Making your health a priority when you are travelling can be hard, so I thought I would share with you a few rules I try to stick to, either when I am working as crew or flying as a passenger.
- Most importantly – H20.
Normal humidity levels are around 40-70% but cabin levels drop to 20% – sometimes lower on long haul flights. So the air around us is incredibly dry, causing a dry throat, itchy eyes and generally feeling lousy from dehydration. I try to drink as much water as possible before the flight and constantly sip on water throughout. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these will both contribute to loss of hydration. As a passenger it’s easy to fall asleep for a few hours and wake up feeling dehydrated so keep a bottle with you. I try to drink more than the recommended daily allowance, depending on the flight time. Always make sure you pick up your own large bottle or two once you pass security, don’t rely on crew to keep you supplied. Book an isle seat!
- Don’t fly hungry.
When I go to work, I never know when my next meal is coming. Weather the flight’s delayed or the service takes forever, you end up making bad decisions when you are stupidly hungry. This is the hardest part for me personally, it’s easy to just eat what’s in front you, rather than wait and find yourself something healthy that you won’t regret eating in the heat of hunger. I usually have something high in protein like a protein shake, some eggs from home or a banana for an energy boost just before I fly to help stop me from getting hungry prematurely.
- Choose your drinks wisely.
In general I don’t drink carbonated drinks. Especially when I fly. At altitude gases expand, including the gas inside of you, ever wondered why you’re super bloated after a flight? That’s why – the bubbles in fizzy drinks expand in your stomach with the changing pressure. So I try to help my body out a little bit by avoiding these altogether. I mostly stick to water or fruit juice if I need a little sugar hit, but I try to keep this to a minimum. Avoid drinking any hot drinks, as there can be large amounts of bacteria found in the aircraft’s pipes and storage tanks, which can potentially make you sick.
- Always pack your gym gear.
Even if you aren’t scheduled to stay in your destination, you never know where you can get stuck or how long for. I never fly without at least a pair of trainers and some basic kit in my suitcase, at least this way if you do make an unplanned stopover you won’t miss a workout.
- Take your own supplies.
It amazes me the amount of people who travel without any food with them whatsoever, especially when flying long haul, putting complete control into an airline and its crew as to what and when you are going to eat. Even more so when travelling with children, special dietary requirements or a medical condition, like diabetes. I never go anywhere without a couple of snacks with me. If I am super prepared then I will have my own meal with me. But generally I will always have some fruit and a couple of energy bars with me. Most countries it is safe to bring in energy bars or breakfast type bars, but be careful when bringing in fruit into some countries and always check first to avoid hefty fines.
6. Avoid the hot meals.
You lose between 15-30% of your taste sensitivity when at 40,000 feet so hot meals especially tend to be over salted and full of sodium to make up for it. If you don’t bring your own food, go for other options like salads or fruit if it is available. I noticed a huge difference in myself when I first started the job, eating the hot meals affected my skin and made me feel sluggish. I avoid eating the hot meals at all cost.
- Recognising hunger as boredom or thirst.
This applies more to crew than passengers, we can find ourselves with up to 4 hours with nothing to do and not really anyone to talk to on an aircraft full of 400 sleeping people. Like many people I am the kind of person who looks in the fridge if I am bored at home, it’s the same for me at work if there are no tasks to do.
So it’s at this time you have to find ways to keep yourself busy; read a book, or magazine – my go to is Women’s Health to keep me focused, play a game, talk to anyone who is awake and will listen to you. If you’re travelling as a passenger it’s not so bad if you have a TV screen in front of you, but if you find yourself to be the only one awake in your cabin, why not go and talk to your crew member and keep them company? Chances are they have done the trip before and could have some good recommendations or if it’s somewhere you already know; share your own knowledge with them too.
Drinking enough water is also a good way of limiting your mindless snacking as it keeps you full, and chances are if you do think you are hungry it might be that you are actually thirsty, so try drinking 500ml of water first, and wait 10 minutes before reaching for those crisps.
- Boost your Immune System.
The first week I worked as crew my immune system had the biggest shock and I became sick with the worst flu I can remember having. It took me a while to recover, being constantly exposed to recycled cabin air and potentially thousands of harmful germs, it was important for my immune system to build up or else flying wouldn’t have been a career option for me.
Don’t get my wrong; I much prefer to eat well and gather nutrients that way, but sometimes you can find little to no nutritious food on board an aircraft. So I like to take an effervescent vitamin C capsule, dissolvable in water, on the days that I fly. It might all be in my head, but I really feel like these help prevent me from getting sick.