an extra cup of water.
PRO TIP: Though alcohol is a diuretic, there are ways to slightly reduce the dehydrating effects of it. Turn a glass of wine into a refreshing spritzer by adding some club soda and a citrus wedge or splash of fruit juice. For those who enjoy whisky or gin, a bit of still or sparkling water can often enhance the flavour of the liquor. If you're keen for a cocktail, soda water or coconut water are good mixers, as well as green tea and low-sugar juices. These may be difficult to get on the plane, but can usually be picked up at an airport newsstand or food kiosk prior to boarding.
Hydration Tip #6: Moisturize
Hydrating your body from the inside out is extremely important, but don't neglect your skin. I always travel with moisturizer and lip balm, and apply them regularly throughout the flight. On flights longer than 5 hours I use a clear gel face mask which protects my skin from the dry cabin air and provides it with some extra vitamins. You can also buy or make your own hydrating face mist, though make sure you spritz it on before your moisturizer to get the most hydration from it.
PRO TIP: I've tried many hand creams on long flights, and my all-time favourite is Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. For lip balm, I recommend the Lip Sleeping Mask by Korean skincare brand Laneige. Always remember however, that everyone's skin is different, and you should always try a new product well in advance of your flight to make sure it works for you.
Hydration Tip #7: Try a travel drink
There are a few brands that offer effervescent "travel recovery" tablets which are easily dissolved in water and claim to contain vitamins and minerals that help prevent dehydration, jet lag and even deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).
Though I haven't been able to find any conclusive information as to how well these actually work, I have tried Switzerland's Phizz and New Zealand's 1Above tablets on different occasions and they each helped me feel slightly more hydrated.
PRO TIP: I've also found that they slightly reduce the effects of hangovers. Just sayin'.
Hydration Tip #8: Book an aisle seat
Unfortunately, the more water you drink on board, the more often you'll have to use the lavatory. Booking an aisle seat will save you the trouble of asking your seatmates to move every time you need to go. It also helps to sit within view of the lavatory so you can quickly grab it when its vacant. You don't want to give yourself a reason not to drink the amount of water you need to stay hydrated.
PRO TIP: The Seat Alerts app by ExpertFlyer is a great way to see which seats are available when booking a flight, and you can even get notifications if the seat you want becomes available. It's free for iPhone and Android. I also suggest downloading your airline's app, as many now offer the ability to choose or change your seats in advance.
Hydration Tip #9: Re-hydrate
If you follow these hydration tips, you should step off the plane feeling great! Even so, it's important to stay hydrated. Keep drinking the recommended daily intake of water. If your hotel room has a kettle, fill the sink with some boiling water and steam your face for 5-10 minutes.
PRO TIP: The Boneco Cool Mist Humidifier is ultra-compact and perfect for adding some moisture to the air in your home or hotel room as you sleep. I also recommend investing in some reusable spa gloves and socks which can bring back hydration to hands & feet with their botanical oil-infused gel lining.
Ready for Your Trip?
Staying hydrated can help you stay healthy, but there's always the chance of something going wrong on your trip, no matter how careful you are. I always make sure to have travel insurance coverage on every adventure, just in case something happens. Get a quote from World Nomads here.
Once you've booked your flights, make sure you pick the best hotel for your trip. I've compiled a list of hotel safety and hygiene tips that will help you to enjoy the experience with less worry.
Make sure to also check out my big (and recently updated) list of the best free travel apps for both Apple and Android phones.
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