Health, Hustle + Heart

How to stay healthy while flying (+ a hand-luggage packing list)

HealthFrancesca MasperoComment
How to stay healthy while flying

I recently began a solo 3-month adventure in Australia, which has been incredibly exciting and almost as nerve-racking. Of course, Australia ain’t so close to the UK so it involves a long flight and around 24 hours of travelling. As you might have noticed, health is a passion of mine (duh), and I’m not going to let a little travelling prevent me from nourishing myself. We’re all jet setters these days and in case you're hopping on any planes soon I thought I’d share my top tips for travelling well and staying healthy in the air.

I know it’s only 24 hours or less in most cases but airline food is notoriously bad for you (fat is often injected into the meat to keep it moist, as well as high sugar and salt contents to keep it ‘fresh’) and another consideration is the high radiation exposure. I may be capitalising on shock factor here, but really I want to encourage you to make a little effort to stay healthy while flying because flights can really zap your energy and steal days from your holiday. Wouldn’t you rather arrive at your destination (or home) refreshed, well rested and ready to enjoy yourself?

Tips for staying healthy in the air 

1. Hydrate

The air in planes is very drying and highly circulated, so we lose a lot of water through our skin and breathing. The best way to combat dehydrated skin, constant snacking and tiredness is to sip water throughout the journey. Drink plenty of spring or filtered water pre-flight and then fill a lightweight stainless steel or BPA-free plastic filter water bottle (I use a Bobble bottle) with water from one of the fountains after security. Whilst on the flight ask the airline staff to fill your bottle with water from the galley. Sip on herbal teas during the flight if you prefer. Additional perk: going to the loo more often will get you out of your seat and moving, which leads me to say...

2. Move

I’m not going to suggest that you whip out some yoga shapes whilst on the plane, because there’s really no need to throw your bum in the air if you don’t wish to. Just walking up and down the aisle every hour or so will keep your blood circulating well and prevent stiffness. Flex your feet regularly or do some calf raises and give you legs a brisk massage to encourage blood flow and prevent blood pooling. It can really help to get your head below your heart so if you’re not going to get inverted then simply place your head between your knees for about a minute.

3. Pack food and snacks

As I’ve already mentioned, plane food ain’t the healthiest. You can take as much food as you like with you on the plane so long as you eat it all before disembarking so I usually pack one or two meals depending on the length of the flight, as well as plenty of snacks. I usually opt for salads of some sort in an airtight container, making sure to include a protein source, and take a small (100ml) glass bottle of apple cider vinegar (ACV) to use as a salad dressing and help digestion. In terms of snacks I like to take nuts and some 80% dark chocolate, plus a small collection of homemade bliss balls or chewy nut bars. If you're underprepared (or just can’t be bothered to prep) and flying from the UK many of the terminals have a Pret cafe where you can pick up plenty of healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner and snack options.

4. Skip the sugar, caffeine and alcohol. 

Alcohol is a diuretic and will only add to the dehydrating effect of flying. It’ll also drain your energy and unsettle your sleep when you most need it. I’m sure you don’t want to spend the first day of your holiday recovering. Best avoided pre-flight and during the flight.

Sugar will set you on a roller coaster of cravings and energy lows if you’re not careful. And you don’t want the munchies the whole flight, do you? This is another reason to pack your own food - most in-flight snack options are sugar-laden and it’s much easier to monitor the contents when you make your own or at least buy some snacks beforehand that only contain a small amount of natural sugars. Dark chocolate is a great option if you fancy something satisfying and sweet without the sugar slump, as is a Liquorice-based tea.

Caffeine from non-herbal tea, coffee and soft drinks will also dehydrate you and prevent you from getting the sleep you need. It’s best avoided before and during flying to ensure you get enough rest and arrive refreshed. When the air hostesses come round with the drinks cart opt for herbal teas. I simply ask for hot water and add one of the tea bags that I bring with me in my hand luggage. I usually carry a selection of Pukka teas such as the Night Time, Cinnamon and Liquorice (for sweetness and sugar balancing), as well as the Detox and Love teas (mostly for flavour).

5. Bring your oils

Essential oils are a great aid when flying because they can help support your mood. I personally like to take my doTERRA Peppermint for a mid-flight or morning ick-me-up, Slim & Sassy or Lemon oil to add to my water bottle for a refreshing, detoxifying and blood sugar balancing drink, as well as Lavender for a good night’s sleep. Citrus Bliss and Elevation are also great options to raise you energy post-flight. All you need to do is place a few drops in your hands, cup them over your nose and inhale or massage it into your neck and/or temples.

I also bring a really high-quality face oil to protect against dehydrated skin and breakouts (yes, oils help prevent breakouts!). I'm totally obsessed with Skin and Tonic's Steam Clean, which I have been using as a moisturizer rather than a cleanser and comes in a mini version, perfect for traveling. I'll also usually bring their Mini Calm Balm to rub on my wrists and temples if I begin to feel stressed. On that note, I NEVER fly without my Hurraw lip balms (Pitta is my fave flavour). Flying wrecks you lips and these are hands-down the best. 

6. Sleep

Get all the kip you can. Trust me, I know just how hard this can be. I almost never sleep on planes. By the time I had made my trip from the UK to Borneo 2 years back I hadn’t slept a wink in 32 hours. Not fun. Sleep before, after and during the flight if possible. If all you can manage is a 20-minute nap, that’s better than nothing. It’s also worth shifting your meal times and opening/closing the curtains a little earlier/later in the days running up to your flight if it’s long-haul in order to adjust your body’s sleeping rhythm and combat jet lag. Bring an eye mask and ear plugs to get a solid stretch of sleep. I’ll also drink a sleepy tea and take a herbal sleeping pill an hour or so before I want to drop off.

7. Meditate

Travelling can be stressful no matter how many times you may have flown. Since you’re sitting for so long it is a great opportunity to get some meditation practice in and maybe even set an intention for your trip (or how to bring the energy of your trip back home with you if you’re returning). If you get bored of the in-flight entertainment or your book then get comfy, with a straight back and start focussing on your breath. Meditation and a simple breath awareness practice is also brilliant for calming nervous fliers. Lavender oil should help get you in the zone. If you don’t know how to meditate then read this Meditation 101 guide.

To pack in your hand-luggage:

  • Lunch salad and ACV
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Organic face oil or moisturiser
  • Natural lip balm
  • Ginger chews (for travel sickness and sore throats)
  • Naturally sweetened gum (for take-off and landing)
  • Organic dark chocolate
  • Nuts and other snacks (Homemade Bliss Balls, Raw Brownies, Coco-Roons, Kale Chips and Mrs. May's Naturals Cranberry Blueberry Crunch are some of my faves)
  • Herbal tea sachets
  • Reading material etc. (books, magazines, Kindle, Ipad, journal and pen)  
  • Eye mask and ear plugs
  • Neck pillow
  • Blanket/scarf
  • Essential oils (mala beads, crystals or any sacred props to get you in the zen mood)

Of course, you can personalise your hand luggage as much as you like, and be sure to add any relevant supplements or medication.

If you follow these guidelines then you'll hopefully come out of the plane feeling fresh as a daisy. Safe, happy and healthy travels my fellow globetrotters!

P.S. Want to follow along with my adventures in Aus? 

Image credit: Emma Kate Co.