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Airplane Travel Tips
  Here's a list of the things that contribute to discomfort on airplanes: 
  • bad air (for me this is number one)
  • noise (sneaky and it causes neck, headache, upper respiratory problems)
  • confined space
  • changes in gravity/pressure
  • cold and dehydration (I notice the cold but the dehydration is sneakier)
  • change in time zone - jet-lag

This is my strategy for reducing the discomfort (and sickness) of airplane travel.
Do as many of these as possible.  Prioritize them according to your own sensitivities.

Early Preparation
  • Choose a newer airplane - the newer ones have better ventilation systems.
  • Reserve seats as close to the front as possible.  The air is better there.
  • Make dietary changes.
    • A week before the flight, abstain from foods that strain the gall bladder:
      • dairy
      • chocolate
      • alcohol
      • coffee and caffeinated beverages
      • fatty foods
      • heavy foods
      • fried foods
    • Add supplements that help your body oxygenate and handle stress:
      • Vitamin C
      • Vitamin B complex, especially Vitamin B12
  • Pick out the clothes you will wear on the plane.  Choose clothing that will permit good blood circulation.  Airplane seats are horribly cramped (unless you are traveling "First Class") and they contribute to muscle spasms and poor circulation.
    • Loose fitting, breathable, comfortable clothes - loungewear (reduce your feelings of confinement)
    • Loafers or slippers (being able to wiggle your toes is especially important on long flights)
    • No tight elastic, nothing binding.
    • Warm socks, maybe a scarf (in case the plane gets cold).
    • A soft warm jacket (can double as a pillow).  Be prepared in case the plane gets cold.
  • Purchase food for the flight (don't depend on the airlines to provide what you need)
    • 1 small bottle of water for every 3 hours of flight
    • chewies for ear popping
    • nutsnacks for protein
    • dried fruit for sugar
    • one raw fruit
  • Get a good pair of earplugs (or an iPod, or walkman plus something you want to listen to, or noise-cancelling head phones).  The constant drone of airplane noise contributes to discomfort and it is good to block it out for some of the trip.
  • Get an eyemask so you can block out light during the time when it would be night at the time zone of your destination (reduces jet-lag)

The Day of the Flight
  • Check the above list and make sure you have all the things you planned to take:
    • loose fitting clothes and shoes
    • warm socks, scarf, warm soft jacket
    • earplugs, or noise-cancelling headphones, or walkman
    • snacks
    • eyemask
  • Immediately before leaving for the airport, eat a light, non-fatty meal with NO caffeinated beverages and NOTHING fried (good choices are:  fruit, vegetables or grains).  Eating a light, non-fatty meal makes handling pressure changes and motion easier.
  • As soon as you get on the plane set your timepiece for your destination time zone and begin changing your sleep and meal times to match.  This helps reduce jet-lag.
  • On the plane, accept whatever pillows and blankets are available/offered.  Use them to change the pressure distribution of your body weight on the seat when sitting for a long time.
  • Get up and stretch regularly (at least once every 2 hours, even if it is just to walk to the opposite end of the cabin, do a few little stretches and return to your seat) to make sure your muscles aren't beginning to cramp. 
    Most planes in flight today need upholstery restuffing badly and are not heathly for backs (even if they were, if you do not fit the exact target height and weight of the person they think is going to sit in the seats, the seat won't be adjusted correctly for you). 
  • Watch the movie or listen to music, or sleep.  Don't do too much reading because of the strain that it puts on the body (eyes and inner ear - balance) when you are trying to follow a line of text which moves due to the motion of the airplane.
  • During the hours when it would be dark at your destination, try to sleep and put on an eyemask to reduce the amount of light coming into your eyes (for reducing jet-lag).

After the Flight (for reducing jet-lag)
  • You should have set your clock to your destination time zone at the beginning of your flight.  And you should have already started switching your activity routine (sleeping, eating) to match your destination time zone.
  • If you arrive during the day, get outside into the daylight.  This gives your pituitary the signal to readjust your inner clock.  Expose yourself to light early in the morning, midday, and late at night, if you can, even if it is only for a few minutes.
  • Resist the temptation to nap on your old time schedule.
  • Get some exercise (walking or swimming is perfect) during the day.

Created:  November 15, 2004
Updated:  October 9, 2009